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John Glenn — What a Legacy!

John Glenn Saw No Conflict Between Faith and Science

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

STS-95 crew member, astronaut and U.S. Sen. John Glenn poses for his official NASA photo taken April 14, 1998. In 1962, Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth, and he returned to space in 1998 aboard the space shuttle Discovery. Photo courtesy of NASA via Reuters

STS-95 crew member, astronaut and U.S. Sen. John Glenn poses for his official NASA photo taken April 14, 1998. Photo courtesy of NASA via Reuters

For by Him all things were created; things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Colossians 1: 16-17)

The passing of American hero John Glenn this past week has given me cause for reflection. When I think of heroes, Jesus Christ is the first person that comes to mind. Since he has saved us all from our sins against God and each other, Jesus is the obvious first choice. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is another example of a hero that I can think of, the late president John F. Kennedy is yet another. I can think of still more examples from the Bible, such as St. Stephen from the Book of Acts chapter 6, Joshua and Caleb from the Book of Joshua, and the apostle Peter, to name a few. And then there is John Glenn. As an American astronaut he gained heroic stature when he became the first man to orbit the earth aboard Friendship 7 in 1962. Previously, he won five Distinguished Flying Crosses in World War II, and years later went on to become a U.S. Senator from Ohio.

Perhaps less well known is that he was a man of deep Christian faith. This past Thursday, when he left the bounds of earth one final time at age 95, he passed into the arms of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He was one of the pioneering astronauts of the Mercury program at a time when space travel was extremely risky. He said he prayed every day during that time. Those prayers were needed on Glenn’s historic first orbits in space. During the return on February 20, 1962, Glenn’s heat shield was thought to have come loose and many believed it might fail during re-entry, which would cause Glenn’s capsule to be incinerated in its fiery descent. Glenn was instructed to take manual control of the capsule and described “a real fireball outside” as he re-entered the atmosphere. Thankfully, his and many other prayers were answered when he splashed down safely in the Caribbean.

Shortly after his flight, he delivered a sermon, “Why I Know There is a God,” that described his enlarged perspective on God as a result of the mission. In his message, he marveled at the size of the universe. “Our galaxy is some 100,000 light years in diameter. This makes us realize how difficult it is to visualize the tremendous scale of the universe beyond our solar system. The limits of the telescopically observable universe extend at least two billion light years from us in all directions,” he told his listeners in 1962. Then he expressed awe at discoveries from the microscopic level. “Come back to what we know of atomic particles, the smallest particles known. Atoms have a great similarity to our solar system in that they have electrons rotating about a nucleus in regular patterns. Now what is the point I am making?” he asked. “It is the orderliness of the whole universe about us, from the smallest atomic structure to the most enormous thing we can imagine. Could this have just happened? Was it an accident that a bunch of flotsam and jetsam suddenly started making these orbits of their own accord? I can’t believe that. This was a definite plan. This is one big thing in space that shows me there is a God. Some power put all this in orbit, and that power keeps it there.”

John Glenn may best be remembered as one of the 20th century’s greatest explorers, the first American to orbit the Earth and, later, the oldest man in space. Glenn also will be remembered for his long career as a U.S. Senator, representing his home state of Ohio for 24 years as a moderate Democrat. But less well-known is the fact that Glenn was an elder in the Presbyterian Church who saw no conflict between his beliefs in God and in science. He told The Associated Press last year he believed scientific discovery – including evolution – should be taught in schools. “I don’t see that I’m any less religious by the fact that I can appreciate the fact that science just records that we change with evolution and time, and that’s a fact,” he said. “It doesn’t mean it’s less wondrous and it doesn’t mean that there can’t be some power greater than any of us that has been behind and is behind whatever is going on.” And in a space-to-Earth news conference during his second space flight at age 77 in 1998, Glenn told reporters his view of space only strengthened his belief in God. “Looking at the Earth from this vantage point, looking at this kind of creation and to not believe in God, to me, is impossible. To see the Earth laid out like that only strengthens my beliefs,” he said.

From high above Earth, John Glenn saw the face of God. He was not alone. There is something about the beauty of space, Earth and the universe that touches many people’s spirits. Logic-oriented scientists and daring pilots turn spiritual, some even evangelical, after their space flights. Glenn and most of his Mercury astronauts strongly testified about how faith helped with their groundbreaking flights. John Glenn summed it all up while in orbit. “To look up out at this kind of creation and not believe in God is to me impossible,” Glenn said in a Sunday news conference, responding to a reporter’s question. “It just strengthens my faith.” Glenn said recently that evolution should be taught along with all other types of scientific discovery, and this view does not contradict a belief in God. He went on to say that recording the scientific changes that occur over time due to evolution fit comfortably with his view of God as Creator.

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Monthly partners needed for a good and worthy cause

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Banks are criminal enterprises. US government involved in dozens of wars globally. Police gone berserk. Children slaughtered in Syria. A world going insane. One man, one ministry confronting the madness, standing against war, social or economic injustice, crooked banks and every kind of corruption. Help us help America win this fight while standing up unashamedly for Jesus Christ. With a recurring monthly donation starting at only $10.00, you can help keep us on the Internet, fund some office expenses, help us buy a new or used van, and cover the monthly expenses of buying double cheese sandwiches and fries for the multitudes of homeless individuals and families in and around greater Atlanta. Please help Progressive Christian Ministries of Greater Atlanta, Inc. (State of Georgia control # 15066742) by becoming a monthly partner today! http://www.pcmatl.org/donations-and-partners

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Just released by Author Rev. Paul J. Bern…..

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Didn’t God Make That Plant to Begin With?

It’s finally here!! The latest offering from Rev. Paul J. Bern; “Cannabis Legalization and the Bible: Compatible Or Not?” Reveals the “war on drugs” for the race-based, legislated criminal enterprise that it really is, shatters the myths about the allegedly addictive properties of marijuana, exposes America’s prison-for-profit prison and court systems. Goes into great detail about the huge economic benefits of legalizing marijuana and its sister plant, hemp. Written by a nondenominational Christian minister and blogger, this book uses the Bible to provide a simple explanation for why marijuana criminalization is a sin against God. This book shoots the “War On Drugs” right out of the sky while proving conclusively that the ‘drug war’ is actually an all-out war on the American people. Our time to rise up has come!! Making its debut at only $19.95; buy it now at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00J1X7802 or at http://www.pcmatl.org/#!books-and-donations/c17et

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What Does the Bible Say About the Role of Government?

Dispensing Justice and Promoting Healing

Are the Government’s Biblical Obligations

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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This week I want to write about why implementing single-payer national health care is so important, and what the Bible says about that. The passage of so-called “Obama-care” a couple years ago makes this issue worse, not better. All the US government had to do was put the whole country on Medicare, and include all those on Medicaid as well. Then, we could just do away with Medicaid, saving the country roughly $650 billion per year! There is hardly a more controversial political battle in America today than that swirling around the role of government. The ideological sides have lined up, and the arguments rage about the size of government: How big, how small should it be? But I want to suggest that what size the government should be is the wrong question. A more useful discussion would be about the purposes of government and whether America’s is fulfilling them in a Christlike manner. So let’s put the politics to the side for the moment and look at what the Bible has to say about this topic.

The words of the apostle Paul in the 13th chapter of Romans are perhaps the most extensive teaching in the New Testament about the role and purposes of government. Paul says those purposes are twofold: to restrain evil by punishing evildoers and to serve peace and orderly conduct by rewarding good behavior. Civil authority is designed to be “God’s servant to do you good” as it is written: “For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from the 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, verses 3-5, NIV)

Today we might say ‘the common good’ is to be the focus and function of government. The Declaration of Independence defines this as being life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Thomas Jefferson famously said, “The primary function of government is the care and welfare of its citizens”. According to the apostle Paul, the purpose of government is to protect from evil and promote the good, to punish the ‘takers’ while rewarding those who freely give. We are also obligated by law to pay taxes for those purposes. So to disobey, disrespect or circumvent good government is simply not a biblical position. Jesus summed this up very well during his ministry, as it is written: “Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap Him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. ‘Teacher’, they said, ‘we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’ But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, ‘You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used to pay the tax’. They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, ‘Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?’ ‘Caesar’s’, they replied. Then He said to them, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar, and to God what is God’s.’ When they heard this they were amazed. So they left Him and went away”. (Matthew 22, verses 15-22)

First, government is supposed to protect its citizens’ safety and security. Crime and violence will always be a real and present danger in this world, and that’s why we have the police, who are meant to keep our streets, neighborhoods, and homes safe. Governments also need to protect their people judicially, and make sure our legal and court systems are procedural, just and fair. The biblical prophets regularly railed against corrupt court decisions and systems, in which the wealthy and powerful manipulate the legal processes for their own benefit and put the poor into greater debt or distress. The prophet Amos speaks directly to the courts (and government) when he says, “Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts” (Amos 5:15 NIV). Again it is written, “Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits. Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an honest or innocent person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the righteous. Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt.” (Exodus 23, verses 6-9)

But along with protecting, what should governments promote? The Law of Moses holds kings, rulers, judges, and employers accountable to the demands of justice and fairness, therefore promoting those values. And the Scriptures say that governmental authority is to protect the poor in particular. The biblical prophets are consistent and adamant in their condemnation of injustice to the poor, and frequently follow their statements by requiring the government to act justly. That prophetic expectation applies today to the governments of all lands and peoples. Jeremiah, speaking of King Josiah, said, “He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well.” Psalm 72 begins with a prayer for political leaders and the entire population: “Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son. May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice. May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness. May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.”

There is a powerful vision here for promoting the common good — a vision of “righteous” prosperity for all the people, with special attention to the poor and to “deliverance” for the most vulnerable and needy, and even a concern for the land. The biblical understanding of justice is that the procedures must be fair and it demands unbiased courts (Exodus 23:2-8; Leviticus 19:15; Deuteronomy 1:17; 10:17-19). Immediately after denouncing Israel and Judah for the absence of justice, the prophet Isaiah condemned the way rich and powerful landowners have acquired all the land by pushing out small farmers when he wrote: “Now I will tell you what I am going to do in my vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed; I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled. I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there. I will command the clouds not to rain on it. The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress. Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land. The Lord Almighty has declared in my hearing: ‘Surely the great houses will become desolate, the fine mansions left without occupants.’ (Isaiah 5:7-9, NIV). It is important to note that even though in this text the prophet does not say the powerful acted illegally, he nevertheless denounces the unfair outcome.

The real truth is that fair outcomes do not always match equal outcomes. The historical attempts by many communist governments to create equal outcomes in terms of social and economic status have dramatically shown the great dangers of how the concentration of power in a few government hands leads to totalitarian results. The theological reason for that is the presence and power of sin, and the inability of such fallible human creatures to create social utopias on earth. Yet the biblical prophets do hold their rulers, courts, judges, landowners and employers (even slave owners!) accountable to the values of fairness, justice, and even mercy. The theological reasons for that are, in fact, the same: the reality of evil and sin in the concentration of power — both political and economic — and the need to hold that power accountable, especially for the protection of the poor and the sick. So fair outcomes, and not necessarily equal ones, are the goal of governments. Governments should provide a check on powerful people, institutions, and interests in the society that, if left unchecked, might run over their fellow citizens, the economy, and certainly the poor. And coming to a better moral balance in achieving fiscal responsibility, while protecting the poor, should be a bipartisan effort. The radically anti-government ideology of the current right wing Tea Party/Republican ideology is simply contrary to a more biblical view of government. The need for checks and balances, the sinfulness of too much concentrated power in either the government or the market, and the responsibilities we have for serving the common good, are all the Biblical definitions of good and just government. Anything less is the same as poking your finger in God’s eye.

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The positive side of error

Human Error And What It Can Teach Us

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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It has been my observation that people take a great deal of pride and personal satisfaction, not to mention their professional identity, in their educations and professional training. The existence of the Internet constantly reminds us that knowledge is power, but more importantly that knowledge is instantly available. Some self-righteous – even belligerent – individuals take this fact to its outer extreme by going through life with the attitude that unlimited Web access equals unlimited personal power and knowledge. This philosophy of no limitations is the seed from which human failure sprouts, having failed to recognize that human intelligence has its limits despite a wealth of available knowledge. King Solomon wrote in the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament, “The Lord catches the wise in their craftiness”, and the prophet Isaiah wrote, “The intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate”, and, “God had chosen the foolish things of the world, and the simple, to confound the wise”. So much for human intelligence.

The fact of the matter is that we do not learn anywhere near as much from formal education as we do from our own mistakes. For example, I will use the household cleaner known commercially as “Formula 409”. How did the inventor come up with this name? He had to make 408 different formulas that didn’t work in order to come up with one that did. That means he/she had to make 408 mistakes in order to come up with the winning formula that we know today. Life experiences work exactly the same way. We learn and adapt from our experiences as we go along in life because that is how the human brain is wired. Our brains learn from constant modification based on our surroundings, our environment and the sum of our experiences. On the other hand, being right can also have its benefits. As pleasures go, it is, after all, a second-order one at best. Unlike many of life’s other delights – chocolate, the great outdoors, movies, books – it doesn’t enjoy any mainline access to our biochemistry: to our appetites, our adrenal glands, our sex drive, our emotions. And yet, the thrill of being right is undeniable, universal, and (perhaps most oddly) almost entirely undiscriminating. Nor does subject matter; we can be just as pleased about correctly identifying the model year of a vintage Corvette, or correctly identifying the sexual orientation of our co-worker. Stranger still, we’re perfectly capable of deriving satisfaction from being right about disagreeable things: the downturn in the stock market, say, or the demise of a friend’s relationship.

Like most delectable experiences, rightness isn’t ours to enjoy all the time. As the apostle John wrote, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar, and his Word has no place in our lives.” (1st John chapter 1, verses 8-10, NIV) Clearly, humankind is prone to error because we’re made that way. The time-worn phrase, “Nobody’s perfect”, continues to be a gross understatement, and it always will. I think the biggest reason we enjoy being right is because it happens so relatively infrequently. Because when we’re not, we’re the one who loses the bet. And sometimes, too, we suffer grave doubts about the correct answer or course of action – an anxiety that, itself, reflects our desire to be right.

On the whole, though, and notwithstanding these lapses and qualms, our indiscriminate enjoyment of being right is matched by an almost equally indiscriminate and sometimes irrational feeling that we are right. At times, this feeling spills into the foreground, such as when we argue, evangelize, or make predictions. Often, though, it is just psychological backdrop. Most of us go through life assuming that we are basically right, basically all the time, about basically everything: about our political and intellectual convictions, our religious and moral beliefs, our assessment of other people, our memories, our grasp of facts. As absurd as it sounds when we stop to think about it, our steady state seems to be one of unconsciously assuming that we are very close to infallible. Most of us navigate day-to-day life fairly well, after all, which suggests that we are routinely right about a great many things. And sometimes we are not just routinely right but spectacularly right: right about the orbit of the planets (mathematically derived long before the technology existed to track them); right about the healing properties of aspirin (known since at least 3000 BC); right to track down that woman who smiled at you in the cafe (now your wife of 20 years). Taken together, these moments of rightness represent both the high-water marks of human endeavor and the source of countless small joys. They affirm our sense of being smart, competent, trustworthy, and in tune with our environment. More important, they keep us alive.

Individually and collectively, our very existence depends on our ability to reach accurate conclusions about the world around us. In short, the experience of being right is imperative for our survival, gratifying for our ego, and, overall, one of life’s cheapest and keenest satisfactions. Yet even that can be an illusion (or a delusion, take your pick) as the apostle James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote: “The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.” (James chapter 1, verses 9-11, NIV) But the ministry of Christ was aimed towards those who were willing to acknowledge their imperfections, just as Jesus said: “I have not called the righteous, but sinners to repentance”. As a minister myself, I am glad when I’m right, but more interested in how we as a culture think about error, what the Word of God says about it, and how we as individuals cope when our convictions collapse out from under us. If we relish being right and regard it as our natural state, then our feelings about being wrong are the exact opposite. For one thing, we tend to view it as rare and bizarre – an inexplicable aberration in the normal order of things. For another, it leaves us feeling idiotic and ashamed. Like the term paper returned to us covered in red ink, being wrong makes us cringe and slouch down in our seats; it makes our heart sink and our resentment rise. At best we regard it as a nuisance, at worst a nightmare, but in either case – and quite unlike the gleeful little rush of being right – we experience our errors as deflating and embarrassing. And it gets worse. In our collective imagination, error is associated not just with shame and stupidity but also with ignorance, lazyness, psychopathology, and moral degeneracy. It is the common view of oneself that our errors are evidence of our gravest social, intellectual, and moral failings.

Of all the things we are wrong about, this view of human error might well top the list. It is our mega-mistake: We are wrong about what it means to be wrong. Far from being a sign of intellectual inferiority, the capacity to err is crucial to human cognition. Far from being a moral flaw, it is inextricable from some of our most humane and honorable qualities: empathy, optimism, imagination, conviction and courage. And far from being a mark of indifference or intolerance, wrongness is a vital part of how we learn and change. Thanks to error, we can revise our understanding of ourselves and amend our ideas about the world. For those who refuse to acknowledge their errors, King Solomon wrote about people like them in the Book of Proverbs, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death”. (Proverbs 14: 12) People who insist on going their own way end up getting consumed by it. The lucky survivors wind up in jails, mental hospitals, rehab, or any combination thereof. Given this centrality to both our intellectual and emotional development, error shouldn’t be an embarrassment, and cannot be an aberration. On the contrary, as Benjamin Franklin once observed, “the history of the errors of mankind, all things considered, is more valuable and interesting than that of their discoveries.” I believe the healthiest and most productive attitude we can have about sin and error is that however disorienting, difficult or humbling our mistakes might be, it is ultimately wrongness, not rightness, that can teach us who we are. And in the end, it is that recognition of our own sinful, mistake-prone nature that ultimately leads us to the sole solution – Jesus Christ. Ask Him into your hearts today. Jesus came that we might have life, and have it to the full. Go ahead, just do it.

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An Email From God. Seriously.

What If God Sent an Email To Organized Religion?

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

Donald Trump took my lunch money for his presidential campaign. My dad is gonna be pissed!!

Donald Trump took my lunch money for his presidential campaign. My dad is gonna be pissed!!

Given the state of affairs of organized religion throughout the world, and particularly here in the US with Johnny-come-lately “Christian” presidential candidates such as Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, I can’t help but wonder what God must be thinking about all this. As you likely recall, Mitt Romney stated during his 2012 presidential bid that, if elected president, his first act as chief executive would be to launch an airstrike on Iran. Keep in mind that this is the same guy who is opposed to abortion and who calls himself “pro-life”. He fights for the rights of the unborn, but if you’re already alive and living in Iran, you’re toast. That doesn’t seem quite right to me. On the other hand, if you live in Syria, where the government is slaughtering the governed, you’re on your own. Yet in Iraq, where there is plenty of oil, we occupied that country while killing over 100,000 Iraqi civilians, over half of whom were women and children. But that war was supposed to be different because we toppled a terrible dictator. Never mind that that same dictator, none other than Saddam Hussein himself, was a former CIA collaborator and “asset”. So much for loyalty among allies. Yes, that’s what our country has been doing in the Middle East since Gulf War 1 back in 1990-91. And it is the American military-industrial-incarceration complex that has been doing this same thing throughout the globe since the end of World War Two.

Meanwhile here at home, one person in five depends on food stamps to eat due to unemployment or inability to earn a living wage. People can’t afford to get sick or hurt in an accident because if they do, the medical bills they are about to incur will bankrupt them. Twenty four million Americans can’t find a job – but since they can’t afford to go back to school and get retrained because of the staggering cost of America’s for-profit higher education system, they remain stuck in their situation with no relief in sight. As I wrote in my first book, “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto”, our country has more than enough money to pay for lifetime medical care and higher education for every single American who wants either or both. All they have to do is call off all the wars and bring our troops home. As I explained in that same book, if the US government took all the money that is spent in just one day on the wars/occupations in the Middle East and Afghanistan and put it all into an interest-bearing bank account, there would be ample funding for 4-year college educations for every school kid in America from pre-K through high school, including tuition, books, housing, food and transportation. Yeah, just one day’s war expenditures would do that. Besides, there is sufficient legal precedent doing this very thing in the form of the GI Bill that was passed by Congress after the end of World War 2. If they could reeducate us then, they can do it now. All that Congress has to do is make the G.I. Bill available to everyone.

But what do we have instead? Overseas military adventures purely for the sake of economic domination by the US against any country regardless of cost. This is not just unsustainable, it is sheer madness. Our government has been taken over by a bunch of sociopaths. They operate from behind the scenes bent on world conquest at any cost, and they are an integral part of the so-called “new world order”. Unless they are stopped they will take the world over the brink of the abyss of World War 3. Yet these people are, by and large, religious conservatives of one church denomination or another. Their counterparts in the Muslim world are similarly conservative religious fundamentalists. Only their names for God are different. Yet, as far as I am concerned, there is only one true God who is undoubtedly far greater than the sum of all the world’s different religious faiths combined. If this very same almighty God, who is “The Great I Am” and who sacrificed his only Son so that we may all have eternal life, sent us an email about all this mess down here on earth, I think it would be worded something like this:

“My children, I appeal to you all to return to what you call the New Testament, the chronicles of the life of my only Son and the instructions he left behind. I offer this directly to the peoples of earth, without intermediary, cleric, or agent of any kind. Circumstances have compelled me to sever all ties, contracts and assignments with my representatives on this planet. You see, I have been completely dissatisfied with their performance of their duties for some time. Children get molested in some churches, adultery runs rampant in others, while still others have turned their churches into businesses and have enriched themselves with material possessions beyond all reason. You pastors and evangelists who drive around in cars with six-figure price tags while flying around in your own jets, you know who you are. There’s nothing wrong with having a nice car and a comfortable house, but a good bit of that other money should have been used to feed the poor and house the homeless. But the rape of Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, crimes committed in my name by the USA, not counting the additional war plans they have made, has forced my hand. The perversion of my will displayed by these despicable acts, and so many others, has left me no choice. I hereby fire my earthly representatives, they no longer speak for me.”

“Humankind, however, remains in my affections and you always will. We need to start again with the New Testament (not to discount or devalue the old) and work towards better days. But it would be remiss of me not to explain why I have taken such drastic measures. To put it bluntly, war displeases me. Five thousand years of war among the humans over the right way to pronounce my name has exhausted my patience. I will no longer be responsible for any murders committed under color of my authority. I much prefer that you who claim to believe in me should put some legs on your faith. It’s good when you fast and pray, but it’s far better to go and find someone in need and doing whatever you can to help him or her.”

“Someone who goes to church every Sunday but does nothing more during the week is a Christian in name only in my eyes. Someone who donates for a good cause to charity, who volunteers their free time without expectation of compensation or who is a role model for the fatherless, that person will find favor with me. Those who visit the sick, the elderly and the prisoner, and someone who is a defender of the widow, the orphan, the homeless, the mentally ill, and other vulnerable individuals, it is they who are truly following in my Son’s footsteps. I created you with a divine Spirit in my image. But you persist in bastardizing that Spirit and ruining my image when those who don’t agree with you about whether or not it is permitted to draw my face find themselves bombed back to the stone age! Until you prove you can worship the divine Spirit I put in all of you, and desist from the mayhem and slaughter that you love more than me, I shall summarily reject and disallow all claims to my providence.”

“You have banded yourselves into tribes, nations and races and the results have not been pleasing to my eye. I take some responsibility for this distressing development; I should not have given you an earth so large. But had I started with a smaller Eden, you would have corrupted and polluted it until it became uninhabitable many thousands of years ago. You have proven yourselves incapable of understanding the panoply of laws and wisdom I laid down for you, when I set you upon the earth. I have been mistranslated by your spirit guides and abused by your leaders. Perhaps I was too complex. Let us try to simplify. Respect my creation and all the inhabitants thereof. Any so-called religious leader who tells you otherwise is a false prophet and does not represent me, my brethren or any part of my Kingdom which is soon to come.”

“Those of you who find comfort in organized religion may feel free to continue to do so. I understand – I created you as vessels for love and love rejoices in the presence of others. Keep your churches, mosques and synagogues, but cease your bickering. And remember, when you engage in bloodletting, you commit blasphemy. I realize that in severing my ties with so many of the sects, denominations and “holy men” that you rely upon for moral guidance, I have created confusion where there was once certainty in your souls. But that cannot be helped. Your certainties were almost certainly wrong and most certainly misapplied.”

“But do not despair, my children, for I have not abandoned you. There is a little piece of me inside all of you, a fail-safe guide to good and evil, a moral compass that never leaves you, a true voice you can hear amid the storms of fire that drive you mad with hatred and confusion. It is called your conscience and it always points towards my Son; follow it and you will be walking in my Light, ignore it and you’ll be lost in the darkness cast by your own shadow. So here is my ‘new’ first commandment to you: I have given you a conscience. Use it.”

Sort that out to my satisfaction and maybe in another decade or so we can talk about the dietary laws.”

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America is sick with greed, and I’m just plain sick of it

America’s Sick Culture of Greed – the 7 Warning Signs

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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The apostle Paul, in his first letter to his deacon Timothy, admonished him to be wary of the pursuit of money and material wealth. About 1,950 years ago, Paul wrote, “But Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1st Timothy chapter six, verses 6-10, NIV) The love of money for money’s sake, as in the days of the early Church, remains the social and societal disease of our time. We see it all around us; in the celebration of ill-gotten financial gain, public admiration for the heads of criminal banks, the lyrics to some popular songs, and in the commercialization of charity and spirituality. This adoration of wealth isn’t a new thing, of course. Back in elementary school I remember being sent to the principal’s office for being moody, unfocused and temperamental – in other words, for being either a rebellious revolutionary, a writer in the making, or a trouble-maker. I still remember my report cards from elementary school that said I “failed to concentrate on the task at hand”, and that I had “too casual an attitude”. In other words, I was a misfit deemed to be a failure in life. That, of course, depends on how one defines the words ‘misfit’ and ‘failure’.

In defense of my childhood self, the Beatles were famous for their Rolls-Royce’s at that time and the Beatles seemed happy. A group called the “Dave Clark Five” went out and bought five matching Jaguar XKE convertibles (anybody else remember that?). Like any good consumer in the making, I had internalized these images of wealth and had come to equate them with happiness. The United States of the 1960s was a nation filled with optimism. For many (though definitely not all) Americans, it was a time of unparalleled opportunity. Education was affordable, families could live comfortably on a single adult income, and the country seem to be on an endless upward trajectory of prosperity. We were expanding in every way, so rapidly that only the depths of space seemed able to contain the people we were about to become. The fantasy of wealth seemed somehow different in that context. Today, we’re a nation being preached to by “bipartisan” corporate politicians who lecture us on the impossibility of expecting a livable Social Security income in our old age. Or a living wage in our working years. Or an affordable education, so our children can live a better life economically than we did. Yet we’re more infatuated with the fruits of unproductive greed today, it seems, then we were back then. Here are seven signs that American culture is sick with greed.

1.) There’s still no public shame in profiting off Wall Street fraud.

Wall Street has been celebrating the investment opportunities created by the wave of criminality and fraud which has overtaken JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and others. JP Morgan Chase’s epidemic of internal fraud has led to tens of billions in fines during the tenure of CEO Jamie Dimon. The investigation’s report goes on to describe how JP Morgan’s stock has risen despite the record fraud settlements against the bank and multiple ongoing civil and criminal investigations. What the report is saying is that banks are essential to the functioning of society, like a public utility. But unlike traditional public utilities, they’re entrusted to profit-driven executives with a long history of documented criminality. And yet there have been no indictments of senior Wall Street executives to date because senior government officials have made it clear they don’t want to endanger the banks by enforcing the law. Legal and political implications aside, what’s astonishing to me is the complete lack of shame associated with being a bank executive whose organization has committed so many crimes — or an investment analyst to openly celebrate those crimes as an opportunity to make money at society’s expense.

Even as the world was still learning of Wall Street’s extensive criminality, Dimon was the subject of a fawning profile several years ago in the New York Times Sunday magazine, which detailed at length Dimon’s hurt feelings and irritation toward those audacious enough to criticize him. Andrew Ross Sorkin did the same thing for the same newspaper three years later, dismissing as “blood lust” calls for Dimon’s resignation in the wake of yet more billion-dollar fraud revelations about his bank. Even now, after all the revelations of crimes which include investor fraud, shareholder fraud, perjury, forgery, violation of international sanctions laws and laws designed to protect members of the US Armed Forces — even now it’s possible to treat bank CEOs as victims in the pages of our country’s newspaper of record. Condemning that record isn’t blood lust. It’s morality.

2.) Greedy CEOs still have credibility in the media.

It’s not just Jamie Dimon, of course. Having shattered the middle class through their accumulation of wealth, the devastation they inflicted on the global economy, and their mistreatment of employee pension funds, Wall Street CEO’s apparently still have enough credibility in some quarters to be treated as experts in fiscal responsibility. They’re using that credibility to suggest that America’s middle-class accept cuts to Social Security and Medicare, two of the few programs left to protect them from the effects of runaway corporate greed. American news outlets accord these CEOs an extraordinary and unearned measure of respectability and authority. Very few articles about ‘Fix the Debt’ mention the massive fraud settlements and fines levied against these CEO’s institutions. Although CEO’s aren’t greedy by definition, most of the ones on ‘Fix the Debt’s’ list fit that description. Most of the ones who aren’t running Wall Street banks lead defense contracting firms that earn excessive profits from the US taxpayer, while lecturing those same taxpayers on the need for the middle class to cut back on its expectations of financial security when it reaches retirement age. ‘Fix the Debt’ is one of a number of interlocking organizations which are largely financed by right-wing billionaire Pete Peterson, who made his money in the hedge fund business and yet is treated by many journalists as if he were Mother Teresa.

3.) Corporate executives are now trained to rip people off.

This writer spent a number of years in the business world during the 1990s, as the owner of a small technology-based retail storefront operation. During this time, corporate America was transforming itself from a customer-driven set of industries to a greed-driven and conscience-less wealth extraction machine for the investor class. Let me use the Gillette Company as an example. As most bearded men know, the Gillette business model is a sneaky one. The company ropes customers in with low-cost razors and then charges an outrageous amount for replacement blades. This is obviously a deceptive business model. Another example from the 1990’s and (to a lesser degree) 2000’s is that of the pay phone industry, which wanted to increase turnover in the use of its phones. The allegedly ‘brilliant’ thinking of a junior executive taken directly from the minutes of board meetings (I will decline to name the company) proposed that bricks be put in the handsets of all their phones. In the same “brainstorming” session, which sometimes are innocuously called “meetings”, another executive suggested making the surfaces underneath the phones slanted, so that people couldn’t leave their things there while they spoke on the phone. The net result was that people paid a quarter to use a pay phone, but then grew uncomfortable and were unable to complete their calls. The beauty of it – from the company’s point of view – was that they didn’t even know why they were hanging up. They merely had an unsatisfying customer experience, while the phone company got to turn over customers more quickly and collect more quarters. Again, nobody back then objected that this was poor customer service, and an underhanded way to deal with customers. If you multiply those experiences ten thousandfold, you have an idea of the culture of corruption which is taking place every day in companies all across the country. That’s not to say there aren’t companies that still believe in customer service; there are, and I’m grateful every time I encounter one. But the corporate culture of America has become a culture of cheating, manipulation and greed. (The pay phone industry in this country is dead, by the way. Karma, as they say, is a bitch.)

4.) And then there’s the music recording industry.

Our idealization of greed isn’t confined to the business section of our newspapers. While white liberals decry the idealization of wealth, that’s not a new phenomenon either. In fact, it can be found in both lifestyles and the recordings of their own childhood musical heroes. “Money can’t buy everything it’s true, but what it can’t buy I can’t use…” There has always been a tension in popular music between the comfortable idealism of those who come from wealthy backgrounds and the aspiring materialism of pop musicians who were raised in poverty and/or financial insecurity. That latter list includes Elvis Presley, the Beatles, James Brown, and many of today’s hip-hop artists. As the seminal R&B producer, songwriter and performer Swamp Dogg put it in the 1970’s: “I’m not selling out, I’m buying in.” The best of those artists — the Beatles, Brown, and more recently Kanye West — have struggled to reconcile the drive which helped them escape poverty with the idealism that made them gifted artists. Kanye ran into some controversy with his track “New Slaves.” Many people were offended that he equated his own wealth with slavery and Jim Crow laws. It’s Kanye’s charm, as well as his curse, to speak everything that comes into his mind. But I think he was onto something with his line about “throwing back the Maybach keys” and his lyrics about the expectation that African-American celebrities will be excessive spenders.

Self-made celebrities often act as ritualized consumers on behalf of the general public. Their job is to swallow up the most excessive luxuries the wealthy lifestyle has to offer. They inadvertently use their power and influence to reinforce the corporate-driven, consumerist tropes that keep us enslaved to our own material desires. By naming the phenomenon and ritually “throwing the keys,” Kanye West is trying to break a pattern that has stretched from Tupelo in Mississippi to Compton in California, from Liverpool in England to Bed-Sty and Brownsville in New York.

5.) Insight and spirituality are being commercialized.

One of the most notorious examples of the commercialization of faith and spirituality is the “prosperity gospel”, which is being propagated primarily in Protestant, catholic, and non- or- interdenominational churches here in the US. As the late and well-known televangelist pioneer Oral Roberts once said, “If you have a need, you must plant a seed”. In order to obtain, we must first give, or so they say. But when we examine the Scriptures, we find this is quite the reverse of what Christ taught us in the Sermon on the Mount: “So do not worry, saying ‘What shall we eat?’, or ‘What shall we drink?’, or ‘What shall we wear’? For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6: 31-33, NIV) So, instead of “planting a seed” to get our needs met, if we have a need we should be on our knees in prayer, not giving some crooked televangelist all your grocery money. Even Eastern spiritual traditions like Buddhism are being co-mingled with idealized visions of what it means to be a billionaire. From TED talks to mindfulness conferences like the Wisdom 2.0 conference, the search for individual and collective insight is becoming increasingly identified with the desire to accumulate wealth. “You can have it all,” these events seem to say. “You can gain peace of mind, unlock the mysteries of human existence, and become a billionaire, all at the same time.” Some of these events even seem to argue that they are one and the same journey, which is a complete fallacy. It’s heaven and Nirvana, all in one ‘special’ package — with corporate sponsorship.

6.) Kindness and thoughtfulness toward our fellow human beings has become a commodity.

The Clinton Global Initiative has continued to promote misleading deficit-reduction materials in partnership with the hedge fund billionaires. It featured a leader from Morgan Stanley — one of the institutions which was instrumental in causing the 2008 financial crisis — talking about how to recover from the financial crisis. It’s not just Bill and Hillary. In the midst of negotiating yet another multi-billion dollar fraud settlement, JP Morgan Chase was given the honor (and the public relations coup) of sponsoring the fund raising concert for victims of Hurricane Sandy headlined by the Rolling Stones. But then, the Stones have a relationship with big banks that goes back to their sponsorship deal with AmeriQuest, the mortgage company which was slammed for deceitful practices and discriminatory lending toward minorities. That’s not to say corporate charity, or for that matter the charity of billionaires, is a bad thing. Everyone should incorporate charity into their way of life, and those who are most fortunate should give the most in return. Nobody argues with that. The sickness comes when we allow certain types of charity to glorify the giver, or when it’s considered impolite to mention any relationship between, say, the excessive wealth accumulation of the givers and the need for charity in the first place.

7.) America’s Soul Sickness

Today there are countless signs that our culture is sick with greed. You don’t need to be told that. Just look around. I never was able to afford the Rolls-Royce’s and Jaguar roadsters of my childhood fantasies. But then, those things were only an expression of pain. They reflected a deep yearning to be somewhere else, to be someone else, to escape the daily trials of everyday existence and replace them with a fantasy bubble that kept me at a glittering distance from the sufferings of the real world. Today’s national culture of greed is also an expression of pain and fear. It’s more terrifying than ever to try to survive on a middle-class income. Most people live one or two paychecks away from utter disaster. Very few of us feel that we have any real control over our own fate. The lives of reality show stars, the Hollywood tabloids and dangerous drugs like ‘meth’ and ‘spice’ are some of the most obvious of our escapist fantasies. But as long as we live in a fantasy world, we won’t be working to change the real one. True happiness is found in a life lived with meaning. It’s not just that I can’t afford that car. We can’t afford it. We can’t afford to live in a world where our only aspiration is to accumulate wealth, regardless of how it’s accumulated – while ignoring the flourishing of the human spirit in its artistic, idealistic and intellectual aspects. The love of possessions is a sickness. People are losing their lives in the pursuit of wealth and possessions. They’re dying from gunshot wounds and heart attacks, in gang battles and in solitary hospital beds. And it’s getting worse. The symptoms are appearing, not just in ourselves, but in the planet we call home. If we don’t cure it soon, it could prove fatal for all of us.

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Now that tax season is over, it’s time to end it

Now That Tax Season Is Over, It’s Time to End

the Immoral and Illegal Income Tax

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

Revolution-fists

With another federal income tax deadline having passed this past week, it is time for me to bring up the dubious nature of income taxation in America, and why I think it’s long past due for some serious change in the way we are taxed. Part of the reason for this is to correct the extreme imbalance of wealth and to speak out against the hoarding of cash and assets by the top 1% of the US population. Under no circumstances do I think this matter should be resolved by force, and I am aware that there are people – both Christian and secular – who think otherwise. There is certainly no way we are going to be able to correct this imbalance of wealth by going door-to-door in wealthy neighborhoods asking for money, although I can see where that could be a form of protest in and of itself. The rich and powerful are most certainly not going to surrender their filthy lucre voluntarily. What we will have to do is to legislate it while still remaining within the boundaries of the Constitution. The best way to accomplish this is by establishing an all-new tax system that is fair and equitable and which does not impose an excessive burden of payment on the backs of the lower 50% of wage earners in America, the ones who can afford it the least.

The origin of the income tax on individuals is generally cited as the passage of the 16th Amendment, passed by Congress on July 2, 1909, and ratified February 3, 1913; however, its history actually goes back even further. During the Civil War Congress passed the Revenue Act of 1861 which included a tax on personal incomes to help pay war expenses. The tax was repealed ten years later. However, in 1894 Congress enacted a flat rate Federal income tax, which was ruled unconstitutional the following year by the U.S. Supreme Court because it was a direct tax not apportioned according to the population of each state. This was in reference to Article 1 and section 8 of the US Constitution, which gives Congress the right to levy taxes, but which also says, “… but all Duties, Imposes and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States”. The taxes our founding fathers had in mind had to do with imported goods and interstate commerce. It says nothing about an income tax. The 16th amendment, ratified in 1913, made an attempt at removing this objection by allowing the Federal government to tax the income of individuals without regard to the population of each State. The most efficient way America can accomplish this is by a national commerce tax, which is much more in the letter and spirit of the law as it was originally written than the current federal tax code. I realize this is not a new idea. It’s the way it’s applied that’s new.

The first step in this process will be to replace the income tax with a consumption tax and the second step will be to legislate an excess wealth tax, in order to be able to finance the needs of the military and the space program. The federal income tax for individuals, families and businesses will go the way of the Chevy Vega under this proposed new tax system. In its place will be a 9% Consumption Tax on all retail and Internet commerce. Why 9%, you ask? Because the average income tax paid by working Americans comes to about 18% of their gross income, so let’s cut it in half! Governments, nonprofits, groceries, utility bills and fuel should be the 5 main exceptions, that is, these should in my view remain untaxed. Repeal of the income tax will by extension include the abolition of the federal withholding tax that is currently deducted from our paychecks. From now on all this extra money will flow back into the pockets of the American workers and business people where it belongs. Add that to the fifteen dollar per hour minimum wage (‘low pay is not OK’), we find out that the net take-home pay for the overwhelming majority of American workers will be raised by at least one-fourth overnight! This is just one more reason for everybody reading this to stop and put it down and go participate in a public demonstration or protest of your choice, and start protesting for these fundamental human rights today! You can finish reading this when you get back home. That’s how urgent this has become! If you can’t find an ongoing protest anywhere, start one.

The federal income taxes for business and corporations will also be going away under this proposal. It’s common knowledge by now that many of these companies have moved their manufacturing overseas due to lower wages and taxes in the third world. But what if the business income tax were suddenly repealed in this country? What if Obamacare succeeds to the point of taking the burden of employee health insurance off the backs of businesses, something Obamacare has already begun to do whether one is in favor of it or not? When you combine these two factors then you have a great recipe for job creation. That is how we can bring back many of the jobs that were lost to outsourcing. And so I propose that a luxury tax that I will call the Excess Wealth Tax be put up for a popular vote. (How do we get it on the ballot? By making as much noise about it as we can until we get what we want!) The Excess Wealth Tax for individuals and families is that all earned income up to $1 million is tax free. Period, end of story. For individuals and households with a net income in excess of $1 million, they will be taxed at a 50% rate. So, let’s say a single taxpayer, or a family of four, has $101 million in income in any given year. Since the first $1 million is tax free, all that would be owed would be 50% of the remaining $100 million. So your hypothetical tax bill for that year would be $50 million. Uncle Sam keeps half, and we keep half. Besides, anybody who can’t live on an annual income of $51 million is spending way too much money on all the wrong stuff.

For businesses and corporations all earned income and net assets up to $300 million is tax free. There is a 33 and 1/3% tax levied on anything over that amount. So if we have a company or multinational corporation with gross sales of $1.5 billion in any given year, then that company would only pay tax on everything in excess of $300 million. So 33.3% of the remaining $1.2 billion would be $400 billion, and that would be their Excess Wealth Tax for that year. Uncle Sam gets a third, the enterprise keeps the rest. It’s so simple you won’t need an accountant any more (sorry, all you CPA’s). It will also mean that the capital gains, estate, the alternative minimum and self-employment taxes would all be going away for good. But so would itemized deductions. That should make business owners, entrepreneurs, and investors very enthusiastic about supporting this proposal.

Money from these tax payments would be used for public education, to fund higher learning for adults changing careers as well as for high school graduates going on to college (which would end student loans except for private colleges and universities), for military funding, and for funding for an ambitious and pioneering space program. What about the federal income tax? It needs to go the way of the dinosaurs! Taxation of our incomes is tantamount to limitation of our incomes! I could write that we should all organize a tax protest next winter, but unfortunately refusing to pay taxes as a form of protest has been criminalized, so I can’t condone that. Organizing on social media would be one way to reach out to a lot of people. But I thought I would get the conversation started by posting this. I first proposed this four years ago in my book, “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto”, and no one paid any attention. But with the waves of protest about police violence and unrealistically low wages ($7.25 an hour? What??), I ask you this question: How do we peacefully replace our entire tax code? By peaceful mass protests and demonstrations? Trying to coax Congress into passing this into law would be an exercise in futility, we need a better way than that. But if the system is dysfunctional – as the US tax code currently is – it must be replaced from the outside in, not the other way around as is our tradition. Tradition doesn’t work anymore. Time for us to get outside the box.

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Twenty Five Uncomfortable Truths

You Shall Not Bear False Witness: 25 Uncomfortable Facts The Mainstream Media Wouldn’t Discuss in 2015

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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The Ninth Commandment, as it written in the Book of Exodus chapter 20 along with other nine, is very explicit – you shall not lie (or “thou shalt not”, if you prefer). Yet for its entire existence, humankind has developed a remarkable propensity for ever more sophisticated forms of deception. For example, during the Hitler dictatorship in Germany from the 1930’s up to the mid-40’s, there was a branch of the government called “The Ministry of Propaganda” that dished out a torrent of profane distortions about Jewish people, and later the outcome of the war itself. It was headed by a guy named Joseph Goebbels, who committed suicide at the end of the war rather than face capture, which would surely have been followed by a death sentence at the Nuremberg Trials. Today in America, we have a similar position within the White House staff that we call the Press Secretary, who can be seen regularly on the evening news. He serves the same function, he just has a far more innocuous title than “Propaganda Minister”. This person’s job – and I have noticed regular personnel changes – is to spoon-feed the media the information du joir of the day. Everybody knows that the media is told what to say and how to say it, and yet there were remarkably few protests about it up until about 2011 or so. This was during the mushrooming of the Arab Spring, which led to the “Occupy Wall St.” and “we are the 99%” Movements, and more recently into the “Black Lives Matter” protests, all of which are still very much active today. So this week’s message is my small contribution towards demanding some genuine truth and authenticity from our news sources. No more US Government propaganda please, we’re all fed up with the government! Not so much America, mind you, just the government.

For decades, the mainstream media in the United States was accustomed to being able to tell the American people what to think and how to think it. Unfortunately for them, a whole lot of Americans are starting to break free from that paradigm and think for themselves. Contrary to what many atheists and agnostics are saying, this includes a significant number of people of faith like myself. A Gallup survey from 2012 found that 60 percent of all Americans “have little or no trust” in the mainstream media. That number is now exceeding 80 percent here at the dawn of 2016. More people than ever are realizing that the mainstream media is giving them a very distorted version of current events and human history, and they are increasingly seeking out alternative sources of information. In the United States today, just six giant media corporations control the mainstream media. Those giant media corporations own television networks, cable channels, movie studios, radio stations, newspapers, magazines, publishing houses, music labels and even many prominent websites. But now, thanks to the Internet the mainstream media no longer has a complete monopoly on the news. In recent years the “alternative media” (Alternet, Infowars, Democracy Now, Bill Moyers, Truthdig, etc.) has exploded in popularity. People want to hear about the things that the mainstream media doesn’t really want to talk about. They want to hear news that is not filtered by corporate bosses and government censors. They want “the whole damn truth”, and they know that they are not getting it from the mainstream media. That’s also one of the primary reasons why people are doing away with cable TV as I have. It’s not just the money saved from unsubscribing to cable TV, it’s the fact that everybody knows everything they are watching is a load of BS!!

We are watching a media revolution happen, and many influential people in the traditional media are totally freaking out about it. In fact, some in the traditional or “lame stream” media have even begun publishing articles that mock the American people for not trusting the MSM. For example, a 2012 CNN article entitled, “Still ‘Paranoid’ After All These Years” portrayed Americans that don’t trust the media as paranoid conspiracy theorists that have left rationality behind. Ever have the feeling you’re being lied to by the news media, the authorities, the corporate world? That somebody — or something — is out to get you? You’re not alone, and you’re not losing your mind, either. Welcome to 21st-century America. Look around. Trust is hitting historic lows. Less than one fifth of Americans have a favorable view of the federal government, a decline of about 40% since 2002, according to the Pew Center for People and the Press. Gallup has Congress’ approval rating down in the low teens. And the news media aren’t much better off. “Negative opinions about the performance of news organizations now equal or surpass all-time highs on nine of 12 core measures the Pew Research Center has been tracking since 1985,” a Pew report said back in the summer of 2013. The article goes on to make it sound like it is very irrational not to trust the media, but in this day and age it is imperative that we all learn to think for ourselves. Pardon me if this seems a bit too blunt, but blindly trusting someone else to do your thinking for you is both very dangerous and very lazy. Contrary to what all the conformists have been saying, it’s perfectly OK to be skeptical!

Anyone that does not acknowledge that the mainstream media has an agenda is either really naive or they’re not being honest with themselves. The mainstream media presents a view of the world that is very favorable to their big corporate owners and the big corporations that spend billions of dollars to advertise on their networks. The mainstream media is the mouthpiece of the Establishment, and the worldview being pushed on the big networks is going to be consistent with the economic, financial, political and social goals of the Establishment. The mainstream media loves to talk about things that fit with that agenda, and they don’t like to talk about things that suggest that there is something wrong with that agenda. The following are 25 facts that the mainstream media doesn’t really want to talk about, because they are all ‘red flags’ that tell us that theirs is an agenda for a system broken beyond repair:

#1 The mainstream media doesn’t really want to talk about the fact that gun sales are absolutely skyrocketing in the aftermath of all the mass shootings everywhere. Americans from all backgrounds are arming themselves to the teeth!

#2 They also don’t really want to talk about the fact that disarming the population has resulted in some of the most horrific massacres in human history.

  • 1911 – Turkey disarmed it’s citizens, and between 1915 – 1917 they murdered 1.5 million Armenians.
  • 1929 – Russia disarmed it’s citizens, and between 1929 – 1953 they murdered 20 million Russians.
  • 1935 – China disarmed it’s citizens, and between 1948 – 1952 they murdered 20 million Chinese.
  • 1938 – Germany disarmed it’s citizens, and between 1939 – 1945 they murdered 6 million Jews and slaughtered 34 million others.
  • 1956 – Cambodia disarmed it’s citizens, and between 1975 – 1977 they murdered 1 million educated people.
  • 1964 – Guatemala disarmed it’s citizens, and between 1964 – 1981 they murdered 100,000 Mayan Indians.
  • 1970 – Uganda disarmed it’s citizens, and between 1971 – 1979 they murdered 300,000 Christians.

#3 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that a bill allowing for the “indefinite military detention of US citizens on American soil” was quietly passed by the U.S. Senate more than 3 years ago. Never mind that it’s completely unconstitutional (see the Bill of Rights to the US Constitution, namely the 4th, 5th and 8th amendments).

#4 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that volcanoes all along the Pacific ocean’s “ring of fire” are roaring to life. It seems like a new eruption is being reported every few days now, and earthquakes globally are at an all time high.

#5 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that the use of genetically engineered seeds has caused on explosion of new “super weeds” that are incredibly difficult for farmers to kill.

#6 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that trends forecasters globally are predicting a major financial disaster in 2016.

#7 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that it is easier to get into Harvard than it is to get a job as a flight attendant in America today.

#8 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that over 500 TSA employees have been fired for stealing from travelers since 2003. Our tax dollars hard at work. Nice.

#9 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that giant corporations such as Facebook, GE, Halliburton and Citibank (among numerous others) are funneling gigantic amounts of money through offshore banking havens such as the Cayman Islands in an effort to avoid taxes.

#10 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that the U.S. dollar is in danger of losing its status as the primary reserve currency of the world. If this were to occur – which is becoming increasingly likely – financial calamity would surely follow. Such a calamity would make the 2008 crash and the Great Depression seem like a daycare center in comparison.

#11 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that they should be doing a much better job keeping track of Wall Street speculators, their bankers, and all their filthy lucre. Instead, the MSM has to mention that president Barack Obama has gone off to vacation in Hawaii while the rest of the nation works multiple part time jobs.

#12 They don’t want to discuss the fact that one fourth of all homeless people in America are children under the age of 12. This one social injustice alone makes me ashamed to be an American. Moreover, like the rest of the country, I too am one check away from becoming homeless myself. For such a thing as this to be happening in what is allegedly the world’s richest country is absolutely inexcusable!

#13 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that the U.S. economy is losing millions of jobs to nations where it is legal to pay workers slave labor wages. Actually, this process is already started in the US as well, due to the fact that no one can live on a minimum wage paycheck of $7.25 an hour. The mainstream media is totally married to the one world economic agenda that their corporate owners make so much money from, and so they say nothing as a steady stream of businesses and American middle class jobs continue to leave the country.

#14 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that large numbers of formerly patriotic Americans are leaving the country in droves because they are completely disgusted with what America has become – the world’s largest arms merchant and biggest bully.

#15 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that hunger and poverty are absolutely exploding in the United States at the same time that they are telling us that the US economy has ‘recovered’.

#16 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that North Korea now has a three-stage rocket with enough range to potentially hit the western United States.

#17 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that the United States Postal Service is losing 25 million dollars a day and is on the verge of financial collapse.

#18 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that our biggest oil supplier in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, still kills people for changing religions.

#19 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that ‘political correctness’ is taking over America. The truth is that the media does not see any problem with that at all.

#20 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that nearly half a million employees of the federal government are making more than $100,000 a year.

#21 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that the birth rate in the United States has fallen to an all-time low. The elite are actually absolutely thrilled that less babies are being born.

#22 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that many major U.S. cities are seeing violent crime totally spiral out of control.

#23 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that Barack Obama received more than 99 percent of the vote in more than 100 precincts in Ohio on election day back in 2012.

#24 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that during the first four years of the Obama administration, the U.S. national debt grew by about as much as it did from the time that George Washington took office to the time that George W. Bush took office.

#25 They don’t really want to talk about the fact that the Federal Reserve created the conditions for the last financial crisis and their mismanagement of the economy has now brought us to the verge of another horrible economic downturn.\According to the mainstream media, the Federal Reserve is “above politics” and should not be criticized. Maybe the Federal Reserve should be nationalized so that printing and coining money returns to the auspices of the US Treasury like our Constitution specifies (see article 1, section 8). All the US top-tier leadership needs to do is return to the original Constitution. It’s the perfect way to wipe out the so-called national debt, which really only exists on paper anyway. But they can’t because their corporate sponsors won’t allow it. That’s why the system is broken, and it’s up to us, “we the people”, to get the job done.

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I Want My Christmas Back!!

The True Spirit Of Christmas

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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This week as we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, I want to pause and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas, and on how Christmas has been twisted and perverted by the dying economic system known as capitalism that we’re all stuck living under. Here in the 21st century, people all over the world are in a holiday feeding frenzy of buying ridiculous amounts of unneeded consumer goods. The only sure outcome of this is for every shopper to wind up even more deeply in debt than they were before Thanksgiving, and to be increasingly insolvent as well. Too many people have collectively forgotten the true reason for the season, the birth of Christ, and they have traded His sacred birth for the blind pursuit of material gain. Instead of worshiping the Son of God, people everywhere are worshiping the almighty dollar and all the goods that it can bring home with them. This is idolatry in its purest form, and as a minister of the Gospel I stand against it!

This rampant money-worshiping has been carried to such extremes over the years that it has carried people from all walks of life past the point of insolvency. As I write this, the average level of indebtedness for any given American is well in excess of 120% of their net worth. In other words, the majority of working Americans are bankrupt, a condition that continues to get worse as time marches on. Clearly this trek into the economic wasteland of bankruptcy is unsustainable. A full two-thirds of the US economy is powered by consumer spending. The true unemployment rate in this country stands at around 15% or more here at the end of 2015, because the government doesn’t count those who have given up looking for work as well as those who are working part-time when full-time employment is required. While all this is happening, the US government continues to spend $12 billion per week (see the Defense department or GAO websites) on overseas military excursions, which is similarly unsustainable. The bottom line here is that such obscene levels of spending, which is exacerbated by the Christmas shopping season, will eventually cause the American economy to implode on itself due to corruption from within and crushing debt levels from without. And this may well happen sooner rather than later, so be warned!

We call the day after Thanksgiving “Black Friday”. This ominous sounding moniker, which reminds me of the 1970’s Steely Dan song by the same name, is actually a forecast of good tidings, especially if one is a retailer. No matter how poorly retail sales have been throughout the year, the giant retailers whose CEO’s and top managers rake in millions and millions of dollars per year for themselves can count on Americans to put themselves, their families and other loved ones at risk by spending money that they don’t have on gifts that people don’t need. Consequently, the wealthy captains of retail can be certain that their profits will be in “the black” starting on the day after Thanksgiving through December 25.

Many Americans who call themselves Christians claim that they place themselves more deeply in debt starting on the day after Thanksgiving as a way to celebrate the birth of a very special Man. As with all religions, not all Christians practice their faith in the same manner. Not all Christians see the full month before the day on which this man was supposed to have been born as a time to fret over the equity with which they part with the money they borrow. Not all Christians use this time to become agitated, depressed and even angry because of the internal and external conflicts they suffer over the distribution of gifts purchased with borrowed money. However, the man, obviously the man that people today refer to as Jesus Christ, was an extremely special Man. This Man is so special that we began counting time once again based upon the year in which he was born. Therefore, many of those who call themselves “followers” or “Christians”, feel the need to become more reckless, not only with their financial standing, but with the Earth’s natural resources like the water we drink or the air we breathe. I have had a belly full of this worldwide consumer insanity! Moreover, this consumerism is consuming the consciousness of my fellow Americans as we lose our fiscal minds more and more each year!

It’s really not that important, however, to debate the historical narrative of the life and times of Jesus Christ. What’s important is that the part of the Word that’s dedicated to that life and time emphasizes what many would today call “democratic socialism” (see 2nd Corinth. 8: 13-15; Acts 2: 42-47 and Acts 4: 32-37). Although it’s written that, at times, Jesus Christ warned anyone who would listen that they’d better believe in his words and follow his lead and direction lest they spend eternity experiencing unimaginable torture, torment and agony, the bulk of the writing about Jesus Christ describes giving to those less fortunate, plus social and economic inclusion, and world peace. What a different outlook we would have if, every day, from the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas, the goal for those with an overabundance was to search for those who don’t have any and, when they find them, give them what they need! Why, it would be just like the unconditional love and peace that Jesus Christ taught us about! You know, being more Christ-like, not hoarding money and goods for oneself, and putting the needs of others ahead of ourselves. That Jesus. The real deal.

What is the available alternative to this? Last year, two people were trampled to death on “Black Friday” as they callously stormed into the money changers’ temples. Refusing to participate in this annual orgy of consumption is much more in line with the teachings of Jesus Christ. But the ugly truth is that this behavior is in large part due to American culture, similar to gun ownership. America is the world’s top arms manufacturer. There are more guns in American homes than in all the other countries of the world combined. We as a people, as I’ve written in the past, have some serious soul-searching to do about what it is we really value. As you read just above, America has now become so violent that we can’t even go shopping on Black Friday anymore without risking accidental death! And, all this is happening within what is supposedly the greatest country in the world! Lately I’ve begun to wonder about that. Hey, I’m just one guy trying to turn the time of year that’s always fallaciously referred to as a time of “peace on earth and good will toward men” into entire years of “peace on earth and good will toward men.”

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