Sunday, August 30, 2015
All the killing in America has got to stop. It's time to end the violence!
What Would God Say About All These Police Killings?
By Rev. Paul J. Bern
The United States of America is coming apart at the seams! That's an observation of current events in America, not just my opinion. Police shootings of unarmed Black men and youths are epidemic and notorious. Lately I have begun to learn, much to my own horror, that civilians have begun taking matters into their own hands by assassinating police officers while they are on duty and in uniform. We had two more such incidents this past Friday – one where a cop was shot execution style while fueling up his patrol car, and the other where an officer was dragged for several miles and was later pronounced 'DOA' at the hospital. So does this mean we have descended into a deadly game of tit-for-tat on American streets? Does a state of civil war now exist between African-Americans and law enforcement? I can sum up the answer in one sentence, and it's a quote from Christ: “He/she who lives by the sword will die by the sword”.
Of course, there are always two sides to every story. In several of the shootings of unarmed Black men, police officers have been charged with murder just recently, as you know. Yet by the same token, there was a nationally reported incident earlier this week where a man who had carjacked someone started shooting at the police when they cornered him, for which the perpetrator paid with his life. In cases like that, I believe police shootings are without question fully justifiable. God gave me a passage of Scripture earlier today that would fit this very well. It is a prophetic bit of Scripture taken from the first 11 verses of Jeremiah chapter 7 in the Old Testament. For those who don't know where this is in the Bible, it's between Isaiah and Ezekiel. I am going to take this just a verses or two at a time, because there is so much of the Holy Spirit in here that one cannot simply breeze through this and quickly move on.
“This is the word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 'Stand at the gate of the Lord's house and there proclaim this message. Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the Lord.'” (Jeremiah 7: 1-2, NIV) How would we say this in 21st century English? Allow me to paraphrase: 'Stand at the entrance to the church, right in the middle of the doorway, and tell all the people who come here to wait outside and hear this message before entering the sanctuary.' Church services, it seems, will be starting a little late today. God is telling the modern church in America to stop what they are doing and hear these words. Otherwise, He is saying, you have no business coming in here. You would then become invaders in my house, encroaching on My holy territory, says the Lord. This, says the Bible and the prophet Jeremiah, is extremely serious and at the top of God's priorities.
“This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: 'Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!” (Jer. 7: 3-4) Reform...and I will let you live in this place. What place is this? When it was first written by the prophet Jeremiah, it was a reference to ancient Israel in the years leading up to its downfall and being taken into captivity by the Babylonian Empire. But in a modern context it is a prophecy from the past that is equally applicable to the near future. Applicable to Israel just like in days of old, you ask? Partly, but also equally applicable to Israel's chief protector and ally in modern times, the USA. Prophecy, you see, is multidimensional – just like the God who we prophesy about.
“If you really want to change your ways and your actions and to treat each other justly, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless, and the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers forever and ever. (Jer. 7: 5-7) Do we treat each other justly when we're shooting at each other like it's the end of the world? Who is worse, the cops who are killing the unarmed Blacks, the Blacks who are killing each other, or everybody else who is shooting and ripping off everything and everybody else? Is there anybody reading this who seriously believes that God is pleased with America in its current state of affairs? I should think not!! If nobody is right, then everybody's wrong! Does America oppress the alien? As long as racial profiling is allowed to continue within the ranks of law enforcement, this will continue to be the case. Moreover, all those people crossing our southern border into our country are not an invading hostile army such as the likes of Donald Trump have implied. The ugly truth is that they are economic and war refugees from Mexico and Central America. The war refugees are escaping the civil wars being waged by the drug cartels of Central America and Southern Mexico – wars that are being fomented by America's very own CIA. The economic refugees come here looking for work – work that is simply unavailable in their former countries. Also, there is a huge wage disparity between those countries and the US. According to the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, DC, a factory worker in Mexico has an average take-home pay of about $55.00 per month USD (as of 2014). A person in the US working full time at a minimum wage job takes home approximately $640.00 after taxes. So these “illegal” immigrants, as they're called by all the right-wingers (many of whom identify as Christian) see their take-home pay increase ten or 11 times just by relocating to America. Is it any wonder they are coming in droves? If the US used its foreign aid that it so freely distributes to create enough new jobs down there in Mexico or Guatemala, etc., those people wouldn't have to come to the US looking for work. Instead, the taxpayers spent $35 billion on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a plane America does not need.
Can I go on? Does America oppress the “fatherless”? All one has to do is visit America's jails and prisons. Eight out of every ten people who are incarcerated either grew up without a dad, or are estranged from their fathers – often because of prior abuse. It's a cycle that can often get passed down from one generation to another, a cycle that can run in families. Does America “oppress the widow”? Is there evidence of this ever occurring? All over America we see boarded up old houses in blighted neighborhoods, houses that people used to live in. But some smooth-talking mortgage broker came along one day and talked the homeowner, who was usually elderly and minimally educated, into taking out a new mortgage on a home that was decades old and sometimes in need of repair, only to have the homeowners fall behind on the payments and find themselves homeless. For another example, visit any nursing home in America, and you will find multitudes of elderly people who have been long forgotten by their families. In many cases, they have outlived everyone they ever knew and loved. America's elderly have become a disposable people just like America's workers, its former middle class. Is God pleased with this? On the contrary, He is deeply offended!
What about “shedding innocent blood?” Does America, or has America ever, shed innocent blood? For me, a guy who genuinely loves his country but despises and fears his government, the answer is hard to look at and still more difficult to receive, but look I must. America has shed innocent blood in millions of civilian casualties in the two Iraq wars, Afghanistan, Viet Nam, and both world wars. But there is more – America has shed innocent blood right here at home. We have killed innocent men on death row, men who were not guilty of their crimes, but who were executed because they were presumed guilty because they were African-American. So many more Blacks have been executed in lynchings since the end of the US Civil War that the country lost count. So yes, most definitely, America has shed much innocent blood. Does anyone seriously believe that God has not noticed, or that He was looking the other way at the time? What about that last one? Have we “followed other gods to our own harm”? This is evidently talking about addictions, although this can have to do with substance abuse just as easily as it could addiction to a spouse, sports hero, career, or getting a bigger house whether you needed one or not, the latest computer and electronic gear, yet another new car that you really didn't need, always wearing the latest fashions, and so on. Try unplugging from the world! Turn off your cable TV and save money, watch Christian stuff on the Internet instead, become a minimalist. Despise materialism, shun worldly wealth and those who crave it. Go green or live 'off the grid'. Do something, please don't just sit there! And now I'll conclude this message, beginning at verse 8.
“But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless. Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come before me and stand in this house, which bears my name, and say 'we are safe' – safe to do all these detestable things? Has this house, which bears my name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching!', says the Lord.” (Jer. 7: 8-11, NIV) How are we trusting in deceptive words that are worthless, you ask? What is God talking about here to us through the prophet Jeremiah? I strongly believe this has a double meaning. In one sense, God is telling us our country's leaders can no longer be trusted because they have their own interests at heart instead of, or ahead of, “we the people”. Undoubtedly this is one point I need not explain to anyone! But why aren't we more outraged about all the waste and corruption in Washington? To me, if we are not opposing it then we are condoning this criminal behavior of our nations leadership. That makes us accomplices, and under no circumstances do I ever want to be seen that way by God. If this were to ever occur, that would be the day I would begin to pray in vain. Since I “work out my own salvation with fear and trembling”, I could never in my right mind go there or do that anyway.
But what is the second part of the meaning? This time, instead of talking about political and corporate leadership, God is speaking to us through the Prophet about the leadership within our churches. The Bible says, “Judgment begins in the house of the Lord”. That's us, Christians. It's talking about us. Those who teach falsely and know it, and there are a dismaying number of “preachers” who do, will pay the ultimate penalty in eternity. Will we continue to commit sin after sin, hop from one affair to another mating like rabbits, lie, cheat and steal and think we got away with it because nobody saw us? Those who do those things are only kidding themselves. Have our churches become a den of robbers? As long as certain preachers continue to demand 10% of everyone's income, whether they can afford it or not, then the answer is yes. The money-changers have once again occupied the temple, and Jesus will soon return to throw them out again, since they apparently didn't learn their lesson the last time our Lord administered it 2,000 years ago. “But I have been watching, say the Lord”! God sees all of it, He is totally fed up, and judgment is coming to America as a result. As I write this in late August 2015, judgment is only weeks away, mark my words.