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Free book excerpt #12 from pastor and Progressive Christian author Rev. Paul J. Bern

“The Apostles In Plain English Vol. 1: the Apostle Paul” by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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Which Is Better, Being Lawful Or Being Faithful?

[Galatians chapter 3, verses 1-14]

As we begin this week’s study we’ll be looking at the first half of Galatians chapter three. In it the apostle Paul continues to take the church at Galatia to task because of certain heretical teachings that were going on at the time. Newly converted Gentile Christians were intermingling with newly converted Jews who embraced Christ as the Jewish messiah. Evidently the non-Jews were being instructed by unnamed Jewish converts to practice and live their new faith while also adopting the Jewish customs of their new brethren in Christ Jesus. Paul continues with his blistering criticism of this practice as we begin at verse one.

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing – if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard? Consider Abraham: ‘He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness’. [Genesis 15:6] Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the Gospel in advance of Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you’. [Genesis 12:3] So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” (Gal. 3, verses 1-9)

Here we see Paul summing up his point in one sentence when he wrote, “Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?” Since the observation of the Law of Moses – the first five books of the Old Testament – was fulfilled by the supreme sacrifice of Jesus Christ, Paul is simply stating that to continue observing the Old Law and its customs is both pointless and unnecessary. The crucifixion, death and resurrection of Christ is the embodiment of the new law, replacing the old. After spending all the time converting them and teaching them and founding a church, Paul is clearly exasperated with the church at Galatia because they had strayed from what he taught them was the Spiritual foundation of that church, none other than Jesus himself. It is not possible to obtain salvation through Christ by our good works alone, although it is good that we all do so whenever and wherever we can. We can do so only two ways according to Scripture; the first is by maintaining a totally committed faith in Christ and his Salvation, and the second is by grace that God bestows upon us through his Son. Grace is defined as unmerited favor, the spiritual equivalent of a free pass. Even though none of us deserves it due to our sins, grace is given to us freely as a token of God’s love for us when we accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. So if you ever need evidence that God really does love you, just think about His grace as you bask in its warm light. If you are already a believer, just focus on that in your mind. And if you aren’t yet a believer, now would be a good time to become one. Simply ask Jesus to come and live inside your heart, and to stay there forever.

The other thing the apostle Paul explains (or more likely reiterated) to the church at Galatia is the concept of unity between Jew and Gentile when he wrote, “Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith”… Paul is clearly citing this as another reason to put away the traditions of old and replacing them with the then-new concept of Jesus Christ as the Jewish and Gentile messiah and as the Son of God. If any of you read my studies on the book of Romans, Paul touched on that same topic when he wrote, “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the spirit of Son-ship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father’. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs with God and co-heirs with Christ …” (Romans 8: 15-17) So you see, Paul was literally telling the Galatian congregation that they were already adopted into the family of God, and that there was nothing extra or special that they needed to do to join the family. Moreover, since our adoption into God’s eternal family is through Jesus Christ, whose lineage can be traced all the way back to God, that makes us all Jewish by adoption just as it says in Romans. I don’t know about you, but I find the prospect of being an adopted Jew quite appealing. If that is the genealogy of my Lord and Savior, then that is good enough for me. Let’s continue now and conclude today’s study beginning at verse ten.

All who rely on observing the Law are under a curse, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.’ [Deut. 27:26] Clearly no one is justified before God by the Law, because ‘the righteous will live by faith’. [Habakkuk 2:4] The Law is not based on faith; on the contrary, ‘The man who does these things will live by them’. [Lev. 18:5] Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.‘ [Deut. 21:23] He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. (Galatians 3, verses 10-14)

The apostle Paul repeatedly quotes the Old Testament – or more accurately the Law of Moses, which was still very much the religious tradition of that time in that part of the world – in order to finish making his point. Paul’s literacy was the exception rather than the rule in those days, and he uses his educational level to his advantage right here. Clearly, Paul writes, “ … no one is justified before God by the Law, because ‘the righteous will live by faith’…”. This is the crux of the matter, which is that no one can enter into God’s kingdom – or the third heaven, as Paul called it – based on their good deeds and legalistic achievements. The only way to salvation is through our uncompromising and undiluted faith in the saving power of the blood of Christ. There is no other way by which any of us may enter heaven, and there are no exceptions allowed based on the teachings of Christ. If anyone tries to tell you any different, get away from those people and those churches because they are teaching a false doctrine, and they will be held accountable. But it is the truth, Jesus said, that will make you free, and anyone who is free in Him is truly and irrevocably free. And that’s the best news of all.

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Multiple Hurricanes and God’s Fury

Hurricanes Are In the Bible, and So Is America’s Judgment

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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walking on water

Hurricanes are arriving as twins! Soon they may arrive in three’s, I don’t know. Hopefully we should be reminded to stop and see what the Bible says about things like this. After all, to have so many storms happening at once is most unusual. Here are a few scriptures to seek God about, starting with two of the major prophets from the Old Testament, Jeremiah and Isaiah. In this first example from Jeremiah 23, verses 17-20 it says, “They keep saying to those who despise me, ‘ The Lord says, ‘You will have peace’ , and to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts, they say, ‘No harm will come to you.’ But which of them has stood in the council of the Lord, to see or hear his word? Who has listened and heard his Word? See, the storm of the Lord will burst out in wrath, a whirlwind swirling down on the heads of the wicked. The anger of the Lord will not turn back until he fully accomplishes the purpose of his heart. In the days to come you will understand it clearly.”

 

Here in the 2nd example from Isaiah 40, verses 21-24 the Word of the Lord reads, “Have you never heard or understood? Are you deaf to the words of God – the words he gave before the world began? Are you so ignorant? It is God who sits above the circle of the earth. The people below must seem to him like grasshoppers! He is the one who spreads out the heavens like a curtain and makes his tent before them. He judges the people of the world and brings them all to nothing. They barely get started, barely taking root, when he blows on them and their work withers. The wind carries them off like straw.” Every few years, or maybe another decade or so, another hurricane comes along and really clobbers the southeastern and Gulf coasts of the US. Soon after, the rebuilding process starts, often taking many years, and everything is fine until the next one comes along, which restarts the whole cycle yet again. Isn’t this exactly what the Bible was talking about? Of course it is!

Jeremiah 25: 32 says, “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Look! A disaster is spreading from nation to nation; a mighty storm is rising from the ends of the earth.” Storms have come and gone before, America is only the latest target selected by God. But why America, and why now? Just think about it for a minute – even if some disagree with what I’m about to write. This is not going to be a popular thing to say, but the ugly truth is that America as a country stands judged by God. Our country is the world’s largest exporter of armaments and weapons of every kind, we produce by far the most pornography, and we have the largest rates of murder and incarceration in the world. We are the world’s largest polluter of the air, water and soil. In fact, the United States is systematically poisoning the entire planet! We have by far the world’s largest and most formidable military, and when we send our sons and daughters overseas to fight America’s illicit wars, fully 20% of them return as psychiatric basket cases. The reason for this is that they have witnessed killing on a scale so massive that it is beyond their comprehension. Forced outside the scope of their experiences, some of these well-meaning individuals simply never make it back home again. Their brains are still off somewhere else, fighting a battle that only exists in between their ears. This, my dear readers, is what war does to people! It shatters the human psyche beyond repair, which is why we must be vigorously opposed to warfare! Ban war forever!

So it is for these reasons that God has brought, and will continue to bring, judgment upon this country for its crimes, and judgment on those people who stand with her as she does so! Is this insufficient for anyone? Does anybody need still more reasons why God would punish America? We have more abortions than any other country. One fourth of our children are currently homeless. For most of them, their free school lunch is the only food they have access to. Institutionalized racism still abounds in the US and nothing is being done about it. Our banking system is completely fraudulent and flies in the face of Scriptures (see Exodus 22: 25-27, etc.). 99% of America’s wealth is in the hands of the top 1% of its citizens, and inequality is out of control as a result. Our country is populated by materialistic people who are addicted to their phones, to drugs or alcohol, or to pornography, gambling, or binge watching their big screen TV’s while they sit on their couches mesmerized by trite events outside the scope of reality. And if that’s not enough for them, there’s always Virtual Reality that they can play instead. We have become like demanding little spoiled brats who insist on being entertained 24-7!

Unfortunately for all these people, and what the majority of them haven’t even stopped to consider, is that when we are engaged in all these activities our attention is turned away from the One who made us, who watches over us daily while being like a dad for those who have none, and who loves us intensely – believe it or not! Our attention to all the things I mentioned above diverts us away from paying attention to God. Moreover, those who are doing any or all the other things I mentioned are ignoring God and his guidance, and have no relationship with Jesus Christ who saved their very souls! These intense and powerful hurricanes – and there will be plenty more, mark my words – are a warning and a judgment from God! We are to stop living only for ourselves and start living for others! Otherwise, America will be struck by still more disasters in the weeks, months and years to come. What we should be doing instead is devoting all our spare time to serving Christ by service to others. Jesus did just that in Matthew’s gospel chapter 8, verses 23-27, and I quote: “Then he got into the boat, and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’ He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then he got up and rebuked the wind and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, ‘What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!’

The disciples knew they were in a situation with no clear exit, that they were caught in a storm from which they could not escape. Like those currently stuck in Florida without the means to escape hurricane Irma, or those in Texas with Harvey, all they can do is seek help from the Lord, and to ask for his mercy upon us. Notice that Jesus was asleep during all but the last few moments of the fierce storm before saying, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”, before he calmed the storm. I think that’s what Jesus wants to tell everyone in Florida and Georgia. Only He can rebuke the wind and the waves. Even the wind and the waves have sense enough to obey Him. Shouldn’t we?

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Lessons Learned From Hurricane Harvey

How Natural Disasters Can Strengthen Our Faith

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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God calms the child

By now everyone knows about the disastrous mega-storm named Harvey and its aftermath. This has been without a doubt the worst natural disaster America has ever experienced, certainly in my lifetime. Not since Hurricane Sandy has the US seen flooding this disastrous. Only the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan several years ago was a still greater disaster, and to this day radioactive water continues to leak into the Pacific ocean from northeastern Japan, poisoning the planet! We were luckier this time than the victims of hurricane Sandy since the death toll from Harvey is about half of that of Sandy. Moreover, there were tens of thousands who died in the Japanese disaster before that. With a tidal wave of insurance claims by Japanese home owners and business owners that exceeded $100 billion USD, the triple disasters of an earthquake, a tsunami and the meltdown of 3 nuclear reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan is her worst disaster since World War Two. However, hurricane Harvey’s damage will easily cost 3-5 times as much to rebuild as the Japanese disaster.

 

Back in 2013, America had a series of tornadoes sweep across the mid-western and southern US from Alabama and Georgia all the way up to Ohio and Indiana, claiming 31 lives and causing many millions of dollars in damages. During times like these many wonder why God allows such disasters to occur. It seems to those lacking in faith that if God were the all-loving and all-powerful God that He allegedly is, then such disasters would never happen in the first place. I completely disagree with this idea, which from my vantage point is based on insufficient or incorrect teaching combined with misguided and/or dumbed-down secular education! God takes us through hard times and allows us to go through all kinds of trials and hardship – even persecution within supposedly “Christian” churches such as I have previously experienced – to build and strengthen our character and our minds, and to teach us to have resolve and great fortitude. The apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the early Roman church that “persecution builds character, and strong character builds hope, and hope builds patience.” And the apostle James wrote long ago, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1, verses 2-3) So, to go through hardship is to be in growth while engaging in personal enrichment. That is why, in times like these, so many people find comfort in their faith.

 

Whenever disasters like this occur, I go back to the Bible to the First Book of Kings. Elijah, in despair over the situation in Israel, runs to the desert and back to Mt. Sinai to find the God of the Revelation to Moses. “And lo, the Lord God passed by. There was a mighty wind, splitting mountains and shattering rocks, but the Lord was not in the wind. There was an earthquake but the Lord was not in the earthquake.” To me, that is the key: the Lord was not in the earthquake in Japan. He wasn’t in Hurricane Sandy’s mighty winds, and wasn’t in the drenching of Harvey either, although it is easy to see why many would disagree. Natural disasters are usually acts of nature, but they can be acts of God, too. In fact, the Bible lists a fair number of examples, with the obliteration of Sodom and Gomorrah being among the most prominent. But God cares about the eternal well-being of all people. Mother nature, on the other hand, is blind and an equal-opportunity destroyer. Where and when is God present in the hardest hit areas of the US mid-Atlantic and New England region today? Where is God in the leftover environmental and collateral damage of Fukushima? Where was He when those tornadoes leveled parts of Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia? ‘I want to know where God is in all this’, many have said this past week.

 

The answer to that question is, He is present in the courage and resolve of people to carry on their lives after these tragedies, and in the resilience of those whose lives have been destroyed who vow to rebuild, whose loved ones have been swept away and whose homes were destroyed. God is still present in the goodness, kindness and generosity from people all over the world who reach out and help strangers who live far from them, to contribute aid and to pray for them (hopefully a lot!). How can people do such things if God were not at work in them to lend a counterweight to the devastating burden of a natural disaster? He is present in the human empathy and compassion of the thousands of volunteers who are helping with the cleanup in the greater Houston area, not counting all the other places from western Louisiana west to Corpus Christi, where selfless people working without any expectation of compensation are currently laboring to help these most unfortunate people, the majority of whom are in dire straits.

 

For believers and non-believers alike, there is no satisfactory answer for why we suffer. Each person has to come to grips with that fact of life in their own way. It’s not as if some magic answer can be found within humanity. But the idea of God suffering along with us while possessing unfathomable sympathy and endless love for us all can be very helpful to say the least. Jesus followers like myself believe that God became human in the form of Jesus Christ, who suffered unimaginably extreme pain and then died on the cross, only to rise from the dead on the morning of the third day. At the moment of death, Jesus on the cross cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27: 46) Christians do not worship an aloof and impersonal God, but a God who understands what it means to suffer. People can relate more easily to a God who understands them, and whose suffering 2,000 years ago on the cross makes the trauma of any natural disaster seem like child’s play.

 

Where is God right now? God is right there in the midst of people who are grieving and sorrowful. In my own life, when I have felt great sorrow I have trusted that God is with me in this and that I’m not facing my struggles alone. Oftentimes people become much closer to Jesus in times of sorrow or tragedy. They find that they are able to meet Him in new ways. Why? Because when our defenses are down and we’re more vulnerable, God can open up our hearts more easily. It’s not that God gets closer to us, it’s that we become more open so that we are drawn closer to him.

 

These natural disasters have become the collective responsibility of all humankind to mobilize our compassion and resources to ease the pain of the people who have suffered. There are those who say such disasters are the result of the sins of those who were victims, while there are others who disagree. I don’t care to address that issue here except to say that America, from the leadership on down, is in so much sin that it collectively needs some serious repentance. There can be no doubt that the American Empire is in need of some restraint. By the same token, I want to be clear that none of the hurricane victims “deserved” these disasters because of anything they said or did. Rather, I see these kinds of tragedies as being part test and part rebuke from God.

 

I firmly believe that God tests those He loves, and these tragedies also serve as a reminder to the rest of us to remain grateful to God for all our blessings and be cognizant of the fact that we have a moral obligation to support those in need. These kinds of calamities should (hopefully) motivate more of us to act in positive ways. They should strengthen our faith in God and in his goodness, particularly when we see evidence of Him in the rebuilding efforts that are already underway, not to mention all the volunteers and donations that are pouring in. We attribute the things we don’t understand to God’s limitless wisdom and comfort ourselves that he is with us and he loves us, so there must be some meaning in what has happened, even if it is beyond our comprehension here at this time.

 

We are trained by life and by our faith in Christ that every suffering, whether big or small, brings us closer to God’s love, his mercy and forgiveness, even to the extent that Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matt. 5: 3). So you can clearly see that those who are the most dispirited by these natural disasters and related misfortune will always wind up being the most blessed because of it. That’s how God works. These times of suffering give us an opportunity to demonstrate our generosity, patience and faith In doing so we become closer to God by our service to humanity. Every natural disaster we experience challenges us as God’s trustees on this Earth, showing us that we should continue to study and explore ways of safeguarding humankind from being subjected to this kind of devastation. It is the collective duty of all humankind to put resources into this and advance our understanding of how to respond to these disasters in a scientific way while constantly maintaining our Spiritual connections with Christ – while never letting go of either.

 

As we contemplate the great number of people who have suffered and died in these tragedies, we may feel very strongly that a part of ourselves has also died due to our family ties and interconnections. The word for this is ’empathy’. The pain of one part of humankind is the pain of the whole of humanity, for all who worship Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Lord of the universe. The human species and the planet Earth are one body comprising one living environment. What happens to one part of humanity happens to the whole of humanity. Events such as these remind us of the temporary nature of our lives. It helps us remember that what’s most important is to love God first by believing in Jesus and then to love each other, to be there for each other, and to treasure each moment we have that we are alive. This is the best that we can do for those who have died. We can live in such a way that they are continuing to live in us but more mindfully, more profoundly, more beautifully, savoring every minute of life available to us on their behalf as well as our own. Anyone claiming to be a Christian, but who is unaffected by or laughs at the misfortune of others, is as phony as a 3 dollar bill, and deep down inside they know it too. We don’t have much time left. The second coming of Christ is likely imminent! When He returns, the first thing we will be asked has nothing to do with our religious beliefs. Jesus will first ask us, ‘What did you do for others, and how did you go about it?’. We will all be commanded to give an account of ourselves, how we lived our lives, and particularly how we treated others. Jesus said, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice”, and that is perfectly applicable to natural disasters and how well we serve those victims.

 

I don’t believe God wanted any of these disasters to happen. I don’t think this was ever God’s intention at all. We know that there are going to be storms in life, and anyone believing otherwise is only fooling themselves. No matter what happens we need to keep our faith and trust in almighty God. And I want the people of Japan, the Texas coastal areas, and all the rest of the world to know that God hasn’t forgotten them, that God does care for them and that He most definitely loves them. We care and God cares, and we’re standing by you all. And we will use these experiences to practice that which strengthens us most, which is human compassion and empathy. As the human population continues to grow throughout most of the world, it is our responsibility as believers in Jesus to begin making sure that there is enough to go around for everybody by sharing our natural and human resources wisely. Taking care of disaster victims, or donating whatever one can spare if they are unable to be there in person, is a very good place to start.

 

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Free Book excerpt #10 from Author and Pastor Paul J. Bern

Although I meant to publish this yesterday afternoon, a series of computer software problems on my desktop workstation have been keeping me from posting this until now. Monday was the 54th anniversary of Rev. Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Allow me to share a little something about that historic event from my first book title. The rest is self-explanatory….

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I Dare To Dream

(excerpt from “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto 3rd Edition” by Pastor Paul J. Bern)

The march of economic inequality, from which springs the source of racism, poverty, crime, violence, and lack of access to healthcare and higher education, has become the new civil rights issue of the 21st century. (I like to call it Rev. Dr. MLK, Jr. 2.0.) King’s dream of unconditional equality throughout the country can finish becoming a reality when the economic barriers that we all face on a daily basis finally come down for good, like an economic Berlin Wall circa 1989. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke to the masses during the 1963 civil rights march on Washington and said, “I have a dream…”. By writing and publishing these words it is my intent to help take up where King’s Dream left off, and to do anything I can to help finish the job that he started. And so let me slightly change that to, “I dare to dream”.

I dare to dream of a world in which the gap between rich and poor is gone forever. We all deserve to live in a world where wealth has been redistributed in a peaceful and orderly manner and not by the barrel of a gun. I dare to dream of a country where wealth has been redistributed in 4 ways. First, every worker earns a living wage so poverty can be eliminated. Second, free higher education and vocational retraining must be available to every worker for life, including daycare available to all, that would be based on the worker’s or student’s ability to pay on a sliding scale, because everyone has the right to better themselves at will. Third, I envision an America where quality health care is available to every worker at nominal cost for life. Single-payer healthcare based on the current Medicare model must not be reserved only for those who can afford it, but it must be a fundamental human right for all ages. I dare to dream of an America where there will be no such thing as someone without health insurance, where every citizen will have lifetime healthcare and prescription drug coverage without qualification, and where there will be the fewest sick days for American workers and their children of any country in the developed world. Fourth, “we the people” demand the abolition of the federal tax code, including elimination of the despised federal withholding tax, which would give every American worker or business owner an immediate 18% pay raise.

I dare to dream of a new America with a robust and viable economy. That is why I have been insisting on a $14.00 per hour minimum wage since 2010. I dare to dream of a new America where education will be subsidized from the cradle to the grave so that the US develops the most formidable work force the world has ever seen. I dare to dream of an America where all workers have the right to organize, to a flexible work week and to paid family or maternity leave. Most other developed countries already do this. The US is the only exception and that has got to change. The only remaining question in my mind is whether we can accomplish this peacefully or otherwise, and it looks more and more to me like it will be the latter.

I dare to dream of an America where affordable housing is the law of the land, where home ownership becomes a right and not a privilege so we can wipe out homelessness, and where the price of a house is limited to the sum total of ten years income of any given individual or household purchasers. I insist on a country where home ownership isn’t part of an exclusive club with the highest “credit scores”. It is, and must become, a basic human right. Even the cave men lived in caves of their own!

I dare to dream of a country with new public works programs that put an end to unemployment forever so the USA can have full employment all the time. America’s infrastructure needs to be rebuilt, and its inner cities are in dire need of an overhaul. What a better way to accomplish this!

I dare to dream of a new America with an all-new public school and university system that has an Internet-based curriculum that can be updated at will, and that is second to none in the developed world, with a new and more intensive school year, and that has viable replacements for standardized testing, and where class size is limited by law. I dare to dream of a country where teachers make what their Congressional representatives make, and vice verse.

I dare to dream of a new nation where unconditional equality is the law of the land for every citizen without exception, and this will include economic equality. I dare to dream of a new America where there is no more income tax, no capital gains tax, no alternative minimum tax, no estate tax, no self-employment tax, and where families and businesses can have a tax free income unless they are very wealthy. In its place would be a national sales tax, such as a Consumption Tax, where everyone pays proportionately the same tax rate on only what they consume, plus an “excess wealth tax” for persons with annual incomes exceeding $3 million, and for businesses with annual proceeds exceeding $300 million, so America’s budget can be balanced and fair.

I dare to dream of a better USA where personal privacy is the law of the land, where identity theft is a thing of the past, and where it will be illegal for employers to obtain the credit files or credit scores of any job applicant.

I dare to dream of a more compassionate America where children have the right to a challenging and progressive learning environment, and where kids will be legally guaranteed freedom from hunger, sickness and violence, and where all God’s children will have the right to safe adoption, foster care and day care.

I dare to dream of an all-new voting system, including the abolition of the elitist Electoral College, that is Internet-based, paperless, and that can be accessed from any location using any computer or wireless device, instead of wasting our time and fuel and losing work time going to polling stations, and instead of using unreliable and unsecured voting machines.

I dare to dream of an America of integrity where all of the dirty corporate money and all the filthy lucre is abolished from our political process. I dare to dream of an America where the Wall Street shysters who crashed the US economy are brought to justice, and where the keys to all of the fraudulently foreclosed homes are returned to their rightful owners.

I dare to dream of the end to America’s sinister war on drugs, where all convicted nonviolent drug offenders can qualify for alternative sentences for their offenses so they may obtain early release, and where all the currently illegal drugs are legalized, regulated and taxed by appropriate legislation.

Finally, I dare to dream of a world in which all this is easily financially achievable because all the money that is being wasted currently on the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and to a lesser extent in Pakistan, Libya and elsewhere will be redirected towards all these dreams that I have just mentioned. The money is already there, its just being budgeted in all the wrong places. Let me tell you why.

If the US military took all the money it spends occupying Afghanistan for just one day and put it into an interest-bearing account, there would be enough money available to send every American school kid from the first grade up to senior year in high school through 4 years of college fully paid for, including tuition, dorms, books, food, access to the Internet and to public transportation. Here’s another example: If the US government took all that money set aside from one days worth of military expenditures in Afghanistan alone, there would be enough money to build a 2,500 square feet house, fully furnished and stocked with groceries, with all the utilities already turned on, for every homeless person in the US including all the homeless kids. That’s how easily we can end homelessness in the richest country in the world.

Just as surely as there was an Arab Spring beginning in 2011 that is still ongoing in Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia and Somalia, to name a few, so I am telling you that there will be an American Spring in her near future. In fact, I’m surprised it hasn’t already begun. Beginning in 2011 with the start-up of the “Occupy” and “99%” Movements, of which I am proud to be a part, this uprising of the American people against the top 1% will explode like an atomic mushroom cloud over the American political and economic elite, obliterating them all in a bloodless coup without anyone having fired a single shot – so that the remaining 99% of us can peacefully take back what has been stolen from us over the last 100 years. We can only accomplish this by uniting together as one and acting as one body to break free from the shackles of oppression that have us all enslaved. Who is with me today?

You have just read the end of chapter 9 of my book, “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto” (Copyright 2011 by Paul J. Bern, 470 pages, print edition $18.95) To view a short video about the book recorded by the author, click here. To order your copy, go to pcmatl.org click the book link on the right and scroll to bottom! To order the Kindle edition, click here. Also available on B&N Nook. Thanks so much!

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Free book sample #9 from this blog’s author

Occupying America: We Shall Overcomeby Brother Paul J. Bern (I wasn’t certified as a pastor yet when this was published). One of the most exhaustive, comprehensive books about the growing “Occupy Wall St.” and “We Are The 99%” Movements written so far. Pro-Occupy; anti-government; very dissident!! Now in its third edition!!


 

The United States exists in two forms. The original United States that was in operation until 1860 was a collection of sovereign Republics in the union. Under the original Constitution the States controlled the Federal Government; the Federal Government did not control the States and had very little authority. The original United States has been usurped by a separate and different UNITED STATES formed in 1871, which only controls the District of Columbia and its territories, and which is actually a corporation (the UNITED STATES CORPORATION) that acts as our current government. The United States Corporation operates under Corporate/Commercial/Public Law rather than Common/Private Law. The original Constitution was never removed; it has simply been dormant since 1871. It is still intact to this day. This fact was made clear by Supreme Court Justice Marshall Harlan (Downes v. Bidwell, 182, U.S. 244 1901) by giving the following dissenting opinion: “Two national governments exist; one to be maintained under the Constitution, with all its restrictions; the other to be maintained by Congress outside and Independently of that Instrument.”

The rewritten Constitution of the UNITED STATES CORPORATION bypasses the original Constitution for the United States of America, which explains why our Congressmen and Senators don’t abide by it, and the President can write Executive Orders to do whatever he/she wants. They are following corporate laws that completely strip sovereigns of their God given unalienable rights. Corporate/Commercial/Public Law is not sovereign (private), as it is an agreement between two or more parties under contract. Common Law (which sovereigns operate under) is not Commercial Law; it is personal and private.

I will now present an abbreviated history of how we, the American workers who keep things running smoothly in our professional lives while holding things together in our personal lives as best as we can, wound up in the position in which we find ourselves, and how our country ended up this way.

[1] In 1788 (January 1), The United States was officially bankrupt. We still are.

[2] In 1790 (August 4), Article One of the U.S. Statutes at Large, pages 138-178, abolished the States of the Republic and created Federal Districts. In the same year, the former States of the Republic reorganized as Corporations and their legislatures wrote new State Constitutions, absent defined boundaries, which they presented to the people of each state for a vote…the new State Constitutions fraudulently made the people “Citizens” of the new Corporate States. A Citizen is also defined as a “corporate fiction.”

[3] In 1845, Congress passed legislation that would ultimately allow Common Law to be usurped by Admiralty Law (www.barefootsworld.net/admiralty.html). The yellow fringe placed at the bottom of court flags shows this is still true. Before 1845, Americans were considered sovereign individuals who governed themselves under Common Law.

[4] In 1861, President Lincoln declared a National Emergency and Martial Law, which gave the President unprecedented powers and removed it from the other branches. This has NEVER been reversed.

[5] In 1863, the “Lieber Code” was established taking away your property and your rights.

[6] From 1864-1867, Several Reconstruction Acts were passed forcing the states to ratify the 14th Amendment, which made everyone slaves.

[7] In 1865, the capital was moved to Washington, D.C., a separate country – not a part of the United States of America.

[8] In 1871, The United States became a Corporation with a new constitution and a new corporate government, and the original constitutional government was vacated to become dormant, but it was never terminated. The new constitution had to be ratified by the people according to the original constitution, but it never was. The whole process occurred behind closed doors. The people are the source of financing for this new government.

[9] In 1917, the Trading with the Enemy Act (TWEA) was passed. This act was implemented to deal with the countries we were at war with during World War I. It gave the President and the Alien Property Custodian the right to seize the assets of the people included in this act and if they wanted to do business in this country they could apply for a license to do so. By 1921, the Federal Reserve Bank (the trustee for the Alien Property Custodian) held over $700,000,000 in trust. Understand that this trust was based on our assets, not theirs.

[10] In 1933, there was a second United States bankruptcy. In the first bankruptcy the United States collateralized all public lands. In the 1933 bankruptcy, the U.S. government collateralized the private lands of the people (a lien) – they borrowed money against our private lands. They were then mortgaged. That is why we pay property taxes.

[11] From a speech in Congress in The Bankruptcy of the United States Congressional Record, March 17, 1993, Vol. 33, page H-1303, Speaker Representative James Trafficant Jr. (Ohio) addressing the House states: “…It is an established fact that the United States Federal Government has been dissolved by the Emergency Banking Act, March 9, 1933, 48 Stat. 1, Public Law 89-719; declared by President Roosevelt, being bankrupt and insolvent. H.J.R. 192, 73rd Congress session June 5, 1933 – Joint Resolution To Suspend The Gold Standard and Abrogate The Gold Clause dissolved the Sovereign Authority of the United States and the official capacities of all United States Governmental Offices, Officers, and Departments and is further evidence that the United States Federal Government exists today in name only. Prior to 1913, most Americans owned clear, allodial title to property, free and clear of any liens of mortgages until the Federal Reserve Act (1913) “Hypothecated” all property within the Federal United States to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, in which the Trustees (stockholders) held legal title. The U.S. Citizen (tenant, franchisee) was registered as a “beneficiary” of the trust via his/her birth certificate. In 1933, the Federal United States hypothecated all of the present and future properties, assets, and labor of their “subjects,” the 14th Amendment U.S. Citizen to the Federal Reserve System. In return, the Federal Reserve System agreed to extend the federal United States Corporation all of the credit “money substitute” it needed… (L)ike any debtor, the Federal United States government had to assign collateral and security to their creditors as a condition of the loan. Since the Federal United States didn’t have any assets, they assigned the private property of their “economic slaves,” the U.S. Citizens, as collateral against the federal debt. They also pledged the unincorporated federal territories, national parks, forests, birth certificates, and nonprofit organizations as collateral against the federal debt. All has already been transferred as payment to the international bankers. Unwittingly, America has returned to its pre-American Revolution feudal roots whereby all land is held by a sovereign and the common people had no rights to hold allodial title to property. Once again, We the People are the tenants and sharecroppers renting our own property from a Sovereign in the guise of the Federal Reserve Bank. We the People have exchanged one master for another.”

 

Welcome to the real USA, which is nothing like you’ve been taught. To find out more about these critical issues facing our country — and collectively ourselves — you can get this book in print format from here. “Occupying America is also available in digital format ($3.95) from here, or as an audio-book on Amazon from here. Watch a 5 minute video about the book from this link. Many thanks to all!!

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Free book excerpt #8 from Author and Pastor Paul J. Bern

The Apostles In Plain English Vol. 1: the Apostle Paul” by Pastor Paul J. Bern

To watch a short video about the book, click here

 

 Preparing Ourselves For the Day of the Lord

[1st Thessalonians chapter 5]

When I closed out 1st Thessalonians chapter four last week, you no doubt recall my interpretation that we are to be living each day of our lives as if it will be our last. I cannot overemphasize this important truth, nor is it possible to diminish its importance. God is watching everything we do and listening to everything we say, and for a man like myself being in a position of Christian leadership, I am held to a higher standard by the Lord, because what applies to church members applies to me twice as much. Plus, as our Lord’s return for his Church continues to get ever closer, I fervently hope that others will follow my example and be continually readying themselves for His coming. And this, my dear readers, is a goal worth attaining at any time. It is at this point that the apostle Paul takes up where he left off, starting at the beginning of chapter five.

Now, brothers, about times and dates we need not write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying ‘Peace and Safety’, destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation from our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1st Thessalonians 5, verses 1-11)

Paul paints a vivid picture of the coming of the Lord. Of course, one might ask if this is pertaining to the rapture of the church, or to the Lord’s triumphant return three and a half years later (see the Book of Daniel chapter 12, etc). If you are one of those who has studied the rapture, the tribulation and the signs that we are living in the end times (never mind what you may have seen on TV or at the movies), then it is essential that we understand what Paul meant here. When he wrote, “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night”, I believe this warning was meant primarily for the Church. Be ready, watch and pray that we receive purification from the Holy Spirit, so that as members of the Bride of Christ we may be found “without spot or blemish”.

While people are saying ‘Peace and Safety’, destruction will come on them suddenly…”. According to prophecy, before the Antichrist can come to power, World War 3 will have to occur first (also known as the Gog-Magog war of Ezekiel 39 and 39). There will also have been a series of natural disasters that will have occurred by this point in time (I don’t have time to explain that part in detail, so please bear with me). People will be clamoring globally to be free to live in peace, and to be safe from natural disasters; “… and they will not escape” can be translated into modern English as saying, “Total destruction will overpower them without warning, and they won’t stand a chance”. Nobody knows exactly what this means since all those other events have not yet occurred, and speculation would be counterproductive. All I can tell you is that the Antichrist will be in power for a total of seven years, and that one of his first acts will be to negotiate the peace treaty that ends World War 3. All the countries involved will adhere to this peace agreement for three and a half years. At that point the Antichrist will do something that breaks that same peace deal while elevating himself to something supposedly equivalent to God, as if there were such a thing. It is at this point that the persecution of Christians will greatly increase, and this will be happening in the US as well. This will be the “acid test” for all of those who identify themselves as being Christians. Either we take the mark of the beast and worship the Antichrist as god here on earth, or we refuse and continue to worship Jesus as the Son of God in heaven. Those who do worship Jesus will find themselves being martyred by the forces of the Antichrist. A time is coming when our Christianity will cost us our life. What will you choose? To quote the prophet Jeremiah, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord”. Since the Lord died on the cross for my sins, I would not have any problem returning the favor, knowing that like himself, he will raise me from the dead to eternal life. We should all be willing to do the same.

But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.” Remember who we are in Christ! We are the adopted sons and daughters of the Most High God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. We were bought at a very steep price, one that no man would be willing to pay. We were adopted as sons and daughters of Jesus our Kinsman Redeemer, making all of us Jewish by adoption (see Romans 8: 15-17 or Galatians 4: 4-7, among others). We don’t belong to the night and we never did, we were born for the day and for the light from our very conception. “Let’s be alert and self-controlled”, Paul wrote. You won’t be ready to meet the Lord at the rapture if you’re in bed sleeping off a hangover, or after playing video games all night long. As I have said before, it’s time for us all to get our priorities straight. Jesus first, worship him first and always give him top priority in your daily living and you’ll find yourself living with an internal peace that was neither present nor possible before. I’m speaking from experience, and if God can do this for me then he can do so for you too. But we must ask Him first. Sitting around waiting for God to give any of us a hand-out will accomplish nothing, unless one considers wasting time an accomplishment. I most definitely don’t!

God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation from our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…”. I will sum this up in one sentence – we’re not here to be on the receiving end of the tribulation that Jesus spoke about, but rather we will be protected from it if only we remain faithful to his Word. “If you love me”, Jesus said, “keep my commandments”. Jesus died so that we may have eternal life with him in heaven, a new dwelling place that we have not yet seen. Obeying His commandments is the second prerequisite, believing that he is the Son of God is the first. Having written that, let’s conclude our study starting at verse twelve.

Now we ask you brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. Brothers, pray for us. Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” (1st Thessalonians chapter 5, verses 12-28)

Respect the value of hard work, Paul is saying, and especially those who do so. Dirty hands and sweat can turn an otherwise boring day into a really fun one. This is especially true of the younger men and women who are still able-bodied enough to do so (unfortunately, that is no longer the case with me). Hard physical work is dignified provided that it is done constructively. “Warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” Build each other up, don’t tear each other down! Make the idle people either get off their butts and get to work or move on and stop standing in the way. It is written in the law of Moses, “If a man will not work he shall not eat”. Yet by the same token we are commanded to “be patient with everyone”. Give the slower people a chance to catch up. Better yet, why not donate your time and tutor a few to help them along? Now that would be in keeping with the Holy Spirit of Christ!

“ …always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.” Sometimes I think the secular world understands this better than modern churches do today. Immediately after recent natural disasters here in America, there were armies on volunteers that descended on these devastated areas and helped clean up, doing whatever needed to be done. What surprised me was when I found out that up to half of these volunteers don’t bother going to church. Yet they understood the command and answered the calling that God obviously put on them. “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” Let the Holy Spirit always be in control of everyone, every life, in every situation and in all circumstances. Check out everything you see, hear or read to determine its value, or the lack thereof. Put problem people completely out of your life if that’s what it takes to get free from negative influences and all forms of evil. Hold on to the good and simply let everything else go. Such timeless wisdom!

May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” Paul closes out by replaying that theme of being found holy and blameless before the Lord, with the understanding that this is only possible through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. No one can do this by themselves, but only through complete reliance on the Holy Spirit can such a noble goal as this be achieved. The key is in the last sentence, “The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” Total reliance on Christ will enable him to cause us to be holy, pure and blameless in the sight of God. Instead of being self-reliant as we are in most situations, we are to step aside and let Christ do the work, not for us but through us as we become willing conduits for his unequaled Spiritual power. That is the ultimate meaning of unity through Christ. Shalom!

 Available in print at

http://www.pcmatl.org/#!books-and-donations/c17et

Get the Kindle version by clicking here 

Or, get it for Apple/Mac or Kobo.com from here

Get the audio version on Amazon Audible from here

Many thanks to all!

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“White Nationalism” Is a Rallying Cry From a Bygone Era

Racism and “White Nationalism” Have No Place

in 21st Century America

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

To view this in any browser, click here! 🙂

I once saw a one-hour documentary on cable TV (back in the days when I still watched TV) that was all about neo-Nazi skinheads, their swastika tattoos and flags, and how they are organized into gangs that operate outside the law. The extreme racial hatred of these people was chronicled by this cable channel in raw detail. It showed how these organizations recruit new members over the Internet, and how they support themselves by selling drugs and guns. I clearly remember how appalled I was as I watched this documentary with all the hate and violence perpetrated by these racist organizations. It made me think about the first book of John in the New Testament and what it says about those who harbor racist hate.

 

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded him.” (1st John 2, verses 9-11) Fast forward to the present, and we had a very public example this past week of politicized, racist behavior in connection with the riots in Charlottesville, Va. this past Friday and Saturday. So-called “white nationalists” put on this big public demonstration and parade, and all the while there were equally numerous anti-bigotry counter-protesters, resulting in an inevitable clash between the two that would up on global TV news outlets. The death toll from these incidents has just risen to 3 as I write this. Was it really worth 3 human lives just so hatred and intolerance could be better expressed? I think not!!

 

Ask people if they love God or not and the vast majority will say yes, excluding the atheists. (Atheists have themselves as their own gods, so they engage in what amounts to self-worship.) Yet how many of us harbor hate, intolerance and mistrust towards groups of people who are different from us for various reasons? Religion, race, nationality, age, gender, sexual orientation and especially differences in economic status are some of the most common examples. We can’t love God and at the same time hate that which He has created. This can range from laughing at a racial joke all the way up to mass murder in schools, churches or movie theaters. The underlying message implied by these things is that there are some people who think that they are somehow better than everybody else. “I think I’m better than you”, is the basis for their opinions, and that’s wrong! God created us all and He sees us as equals, as it is written: “Rich and poor have this in common; the Lord is the Maker of them all.” (Proverbs 22: 2)

 

It is high time for these condescending, racist “white nationalist” people to begin seeing themselves as peers as God has commanded us to! Otherwise, things can go terribly wrong in a hurry, as we have already seen on TV. In this next quote the apostle John, the younger half-brother of Jesus, takes this a step further. “If anyone says,’I love God’, yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And He has given us this command: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1st John 4, verses 20-21)

 

If there is one thing we can say about this passage of Scripture, it is that John tells it like it really is. He minces no words with this last quote, “whoever loves God must also love his brother”. That was not just an idea or a suggestion. This is how we are to be conducting ourselves in everyday living. If we love God, then we are to love that which he has created. “For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen”. It’s hard to get any more blunt and direct than that. So, people who are racially prejudiced and hate-filled but still go to church, do so in vain! They are committing a gross injustice against people of color by their racism, which is why racism is an injustice in God’s eyes! Does the Bible have anything else to say about injustice? In fact it has volumes of commentary and Godly commands that humankind is charged with the task of following. Isaiah 30, verse 18 says, “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!”. Zechariah chapter 7, verse 9 says, “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.” Here is one Bible verse that I can truly say a certain Texas state trooper violated when he racially profiled Sandra Bland due to her broken tail-light and Black complexion back in 2015. That, combined with her out-of-state tag, made that officer indirectly responsible for her untimely demise. I wonder how he sleeps at night?

 

There are many varieties of bigotry, intolerance and prejudice. It can be racial. Do you hate black or white people? What about the Latino immigrants, who are in fact economic refugees from Mexico and Central America? It can be gender-based. Are you a guy who hates women or vice verse? There are people like that, more than one might think. Speaking of sex, do you hate gay people? We may not agree with their lifestyle, and many say they are in sin, but that doesn’t give us the right to despise them. Although we believe the Bible says homosexuality is a sin as the majority of Christians do, that give us no license to hate the sinner. Just because they are different than you doesn’t make them any worse or yourself any better. Sexual sin is still sexual sin, and questions about same-sex as opposed to opposite sex attraction are, to me, besides the point. The same goes for age discrimination. Ask any older worker who has been turned down for a job in favor of a younger candidate to describe that experience. I’ve walked a mile in those shoes myself. What about homeless people? Do you tend to not tolerate or fear the homeless? What about the mentally ill? Moreover, economic discrimination is the worst kind of prejudice because it affects the largest group of people, since 99% of America’s wealth is squarely in the hands of the top 1% of the US population. What is the antidote for this social sickness? How do we overcome all the artificial barriers that constitute hate, intolerance and prejudice? How can we put forth fundamental change in these areas? For the answer to this pressing question, let’s refer one last time to the apostle John.

 

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed His love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us….There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because He first loved us.” (1st John 4; verses 7-12, 18-19)

 

Love is the perfect eraser for hate. Bigotry, intolerance and prejudice are based on fear – fear of what we don’t understand – and hate, which itself is pure evil because it is derived from contempt. To overcome this, try volunteering in an inner city ministry where you live, or maybe at a food bank or in a homeless shelter, or at the church you attend. It will open your eyes to a whole different world. Hunger in America is real, near-panic over America’s future is too, and they are ever-present. The middle class is disappearing because big multinational corporations have exported all the good middle class jobs for pennies on the dollar to emerging countries and economies worldwide. At this point, the only thing left that “we the people” can do about it is an outright revolt, but the violence in Charlottesville, Va. was not the way to go about it! Instead, our churches should be a very good places to start, whether it be for ministry, community outreach or even outright revolution (think “Black Robed Regiment” from the US Revolutionary war). But, if churches aren’t your first choice, there are lots of other nonprofits out there such as Goodwill, the Veterans Association and so on. Better yet, start a movement of your own. By volunteering or being a missionary in the poorest parts of your city or town, that is just one way we can combat racism and poverty as an entire nation. From this kind of a ministry we can gain understanding, from understanding tolerance, from tolerance compassion, and from compassion empathy. These are the antidotes for racism, bigotry, prejudice and intolerance. This is how we as a nation can stop hate in its tracks. This is how we as a united American people can ensure there are no more Sandra Bland’s (RIP kid sister, you are not forgotten) or Charlottesville, Virginia’s. Hate is no longer OK, it isn’t even tolerable for those with a strong sense of conscience and a deep desire for justice. You will be surprised at what a positive effect this can have on your outlook on life. It works for me! And the God of peace, a holy peace that is beyond normal human comprehension, will be with you all when you do so.

 

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Book excerpt #5 from Pastor Paul J. Bern regarding his recent release, “Cannabis Legalization and the Bible: Compatible or Not?”

“Cannabis Legalization and the Bible: Compatible or Not?” written and published by Rev. Paul J. Bern

Now available in audio too, simply click here! 🙂

Watch the video at https://youtu.be/o_UXdIsBuf8

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The War On Drugs does more harm than good Here we are, well over four decades after Richard Nixon declared the war on drugs in 1971 and $1 trillion spent since then. What do we have to show for it? The U.S. has the largest prison population in the world, with about 2.3 million behind bars. Well over half a million of those people are incarcerated for a drug law violation. What a waste of space and human life! In business, if one of our companies is failing, we take steps to identify and solve the problem. What we don’t do is continue failing strategies that cost huge sums of money and exacerbate the problem. Rather than continuing on the disastrous path of the ‘war on drugs’, the world needs to look at what works and what doesn’t in terms of real evidence and data. The facts are overwhelming. If the global drug trade were a country, it would have one of the top 20 economies in the world. In 2005, the United Nations estimated the global illegal drug trade is worth more than $320 billion, and that was 11 years ago as of this writing. It also estimates there are 230 million illegal drug users in the world, yet 90% of them are not classified as problematic. In the United States, if illegal drugs were taxed at rates comparable to those on alcohol and tobacco, they would yield $49.7 billion in tax revenue. Moreover, the Cato study says legalizing drugs would save the U.S. an additional $41 billion a year in enforcing the drug laws.

Have U.S. drug laws reduced drug use? No, it’s exactly the opposite. The U.S. is the No. 1 nation in the world in illegal drug use. As with Prohibition, banning alcohol didn’t stop people drinking, it just stopped people from obeying the law. About 40,000 people were in U.S. jails and prisons for drug crimes in 1980, compared with more than 540,000 today. Excessively long prison sentences and locking up people for small drug offenses contribute greatly to this ballooning of the prison population. It also represents racial discrimination and targeting disguised as drug policy. People of color are no more likely to use or sell illegal drugs than white people – yet from 1980 to 2007, blacks were arrested for drug law violations at rates 2.8 to 5.5 times higher than white arrest rates. Prohibition failed when the American people spoke up and demanded its repeal. Today, the American people are showing their visceral dissatisfaction with the ‘war on drugs’ by voting for change, often in the face of federal law. Colorado and Washington recently became the first U.S. states to legalize recreational use of marijuana. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia allow the medical use of marijuana, and 74% of Americans support alternatives to locking people up for marijuana possession.

What does the Bible say about making a creation of Almighty God’s illegal or immoral? This book uncovers the ugly truth about America’s ‘Drug War’, while disproving all the myths and government propaganda about medical marijuana. In this book you will discover the following:

  • America’s drug war is based on racism and illegality on the part of government, and particularly law enforcement.

  • The private prison industry is raking in billions of US taxpayer money because of the ‘drug war’.

  • Alcohol, tobacco, prescription pain killers and codeine are all at least 5 times more dangerous than marijuana.

  • The pharmaceutical industry, as well as law enforcement, benefit financially from the drug war.

  • The federal government has been lying for decades about the addictive properties of medical marijuana. Cannabis has been repeatedly proven in study after study to be non-addictive.

This book blows the lid off the “War On Drugs” while proving conclusively that the ‘drug war’ is actually an all-out war on the American people. Our time to rise up has come.

To learn more, visit https://www.pcmatl.org/#!books-and-donations/c17et

Also available on Kindle, Nook, Apple and Smashwords.com

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The Immigration Debate, president Trump and Jesus

The Progressive Christian Approach

to Immigration Reform

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

To view this in any browser, click here! 🙂

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My message for today revolves around what the media and our politicians are saying regarding the topic of immigration reform, as opposed to what the Bible says. We have all heard both sides of this issue from Republicans and Democrats, from conservative to progressive to liberal, as well as independent voters like myself. President Trump went on the record earlier this week to advocate for even tighter immigration requirements than those already in place. I myself was formerly on the conservative side of this issue due to the fact that had once lost a good job in the computer/IT profession due to my being replaced by foreign workers despite the fact that I was more qualified.

 

Then one day in the late spring of 2008, I took a contract job out in west Texas under very favorable terms for myself. So, I put most of my things in storage with the intention of coming back to Atlanta where I live after my contract job expired. I had never been to Texas before, and I found a completely different culture than what I was accustomed to back east. There were three things I noticed immediately soon after my arrival. The first was the oppressive heat and humidity, the second was that people ate burritos in place of burgers, and the third was that approximately one third of the population was Latino. The first thing I remember thinking when I saw that one third of the population spoke only Spanish was that this must be ground zero for ‘illegal immigration’, or so I thought at the time.

 

But I spent four months out there in Texas, and as my days turned into weeks I began to notice seemingly insignificant little things that began adding up to something much more. For example, I saw Latino men – and a few women as well – hanging around temp agencies, construction sites, and even at a U-haul truck rental company in the hopes of getting a job at least for that day. I remember being struck by the parallels between what those Latino folks were having to endure as they searched for work, and a piece of the so-called ‘American dream’, compared to my own previous job search experiences. Some of these workers lived at homeless shelters, others in campers or vans, and the more prosperous ones lived in rented mobile homes or apartments. I saw the same thing day after day, with hundreds of workers gathered around in groups of as few as eight or ten, and as many as several dozen. And so I found myself beginning to question my own intense dislike of these immigrant workers. I mean, all they really wanted was a chance at a new life in a safer and cleaner environment. What’s wrong with that?

 

Before I go any further with this message, I think I should point out that my basis for resenting many of these immigrant workers was economic rather than racial. Nevertheless, thanks to my “education”, my beliefs and opinions had been heavily slanted towards an American rather than a world view. So I found myself beginning to question my own motives for feeling the way I did. As I did some research on-line, what I found explained the cognitive dissonance between what I had been “taught” and what I saw. The average worker in Mexico earns the equivalent of about $50.00 per month USD. When these same workers come to the US they make minimum wage, more or less, which is currently still stuck at only $7.25 per hour here in Georgia. Since a sizable chunk of these workers make less than minimum wage while being paid in cash under the table, I’m going to use a rounded out number of $7.00 hourly for the whole country. A 40-hour work week at seven dollars an hour yields gross pretax earnings of $280.00 per week before taxes and Social Security. But since many of these workers don’t work full time their take home pay is even less. At any rate, this works out to gross earnings of $1,120.00 per month. If each worker pays a regular tax rate as we Americans do, and many don’t because their employers are cheating the tax man by paying in cash, they wind up with an average net take-home pay of approximately $740.00 per month. But when you compare that to making only $50.00 (USD) in Mexico, $740.00 must seem super-tantalizing to our Latino brothers and sisters.

 

I challenge anybody out there to try and live even for only a month on substandard pay such as this! The bottom line is that this is impossible while still meeting our monthly expenses in a timely manner. In order to better understand this, instead of Mexico and the US being the two countries involved, let’s use the US and Canada instead. If any given American working professional were offered a job in Canada, what would that be in relation to the US and Mexico? For any Mexican/Latino who emigrates to America, the jump from fifty bucks a month to 740 dollars equals a pay increase that is 11.4 times the going rate in Mexico or, for that matter, any Central or South American country. Now, let’s contrast that to an American jumping ship and leaving the US to go and work and live in Canada. With an average net earnings of $35,000.00 annually (before taxes) for American workers, if any of us were to be offered a job in Canada – or for that matter any other developed or emerging country worldwide – at 11.4 times the going rate here in the US, that would amount to an increase in take-home pay to $399,000.00 annually before taxes!

 

OK, so let’s ask ourselves a simple question: Would you or I be interested in a pay increase of 11.4 times the amount we have been earning previously? The obvious answer is, of course we would! So, now you know why the Latino folks are migrating – legally or not – to the US in search of work. It’s not because they are foreign invaders on an economic and social offensive to overrun America like certain people always say. It’s because they are economic refugees from the third world who are searching for a better life for themselves and their families! So, instead of resenting or even hating this influx of foreign workers, the Christian thing to do would be to reach out to the Latino communities in all fifty states and minister to them. I don’t mean giving them a handout, either. Like so many long-term unemployed here in America, they don’t want a handout, they simply want to go to work. But I felt convicted in the Holy Spirit for previously harboring such negative and bitter thoughts, and I have long since repented of this.

 

Showing compassion to foreigners and strangers is central to biblical teaching and morality. “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt.” (Exodus 22: 21) Moreover, there are quite a few Christians who have started joining the fight to pass immigration reform, including myself. Congress needs to pass immigration reform into law because it is the morally right thing to do. Those whose position on reform is based on political fear, unacknowledged racial prejudice or worries about losing primaries to far-left ideologues are too often the same people who trumpet their religious convictions as guiding their decisions in public life – in violation of the First Amendment’s separation of church and state! Politicians who are professing Christians need to consider what their faith has to say about immigration. If they oppose reform and refuse to offer shelter or compassion to our immigrant brothers and sisters, they should (hopefully) begin asking themselves why. We must join with other faith communities in asking for a moral and religious conversation about immigration reform – not just a political one. God’s passionate, abiding concern for immigrants and foreigners, strangers and travelers – and for our neighbors – is obvious to anyone reading through Scripture.

 

It is the Biblical call to “welcome the stranger” and Jesus’ concern for “the least of these” that inspires and motivates us. “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:33-34). In the New Testament, the stranger, and all who are vulnerable, are at the very heart of the Gospel (Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan is just one example of many). In the book of Matthew, Jesus offers a vision in which caring for them is the defining mark of God’s kingdom: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” (Matthew 25:35-36).

 

That evangelical as well as mainstream Christians would finally act to reform the immigration system should surprise no one, and not just for theological reasons. Undocumented immigrants have joined our congregations; we understand the problem firsthand. They are our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. And we know that by reforming our immigration laws, we can create a system that also reflects the best values of our nation and the highest ideals of our faith. We act because, as the book of James reminds us, “faith without works is dead.”

 

For me, I think the biggest change hasn’t been in the pulpit, it’s been in the pews and out in the streets. It’s one thing when 11 million people are a statistic. But it’s other thing altogether when one of those 11 million is your friend, a human being who you now know as a father, as a husband, as a mother, as a co-worker, or as a worshiper. Our faith has always been about love, empathy and compassion. It compels us to do something, putting others before ourselves. If we take the principle of compassion out of the Bible, it wouldn’t be the Bible any more. Compassion is indeed all over the Bible, it’s written in between every line! I pray it will also be found in the White House, the House of Representatives and the Senate. It’s time for Christians in Congress to stand up in support of immigration reform, or to explain why they won’t — as Christians. If they follow their faith, we will see the miracle we need. And let’s remember that there is no such thing as an illegal human being. Everybody has the right to be here.

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Yet another book excerpt from Pastor Paul J. Bern; “Cannabis Legalization and the Bible: Compatible or Not?”

legalization cover 1

Six Ways That Cannabis Criminalization

Defies All Reason and Logic

[1. Pot smokers punished more than sex offenders] Drugs are so reviled in the US and many other parts of the world that using them is considered worse than any other crime. If you commit violent crimes – arson or rape, for instance – a judge will determine all the facts of the case and consider your criminal record, if any, in sentencing you to prison or not. But if you are caught selling or growing marijuana, there are mandatory minimum sentences involved at the federal and most state levels that take the power of sentencing out of a judge’s hands and turns it into a Chinese take-out menu – a marijuana plant from Column A, within 1000 feet of a school from Column B, that will be 10 years with no parole. Next!

Still don’t believe drug use is considered worse than violent crime? Then why does our federal government pay a bounty for drug arrests, but no other arrests? These monies are called Byrne Grants and they are awarded to local police department for the express purpose of fighting drug crime. In actuality, they incentivize police to go after low-level drug offenders for the easy stat-padding drug arrest, rather than the tougher-to-catch-and-prosecute drug kingpins or the actual violent criminals out there. Still not convinced? Then explain how the Supreme Court could find the death penalty unconstitutional to punish the raping of a child, but there still exists on the books a federal death penalty for growing 60,000 marijuana plants? Or how a serial raping arsonist in Montana gets less time than a guy who merely rented space to a medical marijuana dispensary? Or how a guy who pleads no contest to sodomizing a four-year-old in Oklahoma gets a year behind bars but a college student with a dorm room stash could get life in prison? Or why there are more arrests for marijuana possession almost every year than for all violent crimes combined?

[2. The separation of church and weed.] Even an American educated in one of our fine public schools knows our Constitution recognizes freedom of religious expression. You can be Catholic, Baptist, Mormon, or have no religion at all, and that right is so important our Founding Fathers made it part of our First Amendment. You may practice your religion any way you choose, so long as you don’t violate other laws. But even then, our courts have given believers some latitude to violate laws in the name of religion. Nowhere is this more evident than in the use of drugs as a sacramental rite. A parent allowing their seven-year-old child a gulp of wine at the Olive Garden might earn a visit from Child Protective Services, but the same gulp at the cathedral is acceptable for children when it symbolizes the Blood of Christ. Our Supreme Court ruled several years ago that the use of an illegal Schedule I drug can be allowed for adherents of a South American religion using ayahuasca tea, a powerful hallucinogen that is considered a sacrament by their believers. Our Congress even went so far as to pass a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to protect such use when the Supreme Court allowed the State of Oregon to deny unemployment benefits to two Native Americans who were fired over sacramental peyote use. So it seems in the case of drug laws, the compelling state interest is preventing you from using drugs. Very few people use ayahuasca tea or peyote, it doesn’t grow everywhere, the religions that find them sacred are well-established in historical tradition, and the sincere adherents are easily identifiable. So allowing a few native religious believers their powerful psychedelic sacraments isn’t going to seriously hinder any efforts to prevent you from using those drugs. But your herb stash? That’s different, because there are 26 million Americans who are toking at least once a year and pot grows like a weed. In that event, trying to stop anyone from using, buying, growing, or selling pot would become nearly impossible.

[3. A patient on one of side of the border and a criminal on the other.] It is easy enough to find examples where differing state laws make you a criminal on one side of an imaginary line but not on the other. That applies to the numerous states that have passed medical marijuana laws and their non-medical marijuana neighbors. But what people don’t realize about medical marijuana states is that most don’t recognize each other. Only Arizona, Delaware, Maine, Michigan, and Rhode Island of the currently 17 states that recognize medical marijuana will accept the cards/recommendations from other medical marijuana states. So California and New Mexico patients who cross the border into Arizona would be safe, but Arizona patients who cross into California or New Mexico could be arrested for marijuana possession. Nowhere is it more absurd than the case of the Pacific Northwest medical marijuana states, Oregon and Washington. Both states have virtually the same list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. Both states allow patients to cultivate more than a dozen cannabis plants. Both states allow patients to possess up to a pound and a half (680 grams) of usable medicine. But if a Portland patient crosses the Columbia River into Vancouver with 40 grams of pot, he’s a felon. If the Vancouver patient crosses into Portland with 28 grams of pot, she’s a felon. Lesser amounts get you a 24-hour mandatory minimum jail stay in Washington but only a ticket and loss of driver’s license (even if you weren’t driving) in Oregon. Can you imagine if getting your driver’s license was something you had to do for each state you wanted to drive through? Now imagine that instead of a driving license, we were talking about licensing whether or not you would be able to eat today and not suffer bone-wracking pain and spasms, and you had to renew this license at full cost every year.

[4. Fine line between legal gardening and a felony.] In those 17 medical marijuana states, trying to determine which pot smokers are healthy enough to deserve a cage and which ones are sick enough to protect from arrest is bound to lead to logical absurdities. Fourteen of the states allow patients or their caregivers to tend a garden to grow their own medicine. To deter large-scale growing operations, some states have implemented limits on the number of marijuana plants a patient may grow. In a state like Washington, this is simple enough, as the state has specified fifteen as the total number of plants allowed. But in Oregon and some other medical marijuana states, a distinction has been made between “mature” and “immature” marijuana plants. Oregon’s limit is the most generous, allowing six “mature” and eighteen “immature” plants, to accommodate the fact that patients have to keep a continuous cycle of plants coming into maturity in order to maintain a steady supply of medicine. However, the law completely abandons horticultural science in defining what a “mature” marijuana plant is. In nature, a mature plant is one that is producing flowers, or in the case of cannabis, the buds that patients are putting into bongs, vaporizers, and brownies. But in the Oregon Revised Statutes, a “mature” plant is one that is greater than 12 inches in any direction or is producing buds. So your thirteen-inch pot plant vegetating in the closet is “mature”, even though it is weeks from being mature. It would be like setting the limits of sexual consent based on how tall a child is. This has led to situations where growers are diligently following the law, tending six flowering mature plants and the next three sets of six plants in three stages, only to have one set shoot up from ten inches to fourteen inches over a weekend growth spurt. Now the grower has twelve “mature” plants, even though only the six mature plants can produce any marijuana, and he’s no longer a patient, he’s a felon.

[5. Feds denying that marijuana is medicine at all costs.] The government’s intransigence on the medical utility of cannabis is the most stubborn and hypocritical federal policy ever. The feds will tell you, with a straight face, that marijuana is a Schedule I substance and as such has no recognized medical value within the United States, even as seventeen states expressly recognize its medical value. Now if you complain about the 17,000 peer-reviewed research papers sitting in the federal ‘PubMed’ database that demonstrate medical use of cannabis, you’re barking up the wrong tree. This is a federal government that itself has patented the medical utility of cannabis and still tells you it is not medicine. As if that weren’t hypocritical enough, the US government maintains a pot farm at the University of Mississippi. This is the one legal weed grow in America, expressly allowed under the 1961 UN Convention on Narcotic Drugs for the production of cannabis for research purposes. In 1975, a glaucoma sufferer named Robert Randall sued for the right to use marijuana, lest he go blind, and won. This decision led to the development of the compassionate, investigative new drug program that produced and delivered medical marijuana for Randall.

Shortly thereafter, more patients sued to get access to medical marijuana, expanding to a few more federal medical marijuana patients. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, AIDS activists began marshaling thousands of applications for HIV+ gay men who found marijuana to help combat the symptoms of their disease. So rather than expand the compassion to thousands who would have benefited, the Bush Administration in 1992 closed the program to new applicants and the Clinton Administration in 1999 declared it would not be reopened. However, the program was not closed to the patients who had already been approved. Today there are four remaining federal medical marijuana patients who receive a tin of eight or more ounces of pre-rolled federal medical marijuana from the federal medical marijuana farm every month. But, federally speaking, there is no such thing as medical marijuana.

[6. The Drug Enforcement Administration forbids cultivation of a non-drug.] Nothing is more absurd in the war on marijuana than the ban on industrial hemp. If you don’t know, hemp is also cannabis, but cultivated differently as to produce a seed and fiber crop that is exceptionally low in any drug value. It takes anywhere from 2% to 4% THC content (tetrahydrocannabinol, the “high” ingredient in pot) for someone to cop a buzz off weed. Some of the finer medical marijuana varieties may top 15% THC content. By law and international agreements, industrial hemp must be produced at less than 0.3% THC content. It’s safe to say that there is a greater alcohol concentration allowed in a “near-beer” than THC concentration in hemp. There’s more THC in my bloodstream as I write this than is found in a field of industrial hemp plants. But even though there is absolutely no way one can use hemp as a drug, its cultivation is banned by the Drug Enforcement Administration, because it contains any amount of THC. If this standard were applied to other drugs, you’d never have another legal poppy seed bagel, because they contain trace amounts of opium. SWAT teams would be raiding your grandma’s house for the decorative poppies in her backyard garden, as they could actually be processed into heroin. This is even more maddening when you realize how keeping hemp illegal works against the DEA’s stated goal of reducing outdoor marijuana cultivation. Though some cops seem to think hemp would allow pot growers to hide their illegal crop, cross-pollination of hemp into marijuana makes both crops worse. The marijuana becomes less “druggy” and the hemp becomes less “industrial”. The last thing a marijuana grower wants next to his prized plants is a hemp farm.

What is the most dangerous activity you can engage in? If you guessed doing illegal drugs, you would be wrong. Extreme sports like big wave surfing, base or bunjey jumping, cave diving, white-water rafting and mountain climbing all have a higher rate of risk to life and limb. Yet the question of a ban on these behaviors beloved by “adrenaline addicts” is viewed as ludicrous, even when the risk of death, say, in climbing Mount Everest once (until recently, about 1 in 3) is greater than the annual risk of dying from heroin addiction (around 1% to 4%). Or consider mundane activities like driving: Car accidents are responsible for 1% of annual deaths nationwide. Cigarettes and alcohol do at least as much, if not more, harm to each user than heroin or cocaine. Alcohol, cocaine and heroin have a 3% to 15% rate of addiction, depending on how it is measured—and tobacco’s rate is much higher. Yet the risks don’t align well with their legal and social status, especially when you consider that marijuana is safer than any of the legal drugs. The reasons for this inconsistency around risk are complicated. Driving has huge personal and economic benefits. Risky sports are seen as noble challenges that foster the human will toward exploration, adventure and growth. When it comes to non-medical drug use, however, discussion of benefits tends to be either dismissed as delusional or simply stifled.

I don’t mention these facts to promote drug use – not at all! That I feel compelled to immediately include such a disclaimer underlines my point: Our values shape our perception of risk and the way we make drug policy. If we recognize only the risks and ignore the benefits, we fail to understand that the real problems are addiction and harm — not the substances themselves and the people who use them. For instance, when we talk about the “epidemics” of Oxycontin, methamphetamine or heroin, we rarely acknowledge that the majority of users never become addicted. Over the course of a lifetime, only about 10% to 15% of regular users ever get hooked for an entire lifetime. That risk is not insignificant: Few people would fly on a plane that crashed every tenth flight. But focusing on use as the main factor in addiction obscures what is actually at stake. There are, decade after decade, headlines about the fall of one drug and the rise of another. Yet the overall rate of people with addictions remains fairly constant. Although population differences and other variables make the numbers hard to compare exactly, a large national survey in 1990 found a 3.6% rate of illegal drug problems (such as abuse or dependence) in people ages 15 to 54 during the previous 12 months. The most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which includes people from age 12 to those in their 80s or older, found a 3.5% rate of abuse or dependence in 2014, the latest year such stats are available. While that rate may not seem much lower, the difference is probably due to the later survey’s inclusion of people over 55, who are numerous and had a 2011 addiction or drug misuse rate of a mere 0.8% or less. It is worth noting that 1990 was the peak of fears about a non-ending crack epidemic; by contrast, today, while there are concerns about growing prescription opioid addiction, the actual rates have been steady since 2006.

Print edition available online from my website

Or, get it on Kindle, in Audio format, or view more titles on my Amazon page. Many thanks to all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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