Tag Archives: president Trump

The Swamp Isn’t Drained Yet, Mr. President. You’re Going to Need a Bigger Pump

The Ongoing Christian Hypocrisy In Washington D.C.

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

For better small screen viewing, click here 🙂

threat_from_washington Remember when we were kids in school? We used to recite the ‘pledge of allegiance’ to the flag every day. Among other things, the pledge calls us “one nation under God”. Judging from the way things are proceeding in Washington and the Middle East these days, America has become anything but that. We are faced with endless wars overseas with no end in sight, and these wars on multiple fronts have bankrupted our country. Meanwhile here at home, it is the American people who are faced with bankruptcy and even homelessness due to either long-term unemployment, or because of declining wages and rising costs for those who are working. Citizens everywhere continue to lose their houses to foreclosure under circumstances that are questionable at best or outright financial fraud at worst. The rapidly growing population of homeless people is already in the process of turning into a human tidal wave of misery and hopelessness. Here in Atlanta where I live, the homeless population on any given day averages around 5,000 or so, of which half are children! This is a gross social injustice, particularly considering that it is happening in the richest country in the world! Even the cave men lived in caves tens of thousands of years ago. So it is accurate to say that they had it better than the homeless folks do today. It is a basic human right to have a roof over your head. Shelter is not a privilege! Throwing men, women and children out into the elements for mere financial reasons is nothing short of barbaric!

 

As all this outrageous injustice continues, we see and hear our nation’s leaders in Washington invoking the name of God and quoting the Bible (out of context!) as a justification for waging immoral and illegal wars all over the globe, with many being of the clandestine variety. Meaning, the US taxpayers who are unknowingly funding their illegal activities have been clueless as to what is going on. But thanks to the Internet, people are rapidly waking up to what’s been going on, and this is happening on a global scale. Here at home, our nation’s lawmakers debate whether gay persons should serve openly in the military or not, and various individuals in our country’s leadership take a stand on whether they are pro-life or pro-choice. These side-issues are being debated while our country grapples with record deficits that threaten to swallow up what is left of the US economy, just as Nero fiddled while Rome burned. They pontificate about “family values” and their religious faith. In the meantime, one in every four American children doesn’t have enough to eat, and one in every five American school kids will be homeless at least once before they turn 18.

 

Moreover, “conservatives” in Congress threaten to do away with the American social safety net at a time of 1970’s era wages and rampant homelessness, just when it is needed the most! If these neoconservatives succeed in taking away, or even succeed in reducing, the social safety net that millions are currently depending upon because they can’t find work or enough of it (and often because they can’t even feed their kids), you can be sure there will be rioting in the streets at best, or another US civil war like in Syria or Yemen at worst. These current events line up with much of what I have been saying on my web site (or blog) since day one about what is wrong with the world in which we live, and how we should proceed to make it better. Anyone can be religious, but I choose to take it to the next level. I’m going to spend the rest of my life trying to make a real difference. I can be super-spiritual all day long, but if I’m too stingy to buy a homeless lady and her two little kids a $10.00 or $12.00 box of fried chicken with some ‘sides’, what good am I?

 

My own faith is a blend of leftist Christian (yes, there is such a thing; think “social gospel” minus the emphasis on ‘social salvation’ from that era), plus Teddy-Roosevelt-style Populism and Bernie Sanders-style progressiveness (hence my website name Progressive Christian Ministries). So now you know why I particularly enjoy going after big government and main-stream denominations at all levels, taking them all to task not just because of their sometimes-misguided leadership, but challenging their thinking and their values. For example, many Republicans in Washington keep talking about God and politics as if they are interchangeable. They like to make it look like they are on the side of God, as if God were a political conservative like themselves. And they love to make it seem like the Democrats and “liberals” are a party of loose morality, favoring abortion and gay marriage, and hanging around with terrorists both domestic and foreign. They are experts at crafting and delivering their message – good enough to inspire many middle-class white folks to vote against their own best interests in the 2016 presidential elections. Their message works because it appeals to people’s base emotions, not their intellects. And reacting is so much easier than critical thinking, especially when we’re so emotionally drained from these years of unemployment, or working multiple part time jobs, or home foreclosures. They are so effective with their message that they don’t think twice before selling the idea that God wanted George W. Bush to attack Iraq, God favors Republicans, and God wanted Sarah Palin to be President. Or maybe Mike Huckabee.

 

Our lawmakers completely ignore the First Amendment’s separation of church and state. The first amendment to the US Constitution begins by saying, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…….” To me, this means anyone who wishes to engineer a merger of government and organized religion either knows nothing about the Constitution or they openly wish to break it. Either way, that means they would be committing treason if these neocons and right-wing extremists were to actually pull off such a political stunt as that. They publicly thump the Bibles on which they were sworn into office. They brag about giving 10% of their incomes to the churches they belong to, even though many don’t attend church at all. And they make sure they’re seen praying, whether it be in church, in public, or on TV. Jesus had something to say about that, and those serene words of wisdom are just as relevant today as they were 2,000 years ago when they were first spoken. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go to your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew chapter 6, verses 5-6)

 

As we set aside today’s ideological hysteria and look at the facts, Jesus was part liberal and part socialist by today’s standards (hence the inspiration for the “social gospel” of 1,900 years later), and much of the New Testament condemns the attitude of the so-called religious right (which is neither as far as I am concerned). For example, Jesus condemned the greedy rich, saying, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” [Matthew 19:24] He denounced the money changers in the temple at Jerusalem as He threw them out, saying, “My house will be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of robbers.” [Matthew 21:13] And Jesus stood up for the poor and underprivileged, saying, “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.” [Matthew 25:40]

 

So then, how can our nation’s leadership, especially the conservative right-wingers, call themselves Christian? How does one call oneself a follower of Jesus Christ – and allegedly He alone – as they hold the unemployed, the disabled and retired pensioners hostage while fighting for more tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires? They don’t care about us, and they don’t care if we know that or not. We the people, America’s middle and working classes, need not tolerate what amounts to being openly insulted. We can and should fight back! Who is with me today? I’m just one disabled man, all I can do is write from here in my apartment. So I need all you able-bodied people to please, please, get out in the streets and protest, or do something more if you can. Our situation here in America has become intolerable!

 

Jesus acknowledged the need for government as well as tax-supported government services, saying, “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God that which is God’s.” [Matthew 22:21] So then how can these war hawks of Washington call themselves ‘Christians’ as they rail against paying their fair share of taxes? Never mind the fact that this is the same bunch of people who vehemently oppose national health care and food programs for poor kids! Never mind that these same people (and their financial backers) are the ones voting in favor of increasing funding of the largest and most formidable military in world history. Last year the US government spent more money on military expenditures than all the rest of the world combined. Then again, there is the fact that the United States has more people in prison than all the rest of the world’s countries – again, combined. There is something very, very wrong with this picture, that’s for sure. When faced with all these facts, I am forced to come to the conclusion that America isn’t the world’s greatest country anymore, if it ever really was. The American people have woken up to the fact that we’ve all been bamboozled for generations. It’s on us to correct this glaring problem, everybody. It’s up to us, the American people, to turn this around.

 

Jesus healed the sick – even lepers – for free. He didn’t ask them for an insurance card first, nor did he have any legal forms for anyone to sign. Jesus just healed people because it was the right thing to do, but more importantly because that’s one of the things he came here to do (let’s not forget Jesus’ main reason; his blood which He shed on a cross for each of us!). Jesus was the original “socialized medicine” personified. So then, how can certain conservatives call themselves ‘Christian’ (that is, followers of Jesus Christ in Spirit and in truth) as they condemn the infinitely more profitable (and woefully insufficient) “Obamacare”? The truth of the matter is that much of the effectiveness of any government is directly proportional to how well it cares for its people. (By the way, it was Thomas Jefferson who first said that.) The United States is the last developed country in the world that does not have national health insurance for its citizens. Every other developed country – and many developing ones – has national health insurance, except for us. As I wrote above about shelter being a basic human right, so it is with health care.

 

Proper medical care is not a privilege available only to those who can afford to pay! Good quality health care is a basic human right that must be available to everyone without qualification, including preexisting conditions. The money to implement such a plan is already available with plenty to spare. All the government has to do is call off all the illegal wars and occupations overseas and bring our troops home. Whatever money is left over can be used for giant public works projects to put all the long-term unemployed back to work, or to send them back to school to learn a trade. Is there sufficient money to accomplish and finance this worthy goal? Absolutely, and all without adding to the federal deficit. Here’s an example: If the US military set aside one day’s expenses for the twin occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq (Again? Wasn’t once enough?) and put those funds in an interest-bearing account, there would be enough money to send every single American school kid to four years of college – fully paid for. We’d get all that from just one days military expenditures! So don’t tell me we can’t afford quality education without qualification! Oh yes we can!!

 

As he stood and delivered his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of the living God.” [Matthew 5:9] Still, the conservatives call themselves ‘Christian’ as they continue to call for endless war, be it legally and morally justified or not. At the same time, they expound on how pro-life or anti-abortion they are. So, let me get this straight. In order to be a good Christian, one must be pro-war and pro-life simultaneously? Or, one must be pro-life but opposed to putting the entire country on Medicare, then? And then our military and “intelligence” establishment tries to justify torture by saying so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” saves lives? So I ask them as I ask you all; in the words of the popular button and bumper sticker: Who would Jesus torture?

 

In the end, I see many neoconservatives, Republicans and other right-wing extremists paying much homage to the Bible while ignoring what is in between its covers. As for myself, I could not stand to live like that, being a Washington hypocrite or a modern-day Pharisee. My conscience simply would not allow me to do such a thing, and especially without taking it to the Lord in prayer beforehand! Let’s vote these right wing-nuts out of office during this year’s midterm elections first, and we’ll see what happens. But if nothing changes and our plight continues to slowly worsen, it’s going to be time to start all over again on a clean sheet of paper in 2020. If our country is still here, that is. It’s the only way we can peacefully force things in Washington to change. But if things don’t start changing, and soon, the civil wars of Syria and Yemen will be mushrooming from within America’s heartland, and with maximum vengeance! If governing power cannot be returned to the American people peacefully, then things will deteriorate to the point where we will simply have to retake it by force. Get ready, everybody. And, if you’re not already praying, please start. It’s the least you can do.

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The “Tax Cuts” Just Passed by the Trump White House Are a Gross Injustice

Fair Warning to All Rich Oppressors;

Not From Myself, But From God

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

For better small screen viewing, click here 🙂

threat_from_washington I am finding myself witnessing once again what amounts to the enforced liquidation of America’s middle class, coming in the form of president Trump’s new tax bill. This recently-passed piece of legislation cuts funding for the poorest, most vulnerable of Americans and gives it all to the richest 10% of US taxpayers. These funds will be distributed in the form of various tax breaks for individuals and corporations who don’t need them because they already pay too little – with the bulk of the tax burden shouldered by America’s middle and working classes. Even though our tax refunds will be bigger next year, so will the tax rate for the bottom 50% of all Americans. This week I want to share with you all a quotation from the Bible that ties in with this topic very well.

Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice for my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches? Nothing will remain except to cringe among the captives or fall among the slain. Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand still upraised.” (Isaiah chapter 10, verses 1-4)

What’s a modern example of what the prophet Isaiah wrote about here, which was roughly 2,700 years ago? The pathetic state of wages, globally speaking, is the first thing that comes to my mind. If any one of you has ever had to take a minimum wage job – and I would define anything under $12.00 per hour to be a ‘minimal wage’ – then you know exactly what I mean. Here in Atlanta, Ga. the minimum is still set at a paltry $7.25 per hour. There are lots of homeless shelters in and near downtown Atlanta, and they all stay full, and with ‘waiting lists’ to boot. Georgia’s ultra-low minimum wage is the reason why. Do the math and it’s easy to see why these hapless individuals can’t rent apartments.

Another example of a modern-day “unjust law” is most definitely the Drug War, which is actually a massive race-based roundup of the poor. These are mostly people of color, mainly Black and Latino(a), and it is no coincidence that they are the ones who can least afford to hire a lawyer. Moreover, as I proved conclusively in my 2016 book, “Cannabis Legalization and the Bible: Compatible or Not?”, the Marijuana plant was made by God on the third day of Creation (see Genesis 1: 11). Cigarettes are legal, they kill over 50,000 people annually, and everybody’s just fine with that, particularly law enforcement (“You will smoke these and you will like them”). But marijuana, which is classified as a dangerous drug when it is not, remains illegal. This is a whole series of laws designed to prosecute those who use a substance that can’t be taxed. The Drug War is all about the money, including the huge profits being “earned” by the private prison industry. It has nothing to do with justice whatsoever!

What’s an example of an “oppressive decree”? One example would be the federal income tax, which was passed in 1919 so America could pay her debts incurred by the First World War. This was a law passed at 3AM and signed by only a handful of people. By the time Congress found out about it when they convened around the first of the following week, and since news traveled so slowly back then, there was nothing they could do even though a lot of lawmakers were very upset at that time. Another example of an “oppressive decree” would be the Patriot Act, which has been renewed 3 times since 2001 even though it is being used against American citizens as well as foreign nationals. In this respect, the Patriot Act as it is currently written and being implemented is unconstitutional!

What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches?” I have already shown that the prophet was referring to the End Times, or Last Days, which I have clearly depicted in previous weekly commentary’s. I have also proven conclusively that the United States is Mystery Babylon in Ezekiel chapter 7, Zechariah chapter 12, and Revelation chapter18. I fully realize that what I’m about to write here is not a popular topic, but the Bible clearly states that the USA is going to endure a nuclear attack at some point in the not-too-distant future. Whether this attack comes in the form of a lone terrorist bomb or from a nuclear tactical first strike from Russia and China combined, I can’t say. I do not have access to any such information except that which God gives me, or that He helps me deduce on my own. So the conclusion here in verse 3 is that the “day of reckoning” is a day in the fairly near future when the Nuclear Age, which was started by the USA with the twin nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, will soon come back and bite America in the backside. This ‘blow-back’ from 73 years ago will be absolutely devastating to America! Personally, I have become concerned enough about my country’s future that I just went and got myself a passport!

Nothing will remain except to cringe among the captives or fall among the slain. Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand still upraised.” As I mentioned before, there are still a lot of people who get infuriated when I write or tell them that this verse and others like it throughout the Bible are talking about the United States. But it’s true! Just look around you. America’s military is stretched dangerously thin in a number of places around the globe. America now has over 750 military bases scattered around the world in about 160 countries at last count. It takes lots and lots of people to man those bases. Many of them are costly and simply unneeded.

But before any of them can be shut down, the Deep State itself must first be shut down. But is it moral for Christians to participate in such seditious activities? Not normally, but in cases where the government is corrupt to the core, and in cases where the government threatens the livelihood and personal safety of its citizens, then yes – it is not only OK, but such activities should be encouraged whether in or out of church. There are a number of nonviolent ways this can be accomplished, like hack attacks on their computer infrastructure or ransomware attacks, to name 2 examples. Similar attacks on its ‘players’ would be still another. I’m sure you can think of more, and then implement them. But by all means, do something! Because if we don’t, what little is left of civil liberties in America, like the freedom of speech that makes my writing this Web posting possible, will be gone forever.

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President Trump, Authority and the Bible

Obeying Authority: When It’s Right and When It’s Not

by pastor Paul J. Bern

To view this on my website, click here 🙂

why dont U just obey Today we live in a world where the abuse of authority has gotten completely out of control. This is about so much more than merely being unhappy about Donald Trump’s presidency or the way he is running the country. This abuse of authority dates all the way back to at least the early 1960’s, when certain people in authority conspired to assassinate president John F. Kennedy on live TV. It was a bloody coup, and Kennedy’s assassins and their compatriots have been running the country ever since. We were lied to about President Kennedy’s assassination by the Warren Commission, and we were lied to again five years later concerning the Robert Kennedy assassination. We were lied to about Rev. Dr. King’s assassination that same violent year of 1968. President Nixon lied to us about Watergate. We were lied to in 2003 as a pretext for invading Iraq for a second time when it was not necessary. And we were lied to by president Obama when he won the 2008 election while telling us all that he would bring us “change we can believe in”. We got some serious changes all right, resulting in the largest spy and unmanned drone network the world had ever seen. Under the Trump presidency, this drone war has not only been stepped up, it has been taken to the next level.

On the home front, the police have become thoroughly militarized, and they are having lots of fun on the job thanks to all their new toys and gadgets, not to mention fully automatic weapons, and even tanks! They can stop us and search us without cause and without the Constitutionally mandated search warrant. They are breaking our doors down in the middle of the night and murdering unarmed citizens. A 92-year-old woman was shot 19 times and killed by the police several years ago right here in Atlanta where I live and work, and people of color as well as the poor are being specifically targeted by the police, often on the flimsiest of pretexts. In the case of the elderly woman, it later turned out the police had the wrong house.

 

Speaking as a minister of the Gospel and as an ambassador for Jesus Christ, I have done a little research as to what the Bible says about governmental authority and the abuse of power. It turns out that there is ample argument for both sides of this coin. The first part has to do with submission to authority in the context of being a law-abiding citizen as the apostle Paul saw it when he wrote the Book of Romans approximately 1,950 years ago. At the time that this was written, all of what is now modern-day Israel was under the military occupation of the Roman empire. Similarly, much of the world today is occupied by the American Empire. Paul wrote these words in that context, so I will quote from the book of Romans, chapter 13 and verses 1-5.

 

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.” (Romans 13: 1-5)

 

At the time that the apostle Paul wrote this, the death penalty was commonplace. Capital punishment existed as a means of absolute control through raw intimidation, and that punishment was carried out with utter ruthlessness and without mercy. Moreover, unlike the Jewish religious establishment of that era, Paul was a Roman citizen and as such he was given rights and privileges that were not shared equally with other non-citizens. But how does this compare with life in the early 21st century? Although the death penalty is still administered for capital crimes such as murder, it is carried out with relative infrequency compared to the days of the Roman empire. There were also debtors prisons in Paul’s day. People who ran into financial trouble back in those days were routinely imprisoned until their debts were paid. In contrast, today if one gets into financial difficulty, bankruptcy laws exist that are much more fair and equitable than prison. Compared to the times in which the apostle Paul lived, we get a complete picture of a much more fair, equitable and comparatively lenient world in the present day. Let me now make some comparisons between Paul’s world and ours using this passage of scripture as a backdrop to the picture that I will now paint for you with my words.

 

“The authorities that exist have been established by God”. This one solitary sentence, while being a biblical verse, has been more misused than any other in my opinion (It was reportedly Hitler’s favorite Bible verse). Although Paul sincerely believed at the time that he wrote these words that he was absolutely correct, he was speaking more as a Roman citizen and a Hebrew religious scholar than he was as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In modern America, our rule of law is the Constitution of the United States and so I am writing today in this context as an American citizen. We have the right to free speech and freedom of religion today that did not exist in the apostle Paul’s time. That right which is established under the 1st amendment to the US Constitution allows me to write these words without fear of punishment. As such I am within the law and I will remain so for as long as the law is fair and just. It’s when it’s unfair to the point of being oppressive that things can get a bit dicey. But hold that thought as I continue.

 

The apostle Paul continues his train of thought as he writes further: “Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong.” The same applies today. Take the patriot movement and so-called “preppers” of today as two examples. Organizing any armed revolt in modern-day America is an idea that I am very much against, since I preach and teach as a man of peace who tries his best to emulate Jesus, the Prince of Peace and the redeemer of my soul. Besides, the police have very well-armed SWAT teams, and there is always the National Guard that exists within any given state. So I think one would be foolhardy to try and take on authority in this manner. On the other hand, it is perfectly legal, and I would also say that it is even necessary, to engage in peaceful protests against laws and policies that we disagree with, particularly when they are unjust. The US Supreme Court’s decision that money equals free speech – the so-called “Citizens United” ruling – is one good example of an unjust law. The counterproductive and sometimes downright stupid War on Drugs is another one, particularly when it comes to the topic of medical marijuana, which clearly needs to be legalized. For a Christian perspective on medical marijuana, get a copy of my book. “Cannabis Legalization and the Bible” by yours truly. The first amendment to our Constitution gives us the right to protest or uphold any and all of the above, something that did not exist during Paul’s time all those centuries ago. In this regard, I think we can interpret this passage of scripture a little differently than what Paul wrote back then.

 

The apostle Paul then continues making his point, and so will I. “Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you.” It is sad to say that this is not always true in the modern world. Bad people vilify good people for doing good things for a lot of different reasons, most of which have to do with envy, malice or guilt. Trying as I do to do what is right, I often find myself looked down on by the many godless people I encounter when I’m out riding public transit around town. I put up with the occasional verbal attacks because I am openly Christian, but I do so knowing that God is watching everything I do and He is listening to everything I say. But still, it is wise to be “free from fear of the one in authority”. The best way to follow this principle is to obey the commandments and the teachings of Jesus Christ. We learn his commandments and what his will is by reading his Word daily, even if only for a few minutes (Try a chapter a day, particularly if you’re just getting started; it only takes 5 minutes). Just by doing this, we can keep ourselves out of much trouble. Besides, the Bible says in the Old Testament to “obey the laws of the land, that it may go well with you in the place you are abiding”. Those words were written at least three thousand years ago, and they are still just as true today as they were back then.

 

By the same token, there are things happening and situations unfolding within the US government that are completely contrary to God’s laws. Take the ten commandments as an example. The eighth commandment says, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”, which can be expanded to include this simple command: you shall not lie and gossip about people you dislike. Yet America found itself embroiled in a war in Iraq that was based on a lie. Specifically, that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when Saddam Hussein was still in power. Of course, those WMD’s turned out to be non-existent, and it took 4,400 US fatalities – and over 100,000 Iraqi civilian deaths, one third of whom were children – to find that out. The same applies to Afghanistan. Our troops have been there since 2001, first to find Osama Bin Laden even though everybody in Southern Asia and the Middle East knew he was in Pakistan. Now that he has been deceased for quite a few years, are our troops all back home yet? Absolutely not, effectively making Afghanistan a de facto US territory with an open ended US military presence. The US government has been spending $6 billion dollars a week on this occupation, a thoroughly obscene sum of money by any standard.

 

Yet all the while, there is unemployment here in the USA that is officially around 4%, but that doesn’t count all the millions of long-term unemployed who have stopped looking for work, as well as those who are working part-time when full-time work is what is needed. If these facts were figured into this equation, the true unemployment rate is hovering at around 24 percent. There is no money to create over a million badly needed jobs in our country, but there is an unlimited supply of cash for multiple illegal military occupations and drone strikes all around the globe. This is a moral outrage, and anybody with even a little bit of a conscience should be out in the streets protesting against the US military-industrial complex. That may not be in the words of the Bible, but it most certainly is in the Spirit thereof.

 

Paul then writes in verse 5, “Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.” This is just as true today as it was when it was first written. Being an outlaw will only get us into trouble, and jail is no place for anybody to be except for the worst criminals. For example, it is a bad idea to drive your car at 90 miles an hour because it is against the law for obvious reasons. On the other hand, I’m old enough to remember famed boxer Muhammad Ali who, back in the 1960’s when he was known as Cassius Clay, had his career interrupted when he had to serve time in prison for refusing to report for the military draft. Going off to war for people who had enslaved his ancestors, he said, in order for him to go and kill even more, was too much to ask and he refused to go fight in the Vietnam war. He spent a year or two in prison, as I recall, for making that decision, and that’s something I’ve always admired about Muhammad Ali. The fact that he converted to Islam makes no difference to me, because the same Almighty God made us both.

The ten commandments must be obeyed, to be sure, but let’s be sure to obey the teachings of Christ all the more. We have been commanded not to steal, lie or commit adultery, nor should we have any false gods in our lives, such as money and all the ‘things’ it can buy. We are commanded to “love the Lord your God with all your strength, all your mind, all your soul and all your spirit”, and to “love our neighbor as we love ourselves” (Matthew 22, verses 34-40). We can and should worship the one true God and Him alone, who sent His only Son to die for our sins and then to rise from the dead on the third day after He was crucified. In the same way that we submit ourselves to God we should, as far as it is possible, submit to authority here on earth. But if that authority becomes abusive, especially to the point of being dangerous or menacing to its citizens, then our obedience to that authority should become more discerning. And we should do so not only “because of possible punishment but also because of conscience”. But here in the 21st century, we can and should oppose and protest against the government similarly because of matters of conscience. It is part of the laws of our land as they exist today, and we can and should exercise this right because our rule of law says we can. This is also in keeping with God’s commands, and I hope and pray that it always remains so.

 

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President Trump’s Belligerence and the Bible: a Study In Contrasts

President Trump’s Christian Supporters Would Get

Offended If I Told Them What Was Really In the Bible

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

If this is not displaying well, click here! 🙂

why dont U just obey
I met a man not too long ago who insisted that the King James Bible is the only legitimate version of the Bible available. As far as he was concerned, all other versions currently in print, including my NIV, NLT and Amplified Bibles were “not from God”. I don’t care to elaborate on this much except to say that I don’t agree with such an egocentric viewpoints as that. All I can do is pray for that man, because there will be no egocentric people in heaven! But I’m using this example to make the point that there are a lot of conservative right-wingers like that individual who have some views about the Bible and Christianity that are totally inconsistent with Scripture. Since these people’s beliefs are in fact totally inconsistent with Scripture, then the question becomes why do religious extremists on the right (and Christianity has lots of them just like the Muslims do) get away with proclaiming what Jesus would or wouldn’t support (such as endless wars and inequality)? The answer is simple: Most conservatives have not read the Bible. Not even once! Of the ones who do, an overwhelming number of Christians are astonishingly illiterate when it comes to understanding the Bible’s teachings.

On hot-button social issues, from same-sex marriage to abortion, Biblical passages are invoked without any real understanding of their context or true meaning. What America needs is Christianity without the dogma, and faith without the spiritual pollution of conservative politics. Nondenominational Christianity, with the 2 greatest commandments of Jesus Christ (see Matthew 24, verses 34-39) being first and foremost – and viewed from a nonpolitical perspective – would be far closer to what Jesus originally taught than the ultra-conservative slant being espoused all over the right-wing media today (and a heck of a lot of ‘churches’!). That’s why it’s vital as we live in these Last Days to help the helpless whenever possible. In so doing, we become ambassadors for Christ while living our lives in complete accordance with God’s will instead of our own. It surprises me how little many ‘Christians’ know about what is still the world’s most popular book!

 

So how much do secular Americans know of the book that one-third of the country believes to be literally true (like I do)? Various surveys that I pulled up on the Internet show that 60 percent of Christians can’t name more than five of the Ten Commandments; 12 percent of adults think Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife; and nearly 50 percent of high school seniors think Sodom and Gomorrah were a married couple. A 2013 Gallup poll showed 50 percent of Americans can’t name the first book of the Bible, while roughly 82 percent believe “God helps those who help themselves” is a biblical verse. So, if Americans get an F in the basic fundamentals of the Bible, what hope do they have in knowing what Jesus would say about endless wars, the decimation of labor unions, unfair and illegal taxation, universal health care, and Snap benefits? It becomes easy to spread lies when no one knows what the truth is.

 

I think that’s probably why the ‘Christian Right’ is constantly re-branding Progressives and those on the Left – who want free public higher education, Medicare for all and wealth redistribution – into traitors to their country or party just because they disagree. The truth, whether conservatives like it or not, is not only that Jesus was a meek and mild liberal Jew who spoke softly in parables and metaphors – except when He threw the money changers out of the Temple in Matthew 21, verses 12-13. But, when one reads down a couple more chapters in any of the 4 Gospels, it was the religious conservatives (the Pharisees and Sadduccees) who had Jesus killed! The fact that He rose again on the morning of the third day tells me everything I need to know about Jesus’ view of political conservatives. American conservatives, however, have morphed Jesus Christ into a muscular macho warrior, in much the same way the Nazis did with Hitler, as a means of combating “terrorism”, which has become a synonym for American world domination.

 

Knowing the Bible requires a contextual understanding of authorship, history and interpretation. For instance, when Republicans were justifying their cuts to the food stamp program back in 2013, they quoted the 2nd book of Thessalonians: “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.” One poll showed that more than 90 percent of Christians believe this New Testament quote is attributed to Jesus. It’s not! This was taken from a letter written by Paul to his church in Thessalonica. Paul wrote to this specific congregation to remind them that there were too many people in the congregation that were freeloading off that church. Only a few were doing all the work and making the majority of the financial contributions, and everybody else was just hanging around for the free food (see 2nd Thess. chapter 3, verses 6-15). What Paul did say is that anyone too lazy to work shouldn’t expect anything at dinner time, and that’s just common sense, not politics.

 

What often comes as a surprise to your average Sunday wine-and-cracker Christian is the New Testament did not fall from the sky the day Jesus ascended to Heaven. The New Testament is a collection of writings, 27 in total, of which 12 are credited to the authorship of the apostle Paul, four to the Gospels (Luke also wrote the Book of Acts), and the balance with the remaining apostles. What we do know about Jesus, at least according to the respective gospels, is that Jesus’ sentiments closely echoed the social and economic policies of the political left in the 21st century. The Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5 read like a Progressive Christian mission statement: “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is kingdom of heaven,” “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” and “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called ‘Sons of the living God’.” Jesus also said, “Judge not, or else you shall be judged, for you who pass judgment do the same things yourselves”, and “Sell what you have and give it to the poor, so you can have treasure in heaven” (I’m paraphrasing here). Sounds an awful lot like wealth redistribution to me, a societal woe that urgently needs to be addressed if ever there was one. So when Republicans, our current president included, accuse president Obama and Progressives like myself of being brown-skinned socialists who wants to redistribute the wealth, they meant Jesus, who they would surely crucify if he were to return today!

 

Biblical illiteracy is what has allowed conservative wing-nuts like president Trump to get away with shaping their image to resemble that of Jesus, like Washington is doing us a great big favor by being in charge. That’s why politicians on the right can get away with saying ‘the Lord commands’ that our health care, criminal justice, public schools, retirement pensions and transportation systems, together with all the rest, should be run by corporations for profit. When the Christian Right believes it’s channeling Jesus when they say it’s immoral for government to tax billionaires to help pay for health care, education and the poor, they’re actually channeling atheism. When the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly and “the real Alex Jones” insist the poor are worthless, immoral and lazy, that’s not Jesus, it’s atheism! It’s impossible to love God while simultaneously despising his creations! The price this country has paid for biblical illiteracy is measured by how far we’ve moved toward atheism’s “utopia”. In the past three decades, we’ve slashed taxes on corporations and the wealthy, destroyed labor unions, deregulated financial markets, eroded public safety nets, and committed to one globalist corporate free-trade agreement after another. With the far-right, Republican-appointed majority on the Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Koch brothers’ Citizens United, the flow of billions of dollars from anonymous donors to the most reliable voting bloc of the Republican Party – the Christian Right – will continue to perpetuate the Biblically incompatible, anti-government, pro-deregulation-of-business, health-care-for-none-but-the-rich, Tea Party American version of Christianity, and I for one have had more than enough!!

 

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The Immigration Debate, president Trump and Jesus

The Progressive Christian Approach

to Immigration Reform

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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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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National Health Care, Trump and the Bible: They’re Doing This All Wrong

President Trump, National Health Care and Jesus

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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The ongoing debate here in America ever since Donald Trump announced he was a presidential candidate back in 2015, and that he was going to “repeal and replace Obama-care”, has reached a crescendo as of this past week as everybody knows. Moreover, the resulting infighting and partisanship, all of which is manufactured, amounts to little more than a systematic division of the American people by design. What many do not yet realize, however, is that this manufactured division of the people has already become weaponized. We see evidence of this glaring anomaly in American society every time Republican goes against Democrat, liberals butt heads with conservatives, and where ever hate groups of various kinds clash with each other. This is also evident whenever we see citizens clashing with the police. I’ve got some surprising news for those who hate the police, and especially those who shoot police officers – the police aren’t the problem, they’re merely part of the symptoms. The real problem is with those at the top. Put your guns down before they kill you!

The Bible has things to say about treating people brutally and government oppression of its citizens, as well as the enslavement of people for financial gain. The Bible says in the Book of Proverbs chapter 29, verse 7, “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern. That’s God’s take on poverty in a nutshell. “The poor you will always have”, Jesus said not long before His crucifixion, “but you will not always have me”. The poor are humankind’s responsibility, starting with the churches, and the churches have shirked their responsibility to render assistance to their surrounding communities by allowing the government to step in. This is the exact opposite of Christ, who healed thousands. During the early part of his 3 ½ year ministry his immediate predecessor, John the Baptist, had become imprisoned for refusing to stop preaching about Jesus. While awaiting sentencing for his “crime”, for which he received the death penalty, he inquired about his cousin Jesus and the status of his ministry, as the Bible relates it. “When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?’ Jesus replied, ‘Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.’” (Matthew 11, verses 2-6)

Jesus didn’t merely take responsibility for his ministry, he seized on it as if each one of us is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform great works on his behalf. Because, you see, that’s exactly who He is, and Jesus continues to do everything in the above 4 verses. Although we have state of the art medical care here in the US, even so the US has – globally speaking – by far the most expensive medical care and the highest priced prescription drugs. American medical care generates the highest profits because America charges its citizens the highest prices by far. Jesus, on the other hand, never charged anybody one stinking penny! Moreover, in case anyone hasn’t noticed, the very people who call national health care “socialism” are the ones who are profiting off the existing system the most. They’re afraid they’ll lose their cash cow.

Jesus also had lots to say about these same rich people and their cash cows (such as Wall St. and the Federal Reserve). But, one of his most famous and beloved comments comes from the Sermon on the Mount when the Redeemer of our souls said: “Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6, verses 19-21) The more attached we become to our material stuff and our accumulated wealth, the farther away we get from God. But it’s more than just stuff. We can become more attached to our spouse or significant other, to our children, to our careers, and even to recreational activities like water skiing, snow boarding, our boats and motorcycles, or fitness training. There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of the above. But we must always put our personal relationship with Christ first (which should not be confused with religious belief) because it’s invariably the most important! I cannot overemphasize this crucial point!

But God gave all of us brains to think and reason with, and we know when we’re being had. No more will working Americans, together with its multitudes of unemployed, stand and stare or sit and grumble about having upside down loans on our houses and cars, and being the only developed nation on earth that refuses to provide national health care and higher education to its citizens! Exactly the opposite occurs in America, where financial institutions extract an ever greater portion of American wealth (in the form of student loans, unconstitutional taxes, etc.) and concentrate it into the hands of a small minority of multimillionaires! It is time for the middle and working classes to put our collective foot down and say ”no more”! The time has arrived for us to take back our country by any and all means possible! Yes, I know the Bible says we must obey the laws of our land (see Romans 13, verses 1-7). I am not suggesting for even one moment that we should stop doing this. But nowhere in the Bible does it say that Jesus expects us to be doormats for everybody, either (see Mark 11, verses 15-18). Didn’t God force Pharaoh to let the Israelites go from their captivity? Did God not motivate Rahab the prostitute to hide the spies sent from the Israelite encampment from the king of Jericho (see Joshua chapter 2)?

In much the same way, I believe the American people are being motivated by God in our modern times. Our ride to being set free from the slavery of low wages and high debt is now boarding at the gate. It is time for political power to be taken out of the hands of corporate America and their invading hordes of lobbyists and to place it back into the hands of “we the people”, the true owners of this great country of ours (talk about obeying the laws!). And we will do so knowing that God, history and our founding fathers are all on our side, because they left us with a sacred document known as the Constitution of the United States that guarantees us that right. Our free speech and freedom of expression that are guaranteed under the First Amendment, as well as our right to keep and bear arms and to form militias that are guaranteed under the Second Amendment, will not be compromised or trampled upon. Neither will our rights in the court systems, which are routinely violated for the sake of profit. We will demonstrate in the streets, we will besiege government buildings, we will bombard our congressional representatives with phone calls and emails, we will form new political parties, we will organize and build more labor unions, we will blockade wealthy neighborhoods, we will organize peaceful public events and non-violent sit-ins, we will call general strikes and consumer boycotts, and we will not stop until the balance of power in this country undergoes a paradigm shift back into the hands of hard-working Americans, as well as the millions of people who want jobs, health care or higher education but can’t get any of them!

 

Let there be no mistake, America is ripe for mass civil disobedience, even for outright revolution, and I say it’s about time. The conditions and circumstances in which the middle and working classes find themselves has become intolerable! Personally, I am a very patient and thoughtful man. I work hard each day to be slow to speak and quick to listen because I know from experience that there is much wisdom to be derived from living my life this way. But by the same token, I am a Christian man and Web evangelist who stands against oppression, social injustice and economic inequality, and whose patience is at its end. Just as surely as Jesus preached against the political and religious establishment of His day, in like manner I will do the same in the present day in order to emulate the man I regard as my personal Savior. So, if you truly care about the deteriorating state of our nation, if you are really concerned about the issues that we are faced with collectively as a people, and if you want to make a stand against social and economic injustice, and since it’s in all our best interests to do so, you owe it to yourself to stand up in the face of power and say, “That’s it! You’re done!!” You know why? Because if Jesus Christ were to return this very day, that’s what He’d say. And the ones who are having the homeless thrown in jail for begging for spare change would be the first ones Christ would send straight to hell!

To find books on these topics and other Christian nonfiction, please visit http://www.pcmatl.org/#!books-and-donations/c17et Thanks so much!

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President Trump and former director Comey both need to change their ways

Regarding Judging or Accusing Other People:

Those Who Call Us Liars Should Examine Themselves

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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The 99% - Too big to fail

Watching this past week’s spectacle in Washington surrounding Russia-gate, former FBI director James Comey’s firing, and his subsequent testimony under oath has reminded me once again about the folly of judging others. President Trump and Mr. Comey calling each other liars on national TV has only solidified my opinion that both are equally guilty of much dishonesty and at-times downright childish behavior. What does the Bible say about judging, accusing and name-calling other people? This goes way beyond mere physical appearances such as race, unaccustomed mannerisms or various idiosyncrasies. It surpasses all concepts of right and wrong. The Bible defines judging others as having contempt for, looking down on, or possessing an arrogance towards people who are different than ourselves. It means considering ourselves better than others for racial, moral, economic, age, ethnic, religious or gender related reasons, and ditto for sexual preferences and gender identity. It is morally wrong to do all these things because we are all made in the image and likeness of the very same God, and God bestows his gifts and attributes to us on an equal basis. Moreover, the Bible teaches us that equality is ordained by God, as it is written: “Rich and poor have this in common: The Lord is the Maker of them all.” (Proverbs 22: 2) Therefore, we are all equals in God’s sight, and I could write a whole sermon on that topic alone (in fact, I think I will). There are several good quotes from the Bible that I am going to use to make my point. The first is from the gospel of Matthew chapter 7, verses 1-5.

 

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

 

What this verse also says is the more harshly we judge other people, the more harshly we will be judged when it is our turn. Make no mistake, every one of us will get his or her turn at being judged by God when our lives are over. The only exceptions will be those who will be caught up in the rapture of the Church during the Great Tribulation that is prophesied by the book of Revelation, as well as by the apostle Paul in his letters to the Thessalonian church. And that, my dear readers, will only be a select few people. So what is the criteria for this? It will simply be how we treated other people, and by how good we made them feel. It’s going to be about how much unconditional love, kindness and patience we showed others. That’s why Jesus said during his sermon on the mountain, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5: 7). We are to be practicing gentleness when making discernment about others, otherwise our harshness and being judgmental will come back around and bite us in the tail.

 

This next Old Testament quote from Scripture is the basis for my quotations from the new one. “I will deal with them according to their conduct, and by their own standards I will judge them. Then they will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 7, verse 27). The more poorly we treat others, the meaner God will be towards us when our lives are over. If we treat people better and a lot more gently, being compassionate and considerate towards others even if they’re strangers, God will be gentle with us to the point where it shows up in the lives of those who habitually perform this good deed. Meaning, those who live their lives this way won’t have to wait until their physical lives are over to get rewarded for their good deeds and acts of random kindness. How then should we be living? We should be living as if God is watching everything we do and listening to everything we say (because, you know, He actually is). This means we should be taking care of others, nurturing and encouraging each other instead of criticizing and rejecting just because they don’t meet our lofty standards. We are not at the center of the universe, not are we meant to be! Remember that for every person who seems to come up short as far as we are concerned, there is another that feels the same way about us whether they tell us or not. People who are in the habit of acting this way toward others are always people who dislike themselves. They see something about themselves that they don’t like in the personality or character of someone else, so they go after that person tooth and nail. As long as they are attacking someone else, they don’t have to look at themselves.

 

The next 2 quotes are from the book of James in the New Testament. They take judging of others a step further by getting at the roots of passing judgment. “Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” (James 3: 11-12) Well said, James, my dear brother! Who do we think we are? Since everyone is a sinner in God’s sight, God can only save us if we are merciful towards one another. Jesus said, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice”. The Bible commands us to love one another, and Jesus taught us to “love your neighbor as yourself”. We cannot simultaneously judge others and still be merciful towards them. We can’t claim to love others while sitting in judgment of them. Judgment and mercy are exact opposites, they are mutually exclusive of one another. The same goes for slander and love. There is no way to talk badly about your neighbor, friend, co-worker or relative and then profess your love for them. The apostle James then taught us what we should do instead when he wrote: “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (James 2: 12-13)

 

True judgment gives freedom according to James. Restrictive judgment says to those around us, ‘I think I’m better than you’. That kind of talk is never from God! It is man-made and it is derived from excessive pride, arrogance and conceit! Being merciful towards others no matter what they have said or done tends to motivate those people to want to do better, to seek ways of improving themselves and each other. Judging others, on the other hand, implies that they can’t do any better, so why not just write them off? It’s taking the easy way out, and that is never God’s way, either! Some Christians honestly believe that it is their duty to run around judging people, digging up dirt and spreading rumors. They think for them there will be some reward. But this is what Jesus says to these people: When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’” (Matthew 25:31-46)

 

Did you notice that those who were welcomed by Jesus were wondering why they were welcomed and those who were not welcomed thought that they should have been? Modern-day evangelists and preachers often teach that if you are saved then you know it, but what Jesus teaches here is the complete opposite. If you are a Christian as you claim, you should be following the advice of your Lord and Savior and not be running around judging people. According to Jesus, if you are saved, you are running around feeding the hungry, quenching the thirst of those thirsty and clothing the naked. Many hunger for love and acceptance and thirst for justice and some feel shamed as if they were naked. We are supposed to be helping them, not judging them! But if you yourself are hungry for attention while loving and thirsting for justice, then you will in your own defense judge other people. Seek salvation for yourself rather than distributing judgment unto others. We know who you are, and so do you!

 

There is one more aspect of passing judgment that I think I should mention, and that is the often controversial subject of racism. Hatred, bigotry and intolerance directed towards others are the polar opposites of being merciful. The best way to achieve peace on earth is for everybody to start showing mercy and tolerance towards one another (provided that that mercy and tolerance is not abused by its recipient). The Bible says any time we display racism, intolerance, bigotry and prejudice towards one another, it is the same as hating God who made them all, as it is written: “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) Who are we to question the handiwork of the Lord? Besides, when we devalue others we ultimately devalue ourselves since God created everyone equally. These are simple truths, yet they seem to elude us the majority of the time. Imagine a world without hate or harsh judgment that is filled compassion and mercy for everyone. What a wonderful place to live that would be! The Bible already tells us how. It’s just that too few people are putting it into practice.

 

God has given each of us the responsibility of not being so quick to pass judgment on each other. Instead, we are to be merciful towards each other because “mercy triumphs over judgment”. Ask yourself this question right now. Am I too judgmental? Am I a prejudiced individual? Do I find certain groups of people distasteful just because I don’t like them? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, it’s time to repent, to turn away from this behavior pattern, and to turn to God. Only God can provide all the answers you need. If you feel that you may not be strong enough to change, pray to God and ask Him to help you change into a better person. You will be surprised at how willing He actually is. Let’s practice together to not be judgmental towards one another, and to be merciful instead. It’s a much better way of life.

 

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America Is Running Out of Patience

How Much Longer Are We Going to Tolerate This?

By Pastor Paul J. Bern

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I have always strongly believed that it’s not possible to be an effective Christian without taking a stand against social and economic injustice, and against government corruption in all its forms (such as lobbyists at the federal and state levels who give out bribe money like Halloween candy). In fact, I have been a proponent for radical change for a number of years now, and I have written and published 3 books on this very topic. Where shall I begin? In God-blessed America, the land of the free where everyone is an economic slave, our Founding Fathers’ sacred idea of a government “of the people, by the people, for the people” has become but a cruel joke. Former president George W. Bush has notoriously (for both Christian and secular people) called our Constitution – our supreme law of the land – “that (uses God’s name in vain) piece of paper”. The federal government is currently spending at least $60 billion per month on military excursions in Afghanistan, the Middle East, and northern and western Africa – not including operating between 800 and 1,000 (depending on who you believe) foreign military bases all over the world. Our country’s over-used flying drone aircraft kills hundreds daily overseas, many of whom are only innocent bystanders.

 

Our political and court systems are openly rigged against the best interests of the American people, particularly those of color. A massive market mechanism is securely entrenched in our political system where political influence is openly bought and sold. Tens of thousands of highly-paid middlemen called “lobbyists” facilitate the legal transfer of billions between moneyed special interests and our so-called “representatives” in Congress. This very lucrative business of buying and selling political influence has become the driving engine of our government. Our so-called “representatives” in Congress vie for millions in legalized bribes in return for delivering billions of our tax dollars to moneyed special interests. It’s pure folly to think our current political system could possibly look out for the best interests of the American people.

 

Just ponder what our government has done, not for us but to us, in the last ten years alone. It’s utterly mind boggling! The installation of Donald Trump to the US presidency is only the latest insult. Not because it’s Trump, but because he promised to “drain the swamp”! Instead, Trump bought it and is now remaking it in his own best interest. The best interests of the American people have been sacrificed to moneyed special interests time and time again. Hopefully this time the American electorate has learned their lesson. The Wall Street bankers paid millions in bribes for a legal license to steal hundreds of billions of dollars from the American people. When greed got them in trouble, our so-called “representatives” gave them billions more of our money, American tax dollars, to bail them out in October of 2008. In the last ten years, our so-called “representatives” shared nearly a billion dollars in bribes from the “defense” industry alone. In return, they doubled our (2016) defense budget to $700 billion (equal to all other countries combined!) and lied us into unnecessary, endless, expanding wars that will ultimately cost us trillions.

This is aside from the extreme human costs of war with multiple consecutive deployments. For example, 1 in 5 returning veterans from US occupations overseas have permanent psychiatric disabilities so severe that they will never work again. Speaking as a minister and lifelong peace activist, I find this to be utterly reprehensible on the part of the US military! Be all you can be? Yeah, but it’s all for them and none for us except for some vague talk about ‘battlefield honor’. I’ve got some new information for all those people. There is no honor in killing other human beings, especially for religious or ideological reasons, and particularly for financial gain, which the US military is notorious for!

 

Our so-called “representatives” are slashing social spending for senior citizens and the poor just when far too many American people need it most. Yet they continue to spend hundreds of billions on weapons of mass destruction to protect us from our “enemies”. But most of our “enemies” are purposely created by our government’s blatantly unjust foreign policies (that openly support oppressive military regimes for the most rigid internal control possible), and by our violent military operations within their homelands. Without a perpetual supply of “enemies”, ‘defense industry’ profits would plummet, and Washington’s wealthy paymasters will never have any of that! If that weren’t enough, our so-called “representatives” have worked hard to keep America the number one weapons merchant on earth. Our so-called “representatives” continue to support the sale of billions in weapons to oppressive dictatorships around the world, which creates still more “enemies”, which creates more special interests profits, etc. So we can fight wars, but we can’t have a robust space program? We can fight wars, but we can’t update and upgrade America’s dilapidated power grid? We can fight wars, but America can’t replace its crumbling infrastructure? We can fight wars, but we can’t afford to make public colleges and universities free? America can’t forgive $1.3 trillion (as of the end of the 2017 school year) in student loan debt so those of the millennial generation can get on their feet and start families and buy cars and houses? We can fight wars, but middle and lower income families can’t afford school lunches for their kids? This is utter insanity!

 

Our current political system guarantees our so-called “representatives” will continue to pass and sustain legislation that transfers billions of our hard-earned tax dollars to moneyed special interests. That’s because members of Congress who oppose moneyed special interests are promptly punished, ostracized, or replaced (if their offense is great enough). President Kennedy paid the ultimate price for opposing the elitists, but he achieved martyrdom among the American people. Because of the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers and Rev. Dr. King, Jr., our current political system guarantees moneyed special interests and our “representatives” must participate in this influence-peddling scam against the American people. It’s mainly because they’re being coerced by the implied threat of assassination, but also because it’s so lucrative they’d be stupid not to.

Big corporations could be at a competitive disadvantage (and would likely resort to cheating their shareholders to replace lost profits) if they refused to buy political influence. Likewise, our so-called “representatives” would be at a competitive disadvantage getting elected or staying in office if they refused to broker political influence. Another “problem” as these elites as I see it is that, if corporate influence were to decline, it would open up windows of opportunity for start-up businesses and entrepreneurs, and there’s no way Wall Street will tolerate that. Anything that puts money into the hands of ordinary folks – such as owning a business no matter how small – is seen as a potential threat and gets treated as such. Just ask any of the American merchants who lost their businesses because they couldn’t compete with Wal Mart. I should know, I used to be one myself up until around the year 2000 or so.

 

The rigged national elections in 2016 were merely melodrama for the masses. Our ‘choices’ had all been chosen for us in advance by moneyed special interests pumping millions of dollars into the process. Besides, whoever “wins” will be forced to play by established political rules that guarantee moneyed special interests will always come ahead of the American people’s best interests. After all, the money special interests own the American electoral process outright, like a company owning an asset. For months before the elections, the complicit mainstream media, using colorful pundits who talk smart and know little, entertain us with political melodrama and often-intolerable rhetorical bull-crap. They arouse us by pitting one segment of the American people against another. They make millions bombarding us with empty, emotional, 15-to-30-second TV ads that are little more than name-calling or patriotic platitudes. Congressional elections have devolved into a herd of sheep fighting among themselves for their favorite wolves. Congressional elections merely determine which segment of the America people gets screwed the most by which moneyed special interests group.

 

Trying to reform our current political system using that same corrupt system is just an exercise in futility. It’s like trying to fix your broken arms using your broken arms. It’s like trying to start a car that is out of gas or has a dead battery. Our current political system is designed to be reform proof, although that’s not how it started out, as those who have read the US Constitution well know. The Constitution has well-established checks and balances to protect and maintain the country and the American people from tyranny from within and without. That’s why “campaign finance reform” and all other such efforts to “reform” our current political system from within are doomed to either fail outright or be so watered-down as to be nearly useless. All these outrageous government actions are exactly what we should expect from a government openly for sale to the highest bidder. “We the people” are just government-controlled fodder and political afterthoughts for the moneyed special interests. Moneyed special interests paid for these outrageous government actions, and they got what they paid for. How much longer are we going to tolerate this? We, the people, got screwed while corporate America and Wall St. received obscenely huge bonuses and golden parachutes! I have the solution to this problem, and it can be found in any English dictionary.

 

rev-o-lu-tion (Dictionary.com) 1. an overthrow or repudiation and the thorough replacement of an established government or political system by the people governed.

 

Our country’s elections amount to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. We can’t vote our government back to us. It was deliberately taken away from us, so we will deliberately take it back. A peaceful, people’s revolution is the preferable way we can take back our government. But, like a now-deceased colleague of mine used to say, “Use your first amendment rights and protest! If that doesn’t work, use your second amendment rights!” The trillion dollar business of buying and selling political influence (currently the driving engine of our government) must be overthrown, repudiated and thoroughly replaced if democracy is to survive in America. This massive influence-peddling scam must become our number one political issue because it underlies and thus greatly affects all other issues. If we don’t get all the dirty money out of our politics, our democracy and our standard of living will continue to decline and surely America will take the rest of the world down with us. That doesn’t sound like the kind of legacy I’d like to leave at all. The prophet David’s son, King Solomon of Jerusalem, wrote near the end of the Book of Proverbs something which still holds true over 3,000 years later, and I quote: “Speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and the needy.” proverbs 31: 8-9) And again it is written, “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” (Proverbs 14: 31)

 

We can’t afford to sit by like sheep or stand around like cattle meekly waiting to be slaughtered! We must find ways to hinder and harass the corporate state at every turn, and to control the violent tendencies of the police who protect them. Nothing will change unless we, the people, begin to organize radical acts of civil disobedience to disrupt our current political system, upping the ante until this massive influence-peddling scam is thoroughly exposed and eliminated (search: ‘overturn Citizens United’). For example, in Iceland in 2012 when the entire country went completely bust (you know, like the USA is about to) the people – not the government, but the PEOPLE!) – had arrested and jailed over 100 bankers after throwing the old government out of office – peacefully but evidently very effectively. The citizens stood in the streets and banged on pots and pans, and they didn’t stop until they got what they wanted. Nobody worked, and no children went to school for the first part of this national strike. Then they (the people, not the government!) wrote a new constitution and passed it into law. It was reported all over the European press but largely censored here in the US. Is it any wonder? If there were enough people inspired by what happened in Iceland, it could happen here next. Indeed, it well should! Well, what do the elite capitalists want? They can either allow what happened over there to happen here, in which case America will turn into another Greece, Spain, Ireland, Italy or Portugal. Or maybe even another Egypt, Yemen or Syria. Or they can declare martial law and simply seize absolute control. The only way to prevent this from occurring here in America is that “we the people” must take back our government by peaceful revolution because it will never be given back voluntarily. So get your pots and pans and your biggest serving spoon ready, and brush up on the US Constitution and all 27 of the amendments! Remember what President John F. Kennedy said: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

One final thought. “Rich and poor have this in common: God is maker of them all.” (Proverbs 22: 2)

 

 

 

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An American Microcosm

A Microcosm of the USA and Christianity

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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The events of this past week have left the office of the American presidency in shambles, made the US the laughingstock of the world, and I – for one – am appalled at the state of my country. President Donald Trump – or at least so long as he remains president – has left all of Washington in disarray from the presidency on down. He is also proving once again, as president George W. Bush did after September 2001 and especially after March 2003, that those who vote straight conservative every election have very short memories. It is the Republican party who, prior to Bush 43, brought us endless wars, the 1995 government shutdown, Iran Contra, the Drug War, president Nixon and Watergate, and the Vietnam War and the phony “Gulf of Tonkin Incident” that started that war. They are also indirectly responsible for the assassinations of Rev. Dr. King and the Kennedy brothers, which makes them accessories to murder.

President Donald Trump is a microcosm of America because he represents what America represents, and as such is someone who is admired by many. Donald Trump represents the American dream of becoming wealthy from a capitalist economic system that allegedly gives everyone a fair shot at becoming a rich businessman or real estate tycoon like Donald Trump. But president Trump is finding out the hard way that being president of the United States is nothing at all like running a real estate empire! When he ran for election last year, he wanted a job that he wasn’t prepared to take on. Worse yet, he failed to appreciate the difficulty and long hours of being the US president. His assumption of the office of the President was poorly planned and is still being poorly executed. When it comes to the presidency, it appears that Donald Trump is a fish out of water. Our country, therefore, is in serious trouble, and this situation is serious enough to warrant our undivided attention.

So president Trump is more than a microcosm of America, he represents a microcosm of capitalism. As such, Trump represents everything that is wrong with America, and everything that is wrong with capitalism. The ugly truth is that Donald Trump didn’t become a mega-billionaire because he is an exceptionally shrewd individual, or because he has some kind of inside track in the business world. Donald Trump got rich by screwing people every chance he got. Since Donald Trump has been elected president, he has been sued 134 times, according to the Boston Globe. He has reportedly filed bankruptcy at least 4 times since the 1980’s, evidently for the sole express purpose of stiffing his creditors while short-selling the property(s) in question. Donald Trump is a human shark, and a big, menacing “great white” at that! He reveals capitalism for the essentially predatory economic system that it truly is. Trump is also a perfect example of the fact that, in a capitalist economy where everything is organized in a hierarchical manner, there are only a handful who end up at the top of the heap, just like Donald Trump. Everyone else winds up underneath, where many of them get financially crushed without mercy.

Moreover, Donald Trump represents all that is corrupt with Washington, D.C. Washington is overburdened with corruption from within, and crushing debt from without. In fact, Washington is so heavily laden with debt and corruption that it is slowly sinking into the soil it sits on. Not only that, but the entire District of Columbia is literally sinking, according to the US Geological Survey named in a 2015 article from CNN.com:

Washington, D.C. Has a ‘Fore-bulge’ Problem

By Jareen Imam, CNN, Updated Sat. August 1, 2015

 

(CNN) Washington, D.C., where the powers that reign over the United States reside, is sinking into the ocean.

Scientists predict that the land underneath the nation’s capital will drop more than 6 inches in the next 100 years, according to new research from the University of Vermont and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

Surprisingly though, Washington’s sinking land is an entirely independent phenomenon from the rising sea levels, which scientists have attributed to climate change in the past.

For this study, researchers examined the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, one of the most rapidly subsiding and lowest-elevation surfaces, which borders the Chesapeake Bay.

The area is going through what geologists call a “fore-bulge collapse,” also known as the reason for many of Washington’s foreseeable geological woes. During the last ice age, a mile-high ice sheet pushed the land under the Chesapeake Bay region up. When the ice sheet melted 20,000 years ago, the bulging land began to settle back down.

“It’s a bit like sitting on one side of a water bed filled with very thick honey… when you stand, the bulge comes down again,” said former USGS geologist Ben DeJong, one of the lead authors on the study, who conducted the research at University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources.”

President Trump is also a microcosm of the current state of mainstream Christianity, whether denominational or otherwise. In spite of doing all the things I already wrote about, president Trump is a regular churchgoer. President Trump, like much of the rest of America, seems to think he can do whatever is expedient for himself and his family real estate empire, and he undoubtedly calls himself ‘blessed’ because of it all. Well-to-do mainstream Christians are filled with people just like that every Sunday morning, believing God has blessed them when all they really did was to help themselves to all they could carry away from the ‘negotiating table’. Or sometimes, whatever they can take by force, it happens every day. They go to church every Sunday as a token of acknowledging their sinful natures and professing their devout beliefs, but then they go back to doing the same things the following week! Jesus had something to say about this issue, and I quote: “Looking at his disciples he said, ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you who hunger, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.” (Luke chapter 6, verses 20-22)

But then Jesus continues: “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.” (Luke 6, verses 24-26) So based on this quote from our Lord and Savior, those who think they are richly blessed by God are actually on their way to hell! These are the people who think life is all about accumulating as much as we can, when in fact life is all about the legacy we leave behind. Instead of being focused on ourselves, we’re supposed to be focused on Christ and the blood he shed for us all! But what are today’s churches focused on? The bottom line, which is propelled by church membership and the money those members donate! Christianity isn’t about Christ at all; Jesus is more of an afterthought than anything else, and this is wrong!

Pulitzer prize winning author Chris Hedges was asked about corruption in churches during a forum with Mr. Robert Scheer, who said of Mr. Hedges, “There’s a complexity to your view. You come out of the mainstream Protestant Church. Your father, who is a minister, is a man you had enormous respect for, championed gay rights, civil rights when it was not popular. And I just wonder, and I know you resent when I say you have a prophetic voice, since I know nothing about scripture I probably don’t know anything about prophetic voices, but nonetheless it does seem to me your strength and clarity comes out of your Christian background.”

Chris Hedges responded, “Yeah, without question. And what I’m willing to do, which the mainstream church is not, is to denounce the Christian right as Christian heretics [applause]. You don’t have to, as I did, spend three years at Harvard Divinity School to realize that Jesus didn’t come to make us rich [laughter]. And he certainly didn’t come to make Pat Robertson and Joel Osteen rich. And what they have done is acculturate the worst aspects of American imperialism, capitalism, chauvinism, violence and bigotry into the Christian religion. And again let’s go back to Wiemar and the rise of Nazism. We saw the same thing in the so-called German Christian Church, which fused the iconography and language of Christianity with Nazism. It’s not a new phenomenon. It was the minority within that church, Bonhoeffer, Niemoller, Karl Barth, Schweizer who created the underground Confessing Church. And my great mentor at Harvard Divinity School, James Luther Adams [applause], was at the University of Heidelberg in 1935 and 1936 and dropped out and joined the Confessing Church. And when I had him in the early ’80s at Harvard, he used to tell us that when we were his age we would all be fighting the Christian fascists. Because, he understood that the Weimarization of the American working class, essentially pushing (America’s) working population into utter despair and hopelessness, coupled with a religious movement that fused national and religious symbols, was a recipe for fascism. And I think the great failure of the liberal tradition that I come out of is they were too frightened and too timid to stand up. I don’t know why they spent all the years in seminary if they didn’t realize that when they walked out the door they were going to have to fight for it. And they didn’t fight for it.”

Jesus said it, the apostle Paul wrote it, and I still believe it: There will be no cowards in heaven. Period, end of story! We as Christians have a moral obligation to stand up to tyranny, and to oppose greed and materialism as being the very antithesis of what it truly means to be an authentic follower of Jesus Christ, the Son of God! Moreover, the Bible has a few other things to say about rich people who are obsessed with obtaining even more wealth, just like president Trump, and I quote just a few of the many examples in the Bible:

Hebrews 13:5

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

1 Timothy 6:10

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

Matthew 6:19-21

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Luke 12:33-34

Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

1 Timothy 6:17-19

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

As you all can see, the above quotes, combined with the farcical nature of the Trump presidency and the corrupt nature of America’s political and economic systems, are a microcosm of what is wrong with America, capitalism and Christianity. I’m trying to sound the alarm about this because I see danger ahead, and we had better begin preparing for it now while we still have a little time left. Better hurry, too, or it will be too late.

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A Governing Lesson for the Trump Administration from God

Which Does the Bible Say Is Better? Helping the Rich Distribute to the Poor, or Helping the Poor Directly?

By Pastor Paul J. Bern

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we-the-corporations

The events of this past week inside the Beltway in Washington, DC have been a reminder to us all that the super-rich have taken over our country in a bloodless coup. The first step has been taken to repeal the national health insurance passed by the previous presidential administration known as “Obama-care”. In actuality, had both the presidential candidates in last year’s election endorsed Bernie Sanders’ idea of simply putting the whole country on Medicare, this entire discussion, not to mention this past week’s legislation of “Trump-care”, would be unnecessary. But sadly, that is not the case. So, what has occurred this week is that roughly 38 million people will lose their health care coverage while corporate America and the Wall Street billionaires get a $500,000,000.00 tax break.

President Trump, a man whose own qualifications to be president are becoming increasingly open to question, is the one who has spearheaded this entire series of events while conservative white Americans have been cheering at Trump’s every move. This, my dear readers, is what America has devolved into – an all-Caucasian oligarchy! Slavery may have been abolished in 1865, but starvation wages still prevail. If “Trump-care“ passes into law, the bottom 20% of wage earners in America will lose their health care coverage, but not so much for everyone else. This is the reason the “Occupy” Movement has remained so popular, except that it has evolved into Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock, S.D. and the fight for a $15.00 per hour minimum wage, among other things. And why is it that the rich have taken over the whole country while the remaining 99% of us languish in poverty? I can sum it up in one word – debt! The rich have buried the remainder of us under a mountain of debt. Today’s American consumers are faced with being forced to borrow just to pay their bills. We have upside-down mortgages, upside-down car loans, never-ending student loans, usurious title pawn loans, payday loans and a whole host of other predatory practices that are fundamentally unfair.

So I got to wondering what the Bible has to say about this topic. After considerable thought, prayer, study and meditation God has shown me which Scriptures to use for today. So let’s go back in the Old Testament to the Book of Nehemiah chapter 5 (for you newer readers, Nehemiah is between Ezra and Esther). I will start at verse 1, but I’m going to break this passage up into a couple of parts so that I may do the best job I can at breaking this down for everyone. “Now the men and their wives raised a great outcry against their Jewish brothers. So were saying, ‘We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain.’ Others are saying, ‘We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine.’ Still others are saying, ‘We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our countrymen and though our sons are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but we are powerless, because our fields and vineyards belong to others.’” (Nehemiah 5, verses 1-5)

The people during Nehemiah’s time were experiencing a severe food shortage, and whatever food was available was priced so far out of the reach of the working people and the farmers that they were having to mortgage everything just to feed their families. As you can see, government assistance during hard times was nonexistent during this time, and people were really suffering as a result. “Others are saying, ‘We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine.’ Still others are saying, ‘We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards.” In today’s terms, credit cards, student loans and 30-year mortgages – combined with stagnant wages that are stuck at 1960’s levels – are the new famines and new insurmountable debts of the 21st century.

“….we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but we are powerless, because our fields and vineyards belong to others.” Show me a people who have had their economic power taken away by debt, and I will show you a people who have lost their political clout as well. Plus, the slavery back then for the daughters and at least a few of the young men was sex slavery, of that you can be sure. God will never be pleased with us as long as this we allow this kind of bad behavior among humankind! It’s up to us to take charge of this situation and turn it around! What are we waiting for? And now let’s move on to the next few verses, starting at verse 6.

When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, ‘You are exacting usury from your own countrymen!’ So I called together a large meeting to deal with them and said, ‘As far as possible, we have bought back our Jewish brothers who were sold to the Gentiles. Now you are selling your brothers, only for them to be sold back to us!’ They kept quiet, because they could find nothing to say. So I continued, ‘What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies? I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let the exacting of usury stop! Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the usury you are charging them – the hundredth part of the money, grain, new wine and oil.’” (Nehemiah 5, verses 6-11)

Just like in verse 6, when I see people having to file bankruptcy because of unpaid medical bills, or becoming homeless because of that, or maybe a job loss, I too get angry. It is fundamentally unfair to be living on the streets, or in your cars if you are lucky enough to still own one at that point. But let’s put this into its historical context for a moment. The sentences, “As far as possible, we have bought back our Jewish brothers who were sold to the Gentiles. Now you are selling your brothers, only for them to be sold back to us!’ They kept quiet, because they could find nothing to say….”, are referring to the then-recent release of the Israelites of old from the Babylonian Empire, where they had been held captive for the previous 70 years by King Artaxerxes before being released so they could rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem. All this was done at Nehemiah’s request, which he formally made to the king, not unlike a modern-day petition to the government. The request was granted (see chapter 1 of Nehemiah), the Israelites – who had just spent the previous 70 years in Babylonian captivity – went back to what was left of Jerusalem to rebuild the temple there. So this entire conversation is actually taking place long after everyone has returned, but before the first crop has matured enough to be harvested. Nehemiah is giving those in charge of the rebuilding a stern lecture on fairness.

What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies? I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let the exacting of usury stop! Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the usury you are charging them.” I could modernize those first 2 verses by writing, “You’re charging too much interest, and it financially cripples the entire population! This is grossly immoral! And so now, in the interest of fairness and ethics, you must give back all the properties, cars and trucks you have forcibly taken even though the debtors were making serious efforts to make good on those debts. This is a ‘cease and desist’ order to stop this unethical practice immediately!” This also includes credit cards, which people often must use to pay for groceries, clothing, medical bills and utility bills. People should not have to pay interest just to be able to feed their children and pay their power and phone bills! And now let me conclude today’s message, beginning at verse 12.

‘We will give it back’, they said. ‘And we will not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say.’ Then I summoned the priests and and made the nobles and officials take an oath to do what they had promised. I also shook out the folds of my robe and said, ‘In this way may God shake out of his house and possessions every man who does not keep this promise. So may such a man be shaken out and emptied!’ At this the whole assembly said, ‘Amen!’, and praised the Lord. And the people did as they had promised.” (Nehemiah 5, verses 12-13).

This is exactly what the Big Five banks and Wall St. investors need to do, and the same goes for the IRS. Let go of the strangle hold, Washington and Wall Street, that you currently have the American people locked into! Not just a head-lock, mind you, but a stranglehold! That’s felony assault and battery the last time I checked. If any of us were to do any such thing to an individual, we’d be in jail for assault. If any of us were to do that to a business or other financial institution, we’d be charged with extortion. But if the government does that to any of us, then it’s called “taxation”. The warning from God is clear here. The governmental and financial systems must start treating the population – and each other – fairly, or we will find ourselves judged and will be found wanting in the presence of God. Trust me, you don’t want to go there, that’s for sure! So the lesson for today is only this: Stop mistreating each other for profit! And governments, starting with America’s, enact better laws to protect working people so that the problem of economic inequality can be permanently solved. If none of these things are done, and if things are allowed to continue on for much longer, the whole country is going to turn into a powder keg. Then again, maybe that’s the only choice the American people have left if we’re going to be able to take back our country.

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