Tag Archives: the Bible

Book excerpt #11 from Progressive Christian blogger and published author Rev. Paul J. Bern

Free sample from “Cannabis Legalization and the Bible” by Rev. Paul J. Bern

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!!

legalization cover 1

Imagine if America’s incarcerated population were its own country. If you look at local, state and federal prison and jail populations, the United States currently incarcerates more than three million people, a figure that constitutes roughly 25 percent of the total incarcerated population of the entire world. A population of 3 million is a lot – enough, in fact, to fill up a good-sized country. If the incarcerated population of the United States constituted a nation-state, what kind of country would it be?

[1] Population size: As a country – as opposed to a prison system – Incarceration Nation is on the small side. Nonetheless, a population of 2.4 million is perfectly respectable: Incarceration Nation has a larger population than about 50 other countries, including Namibia, Qatar, Gambia, Bahrain and Iceland.

[2] Geographic area: There are more than 4,500 prisons in the United States. Let’s assume that each of those prisons takes up about half a square mile of land – a reasonable (and probably quite low) estimate given that most prisons are, for security reasons, surrounded by some empty space. That gives Incarceration Nation an estimated land area of about 2,250 square miles: small, but still larger than Brunei, Bahrain and Singapore.

[3] Population density: No matter how you look at it, Incarceration Nation is a crowded place. If we assume a land area of 2,250 square miles, it has a population density of roughly 1,067 people per square mile, a little higher than that of India. In 2011, federal prisons were operating 39 percent above capacity; in many state systems, overcrowding was much worse. This figure remains largely unchanged.

[4] A nation of immigrants: Like many of the smaller Gulf States, Incarceration Nation relies almost entirely on immigration to maintain its population. You might even say that Incarceration Nation is a nation of displaced persons: most of its residents were born far away from Incarceration Nation, which has a nasty habit of involuntarily transporting people hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles away from their home communities, making it extraordinarily difficult for residents to maintain ties with their families.

[5] Birthright citizenship: An estimated 10,000 babies are born each year in Incarceration Nation. Most are “deported” within months, generally landing with foster families. But Incarceration Nation does have its own form of birthright citizenship, if you can call it that: as many as 70 percent of children with an incarcerated parent end up incarcerated themselves at some point.

[6] Gender balance: International attention to gender imbalances has tended to focus on China, India and other states, but Incarceration Nation has the most skewed gender ratio of any country on Earth: men outnumber women by a ratio of about 12 to 1.

[7] Racial and ethnic makeup: If Incarceration Nation were located in a geographical region matching its racial and ethnic makeup, it would probably be somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere, perhaps near Brazil. Roughly 40 percent of the incarcerated population is of African descent, another 20 percent is of Hispanic descent, and the remaining 40 percent are Caucasian or mixed. For the average American, this means that one’s odds of spending time in Incarceration Nation depend greatly on gender and race: a white woman has only a one in 111 lifetime chance of ending up incarcerated, while a black man has a whopping one in three chance.

[8] Health: One study found that the incarcerated are “more likely to be afflicted with infectious disease and other illnesses associated with stress.” More than half of Incarceration Nation’s citizens are mentally ill, with depression rates roughly on a par with those experienced by citizens of Afghanistan.

[9] Per Capita Spending: Judged by per capita government spending, Incarceration Nation is a rich country: its government spends an average of about $31,000 per year on each incarcerated citizen. Internationally, only little Luxembourg spends as much on its citizens as Incarceration. Some people make a lot of money from Incarceration Nation. Incarceration Nation employs about 800,000 people as prison guards, administrators and the like – almost as many people as are employed in the entire U.S. automobile industry. But the real money goes to the operators of private prisons and the companies that make use of prison labor. Large private prison companies (such as CCA, the Geo Group, and Cornell Companies) boast impressive annual revenues. In 2015, for instance, CCA had annual revenues of about $1.79 billion.

[10] Labor Standards: If you think low labor costs in countries such as China and Bangladesh are a threat to U.S. workers and businesses, labor conditions in Incarceration Nation will dangerously raise your blood pressure. UNICOR, a.k.a. Federal Prison Industries, employs 8 percent of “work eligible” federal prisoners. Hourly wages range from 23 cents an hour – about on a par with garment workers in Bangladesh – to a princely $1.35 for “premium” prisoners, comparable to the hourly wage of Chinese garment workers. Who benefits from these low wages? The U.S. Department of Defense, for one. The DOD is UNICOR’s largest customer; in fiscal year 2011 it accounted for $357 million of UNICOR’s annual sales. UNICOR makes everything from Patriot missile components to body armor for the DOD. No one likes to talk about this, of course: “We sell products made by prison labor” isn’t the kind of slogan likely to generate consumer enthusiasm. But to those in the know – as an online video promoting UNICOR’s call-center services boasts – prison labor is “the best-kept secret in outsourcing.”

The U.S. Civil War, which was fought to abolish slavery, was not really that long ago. Having grown up in Cincinnati, I clearly recall the Ohio River was a dividing line between North and South, and so when the war was finally over, many families had veterans – and casualties – on both sides. It is a vivid reminder of the close links that bind this country to its history of slavery, which still haunts our national conscience. We maintain what can be only be called legalized slavery today – the utilization of prison labor for public and private profit. Many, if not most, of these inmates are themselves the descendants of slaves. And they are making fewer license plates and more defense electronics and oil spill cleanups. Today prison labor is a multibillion dollar business in the U.S. We also have the highest prison population in the world. Are economic incentives at the heart of our sky-high incarceration rates? Today, the U.S. prison system delivers profits to both government corporations and private enterprises in several ways:

  1. Through the use of inmate labor to produce goods and services in federal and state prisons.

  2. Through the contracting of this labor to private companies at below-market wages.

  3. By privatization of the prisons and detainment centers themselves. Given these perverse incentives to maintain a high inmate population, is it any wonder that the number of prisoners and the length of their sentences – Americans comprise 5 percent of the world’s total population but 25 percent of the world’s prison population – have skyrocketed since privatization began in 1984?

  4. Number of inmates. From 1920 to 2006, the general U.S. population grew only 2.8 times in the same period, but the number of inmates increased more than 20 times.

One might ask if this population surge could be due to a sudden increase in violent crime in America. A much smaller percentage of prisoners than one would imagine have histories of violence. Just three percent of those in Federal prisons, and a third of those in state prisons, have been convicted of violent crimes. A majority of those in city and county prisons are merely awaiting trial and cannot make bail. As any policeman will tell you, much criminality would be eliminated if drug laws were changed. Mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history is a fundamental fact of the US today – perhaps the fundamental fact, as slavery was the fundamental fact of 1850. In truth, there are more African-American men in the grip of the criminal-justice system – in prison, on probation, or on parole – than were in slavery then. Over all, there are now more people under ‘correctional supervision’ in America – more than six million – than were in the Gulags of Siberia under Stalin at its height. America has now created its own series of Gulags and it makes much more than just license plates. Of the 2.3 million prisoners now being held, more than 100,000 work in federal and state prison industry programs. This doesn’t mean the usual cooking, cleaning or peeling of potatoes, but work that produces products for sale – about $2.4 billion dollars annually. This industry even has its own trade shows! The government, particularly the Department of Defense, is the biggest customer for the federal prison labor. Most military clothing, furniture, and helmets are made by Federal inmates. It is very likely that they made the furniture at your local post office. Calling directory assistance? You might well be talking to a felon. Federal prison workers, however, are the envy of state inmates, some of whom earn nothing for 60-plus-hour weeks. Texas and Georgia offer no compensation at all. (It is no surprise that these states have highly privatized prison industries as well.)

Buy direct in print format ($14.95, 200 pages) at http://www.pcmatl.org/#!books-and-donations/c17et Available in audio format at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daudible&field-keywords=cannabis+legalization+and+the+Bible&rh=i%3Aaudible%2Ck%3Acannabis+legalization+and+the+Bible Get it on Kindle ($4.95) at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=node%3D154606011&field-keywords=cannabis+legalization+and+the+Bible&rh=n%3A133140011%2Cn%3A154606011%2Ck%3Acannabis+legalization+and+the+Bible

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

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Many ministers need to re-read their Bibles if they want to be effective

Those Who Sugarcoat the Bible Dilute Its Message.

They Will Be Judged by God!

By Pastor Paul J. Bern

To view this in any browser, click here! 🙂

wake_up

The Bible is a gritty book. It’s very raw and very real. It deals with people just like us, just as needy and screwed up as we are, encountering a God who would rather die than spend eternity without us. That’s exactly why Jesus died for each of us, only to rise again from death and the grave on the morning of the 3rd day. Yet despite that, it seems like some Christians are uncomfortable with how earthy the Bible really can be. Although the factuality of the Bible through the belief in the risen Christ and the Holy Spirit is the foundation of all the Scriptures (with Jesus being the cornerstone), the Bible has a way of being just as earthy as a day of doing yard work around the house (if you’re lucky enough to still have one of those after the real estate crash of 2008). But there are others who feel the need to sanitize God by making His Word politically correct. God has already instilled true correctness within each of us because He alone is our source and our strength. Which is why any true Jesus follower has no time or patience for political correctness. I’m told that’s one reason why my weekly blog is becoming so popular.

 

For example, look in any modern translation of Isaiah 64:6, and you’ll find that, to a holy God, even our most righteous acts are like “filthy rags”, as the more sanitized King James says. But the original Greek and Hebrew didn’t say “filthy rags”; it said “menstrual rags.” But that sounded a little too gross to the Bible’s 17th century English translators, so they just relabeled it ‘filthy’ instead. And while churches avoiding talking much about Jesus being naked when He was on the cross, let’s pretend Paul said that he considered his good deeds “a pile of garbage” in Philippians 3:8 rather than a pile of crap, as the original Hebrew and Greek would have more accurately been translated. Oh yeah, and let’s definitely not mention the ten commandments in the Old Testament. That might be unpopular. Never mind that between the books of Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy there are a total of 630 of them. That could expose people as being the sinners that we all truly are. God forbid they should be so ‘offended’!

 

What’s the point to this rant? God’s message was not meant to be run through some arbitrary, holier-than-thou politeness filter. God couldn’t care less about political correctness, and I feel the same way. When I open my mouth, I don’t care if anybody ‘likes’ me or not, and so it is with God.
After all, it’s better to command respect than to desire popularity. God intended the Bible to speak to people where they’re at, caught up in the stark reality of life on a fractured and dying planet. There are dozens of Psalms that are complaints and heart-wrenching cries of despair to God – not holy-sounding, reverently worded soliloquies. Take Psalm 77:1-3: “I cry out to God; yes, I shout. Oh, that God would listen to me! When I was in deep trouble, I searched for the Lord. All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven, but my soul was not comforted. I think of God, and I moan, overwhelmed with longing for his help”.

 

And rather than shy away from difficult and painful topics, the Old Testament includes vivid descriptions of murder, cannibalism, witchcraft, dismemberment, torture, rape, idolatry, erotic sex and animal sacrifice. According to the apostle Paul, those stories were written as examples and warnings for us, as he wrote: “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except that which is common to man. And God is faithful, he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so you can stand up under it.”(1st Corinthians 10, verses11-13). So obviously they were meant to be retold without editing out all the things we don’t consider nice or agreeable. I have gradually arrived at the conclusion over time that the Scriptures include such graphic material to show how far we as the sum of humanity have fallen and how far God is willing to come to rescue us from ourselves. God is much more interested in honesty than piety, and in our Spiritual state rather than in how religious we are. And that’s what He gives us throughout Scripture by telling the stories of people who struggled with the same issues, questions and temptations we face today.

 

Peter struggled with doubt and with a bad temper. We read all about it when Jesus is arrested at Gethsemane (Luke 22, verses 49-51). Elijah dealt with depression; Naomi raged with bitterness against God; Hannah struggled for years under the burden of her unanswered prayers. David had an affair and then arranged to have his lover’s husband killed. Noah was a drunk and Moses was on the run from a murder charge. Even Job came to a place where he found it necessary to make a covenant with his eyes not to lust after young girls (Job 31:1). Was it not Jesus who said, “I have come not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance”? It’s all a matter of priorities. “I desire mercy”, Jesus said, “not sacrifice”. Let’s not boast to God about how often we attend church, or how much one may “tithe” each week. Never mind your rituals, Jesus was saying. ‘Tell me about how much you did for others whether they deserved it or not. I want to know how well you treated others, and I want to know what you did to make a positive difference in their lives’. That’s all that matters to Jesus in the end! We either kept his commandments or we didn’t.

 

It’s easy to make “Bible heroes” (as Protestants might say) or “saints” (as Catholics might refer to them) out to be bigger than life, immune from the temptations that everyone faces. I find it encouraging that Jesus never came across as being pious or condescending. In fact, he was never accused of being too religious; instead he partied so much that he was accused of being a drunkard and a glutton because he was perceived as associating with “sinners” (Matthew 11:19). His first miracle was changing water into wine, and it is documented in all four gospels that wine was served and consumed at the Last Supper. (So, people who insist that one must be a teetotaler to go to heaven when they die are not only incorrect, they are judging people they don’t even know.)

 

Jesus never said, “The Kingdom of God is like a church service that goes on and on forever and never ends.” Following Jesus is more than just being dutiful or subservient, but instead it is richly rewarding to the point of being exhilarating! Our church services can’t hold a candle to what heaven will be like. Jesus promised us that heaven would be like a homecoming celebration, an enormous block party, and a wedding feast to which all are invited, all at the same time! This idea was too radical for the religious leaders during the time of Christ, and in some cases it still is. There are too many churches today who are more concerned about vain traditions and pompous religious rituals that aren’t even in the Bible than they are about partying with Jesus. And that’s why they keep missing out! That’s why many of us miss out. Pardon me, pastor, but did you say ‘party with Jesus’? Yeah, I sure did! However, before I go any further I am well aware that there are some individuals who simply cannot touch alcoholic beverages at all, but I’m sure that the eternal party in heaven will be far better than that. There are still others who abstain by choice, and I have no problem with that whatsoever. I’m only saying that I don’t think it’s a sin to drink unless it is done to excess.

 

According to Jesus, the truly spiritual life is one marked by freedom rather than compulsion (“So if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed” John 8:36), and by love rather than ritual (“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these. ‘Well said, teacher’ the man replied. ‘You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but Him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices’.” (Mark 12:30-33).

 

Another hallmark of a truly Spiritual life is one focused on peace rather than guilt (“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27). I don’t believe some will ever recognize their need for the light until they have seen the depths of darkness. So God isn’t afraid to get down and dirty with us about life and temptation and forgiveness and grace. Only when the Bible seems relevant to us (which it is), only when the characters seem real to us (which they were), and only then will the message of redemption become personal for us (which it was always meant to be). Jesus saves us from the dry, dusty duties of religion and tradition and frees us to cut loose and celebrate! We don’t need to edit God. It’s our brains and our hearts that need a good editing. We need to let Him be the author of our new lives and the construction superintendent for our growing and expanding faith. The time is getting short, people! It’s time for all of us to lead more Spiritual lives, because Jesus will be returning soon, and at a time when you do not expect him. What’s at stake is where we will spend eternity, and there is no more serious subject than that.

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

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

Now available in audio too, simply click here! 🙂

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

legalization cover 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Biblical history mirrors current events

History Repeats Itself, Even in the Bible

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

To view this in any browser, click here! 🙂

food_stamps_vs_exxon

One of the hot-button issues facing the entire world, and particularly in the US, is that of economic inequality. We find ourselves in an intractable and intolerable situation where 99% of the country’s wealth is concentrated into the hands of an elite few. As this situation is ongoing, the American people find themselves compelled to pay for the most expensive health care, higher education, and housing prices on the entire planet! Plus, we find ourselves taxed to death by a federal income tax whose legality is open to question, and hemmed in both politically and economically by an unconstitutional curtailment of our rights, all while having the world’s largest prison population! This would be ridiculous if it weren’t so serious. For this week’s message, then, I want to share a passage of scripture that closely resembles our current situation, so go to your Bible app or open your Bible to the Book of Nehemiah chapter 5, verses 1-13, and I quote:

Now the men and their wives raised a great outcry against their Jewish brothers. Some were saying, ‘We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain.’ Others were saying, we are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine.’ Still others were 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)

To put all this in its proper context, the Old Testament Israelites had been conquered by the ancient Assyrians and had been in exile for many years. With Israel’s first period of exile ending, they had begun to return from Assyria where they had been enslaved, and a great rebuilding process had begun in and around Jerusalem. There was, unfortunately, also a great famine going on at that time because there had not yet been a harvest, and this was creating a lot of problems. The above passage of scripture has striking similarities to what is happening throughout much of the world today. People don’t have enough to eat. They have trouble meeting their financial obligations because prices are impossibly high. Back then they had to give away their sons and daughters as slaves – presumably sex slaves – because they had no other way to pay their debts. Today, some of our sons and daughters are still taken as sex slaves. It’s just that they are taken by force and not by barter. The rest of us are slaves, too. It’s just that the world is a lot more subtle about it than back then. We work our jobs – if we’re lucky enough to have one of those – for pay that is oftentimes pathetic. Many younger workers don’t realize how drastically wages have been cut in the last 15 years or so. So, there are striking parallels between the time of Nehemiah and today. Now, let me go on with the second half of today’s scripture, beginning 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 brought 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 the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of your 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.’ ‘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 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!’ And the whole assembly said, ‘Amen!’ and praised the Lord. And the people did as they had promised.” (Nehemiah 5, verse 6-13)

There are striking similarities between what was going on in Israel during the time of the first rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem and what is occurring in America today. Everything is financed. Nobody pays cash for their cars much anymore, and everybody uses credit cards to make purchases from a flat screen TV all the way down to a week’s worth of groceries. We are forced to pay interest on everything we need – even the food we eat. This situation has gotten completely out of hand, and unless the government steps in and stops it the American people will find themselves forced into conflict with the government, the outcome of which could lead to another American civil war. In the first civil war, it was fought over ending the slavery of Black people. The second one will be a fight to end the enslavement of us all, and there are going to be casualties, so you may as well start getting used to that idea. This is what was occurring during the time of the prophet Nehemiah.

Nehemiah then told the authorities, “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of your Gentile enemies? I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let the exacting of usury stop!” Nehemiah and his brothers and enlisted men were helping those in need as best they could, but they were charging no interest for their services. They did it for free because they realized they were in a crisis situation that called for emergency measures to make sure everyone got their basic needs met. Their compatriots, on the other hand, were guilty of price gouging and criminal exploitation against their own countrymen, and in some cases even their own families. So Nehemiah told the nobles and officials to give it all back, very similar to an executive order issued by the President. Notice too, in verse 11, they were charging 1% interest, far less than what is being charged today (on the best of terms, 30 year mortgages are currently at just over 2.5%).

Imagine the uproar if such an executive order were issued today! I can almost see it now – president Trump giving a direct order to the banking and financial industries that all single family home loans were to be canceled immediately – would that be fun to watch or what? One thing is for sure – the American people are overburdened with excessive housing costs, combined with stagnant wages in the face of other rising living expenses like groceries. “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 made the nobles and officials take an oath to do what they had promised.” Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could do that today? Actually, we could, it’s just that there is still insufficient political willpower among the American people. A national strike could be called – a mortgage strike. Everybody stopping their mortgage payments all at once would be the same as slaughtering the beast by starvation! But first, we should do a dry run using student loans as the pariah that this debt crisis has become. Then we call a meeting via social media, and make the powers that be promise to give us all some badly needed financial relief! Either that or we take to the streets and shut down entire cities.

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!’ And the whole assembly said, ‘Amen!’ and praised the Lord. And the people did as they had promised.” The above example is what it looked like to issue a law that had some teeth to it back in those days. I can practically visualize president Trump calling his senior leaders into a conference room and telling everybody that everyone’s mortgage, their student loans plus all unpaid medical bills will be canceled immediately and without preconditions. All the Wall Street bankers would have heart attacks, and debt collectors would have to go and find a new profession – just like myself. I was once a well-paid senior IT professional, but my career evaporated after the dot-com crash and I wound up working as a courier contractor for a local delivery company. I survived the changes I went through, and so will they because actually we are not so different after all. In closing let me also say those noblemen and government officials repaid those people they had exploited out of fear of the consequences from God. That fear of the Lord is largely absent here in modern times, but soon it will return, and then everyone will know exactly who God is.

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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

To view this in any browser, click here! 🙂

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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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Modern Capitalism and the Bible

The New Face of Capitalism Compared to

Authentic Christianity and the Bible

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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the new face of capitalism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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You can have spirituality or prosperity, but not both

Wealth or Jesus: We Must Pick One or the Other

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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wealth_or_democracy

The definition of cognitive dissonance is a person’s brain trying to reconcile two contradicting realities. One common example of this is an abusive relationship, where the man/woman obviously understands there’s abuse from their significant other, yet they love them anyway. Often their brain will then develop excuses for such action. It’s their fault or the other person has just been under a lot of stress. The reality is their brain simply cannot accept two different realities that contradict, so it creates yet another. This is never more prevalent than when it comes to wealthy conservatives and Christianity. They are the proponents of policies that contradict much of what Jesus taught.

These top 1% folks, who are sitting on 99% of America’s wealth, allegedly do so in order for the rest of us to enjoy the windfall of their generosity through increases in top 1% revenue. Let that sink in for a second – an economic policy based upon this notion: ‘If we subsidize greed even more than it already is, the rest of society benefits as a result.’ When has greed ever benefited a society? While we’re at it, what does the Bible say about greed? “He that loves silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loves abundance with increase: this is also vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10) It becomes a driving obsession to acquire still more. Once the acquiring has happened, then comes the need to protect what has been acquired. This is selfishness and it is sin, as it is written: “There was a man all alone, he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. ‘For whom am I toiling’, he asked, ‘and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?’ This too is meaningless – a miserable business!”(Ecclesiastes 4:8)

Once the greed-driven have acquired and secured everything in sight, they’re still not satisfied! They are never satisfied with all they have; their eyes always search for more, as it is written, “Then Jesus said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). This coveting begets more greed, which snowballs into more selfishness, and the selfishness begets more coveting and so on – to utter madness! “The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eats little or much: but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep.” (Ecclesiastes 5:12) By this point, there is no room left for God. Money is now the master of the house, as it is written, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matthew 6:24)

Seems pretty straight forward to me, how about you? Greed is a vicious circle that feeds on itself, generating ever increasing amounts or degrees of craving still more. The more they have the more they want. Isn’t that what we’ve seen for the last 40 years? Isn’t this what “Trickle Down Economics” has given us? In the last 40 years the top 1% has grown exponentially, never more so than in the last decade. Yet what has it brought us? Economic failure caused by a cadre of millionaires crying out that they need even more. Many of the same businesses that proved in the 90′s, even with higher taxes, that they could yield historic growth are now fighting a return to those very same tax levels. They now claim economic prosperity isn’t obtainable at those “job destroying” levels of taxation. The fact is, they’re right. Their economic prosperity cannot be sustained at a higher level of taxation. The more we fed into this myth of Trickle Down Economics, the more lower taxes benefited them, the more they expect to expand their greedy nature. To raise their taxes would mean their giant profits would probably be taken down to just, well, significant profits.

This isn’t about these businesses making profits, they can easily do that, but they want larger profits. What they had in the 90′s is no longer good enough, they want more. Of course it’s impossible to return to the very same tax rates that brought us the best economic growth in our history, because then their greed would have to return to a lower level, and as the Bible says, greed is perpetual and never ends. We gave them more and now their solution to fix our problems? You guessed it, they want even more! Isn’t that exactly what the Bible warns will happen? Did we not have wealthy Americans in the 50′s, 60′s and 70′s? The answer is yes, they just weren’t as wealthy. Trickle Down Economics was the catalyst for the acceptance of greed. It gave those with the most more, and any mention of returning it to their rightful owners is met with a horrific depictions of economic Armageddon.

And there you have it, cognitive dissonance. The top 1%’s political ideology completely contradicts the realities we’ve seen and those the Bible supports. They preach Christian values at the same time they advocate a policy that says giving into greed will benefit our society. They vehemently denounce abortion while advocating war and conquest, resulting in 1.2 million civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan alone since 2001. So unborn babies get a great deal of attention in churches, but once you’re born, you’re screwed, especially if you live in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, etc., etc.! The human brain simply can’t handle two conflicting realities, so it creates one of its own. The more we allowed the wealthy to have, the more they asked us to give. We did this to the detriment of our own economy and ourselves. If trickle down economics works, shouldn’t their success and our success mirror one another? As they gain, we gain. You know, like ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’? However, that isn’t what happened because life no longer works that way thanks to the 1%. The more the 1% gains, the more they want, and they’ve made sure that everyone else chips in!

Think of a small fishing boat. If weight is equally dispersed it’ll stay buoyant and afloat. But what if the weight shifts more forward or backwards, what happens? The boat becomes unstable. Now imagine if suddenly all the weight is shifted forward, what would happen? Simple – the boat will suddenly suffer instability, capsize then sink. As our nations’ wealth rushed to the top 1% in the last decade, that’s exactly what happened – our boat capsized and then sank. Does this contradiction between faith and political ideology suggest that conservatives believe Jesus supported greed? It looks to me like they believe he condemned homosexuals and demeaned women, and considered the poor as lazy people seeking a handout. So why not perpetuate the belief that He would have supported greed? Don’t let the Bible scriptures sway your views, it’s much easier to simply allow yourself to give into and concoct a delusional reality.

What religious conservatives have done is a complete distortion of the Christian faith. The so-called “prosperity gospel” (LOL) doesn’t even fit into the very nature of what Jesus lived and died for! Every economic stance they support benefits the wealthy at the expense of the remaining 99% of us! How does it make any sense to have a portion of American society that pushes themselves as the Christian majority, the party of values and decency, and yet their entire economic stance contradicts what the Bible and Jesus says about greed? What religious conservatives claim to follow isn’t Christianity at all, and it sure doesn’t emulate Jesus. Remember what Jesus said about that, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required”, meaning those who have the means to make a difference should do so unreservedly and unselfishly. Yet, to a religious conservative this is essentially “socialism”. It’s allegedly unfair. But isn’t Christianity about giving, loving, and helping those who cannot help themselves? These are the principles I try my best to live by as a practicing Christian.

But I’m neither Republican or Democrat. I’m neither liberal nor conservative because I think there are good points to both sides. On one hand I could be considered conservative because I am in favor of small government and free enterprise. But I could also be considered liberal because I’m a firm believer in universal health care (no, not Obama-care because it seems woefully inadequate to the task), free higher education and a $14.00 per hour minimum wage. We all know that the two-party US political monopoly lacks faith and morals. They envy the rich, and all of that rhetoric the “good” Christian Republicans use against people, yet none of it is true. Yet there they sit, a walking contradiction. A party who supports faith in God above anything and policies that favor greed over everything.

The Jesus I worship is a man who we should all strive to become because he is the Son of the Living God. Jesus was a man who didn’t casually judge people, who stood up for those who couldn’t stand for themselves, who never felt slighted or that life was unfair. Jesus was wary of people who spoke of God on their lips but lacked true faith in their hearts. He was a man who embraced everyone, even those who disagreed with him. A man who personified everything mankind should be. As for those conservatives, who knows what man they worship. If the policies they support are reflective of the faith they follow, it sure isn’t Christianity and that man sure wasn’t Jesus.

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Either the government works for the people, or the people begin to work against the government.

Congress and the President Had Better Learn to Work Together, or They Will Face the Wrath of the People

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

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threat_from_washington

There is a well-known quote from the Book of Romans in the New Testament that says, “Everyone must submit themselves 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…..” (Romans 13, verses 1-4). These four verses of scripture are still just as valid today, 20 centuries later. Unfortunately, these verses can be and have been used grossly out of context in the past, with Adolf Hitler being the most infamous example (Hitler was a Catholic).

I have known a few evangelical pastors and far more “Christian conservatives” in my 61 years on this great planet Earth (or at least what’s left of it) who have similarly misused these verses. They were all sure they were right and that every other person not of their faith, or who dared to disagree, was going to burn in hell forever. For decades these “Christians” have taught their racist, homophobic, divisive and hate-based message that has driven away so many millions of souls they should have been winning over to Christ! Consequently, I have come to the conclusion that some of the “religious” people that I’m writing about need to find something else to do with their lives. Instead, maybe they could try selling cars, especially since some TV evangelists have about the same level of credibility. Or better yet, they could become truck drivers – you know, see America and all that jazz. Just hit the road, Jack, and don’t you come back any more! Let the truly committed and dedicated followers of Jesus do the works of faith and perseverance in spreading the Gospel of Jesus, and may the pretenders have enough sense to step aside so the productive people can work!

One thing that has changed about those verses of scripture since they were first written down is the advent of representative democracy. Although I could argue that representative democracy, where a full time elected official goes to Washington on our behalf, is in the process of being replaced with direct voter participation democracy, where the voters and the government will be directly connected on the Web (congressional and senate representatives would be reduced to part time employees), I will set that aside for now. Suffice it to say that, thanks to the Bill of Rights, particularly the second, fourth, fifth and eight amendments, Romans 13: 1-4 has become a 2-way street! Although people should rightfully fear criminal prosecution (“he does not bear the sword for nothing”), the US Constitution – our supreme law of the land – is written in such a way that our elected government is responsible to the people. Since our right to “keep and bear arms” is spelled out in the Second Amendment, the American people do not bear their ‘swords’ for nothing, either! As Patrick Henry, one of the many heroes of the American Revolutionary War, famously said, “The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government.”

As a result of all this, the conservative paradigm, where all of the power – political, economic, executive, legislative and judicial – is being concentrated in the hands of a few, is in the process of being replaced by a more populist agenda, particularly with respect to president Trump. The Internet is decentralizing everything. Moreover, the American people are arming themselves to the teeth in response to government bullying, including things like Standing Rock South Dakota, the epidemic of police shootings of unarmed Black men, the outsourcing of millions of American middle class jobs, the poisoning of our food and water, and I could go on and on! Then there is the ticking time bomb of inequality, with 99% of the wealth in the hands of 1% of the world’s population. They are in the process of turning our country into one big minimum-wage sweatshop, and those who comprise this top 1% of America’s economic pie are seeking to end the rule of the people here in the USA. When they are finished, they will own all the property that is left in the US and we will all be paupers. As a direct result of all these things and many more, people are beginning to take a noticeably more Progressive (but not necessarily “liberal”) stance on all of the above, and that includes our religious faith (nonreligious people excluded). Progressive Christianity means faith that is focused sharply on Jesus Christ without all the added dogmas of religious denominations, minus the spiritual pollution of conservative politics, and without condemning any faith or group of people whether Christ-based or not.

Curiously enough, the majority of those in the top 1% consider themselves ‘Christian’. As such, they truly believe that those who have not been “saved” like they are (or as they see themselves), are not as enlightened as they are (LOL). Due to their own perceived ‘superiority’, they expect us to believe that we are incapable of knowing what is best for ourselves, and that because of this we are in need of supervision (a.k.a. centralized government). You should also know they do not believe that even centuries-old Christian communities (Catholics, Anglicans, Greek Orthodox, etc.) are “saved,” only those who are Christian political conservatives. I’ve seen this first hand, and it’s not pretty.

You might be thinking that a minority fundamentalist group of zealots can’t really take over the direction of a country, right? Well, just look at the Bolshevik revolution in Russia in 1917, that’s exactly what the Communists did. They pulled it off with just a few thousand soldiers and about as many mercenaries. In modern times, look at Iran or the countless other places (until recently, Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela) where people have allowed this to happen. But thanks to the Second Amendment, I do not believe that could happen in America. Does anyone seriously think that all the US population is really going to sit back and watch a few thousand people pulling off an armed coup against the US government without wanting to jump up and do something about it? I should think not! They have already begun to attack all sources of accurate information. That’s the reason former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura fled the United States and now resides in Mexico. Public radio and network TV were first, then came cable TV, along with the museums and school textbooks. Just listen to them argue against the scientific facts about the environmental peril our planet is facing, just because it does not fit in with their ideas. The 1% elitists represent a clear and present danger to America and the world. The only way to stop them as I see it is to find a way to cut off their money supply, and that would involve a tax revolt of some kind or another. We had better do something very soon!

If I told you that the Amish in Pennsylvania were running for public office in record numbers with the intention of outlawing electricity and forcing others to act, dress and think like them, you would not believe it. Well, that is exactly what is happening in America, only it is not the Amish, it is the Christian fundamentalists and extreme right-wingers. It is not outlawing electricity, it’s placing limits on being a human with free will. Enjoying art and music, loving the person of your choice, dancing – the things that fundamentalists call “sins” – are a big part of what it means to be a human. Instead of funding education, technology development, research into advances in medicine and science, conversion to clean energy and a new low-voltage, digital power grid, and the development of space exploration, we are devoting all available revenues to war and killing. Waging war and profligate military spending are the first things that have to stop if we’re going to improve life on this planet of ours. After all, it’s the only one we have, and thanks to an emerging awakening people everywhere are figuring this out. As a result, a lot of personal growth is currently taking place, and that’s always a good thing!

The good news is that we are witnessing the beginning of a new era in human existence. While we watch the demonstrations across the country against the US election results, we continue to witness the civil war in Syria, the human barrage of economic and wartime refugees in Europe and North America, the accelerating concentration of wealth into the hands of a few, and the growing exasperation and anger of the American people, we are seeing a great truth – that people have within them the natural desire to be free. It is so sad that as the people of the world are fighting for freedom, we here in the United States are going in the opposite direction. The far right, under the control of Christian fundamentalists, is declaring an all-out war on human progress. We must absolutely, positively fight back. After all, the consequences of not acting are very serious. We are not just fighting for ourselves. We are struggling to protect the future generations of Americans who will suffer from these ruthless actions of the far right. We are speaking out against the measures being taken against those in our community who can least afford to be marginalized. This system of enforced inequality is going to fall one way or the other because it is unsustainable. As the late President John F. Kennedy once said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, will make violent revolution inevitable”.

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Our new president, the Bible, and racism in America

President Trump, Racism in America, and the Bible

by Pastor Paul J. Bern

bigotry-is-sin

Lately I have received a little negative feedback from some of my Christian readers saying that I should not be trying to blend religion and politics because it causes too much controversy. Interestingly enough, I’m not hearing any of that from my secular readers on this blog, nor on my other one, the 99% Blog (on WordPress.com or Blogspot.com). Same thing goes for my website, if you’re not already there. I have thought about this issue with considerable deliberation, and I have gone back and re-read some of what my Bible has to say about that. I use three different versions to study from, too, just to make sure I get things as close to being right as I can. Let me sum up my conclusion to this issue in just this one sentence: The two primary reasons Jesus was put to death on the cross was because he preached against organized government and organized religion. For what other reason did he say, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me”?

You may say to yourself, “That’s all fine, but what does this have to do with mixing religion and politics”? Well, in a way, my above quote covers the religious aspect of this. For a quote from the Bible about the political side of this, with religion blended in, let’s go over to Matthew’s gospel chapter 23, verses 2-4, and I quote: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on man’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.” Isn’t that what’s been happening today? Religious leaders demand ten percent of people’s incomes so they can afford to buy jet fuel for their planes and remodel their 50,000 square foot mansions. Police officers enforce the law on one hand while shooting unarmed people for committing minor traffic violations with the other. Our governments make the laws and administer our country, state and local governments, yet government corruption is well known, especially at the federal level. Jesus blended religion with politics, and there are many more examples besides this one. If Jesus did it then I as his follower, messenger and ambassador will do the same.

Which brings me to the topic of this week – our newly installed government. One of Donald Trump’s first appointees has been one Steve Bannon, the editor-in-chief of Breitbart.com, a right wing fringe website that can be so radical at times that it makes Alex Jones and Infowars.com look like child’s play. On CNN’s website Saturday morning, they had this to say, “Steve Bannon has no regrets. The ex-Breitbart executive, who serves as Trump’s chief strategist for the new administration, told The Hollywood Reporter that “darkness is good.” “Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power. It only helps us when they (liberals) get it wrong. When they’re blind to who we are and what we’re doing,” he said in an interview published Friday, his first outside of Breitbart since the election.

Darkness is good? Satan equals power? Just as bad, this man idolizes Darth Vader and regards former vice president Dick Cheney as a role model?? I don’t know about you, but I am deeply concerned about Mr Bannon being in charge of anything in America’s government. What does the Bible say about this, and about people like Steve Bannon (and there’s plenty of them)? “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved the darkness instead of the light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done he has done through God.” (John 3: 19-21) Need more proof? You got it, and again I quote: “This is the message we have heard from him that we declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1st John 1: 5-7)

Now, let me tie all this together with one more quote from Scripture, this time from the prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.” (Isaiah 5: 20-21) Although I have the greatest respect for Donald Trump, I have serious misgivings about his choice of Steve Bannon for his Chief of Staff, a man who is apparently quite proud of his ties to the so-called “White Nationalist Movement” and other right-wing extremist groups. The White Nationalists are basically the KKK with a fresh 21st century style makeover, and their political leanings are decidedly Nazi in nature. Many of these people openly admire Adolf Hitler, which tells us everything we need to know about all these people.

Steve Bannon is a demonic racist, pure and simple. Donald Trump knows that, or he certainly should, and evidently that does not bother him. Well, it bothers me a whole lot! The last thing America needs is a throwback to the bad old days of Jim Crow, the John Birch Society and the Ku Klux Klan. President Trump’s nomination of former senator Jeff Sessions for attorney general is nearly as bad. I grant you that Mr. Sessions is no neo-Nazi, but he’s still a redneck from Alabama who has little or no regard for people of color. The Bible has more than a few things to say about racism, and it’s all bad. Let me give you a couple examples: “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded him”. (1st John 2: 9-11)

OK, now that we have seen what the apostle John wrote about hateful people – and especially those who normalize that hatred and who try to make it seem acceptable – let’s see what Jesus himself had to say about it: “But I say if you are angry with someone you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the high council. But if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.” (Matt. 5: 22) So what Jesus was saying was these three things:

[1] Whatever level of anger we show towards our brothers and sisters, God will show right back to us.

[2] In whatever way we are abusive towards others whom we perceive to be inferior to ourselves, the ruling authorities will punish us accordingly in the same way, and deservedly so!

[3] When we curse others, we ultimately curse ourselves because the same God created us all in his image and likeness. Showing contempt for God’s creations is equally contemptuous in God’s sight.

In closing, I will confidently predict this one thing – if the new Trump administration starts showing contempt towards or begins to mistreat minorities and people of color, or if any attempt is made to begin massive deportations of undocumented aliens back to their home countries, there is going to be major civil unrest the likes of which have not been seen in over a generation. If fact, these protests will rival, and probably surpass, the antiwar protests of the 1960’s and early 1970’s. So if the new administration doesn’t get its act together and stops staffing our federal government with a bunch of nasty haters, and if the minimum wage is not raised substantially, there may well be political unrest all across the country soon. People are hungry and thirsty for change, and they’re all tired of government corruption and ineptitude! The main positive thing I can truly say about the incoming Trump administration is his pledge to normalize US-Russian relations, a process that has already begun. As a result, America and Russia are both breathing a sigh of relief, and I suspect the Lord is too. But there must not be even the appearance of racism and favoritism in our incoming presidential administration, or president Trump will have to answer to the people for it!

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Our country treats us like crap. Everybody knows that, but here’s where I get down to details.

Seven Grievous Sins America’s Leaders Commit Against Their Own People, and What the Bible Says About That

by Rev. Paul J. Bern

wake_up

As the 2016 presidential race mercifully winds down, they are some things that need to be said about those in charge, and why every incumbent candidate or political party deserves to be voted out of office. The US is in such a state of disarray as I write this that we, the voters, need to start all over again on a clean sheet of paper. I can think of lots of things I’d like to see happen. Get the corporate and lobbyist money out of politics and outlaw the greed by overturning Citizens United and imposing Congressional term limits. Call off all the endless wars, close the bases and bring our troops home. The American people will soon need them to protect us from the government anyway. Cut the need for welfare and food assistance programs by doubling the minimum wage to a realistic level and offering free higher education without qualification. Offer low cost single payer health care by putting the whole country on Medicare, including those on Medicaid and Obama-care, and then abolish the latter two. It’s really not difficult to figure out what’s needed, all that’s required is some implementation on the part of Congress and our incoming president. If, that is, these crooks would get out of the office of their ‘lobbyist dujour‘ long enough to go to the House or Senate floor and vote on something once in a while!

I have assembled a list of every gut-wrenching, visceral injustice currently being committed by the very people that have been entrusted with the responsible and prudent leadership of what used to be the greatest country in the world, the USA., with a few interjections along the way from the Word of God regarding these matters. It has been my observation for some time now that the underpaid US workers that do have jobs, combined with the unemployed and sometimes even homeless American population, none of whom are able to find any work at all, are a ticking time bomb hidden in plain sight across America. The following is a listing of the abuses being heaped upon us, when in fact we deserve no such thing! The list doesn’t include our most grievous offenses, those of military and economic warfare against the rest of the world. Sinful enough is our own behavior at home because too many people aren’t holding their legislators – and the president – accountable enough. Let’s go over a few examples:

1. Sins against children

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for them to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch yourselves’.” (Luke 17: 1-3) Perhaps “sanctity of life” ends at birth. According to Census Bureau figures, one out of every five American children lives in poverty. For blacks and Hispanics, it’s one out of every three. UNICEF has reported that the U.S. has a higher child poverty rate than every industrialized country except Romania. We are near the bottom in all measures of inequality that affect our children, including material well-being, health, and education. One more fact before I move on: 1 out of every 4 American school children will rely on food stamps at some point while they’re growing up for their sustenance and nutrition. In communities of color, this figure jumps to a truly shocking – and outrageous – 1 out of 2.

2. Sins against the poor

Now listen, all you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days! Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have flattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men who were not opposing you.” (James 5: 1-6) The U.S. poverty rate grew from 11.3% to 15.0%, a 30% jump, in just the last 11 years. The impact was felt primarily by minorities and women. The median wealth for single black and Hispanic women is shockingly low, at just over $1000.00 (compared to $41,500 for single white women). Even more shocking – For every dollar of non-home wealth owned by white families, people of color have only one cent. Despite the continued economic assault on already-poor Americans, the number of TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) cases has dropped by 60 percent over the last 16 years.

3. Sins against students

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6: 4) Students at all levels have been losing their nation’s support. States reduced their education budgets by $12.7 billion in 2012, and here in 2016 the majority of states will be cutting spending even more. At higher educational levels, Americans are paying much more than students in other countries. Only 38% of college expenses come from public funding, compared to 70% in other wealthier “first world” countries. While other nations continue to offer free tuition, with the recognition that education leads to long-term prosperity, the U.S. system has become more incorporated, to the point that expensive programs like nursing, engineering, and computer science have been eliminated to cut costs. The profit motive has blocked the path to academic excellence. But the worst part of America’s treatment of its students has been the greed-driven debacle of over $1 trillion in predatory student loan debts, much of which can never be repaid. The same graduates who are obligated to repay those debts are the ones who can’t find jobs, or who wind up working at jobs for which they are grossly overqualified. When you enrage a nation’s youth, the seeds of insurrection have already been sown. All it will take is one good storm to make those seeds sprout, and the 2nd American Revolution will be underway. And yes, it is coming, you can be sure of that.

4. Sins against the middle class

Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless. If you lend money to one of my people who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest. If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it to him by sunset, for the cloak is the only covering he has for his body. What else will he sleep in? When he cries out to me, I will hear him, for I am compassionate.” (Exodus 20: 21-27) The middle class, to say the least, is shrinking. In fact, America’s middle class is slowly being liquidated. In 2011, according to a Pew Research analysis, 51% of the nation’s households earned from two-thirds to double the national median income. In the 1970s it was 61%. One-quarter of America’s workers are now making less than $22,000 a year, the poverty line for a family of four as of 2012. Thirty million Americans are making between $7.25 (minimum wage) and $10.00 per hour. With the transition of middle-class workers to low-income status, entrepreneurship is disappearing. Innovation doesn’t come from the upper class. A recent study found that less than 1 percent of all entrepreneurs came from very rich or very poor backgrounds. Small business creators come from the hard-working, risk-taking, nothing-to-lose middle of America, but their entrepreneurial numbers are down – over 50% since 1977.

5. Sins against the common good

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are a people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1st Peter 2: 9-10) A recent Tax Justice Network report placed total hidden offshore assets at somewhere between $21 trillion and $32 trillion. With about 40% of the world’s most mega-rich individuals in the U.S., up to $12.8 trillion of untaxed revenue sits overseas. Based on a historical 6% rate of return, this is a tax loss of up to $300 billion per year, money that should be paying for the public needs of education and infrastructure. Tax avoidance is so appealing that 1,700 Americans renounced their citizenship last year. The American Thinker Blog argued that “the U.S. tax code is so oppressive that smart and successful people are compelled to renounce their citizenship in order to keep more of their own hard-earned wages.” Hard-earned, in truth, by the thousands of contributors to their financial success.

6. Sins against nature

Do not pollute the land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it. Do not defile the land where you live and where I dwell, for I, the Lord, dwell among the Israelites.” (Numbers 35: 33-34) Has it ever occurred to anyone that God lives on the land he creates? What we’re doing to the land, the water and the air, we do to God. A number of studies show that investment in renewable energy will create many more jobs than the fossil fuel industry. And the investment will certainly pay off over the coming decades. A National Renewable Energy Laboratory analysis determined that “renewable electricity generation from technologies that are commercially available today… are more than adequate to supply 80% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2050.” But now the prospect of cheap natural gas is leading us back to a dirty form of energy independence, with a continuing reliance on fossil fuels, and on the “fracking” technology that despoils our land and pollutes our water and air. The national commitment and political will needed for the long-term health of our nation is more elusive than ever.

7. Sins against common sense

Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights along the way, where the paths meet she takes her stand; beside the gates leading into the city, at the entrances, she cries aloud: To you, oh men, I cry out. I raise my voice to all mankind; you who are simple, gain prudence, you who are foolish, gain understanding. Listen, for I have worthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right. My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness. All the words of my mouth are just; none of them is crooked or perverse. To the discerning, all of them are right; they are faultless to those who have knowledge. Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge more than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.” (Proverbs 8: 1-11) The economic deception began, at least in the modern age, with Milton Friedman, who said “The free market system distributes the fruits of economic progress among all people… He moves fastest who moves alone.” This unflagging adherence to egocentric free enterprise individualism is consistent with Social Darwinism, the belief that survival of the fittest (richest) will somehow benefit society, and that the millions of people suffering from financial malfeasance are simply lacking the motivation to help themselves. Social Darwinism is a feel-good delusion for those at the top. Or, as described by John Kenneth Galbraith, a continuing “search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.” A mainstay of the Progressive Movement is that a strong society will create opportunities for a greater number of people, thereby leading to more instances of individual success. This is the common sense attitude that has been suppressed by conservatives for over 30 years. I’m hoping this election year will change that paradigm. But if not, open revolt will be the American people’s only remaining option.

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