Thursday, February 27, 2014
"The Middle and Working Class Manifesto" by Rev. Paul J. Bern. The definitive book about the Occupy and 99% Movements
“The Middle and Working Class Manifesto”. Written in a journalistic, expose' style, this is the book that helped initialize and inspire the “Occupy” and “99%” Movements, and it correctly predicted the beginning of both these movements months before they occurred. It chronicles the ongoing demise of the US middle class, the unemployment and foreclosure crises, and what Rev. Bern calls, “the ticking time bomb of inequality”. It proposes a myriad of solutions, from ending the “war on drugs” to ending the wars overseas to passing an Unconditional Equality Amendment to the US Constitution. It also demands free health care and higher education for everyone without qualification, and shows an easy way for America to pay for it. This book is a must-read for anyone who thinks America is headed in the wrong direction. http://www.sotepublishing.com/book_reviews_sales_and_services
Atlanta-based author and publisher releases 2014 edition of the definitive book about the Occupy movement
”Occupying America: We Shall Overcome” by Rev. Paul J. Bern; Written in the style of an investigative reporter, this 290-page book is simply the latest, most exhaustive and most comprehensive book about the growing “Occupy Wall St.” and “We Are The 99%” movements. It offers the clearest explanation to date about what these movements are trying to accomplish and what they stand for, and it ends with a prediction of mass civil unrest in the US and other developed countries for the remainder of 2013 and beyond due to extreme economic hardship and what amounts to enforced austerity. This is the definitive book on the state of American political dissent in the early 21st century, and it ends with a prediction of mass civil unrest (dare I say revolution?) in the US and other capitalist countries due to the extreme concentration of wealth in favor of the top 1%. E-book only $3.95, or $14.95 in paperback with free shipping! http://www.sotepublishing.com/book_reviews_sales_and_services
Sunday, February 23, 2014
The Japan Disaster Spells Grave Danger
As I write this week's commentary we are coming up on the third anniversary of Japan's triple disaster in March 2011. The colossal earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster are unparalleled in human history. The worst and most troubling part is the leakage of many hundreds of tons of radioactive water into the Pacific ocean off Japan's eastern coast. This has been done repeatedly over the last two years, creating a huge “dead zone” in the North Pacific ocean that stretches from Japan to the Aleutian Islands on the north to Hawaii on the south, and surrounding the island of Guam and its US military base in the north central Pacific. This radioactivity will remain in the water for many decades, killing most – if not all – of the sea life that lived there.
Being the long-time student of the Bible that I am, I searched the Scriptures to see if I could find a connection between Japan's disaster and Biblical prophecy. There is a strikingly similar disaster predicted in the book of Revelation in chapter six, verses 7-8. I quote: “When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, 'Come'!” I looked, and before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following closely behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.” “Hades” is an old word for hell that is seldom heard any more. The context of this brief quote is that the 7 Seals were being opened. 'Plague' represents the radioactivity of the sea water, and 'famine' represents the death of all the ocean life that used to be a part of a soon-to-be-broken food chain. 'Pale horse' is a reference to death. Given the vastness of the Pacific ocean, the North Pacific, where the water has become radioactive to the point of being lethal, comprises about one fourth of all the world's oceans. If all the fish in the North Atlantic died off from radiation sickness, which is already occurring, then the remainder of the food chain that feeds off those fish will become sick and die as well. That same food chain ends with us, the whole of humanity. About one quarter of the world's population lives on either of the coasts of the Pacific, from Korea and Japan to the Alaskan and west coasts of North America. It is no exaggeration to say this entire population is at very high risk.
People have questioned me about why God would allow such a disaster to take place. In times like these, many people find comfort in their faith. But disasters can also challenge long-held beliefs. Whenever a disaster like this occurs, I go back to the Bible, to the First Book of Kings. Elijah, in despair over the situation in Israel, runs back to Mt. Sinai to find the God of Moses. "And lo, the Lord God passed by. There was a mighty wind, splitting mountains and shattering rocks, but the Lord was not in the wind. There was an earthquake but the Lord was not in the earthquake." To me, that is the key: the Lord was not in the earthquake. Natural disasters are acts of nature, not acts of God. God cares about the well-being of good people. Nature is blind, an equal-opportunity destroyer.
Where is God in Japan today? God is right there with the people who are grieving and sorrowful. He is in the courage of people to carry on their lives after the tragedy, in the resilience of those whose lives have been destroyed, families swept away and homes lost. But, they resolve to rebuild their lives. God is in the goodness and generosity of people all over the world to reach out and help strangers who live far from them, to contribute aid, to pray for them. Most of all, God is in the hearts of those who run to Him for comfort in times of tribulation. Those who have lost everything can take heart in the fact that God is giving them a chance to reboot their lives, or to start over again on a clean sheet of paper.
For the believer, there is no satisfactory answer for why we suffer. It's simply a fact of life, and each person has to come to grips with that. It’s not as if some magic answer can be found. But the idea of God suffering along with us can be very helpful. The Christian believes that God became human and that God underwent all the things we do. Jesus on the cross cried, “My God, my God, why did you abandon me?” Christians do not have an impersonal God, but a God who understands what it means to suffer. People can relate more easily to a God who understands them. In my own life, when I have felt great sorrow I have trusted that God is with me in this and that I’m not facing my struggles alone.
Oftentimes people become more religious in times of sorrow. They find that they are able to meet God in new ways. Why? Because when our defenses are down and we’re more vulnerable, God can break into our lives more easily. It’s not that God is closer, it’s that we’re more open. This disaster is not the result of any sins of these people; we need to be clear that there is no belief that these victims “deserved” it for any of their actions. Rather, we should see these kinds of tragedies as a test from God. Muslims and Christians believe that God tests those he loves, and these tragedies also serve as a reminder to the rest of us to remain grateful to God for all our blessings and cognizant that we must support those in need.
These kinds of calamities should push us in positive ways. They should strengthen our faith in God and in his goodness. We attribute the things we don’t understand to his limitless wisdom and comfort ourselves that he is with us and he loves us, so there must be some meaning in what has happened, even if it is beyond our comprehension here at this time. We are trained by our faith that every suffering, whether big or small, brings us closer to God’s mercy and forgiveness, to the extent that the Prophet Mohammad said, “If you are walking and feel a thorn pierce your foot, you should know that even this little bit of pain brings you divine blessing and God’s forgiveness. These times of suffering give us an opportunity to demonstrate patience and faith, and therefore, become closer to God.” Every natural phenomenon challenges us as God’s trustees on this Earth, showing us that we should continue to study and explore ways of safeguarding humankind and all creatures from being subjected to this kind of devastation. It is the collective duty of all humankind to put resources in this and advance our understanding of how to respond to these disasters in a scientific way.
As we contemplate the great number of people who have died in this tragedy, we may feel very strongly that we ourselves, in some part or manner, also have died. The pain of one part of humankind is the pain of the whole of humankind. And the human species and the planet Earth are one body. What happens to one part of the body happens to the whole body. An event such as this reminds us of the impermanent nature of our lives. It helps us remember that what’s most important is to love each other, to be there for each other, and to treasure each moment we have that we are alive. This is the best that we can do for those who have died. We can live in such a way that they can feel they are continuing to live in us, more mindfully, more profoundly, more beautifully, tasting every minute of life available to us, for them.
The best way to make sense of tragedies like this is that terrible things can happen to perfectly innocent people. This understanding inspires compassion. Religiosity, on the other hand, erodes compassion. Thoughts like, “this might be all part of God’s plan,” or “there are no accidents in life,” or “everyone on some level gets what he or she deserves” - these ideas are not only stupid, they are extraordinarily callous. They are nothing more than a childish refusal to connect with the suffering of other human beings. It is time to grow up and let our hearts break at moments like this. There is no weakness to be found in hearts that break for others.
World War II was another disaster (though not a natural one) for the Japanese and left great psychological scars. I expect to see an increased need for spiritual strengthening and sustenance in the aftermath of the quake/tsunami, which in some ways is greater than WWII. The Japanese have always been very vulnerable to frequent earthquakes and typhoons, tsunami, and other extreme weather. So throughout their history they have known the ferocity and unpredictability of nature and thus have a strong relationship, often one of fear and respect, to God. Though, perhaps this tells you something of how their geology and climate affect their religious convictions and expressions rather than how religion will relate to the earthquake-tsunami-nuclear-meltdown disasters.
Personally, I don’t believe God ever wanted this to happen. I don’t think it was ever God’s intention, not in the human sense as mankind understands it. We know that there are going to be storms in life. No matter what happens we need to keep our faith and trust in almighty God. And I want the people of Japan to know that God hasn’t forgotten them, that God does care for them and that he loves them. I care and God cares, and we’re standing by them.
Saturday, February 22, 2014
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Sunday, February 16, 2014
President Obama's call for a $10.10 per hour minimum wage falls pitifully short. I would even call it a human rights violation.
The Demand For a Realistic Minimum Wage
I am writing this message today to all my readers about a pertinent topic that is right in the middle of current events. I am referring to President Obama's call for a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour and to the fact that it is grossly inadequate. The first two things of the highest priority concerning worker's rights is a fair and realistic minimum wage, and more fundamentally, the basic human right to a livelihood. Everyone knows all too well that the era of disposable workers has been upon us for at least the last7 to 8 years, if not longer. But I contend that unemployment as we have known it must now come to an end forever. Companies today will try to be nice about it, saying, “Sorry, but you are not needed around here anymore. Your skills, experience, and your work ethic no longer matter here.” This is tantamount to saying the people don't matter, and that profit – which for all purposes amounts to the worship of currency – is the only thing that really does. Who do they think they are? Corporate America has outsourced many of our jobs overseas so that they could enrich themselves at the expense of their former employees, leaving middle and working class Americans with no way to earn a respectable living and be self-sufficient. The jobs that could not be outsourced were downsized out of existence. Then this same bunch of corporate “leaders” turned around and, with the cooperation of American academia, raised costs for higher education so high that many of us who wish to go back to school and train for a new career are unable to afford to do so. Numerous persons who urgently wish to improve their standard of living through education or vocational retraining are held back from doing so, and that is a social injustice and a civil rights violation worthy of the loudest protests in every place throughout our country.
There are also a growing number of employed people who, despite having a job, are still living in poverty. There are at least 15 million workers who now fall into this rapidly growing category. The median US income of $32,390 a year [in 2012 dollars] is not going to get you far in today's economy, and half of the country is making less than that. The reason we struggle with these things is because the top 1% have robbed us all through the systematic confiscation of middle class wealth and prosperity. This tremendous suffering in the United States of America is literally a crime against humanity, and it is the result of the largest single transfer of wealth in all of human history from the middle class to the rich.
The lack of employment and economic opportunities, the lack of access to health care and higher education, plus extreme economic inequality due to a high concentration of American wealth being in the hands of far too few people has turned the USA into a powder-keg. Like the Middle East and parts of Europe, America too has become a ticking time bomb of inequality and lack of opportunity. The rights of US workers have been trampled underfoot by the rich multinational corporations and the top 1% elite who are outsourcing all our jobs overseas as they leave us high and dry. The least common denominator of middle class loss of income due to mass layoffs, the loss of housing due to foreclosure and eviction and the excess of economic inequality due to a disproportional concentration of wealth, is that all three of these comprise the human rights of workers throughout the world, beginning here in America since our country is supposed to be the standard-bearer of the world for freedom and opportunity.
There is entirely too much imbalance and inequity in the distribution of wealth in the US today. Over 90% of all available liquid cash and assets are in the hands of a maximum of 10% of the US population, if that. And so every day it's steak for them and beans for the rest of us. How much longer are we going to allow this to go on? And so it looks to me like our country is in dire need of some peaceful and orderly wealth redistribution, and I don't mean collectivized economies such as Socialism or Communism either. One very good way to accomplish this would be to send everybody back to school who wants to go free of charge. Who would pick up the tab for the tuition for all those millions of people? Would it be the government? Absolutely not! The bill should instead be presented to corporate America, since it is corporate America who outsourced or downsized all of our jobs out of existence in the first place. Congress did just that at the end of World War 2 when they passed the G.I. Bill. If it could be done in the 1940's, then it can be done today. Besides, if we can't work for these companies anymore then they owe it to us to train us to work somewhere else instead of discarding us like so much trash. Any solution amounting to anything less is a social injustice and a civil rights issue worthy of a national chorus of protests, demonstrations and “occupations”.
This brings me to the point that I wish to make. In today's world, if the net take-home pay of any given individual does not meet, or just barely meets, that same individuals daily cost of living, then that is tantamount to economic slavery. Let me say that again because this point simply cannot be overemphasized. If your take – home pay won't even take you home, you are a slave. Oh, you are free to move around and to come and go as you choose and take care of business, that is true. But if after you go to the grocery store, pay the light bill (assuming you are fortunate enough to be able to do that), put gas in your tank (assuming you are lucky enough to still own a car) and set some money aside for next month's rent or mortgage (if you're not already on the street or living with relatives) – and then after all that you peek into your wallet and realize that you have $7.00 left to live on for the whole stinkin' week, that's when you know you are a slave. What happens to the people whose incomes are at or below minimum wage? They go hungry and are often homeless. Many of these newly homeless, formerly middle class people also have kids who have fallen into poverty along with their parents. And this is happening in the United States of America, supposedly the richest country in the world. This is a moral outrage, a social injustice, and it is economic discrimination of the worst kind. Since it is an issue of discrimination, by extension it also becomes a 21st century civil rights issue generating a demand for fundamental change in the way our economy works and the way our government works.
This too, then, is cause for protests, demonstrations, boycotts, occupations, general strikes and other forms of peaceful civil disobedience. On this point alone, there are enough issues on the collective dinner plate of the American people to foster open revolt throughout the land. Never mind everything else that I have written about. Think about it for a minute. How does it feel to be a slave? Makes you feel kind of angry, doesn't it? It make us all feel violated because we have all been slaves, often without realizing it. The time to rise up and say, “No more!” has arrived. It's time for all of us to get out from in front of out TV's and our computers and to get our backsides out in the street and start protesting and occupying.
But what about those who are long-term unemployed, of which I was one? After all, as of February 2014 there are still three applicants for every available job. What we need is a massive public works project to repair America's crumbling infrastructure and to rebuild America's blighted inner cities (and small towns too). I would conservatively estimate that anywhere from 1-3 million people could be employed this way as day laborers, direct employees or subcontractors depending on the need. The fact of the matter is that we need jobs, we need lots of them, and we need them right now! Since our government has failed to act in this regard in spite of an obvious critical need, we will have to do this ourselves. Let's get this on the ballot for the next general election in every state, and let's also strike and protest for action on this matter until then. We might as well, because things are going to continue to get worse until we do.
Another human right that goes hand in hand with job creation programs is the right to free vocational retraining for life. Anybody can and should be able to go back to school and get retrained at will, up to and including a 2 year degree free of charge. Large, wealthy corporations with robust cash flows, as well as millionaires and the super-rich, will supply the necessary funding through what I call in my 2011 book, “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto”, the 'excess wealth tax' (to find out the details, which include repealing the federal income tax, you can buy a copy by clicking on this link). Since corporate America made the decision to send their factories and all the jobs those factories provided overseas to lower their labor costs, and since this action has caused the reaction of the obliteration of millions of American careers, it will be corporate America who will shoulder the responsibility of retraining these people whose careers evaporated through no fault of their own. If they take your job away, or if they export or downsize your career out of existence like I experienced myself, then it is those same corporate henchmen who must pay for your reeducation. Higher education and the right to a livelihood are basic, fundamental, and inalienable human rights. The day has come when higher education is no longer only for those who can “afford” the tuition.
Let me add one more tasty ingredient into this mix. Students enrolled in these reeducation programs, or public works project workers who have children, will be given taxpayer-funded day care free of charge so they can get their education without having to worry about their kids. Now I know what some of you are thinking right now – “who's gonna pay for that?” The same corporate bigwigs who torpedoed the US economy in 2008. They should be required to foot the bill just like they should be forced to pay for the reeducations of all displaced and formerly middle class people I wrote about further above. There's no way that Wall Street and corporate America can legitimately complain that they can't afford it. Let me put this into perspective for you.
If your US government took all the money that was spent in a single day on the twin wars (or more accurately occupations) in Iraq and Afghanistan during 2001 – present, plus the clandestine and illegal wars and “black ops” in Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, Syria and elsewhere and set it aside in an enormous savings account, there would be enough money to send every American school age kid from the first grade through high school to any college, public or private, or any state university or vocational school to earn their degree of choice with the tuition fully paid for, plus the cost of all their books and supplies, their meals, Internet access, new computers, and access to public transportation covered as well. So anyone who says we can't afford to send everyone to college with their expenses fully paid, or that the money to accomplish this just isn't there, either doesn't know what they are talking about, or they are elitists and bigots who can't stand to see middle and working class, and especially minority students, getting ahead. Access to higher education, and looking after the children of those who are retraining, is an American civil right that should be equally available to all without qualification, not just to those who can afford it. Would you like to see test scores improve in our nation's schools? Tell all those kids that they are all going to college, and watch their grades improve noticeably. Give them an incentive to do better and our kids will rise to the challenge every time. And they can do away with those stupid standardized tests while they're at it.
Do you want to become a doctor, a lawyer, a scientist or an astronaut (yes, many astronauts and other space workers will be needed within a decade or two)? Never again must any aspiring student be turned away from obtaining a college or vocational degree for purely financial reasons. Every able-bodied homeless person, newly released prisoners, and the long-term unemployed will be able to be placed in the public works program or the reeducation programs that I have just explained, and all without qualification. It should be a crime for somebody to be hungry, homeless or jobless just because he or she wants to work but can't find employment or pay for training. And that goes double for their children!
American citizens have a patriotic duty to dissent and to speak out when it is apparent their government is creating policies and taking actions that are in conflict with the best interests of the people and the laws of the land. The right of patriotic dissent has been a part of America since those days that brought us our independence. Yes, anyone can and should exercise the right to dissent when the situation requires it, and I certainly have no hesitation about doing so. The solutions being offered by your government, your political and economic system, and your media outlets are for more security by way of less individual freedom and personal liberty. I think it is high time that “we the people” rose up to challenge this erroneous notion that security is preferable to freedom. And I think it's high damn time to correct the perception of the top 1%, making them understand that people are not expendable, nor are we a commodity to be exploited. We need to take matters into our own hands if we hope to get anything done, and we need to directly confront our terrible economic situation if we hope to get things moving back in our favor. The system is broken, and it's up to us to either fix it, bypass it, or replace it altogether.
Sunday, February 9, 2014
Gay Marriage and The Progressive Christian
I find it impossible to resist composing this short dissertation on the recent movement of same-sex marriage into the media spotlight, and all the consternation it has been causing. The legal and moral status of gays and lesbians has always been problematic throughout human society. In modern American society, it occurs in at least two contexts: socioeconomic and moral. We begin with the socioeconomic questions raised by the issue. It is no small surprise that homosexuality has remained a social issue for centuries. Its first mention in writing known to modern man is the Bible. Under the US Constitution the issue of sexuality was not even mentioned. Jesus never mentioned it, but the apostle Paul did preach against it as documented in the first three chapters of the book of Romans. But what is less known is that Paul was evidently celibate by choice, and particularly after he began his ministry, which gives Paul's words a monastic tone even by the standards of his day. Homosexuality is also condemned in the Old Testament in the book of Deuteronomy, among other places. Much more currently and to the contrary, the recent Supreme Court decision overturning the Texas Sodomy Law relies on the 10th Amendment states' rights.
On moral issues the government has two options: It can be a leader and pioneer greater protection for sexual options as it did when Truman desegregated the military, or it can follow the lead of state governments on the issue. It has no standing to increase regulation of sexual matters without a clear and present need. The recent Defense of Marriage Act treads dangerous constitutional ground by allowing states to opt out of the full faith and credit clause in the Constitution. Then again, it may be a more dangerous precedent to the top 1% for the Congress to pass a law that it can ignore the Constitution by statute. This may give the remaining 99% of us ample legal firepower to take back our country from those high, mighty and privileged who have shamelessly stolen it. It sure looks to me like the right wing can no longer hide if it wishes to honor such a dangerous precedent.
The Fourteenth Amendment expanded the role of federal intervention into sexual politics. This Amendment requires the Federal government to guarantee that state laws provide equal protection to all of its citizens, period. If a State government, acting as the agent of culture, grants a privilege or a protection in any area, then all in that State must be given an opportunity to enjoy it. The Nineteenth Amendment was passed just over 50 years later, giving everyone an equal right to vote. In a democratic society the mores of the dominant culture are reflected in these regulations. In this country the Judeo-Christian culture is dominant, and its mores are reflected in the law. If this were a predominantly Muslim or Mormon culture polygamy could be an accepted part of the law. However, in the current dominant culture in most states polygamy is considered a crime. In the area of sexuality cultural mores are fluid. In the days of the Hebrew Patriarchs polygamy was considered moral, as it was more practical in a primitive society. As society moved to a more urban setting this changed, and the sexual mores reflect this change.
In the American culture tolerance is a strongly held virtue. This is by necessity, as tolerance of the differences of others leads to their tolerance of our differences. In former times anti-Catholicism and a hatred of Black and Jewish people was a part of American civic and religious culture. Among most Americans these are no longer considered acceptable, and rightfully so. As the belief in tolerance has increased many have come forward to demand acceptance. Among these are gays and lesbians. As the culture changes, the law is adapting to it, especially given the wider application of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. An aspect of equal protection is the question of laws prohibiting homosexual behavior. Many argue there is no question involved, as they have been taught that homosexuality is wrong and that is the end of it. That is adequate for teachings on personal morality. However, in a free society, trying to base public policy choices solely on religious authority, however well intentioned, simply wouldn't work when put into practice. Moral teachings cannot dictate public policy choice. Rather, they are to be used to inform rational choices in the context of a free society.
I see three moral objections to homosexuality in its current state, the biblical example of Sodom and Gomorrah, the nature of the homosexual relationship and the majority’s feelings about the homosexual act. There can be no argument that the sins of the city-state of Sodom and Gomorrah cried out to heaven for justice. I do have some hagging doubts as to whether the sin that cried to heaven was simply homosexuality, or something worse. A reading of the biblical text shows the sin of Sodom was not its permission of homosexuality but its inhospitality to Lot’s visitors, who in reality were the Angel of the Lord. Genesis states that the crowd wished to have its way with Lot’s visitors. One does not demand to rape God's representatives on earth and expect to come away unscathed. Rape was the sin of Sodom, and I firmly agree that this does cry to heaven for justice.
The homosexual relationship can be examined for completeness. Biologically it is obviously incomplete, as by its very nature it precludes the ultimate in sexual love, the creation of a new individual. However, this does not preclude it from being the ultimate form of love. The ultimate form of love is to lay down one's life for another, or through selfless dedication. There is nothing in the homosexual relationship that precludes this, and in fact it often occurs when one cares for a lover who has been stricken by AIDS. As for me, living here in Atlanta – a place where there are a lot of gay people – I don't enthusiastically support gay folks but I tolerate it and give equal treatment to them because they are entitled to it by law. To do otherwise is to judge, and the Bible warns us repeatedly about judging other people. The apostle James said it very well in James chapter 2, verses 12 and 13, “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” “Do not judge”, Jesus said, “for you who pass judgment on others do the same things yourselves”.
The final objection is that many find homosexual sex personally disgusting. While this is an argument for not engaging in homosexual relations personally, it is not strong enough to prohibit it to others who do not find it so. Personal preferences and prejudices do not determine public policy choices. Part of one’s sexual preference is to exclude other preferences. It is natural for displays of homosexual affection to disquiet heterosexuals, just as displays of heterosexual affection give some queens the willies. In a majority gay culture, do heterosexuals want their conduct regulated? I think not. Those who are disgusted by the idea of homosexuality need to ask themselves which is more disgusting, the act itself or the state taking an interest in the act. What would Jesus do?
Having argued that the first principle of morality is that God loves man (as that is God's nature), it follows that any moral code must reflect God's desire that man be happy and fulfilled in his humanity. Behaving inhumanely is inherently not natural. In both natural law and divine law homosexuality is not disordered for one who was created homosexual by God. Under such an ordering, the teaching that homosexuals refrain from their God-given sexuality is disordered, as its effect is to alienate homosexuals from the Church and place them outside its wise counsel on monogamy as opposed to promiscuity. When the Church promulgates a teaching it is responsible for the result. If the result of a church teaching is teen suicide and adult promiscuity, then the teaching against homosexuality is disordered.
Some religious people wish to convert homosexuals into heterosexuals, or teach them to remain celibate in order to undertake religious practice. After some careful thought about this for a long time, I disagree. To teach another about morality, you must first gain their trust. The reason gays and lesbians don't trust evangelicals and traditionalist Catholics is because the would-be evangelists don't trust the gays when they authentically state that they did not choose to be gay, that God created them that way. So these evangelicals, all of whom are straight, claim to know where the gays are coming from. Except they can't, so by teaching homosexuality as being a choice, they lie. To be trusted, you must trust. Authenticity is important. It is why alcoholics listen to each other rather than ministers to get sober, they trust someone who has been there - not someone who has not.
Other Protestant groups do not wish to evangelize gays. They are instead under the misguided notion that God punishes a culture that allows homosexuality. This is not only silly; it is uncharitable. God demands we treat others with charity, even and especially those we don’t agree with. Practicing legal discrimination in God’s name is flat out wrong. I have long believed that if Jesus were teaching the story of the Good Samaritan today, he would change the Good Samaritan to the Good Drag Queen. Or maybe some black dude from prison. Or maybe an “illegal alien”, if any of you still remain under the mistaken notion that illegal human beings exist. This was just His style. If you don’t think so, then you really don’t know the Lord as well as you think you do. Speaking as your pastor, it's part of my job to tell you all this stuff. Your salvation in Christ is directly proportional to your tolerance of others who are unlike yourself.
Public affirmations of sexuality among heterosexuals is not only condoned, but legitimized through laws on marriage and family relations. Under equal protection homosexuals have an equal right to state sanction. It is also in the state's best interest to acquiesce to such rights. The AIDS epidemic has highlighted the public health question involving homosexuality. When monogamous homosexuals are not given access to the institution of marriage, then the law implicitly endorses promiscuity. Venereal disease has always made promiscuity a dangerous choice, both for straights and gays. With the advent of AIDS it becomes fatal. The sanctioning of marriage by homosexuals lessens promiscuity and brings gays into the moral order. In doing so it helps to halt the spread of disease. As such it is in the interests of the state and the society. Social and religious leaders who accept the legitimacy and morality of monogamous gay relationships then have standing to teach that promiscuity is wrong. Until they do so, they are hopelessly out of touch, putting their gay brethren out of reach.
Evil people rule when good people do nothing.
Sunday, February 2, 2014
Staggering Numbers Of America’s
Young People Have Stopped Attending Church
For decades, the United States has been thought of as a Christian nation around the globe. But today that is dramatically changing – especially among America's young people. The truth is that all of the recent polls tell us that Americans under 30 years of age are rejecting the Christian faith in unprecedented numbers. In fact, what the numbers reveal is not a slow move away from the Christian faith. Rather, they clearly portray a massive wave of young Americans running away from traditional Christianity as fast as they can. Not only that, but the vast majority of young adults in America today do not go to church, do not pray and do not read the Bible. Just consider a few of the results from a recent and deeply troubling survey of 18 to 29 year old Americans:
•65% rarely or never pray with others, and 38% almost never pray by themselves either.
•65% rarely or never attend worship services of any kind.
•67% don't read the Bible or any other religious texts on a regular basis.
That is a solid two-thirds of American young adults who don't even have the slightest connection to traditional Christianity. If the current trends continue, the Millennial generation will see churches closing as quickly as Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Daewoo, Plymouth and Saturn dealerships from just a few years ago. The survey did find that 65% of those surveyed did call themselves "Christian", but among that 65%, the majority are what I call CINO's (Christians in name only). Most are just indifferent. The more precisely you try to measure their Christianity, the fewer you find committed to the faith.
But it just isn't this latest survey that is showing a mass exodus from the Christian faith by America's young people. According to a recent survey by America's Research Group, 95 percent of 20 to 29 year old evangelical Christians attended church regularly during their elementary school and middle school years. However, only 55 percent of those young evangelical Christians still attended church regularly during high school, and only 11 percent of them were still regularly attending church when they went to college. That's it, just a paltry 11 percent! And that was among self-identified evangelical Christians. But the most recent survey from this same nonprofit was perhaps even more shocking. According to that survey, 15% of Americans now say they have "no religion" – which is up from 8% in 1990. However, what was much more disturbing was that 46% of Americans between the ages of 18 to 34 indicated that they had no religion in the survey. Is it any wonder that atheism is on the rise?
Forty-six percent is not just a trend. That is not just a landslide, either. I would define that as a stampede. Today there most certainly is a mass exodus of America's young people from the traditional Christian faith. There is simply no getting around it. Another recent by America's Research Group showed that less than 1 percent of all Americans between the ages of 18 and 23 hold a Biblical world view. And what is a Biblical world view? This has been defined as someone holding on to the following six key beliefs:
1) Believing that absolute moral truth exists.
2) Believing that the Bible is completely accurate in all of the principles it teaches.
3) Believing that Satan is considered to be a real being or force, not merely symbolic.
4) Believing that a person cannot earn their way into Heaven by trying to be good or by doing good works.
5) Believing that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth.
6) Believing that God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today.
Using those six criteria, less than 1 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 23 hold a Biblical world view. The implications of this are staggering. The truth is that the United States is quickly becoming a highly secularized nation. Europe has already been down this road, and now America is rapidly following. Hundreds (perhaps thousands) of churches will close in the next 10 years as more and more people simply quit going. Large numbers of Christian ministries, radio stations, television shows and book stores will have to shut their doors because there will not be nearly enough people to support them. But the most frightening thing of all is that we are losing almost an entire generation to the world. Never before in U.S history has an entire generation rejected the gospel as much as this one has. America's young people are rejecting the Christian faith, and yet the Christian establishment keeps running around and telling everyone that everything is fine. Fine??
No, everything is not fine. Not even close, in point of fact. The Church in America is broken. It is very rare to find a church where authentic Christianity is being practiced anymore. Our young people are not stupid. They know what is real and what is not. If the Church in America would repent and turn back to real, authentic Christianity, at least we would have a chance of capturing the attention of those young Americans who are honestly looking for the truth. But instead, people of all ages – not just the young – are hungry and thirsty for some real truth. What did Jesus say about all this? “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled (Matthew chapter five, verse 6, NIV).” Translated into 21st century English, this simply means come to Jesus Christ in and of himself, and to leave the churches behind. You will no doubt recall that Jesus put his money where his mouth was in this regard when he threw the money changers out of the temple. He wasn't nice about it either. He didn't have to be. In the here and now of the modern church – or Church Incorporated as many call it – anybody can see that the descendants of the money changers have once again set up shop in houses of worship. As a result, you had best be really sure that He is returning very soon for yet another house cleaning. Christ will be far more angry the second time around as he was the first.
On the surface, it would be easy to say that every bit of the fault for this lies with modern church leadership. But it is not entirely the fault of the Church. The truth is that we have created a society where children are taught that Christianity is not important. Our public schools teach our children day after day after day that they evolved from monkeys, that abortion, sex before marriage and homosexuality are perfectly moral and that anyone who disagrees is a bigot. Then they go home and they are surrounded by entertainment for the rest of the day (television, radio, video games, Internet, movies) and the overwhelming message regarding the Christian faith in these forms of entertainment is that either Christianity is irrelevant, not true or should be openly mocked.
So should we be surprised when the overwhelming majority of them reject the Christian faith? Should we expect anything else? We have raised our children in the godless society that we have constructed and now we are so surprised that they are godless. But nobody should be surprised. We are just reaping what we have sown.