Sunday, July 6, 2014
Why I Didn't Have a Very Good 4th of July
Why I Don't Sing the 'Star Spangled Banner' Any More
by Rev. Paul J. Bern
The United States of America hasn't been winning very many popularity contests overseas as of late. The last two presidents – and particularly Barack Obama – have stepped up military drone strikes against Islamic extremists, but also those countries that have numerous oil fields who are working to undermine the US dollar. Countries such as Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Egypt, Pakistan and Nigeria are currently in negotiations to collaborate using an alternative currency to the US dollar, such as the Euro or the Russian ruble, but these oil-producing countries are also using gold as a form of currency. Resorting to such tactics by any of the above countries would be a direct threat to US interests both foreign and domestic, and it would provoke a strong military response.
Here on the home front, our cities are deteriorating due to a glut of boarded up houses, long-dormant industrial sites and abandoned shopping centers. Much the same has happened to many small rural towns for the same reasons. The least common denominator to why this is occurring is the lack of jobs, or jobs that pay a fair minimum wage of, say, $15.00 an hour. And then there's our police forces, who are supposed to be protecting and serving the public. Instead, they have mutated into a national law enforcement apparatus equipped with military-grade weapons, and many if not most of them are more trigger-happy than they would care to admit. As of this writing, the FBI, BATFE, NSA, DEA and the DHS have ordered a total of over 3.5 billion rounds of hollow-point ammunition. That's enough to kill everyone in America 10 times over. So why did law enforcement purchase such an enormous amount of ammunition knowing that it was more than they would ever use? It was partly for the purpose of denying American gun owners access to ammunition by buying up the supply of ammo that would otherwise go to gun dealers and on to the retail and consumer markets. This enormous amount of ammunition has been purchased for the same reason the police departments are acquiring military grade assault weapons and armored vehicles. They are preparing for mass protests and possible rioting over food and fuel shortages that could even mushroom (no pun intended) into a civil war. Although it is also intended to cut off the supply lines of weapons and ammo to criminals, cutting off the entire supply to every man, woman and child all across the country is a poor choice. It is also arguably unconstitutional as it likely violates the 2nd Amendment right to “keep and bear arms”.
But, it has been my observation that there are far more clandestine reasons that are carefully hidden underneath the surface for this to be occurring. The forces and enforcers of the status quo are the same individuals who stand to lose everything when the US dollar loses up to 79% of its value and the capitalist debt-based economic bubble finally bursts for good, as it eventually will. (And maybe sooner than expected. Jesus said. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where it will rust or be eaten by moths, or that thieves break in and steal. But instead, store up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where moths don't eat up your clothes, where nothing ever rusts, and where thievery is nonexistent.”) When that collapse finally does occur, it will bring the American, Canadian, European, Japanese and Russian economies down along with it. Even here in the USA, there are presently numerous individuals, and even whole families, who are engaged in activities known as “prepping”. I have begun to do this very thing myself, mainly by storing food and water. What does this say about our country? It looks to me like there are many saying, “We've had enough of all this crap. The entire American political and economic landscape is a disaster area, and the government is also broken beyond repair. So it's up to us to fix it ourselves.”
The obvious choice is to abolish the current American Republic and replacing it with a modernized and up-to-date Web-based paperless government. Thanks to the proliferation of the Internet throughout the world, hierarchical governments and organizations ruled from the top down will soon be replaced with a Web-based democracy with a horizontally administered command and organizational structure. In effect, it would be a kind of lateral organization the runs as a group of peers (in some cases), like a cousin to beehives in some ways. The main thing will be finding an alternative economic system. This will include walking away from capitalism and its accompanying debt-based economy, which is an entire topic by itself.
All I am saying for this week is that my country seems to be slowly dying, and that gives me great concern for my future as well as that of everyone else. One thing is certain; America is a hollowed out shell of what it used to be. The job market is absolutely decimated – never mind all of the propaganda that comes from the mainstream media about gaining 240,000 new jobs in the month of June 2014. They are almost entirely minimum wage jobs everywhere I look. It makes me glad I am retired from the work force and grateful for my small disability check. At first when I became disabled I complained about how small my monthly check was. But, having the time to sit back and watch the implosion of the American job market from 2011 up until now, I stopped complaining a long time ago. In fact, it was sinful of me to have done that, and so I confessed that sin to the Lord and begged His forgiveness and he fully restored me (hallelujah!). He wants to restore us all, so confess your sins and Jesus will forgive you too. It doesn't matter how bad you have been, or what you did and when,or what your past has been like. The blood of Jesus washes it all away.
So for the last few years my faith in the Lord has greatly multiplied while my faith in my country has suffered because of the atrocities I have seen when I view the news websites such as CNN, Yahoo, Alternet and Whiteout
Press (among others). Since 2003 there have been about 100,000 civilian casualties during the second Iraq war during America's second Iraqi incursion. Now, barely five years later Iraq is descending into a 3-sided civil war. If that happens, it will be a blood bath, no question about it. So I am seeing all these things going on over in the Middle East and I find that I'm not really very proud of my country any more, if I ever really was at all.
Recently there came across the news wires (I don't remember which one) a short piece on a certain US college, who decided that the “Star Spangled Banner” would not be played before athletic events. As could be expected, the decision was met with confusion and contempt. Wasn’t this just another example of our traditional values being trampled by the unrelenting march of political correctness? What sort of ingrates object to our nation’s anthem, anyway? Fluffy-headed campus philosophers? Lazy latte-sipping liberals?
It also caused widespread concern and confusion among the college’s students, professors, alumni, supporters and, yes, donors - many of whom felt like playing the anthem compromised Christian values. All of this is a prelude to a time in the not too distant future when there will be persecution of Christians right here in the USA. Laugh at me if you want, but it's most definitely going to happen, and those who refuse to believe will face eternal judgment.
I once met a man who is the pastor of a Mennonite congregation, and I became interested in at least some of their beliefs. Mennonites live in countries all over the world. Though they speak many languages, have different ethnic origins, and express their faith in diverse ways, all can claim the Anabaptists in 16th century Europe as their spiritual ancestors. The Anabaptists agreed with most of the ideas of the Protestant Reformation but felt that reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin didn't go far enough. Anabaptists rejected the practice of infant baptism, for instance, believing that water baptism should be reserved for believers who confess a faith in Jesus Christ alone. Because they understood the exercise of state power to be inconsistent with the church’s identity and mission, Anabaptists also advocated for the strict separation of church and state. This then-radical stance was prompted by both theology and necessity: Anabaptists had the distinct notoriety of being tortured and killed by both Catholics and Protestants wielding the power of the state against them.
Instead of compromising their core convictions about what it means to follow Jesus, thousands of Anabaptist men and women adhered to their freedom of conscience even as they were mocked by neighbors, burned at stakes and drowned in rivers. Although there certainly are diverse viewpoints among individual Mennonites today, they continue to advocate for the strict separation of church and state. Most Mennonite churches do not have flags inside them, and many Mennonites are uncomfortable with the ritual embedded in the singing of the national anthem. That’s because we recognize only one Christian nation, the church, the holy nation that is bound together by a living faith in Jesus rather than by man-made, blood-soaked borders.
Being a Mennonite, I learned from a lengthy conversation that I had with this gentleman, means having a living faith in Jesus while faithfully living the way of Jesus. Jesus called his disciples to love their enemies and he loved his enemies all the way to the cross and beyond. Following Jesus and the martyrs before us, we testify with our lives that freedom is not a right that is granted or defended with rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air. True freedom is given by God, and it is indeed not free. It comes with a cost, and that cost looks just like a cross. How do we plug ourselves into the unlimited power of the cross of Calvary? First, it is imperative that we all believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. Next, we must all repent, for the world cannot know of its brokenness and hopelessness without a Savior to show them a superlative way of life. There needs to be more people practicing the ways of peace while putting away their childish arguments. The world cannot know that there is an alternative to violence and war without a people of peace making peace. The world cannot know that the weak and the vulnerable are cared for by God without a people practicing an economy centered on sharing and mutual aid. Let us ask ourselves this basic question – if I die in my sleep tonight, what kind of legacy will I leave? However you ask yourself this question, let's all make sure the answer will be that which motivates us all is the propagation and proliferation of peace, which is only achieved by worshiping the Prince of Peace.
The world cannot know the unmeasurable worth of human life without a people who consistently work to protect it – in the unborn, in the convict, in the immigrant, in the homeless, in the soldier, in the retirement homes, in the mental hospitals, and in the enemy. These convictions do not reflect ingratitude or hatred for our country. Rather, they reflect a deep love for the church and a passionate desire for the church to be the Church. In order for any church to be qualified as a church in the sight of the Father, it is paramount that they first make themselves servants of Christ. After all, it is written: “Whoever wants to be called the greatest among you must first become the greatest servant”. I love my country, but I sing my loyalty and pledge my allegiance to Jesus Christ alone. This is because, in the end, our souls and our Savior are all that's going to be left.