Tag Archives: political dissent

Modern Capitalism and the Bible

The New Face of Capitalism Compared to

Authentic Christianity and the Bible

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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the new face of capitalism

The capitalist, debt-based economic system that we find ourselves enslaved by for the last few decades – and even before that – has reared its ugly head yet again this past week. United Airlines had a paying passenger literally dragged off a plane, giving him a concussion, and broken nose and other cuts and bruises when he refused to give up his seat. The facts that he had prepaid his seat and that he was a doctor returning to work after a vacation who was expected to report at a preset time, made no difference to the ‘security thugs’ who treated that gentleman with callous disrespect and a total lack of regard for his personal safety. Our capitalist economic system, it turns out, has degenerated into a Mafiosi-style enforcement-at-all-costs roulette table that is tilted in favor of the house. Our economy is rigged against us, the government knows it and knows that we do too, and they don’t care because they’ve turned the country into a police state to dampen the spirit of revolution. But, as president Kennedy famously said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolt inevitable”.

There is lots more to this than just politics and overzealous enforcement. The ‘lots more’ of which I write can only be found in the Bible. Whether one believes everything in the Bible or not, and even of one does not believe in it at all, the Scripture that I am about to quote fits the economic conditions of our time nearly perfectly. Allow me to quote from the first of three passages in Scripture that back up what I am writing or speaking about today. The first comes from the Book of Exodus, the 2nd book in the Old Testament, and I quote: “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt. Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless. If you lend money to one of you among my people who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest. If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it to him by sunset, because his cloak is the only covering he has for his body. What else will he sleep in? When he cries out to me, I will hear him, for I am compassionate.” (Exodus 22, verses 21-27)

The above quote is an outline from God about how we are to treat disadvantaged people. We all have a moral, spiritual and social responsibility to look after those less fortunate than ourselves. That’s what this passage is all about, and it starts with foreigners. Do not, Moses wrote here, mistreat “aliens”. Today we call anyone who is known or suspected of being in our country illegally an ‘illegal alien’. Instead of following the Bible as they should, many people vilify foreign nationals whether they are here legally or not. These people coming across our borders aren’t an invading army, they’re economic and ‘drug war’ refugees from southern Mexico, at least some of Central America, plus a few from South America and Cuba. God has warned us not to mistreat these people even if we don’t like them being here. Those who do not do so are disobeying God whether they realize it or not.

Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.” All the banks that refinanced anyone who wanted it and that sold houses to people who couldn’t afford it 10 or 15 years ago before the 2008 mortgage crisis – this is just one of many modern examples of this that would apply here. So called “upside down” car loans are another example, where a car or truck owner owes more on the vehicle than it’s worth. These predatory loans are often sold to unsuspecting customers who don’t know any better because no one ever took the time to show them how to navigate our predatory economic system we call ‘capitalism’. Those who take advantage of these people will be punished most severely if they do not repent of their ways!

If you lend money to one of you among my people who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest.” Contrast that verse with today’s world of “compound interest”, where greed is king of the hill and militarism is what enforces this institutionalized greed. Credit and debit cards are a fixture of life, and everything in our dying world of today is driven by the profit motive, flying in the face of Scripture and even the Lord himself! Ask yourself why the bottom 99% of Americans are buried under mountains of debt? Because the system is designed that way, that’s why. So should no interest be charged on anything at all? Not necessarily, since businesses often operate with lines of credit, as do governments. They borrow from “moneylenders” as the Bible calls them. But to charge people interest for the roof over their head, or for the clothes they wear or the food they eat, is just plain wrong, according to this verse of Scripture.

If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it to him by sunset, because his cloak is the only covering he has for his body. What else will he sleep in? When he cries out to me, I will hear him, for I am compassionate.” This can be translated into modern English as a short-term loan, such as pawning an item or two or taking out a “payday loan” as they are called, among other things. Another way to interpret this would be to declare it sinful and an offense to make anyone put up everything they own as collateral. This kind of thing happens all too frequently in a world where costs continue to race ahead of people’s take-home pay. Here in the United States, 25% of our children go to bed hungry each night, and this is happening in what is allegedly the richest nation in history. This, ladies and gentlemen, is inexcusable! And now let me move on to the final part of this message and another quote from Scripture, this time from the New Testament.

“All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to everyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet in the Temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added daily to their number those who were being saved.” (Acts 2, verses 44-47) How about that? Everyone who joined the early churches, which were held in people’s houses rather than in large, imposing buildings such as we have today, pooled their resources! Meaning, the entirety of humankind has had the solution to poverty and hunger right in front of them while failing to see it! And why has this escaped us all for so many centuries? Because people don’t read the Bible, nor do they regard the Word of God for the societal guidelines and the human owner’s manual that it truly is.

OK, now let me give you another similar quote from the Book of Acts. “All the believers were of one heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles feet.” (Acts 4, verses 32-37)

So here we see the same thing we saw above – people pooling their resources and sharing their wealth and possessions! In the 20th century and before that, these kinds of organizations were called ‘communes’, ‘cults’ and worse, and were the target of much scorn and derision, as were the hippies that inhabited them. If we look at this from a political standpoint rather than an economic one, we would call those who practiced these things “communists” or “socialists” by today’s standards. The least common denominator here is that no one cared about how much money they had or how much profit they made in their business transactions. Although it was evidently not a problem for a head of household to see to the needs of his or her family, anything over and above that went to the church to which they belonged. Why can’t most people do this today? Greed, pure and simple. Everyone is so busy looking out for themselves that others who are in much more dire straights are being ignored. It is this very injustice that the Bible addresses, and it rightfully admonishes those who cause such circumstances to occur.

With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. Here’s an example of how to tell whether the preaching or teaching of the Word is authentic or not. Is the power of God clearly present? Is that power Spiritual in nature rather than emotional? Is that power presented with grace, beauty and a peaceful spirit? If the answer to all 3 questions is ‘yes’, what you’re hearing is not only authentic, it’s coming straight from God, inspired by the Holy Spirit! There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.” How many people – Christian or otherwise – would do this today? Chances are you’re a homeowner or know someone who is. Would you, your parents or whomever seriously consider selling their house, farm, condo, etc. and giving all the money to a home-based church based on nothing more than what their friends and family had told them? It can be said with certainty that less than 1% of the population would actually do this based on the world in which we are all living. Now you have an idea of just how far off base capitalism is with respect to authentic, nonreligious Christianity!

Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles feet.” “Levite” means a priest in the Temple who leads worship, animal sacrifices, music, or any other function one can think of in a house of worship. Levitical priests worked for only room and board, they did not receive any payment for their services or duties. So this man Joseph, also called Barnabas (he is mentioned again in Acts chapters 9, 11, 13 and 14, plus Galatians and a couple other places) sold a field he presumably inherited since he had no money to buy it, and donated all the proceeds to the apostles. As before, nobody would do this in today’s world to the best of my knowledge. Again, this goes to show us all how far off course capitalism and its byproduct – greed – has taken us. But it’s not too late to start building a better world, and we can start by abiding by the Biblical precepts of which I have written today. So until next time, all your stuff is just that – stuff! It can be replaced, but a closer walk with Jesus through those green pastures and besides still waters, just like Psalm 23 says, is irreplaceable.

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United We Stand, Divided We Fall

The Bible and the State of

Political Dissent in America

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

fearless lion

For the last few years I have been watching as political dissent has unfolded worldwide, first in form of the Arab Spring, then the Occupy and 99% Movements, and most recently the rage that has boiled over in Ferguson, Mo. and numerous other places, with the greatest of interest, maybe even fascination. I have written and published two books about these worldwide political and social movements, with more in the works (stay tuned). It is captivating to watch all of the demonstrators stand up and make their voices heard, and it is inspiring to see thousands of Davids going to battle with the government Goliaths, especially knowing that “we the people” will win again just like David did. One by one, the world’s dictators and America’s racial barriers are falling, and it all started with one man in Tunisia setting himself on fire. One guy! And now the civil unrest over what amounts to the extreme abuse of authority has spread all across the US, as I pointed out above. Today as I write this there are organized demonstrations or grassroots organizations in all 50 states and in Washington DC. All these protests highlight the need for authentic equality, more economic opportunity, the right to decent housing and to a living wage, the right to unqualified access to health care and higher education, and for the elimination of poverty, hunger, crime and disease. Lately this has also begun to include an end to all wars, and of the extreme abuse of power by a few firmly entrenched bigots and haters. This, my dear readers, is the stuff that really matters to real people, the ones who are caring and compassionate and who show empathy and mercy towards others by putting aside personal differences. What is needed today is more people who are focused on the needs of others, and a lot less on themselves.

In order for workers throughout the world to make the case for their right to organize without fear of reprisal, it is essential that they be completely unified. To live and work in unity means that relatively large groups can organize and demonstrate globally for the common good, particularly in matters regarding basic human rights. United we stand and divided we fall, so it is always in our best interests to stand united with a common purpose. Unity is what enabled the early thirteen colonies to throw Great Britain off the North American continent and back home to England. Unity is what repaired the United States after the American Civil War and paved the way for a reunited America that established the remainder of the 48 contiguous states by the turn of the twentieth century. Unity is what allowed America to win two world wars. We have since lost some of that unity, partly due to apathy, ignorance and fear, but largely due to being intimidated by abusive authoritarians of the US military-industrial-incarceration complex. People have become tired of getting pushed around and being told what to do by cold, uncaring political and economic systems whose sole purpose for existence is profit. Jesus himself made a timeless comment about this at the ‘sermon on the mount’ when He said, “No man can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money”. (Matt. Chapter 6, verse 24) Meaning, anyone who is devoted to the pursuit of profit despises God whether he or she realizes it or not.

In spite of all the raw greed in today’s world, I have observed that many other people everywhere are finally beginning to wake up, and they’re figuring out that we can get our country back from the crooked Wall Street bankers that robbed the US Treasury via the 2008 government bailout (but only after cleaning out the retirement savings of millions of innocent Americans beforehand). God has already given us the power to resist evil through the power of His Word, and so has the US Constitution and its predecessor, the Declaration of Independence. If we pray to God for this Holy Spirit power of resistance to evil, and do so believing that we will receive it while maintaining a thankful heart, He will give it to us freely. Remember what Jesus taught us? “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matt. Chapter 7, verses 7-8 NIV) When Jesus gives, that means without limits, people. By the same token, if one will not bother to seek, ask or knock, that person should not be surprised when they find themselves destitute, homeless and hungry. Just as surely as people have united in the Arab world against tyranny, as Labor Unions and affiliated workers in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana stood up against the attempted liquidation of their political and economic clout, and as surely as Ferguson Mo. burned last summer, so will there be massive civil unrest right here in the United States because of the tyranny of capitalism of, by and for the very rich, and because of the tyranny of consumerism and materialism that has us all completely infiltrated! Not to mention the fact that the police these days are shooting at anything that moves. But if we don’t start fighting back, we will wind up with zilch at best, or cooped up in some FEMA camp somewhere, or maybe even dead.

It is disturbing to see the apparent lack of unity that still remains in the US, particularly regarding the negative slant that the mainstream media is showing on cable TV. It makes me wonder what is happening to America? Why are we yelling and screaming at each other in town hall meetings? Why have television and radio talk shows degenerated into shouting matches? Why do hate-filled messages permeate the Internet on all sides? What has happened to us as a people? There is a poison flowing through the body politic of America, it will torpedo and sink our democracy unless the flow is shut off, and that poison’s name is corruption. Those on the far-left accuse the far-right of being fascist Neanderthals while those on the far-right accuse the far-left of being heathen Communists. This kind of immature stereotyping and deliberate polarization of America threatens to tear the fabric of our country apart. Actually, the far-left and the far-right have more in common then they would ever want to admit. Both sides are absolutist in their ideology and uncompromising in their politics. They see no shades of gray, only black and white. Each side believes that they possess absolute truth and each side refuses to compromise on its beliefs. That’s why I identify with neither, which is why I’m a political independent and always will be. I refuse to identify my Internet church with any church denominations for similar reasons.

What particularly troubles me in today’s political environment is the level of anger and even outright hatred that is being displayed. I have been trying to figure out the source of this anger and hatred for some time now. Some of today’s rabid emotionalism can be traced to old-fashioned racism but I think for many people it goes deeper than that. I would suggest that this anger and hatefulness is really a response to the fear of change. Fear is an emotion we don’t like in ourselves and anger is a way of covering up our fears with an emotion that makes us feel more powerful. Anger, then, is like a drug, and like a drug it can become habit-forming. The antidote, then, is to face our fears and see them for what they are: being afraid of negative outcomes that either never happen, or that get negated by some other positive force, person or event. We live in a world where society, technology, the economy and demographics are rapidly changing and this change is deeply threatening to many people. They are frightened that the world they have known is disappearing. This deep internal fear of change produces an angered response that is directed toward an outward target such as Wall Street bankers, the government or even immigrants. We repress our fear by directing our anger toward someone or something outside of ourselves. If we want American democracy to survive, some of us need to grow up. We need to stop yelling at each other and learn to start listening to each other. Everybody can’t be right about everything all of the time! We need to accept the reality of change and begin working together to find productive ways of dealing with a world that is constantly changing, and doing so for the mutual benefit of all. The needs of the many, Mr. Spock once said, outweigh the needs of the few. You see, the future in which this idyllic truism exists has already arrived.

The fact is that America has been and is built upon compromise. Our great experiment in democracy is founded upon the belief that each issue has many sides and that the most workable solution comes from a compromise that blends together many disparate views. Compromise is the glue that holds America together. Change is inevitable. It’s the way the universe is constructed. The fact that time exists means that change must occur. Rather than fear change, we need to make it work for our benefit. Rather than trying to go back and trying to fix the past (why bother?), we need to work together to create a better future, to literally manufacture an entirely new world. If the American experiment is going to grow and mature, ‘we the people’ have to grow and mature. We have to put our irrational fears behind us and start working together as mature adults in order to deal successfully with the challenges that change presents to us, such as saving our planet and getting ample food and clean water to the 2.5 billion human beings who currently have no access to either. Those who refuse to help the most vulnerable individuals make themselves accessories to manslaughter on a global scale. What am I talking about here? Fifty thousand per day. That’s how many children under the age of 12 starve to death each day globally. Fifty thousand. Those who refused to help them helped kill them all with not so much as a second thought.

It’s time to refocus and to stop the childish name-calling – from the presidential primaries all the way down to you and me – and to start having rational, thoughtful discussions about the issues before us. It’s time to turn away from those in the media and on the Internet who feed our fears and fuel our prejudices. It’s time to start respecting each other as fellow Americans regardless of our individual differences. It’s time for all of us to become part of the solution. Waiting on the government to act is pointless! Each of us must stand up for a fundamental American truth – united we stand, divided we fall. As Americans we absolutely must stand together. We must totally reject the anger and hatefulness that is dividing us and start using our God-given common sense to work together for the common good. Living in competition only grinds us down, but achieving through mutual cooperation lifts everyone up. Competition may be a good thing in the business world, but it is counterproductive for human relationships. We must either learn to live in harmony or perish. The choice is ours.

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