Sunday, December 25, 2016
The Devolving of Christmas: An American Tragedy
by Pastor Paul J. Bern
It's that time of year again, the closing days of the holiday shopping season when people by the millions will finish spending an average of $750.00 each between now and December 31st on a bunch of cheap imported Chinese crap that nobody really needs. The worst part for American consumers is that all these inexpensive imported products from the sweat shops of the 3rd world are designed and manufactured in such a way as to make sure the items wear out sooner rather than later in the hopes that the American consumer will go out and buy a replacement, hopefully sooner rather than later. The giant US multinational corporations have figured out that if you make a product just good enough to hold out for a little while, you can still get people to buy it even though it is made as cheaply as possible. Unfortunately for these same monstrosity corporations, the American consumer has begun to wake up and realize they have been had and that things have been this way for a long time, and they're getting a little madder about it each day. Their fury and rage first manifested itself in the Arab Spring of 2011, followed by rioting in Spain and England that summer, followed by civil unrest in Greece that has yet to completely simmer down. The civil war in Syria similarly rages on as I write this. This has been followed here in the US and Europe in the form of the Occupy Wall Street and “we are the 99%”, protest movements of which I am proud to be a part, and both of which are still very much ongoing, and most recently the Black Lives Matter movement.
All I'm saying is that people everywhere have become more questioning, more critical or have even become opposed to capitalism as we know it due to what is increasingly being viewed as its predatory nature and its emphasis of profits over people. Many of us, including myself, are completely up in arms over the state of our country. The Christmas shopping season is just one symptom of capitalism gone overboard, with a mad dash to acquire more and more material things just for their own sake at a time when we are supposed to be quietly celebrating the birthday of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is indicative of a society that has lost its sense of direction and lost touch with its purpose for being. I was one of millions of people who boycotted Black Friday last month as a way to peacefully protest being forced to live in a world where the main thing that matters most seems to be how much money one can make.
I've been there and done all that. I owned a small computer store all through the 1990's and made some real good money. I never got rich, but I'm okay with that. I know what it's like to have all that, and do you know what I found out about wealth and riches? It's just a big trap, a never-ending treadmill of the pursuit of profits until it consumes your whole life, until in the end you realize that it was all just an illusion. Like a game of Monopoly, when the profit machine comes to an end (and sooner or later they all do) and the game is over, everything goes back in the box only to start all over again. That's all capitalism and the taking of profits is – one big Monopoly game where the person with the most money wins, and always at the expense of everybody else. Is it any wonder that capitalism and the taking of profits has ruined the spirit of Christmas, let alone the whole country? Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong at all with turning a nice profit, but not if it means ripping off your customers and cheating your employees!
What have we become? Like cattle and sheep headed to slaughter, we roll out at this time of the year at the bidding of shop-till-you-drop gimmicks. Meanwhile, we fight and claw for the blue light special at the various suburban box stores offering low wages and no benefits to staff. So, how much can we save? Wally World is offering 25% off, while Sneers is offering 30%. Let's run to Sneers! It's only 30 more miles down the road and we've got the gas! What about the Chinese people slaving in non union factories at pennies a day? What do they make off the deal? Who is actually winning? Is it really the mesmerized consumers teary and googly-eyed while giggling gleefully at 30, 40, and 50% off deals? Our politicians say it's the American workers. Yes, it is our right to slave part time at minimum wages and no health benefits while we shop till we drop looking for that fantastic deal. We make this statement as employees of corporations are lining the pockets of senators, congressmen and supreme-court justices in Washington D.C. while seated on presidential cabinets making decisions regarding our planet's future, our future, and our children's future. Meanwhile our consumerism is devouring the planet into what might soon become more lifeless than the moon or, God forbid, a Wall Street tycoon. Yet, mesmerized by commercials with intelligence levels less than a jackass after having a lobotomy, we roll blindly into the gates of the shopping centers, the strip malls and humongous big box stores. For example, consider the following December 2013 release from the Associated Press.
"A shopper in Los Angeles pepper-sprayed her competition for an X-box and scuffles broke out elsewhere around the United States as bargain-hunters crowded malls and big-box stores in an earlier-than-usual start to the madness known as Black Friday. Toys R Us opened for the second straight year on Thanksgiving itself. And some shoppers arrived with sharp elbows. On Thanksgiving night, a Walmart in Los Angeles brought out a crate of discounted X-boxes, and as a crowd waited for the video game players to be unwrapped, a woman fired pepper spray at the other shoppers "in order to get an advantage," police said. Ten people suffered cuts and bruises in the chaos, and 10 others had minor injuries from the spray, authorities said. The woman got away in the confusion, and it was not immediately clear whether she got an X-box. On Friday morning, police said, two women were injured and a man was charged after a fight broke out at an upstate New York Walmart. And a man was arrested in a scuffle at a jewelry counter at a Walmart in Kissimmee, Fla. In the U.S., Wal-Mart, the world's biggest retailer, has taken steps in recent years to control its Black Friday crowds following the 2008 death of one of its workers in a stampede of shoppers. This year, it staggered its door-buster deals instead of offering them all at once." (Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press)
Lennon and McCartney of the Beatles wrote in the song "Revolution", "you say you want a revolution, well you know, we'd all love to change your head." Yes, it is more than changing Wall Street. It is, ultimately, about changing ourselves. This Christmas, change how you celebrate. Speak from your heart to your kids about consumerism and how it is affecting the planet as well as our behavior. Ladies, instead of buying your guy a new bag of golf clubs, give him a night he will never forget. Be creative, be loving, be tender and compassionate. Enjoy each other. To enjoy is to enjoin, to enjoin is to unite. Consumerism keeps us isolated by gimmicks of sensationalist advertising of unrealistically beautiful women, “perfect” children and gorgeous hunks of men that are created off the corporate mold. And who is being molded by all these advertising gimmicks? You are! For what purpose? To make others rich. Don't go there this year. Find richness in your heart and share that this Christmas. And keep more of your money.
Thursday, December 22, 2016
Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Sunday, December 18, 2016
Better to Be Thankful for What You've Got
by Pastor Paul J. Bern
People everywhere are crying the blues about their financial situation, and with just cause to say the least. There are some people lucky enough to still be in the work force who are being forced into low-end service jobs, many of which pay below the poverty line. It's not the people's fault that they can't find good paying jobs. Most of those jobs have been sent overseas, never to return. The job market is rigged anyway, and so are the political and economic systems we are currently stuck living under. But all this will be coming to an end soon unless the globalists are stopped in their tracks! You know, the ones who just lost last month's presidential race here in the US? Never mind HRC, she was just the face that masked the real persona of globalist interests. If we do not actively oppose the global elites we will be crushed by them, of that you can be quite sure!
So how can we stop these people without tearing everything down and starting over on a clean sheet of paper? We must redefine democracy and the capitalist economic system (in that order) in 21st century terms. Representative democracy such as what been centralized in Washington, DC will ultimately be replaced by a virtual-reality-like online government. Instead of the current hierarchical setup, future government will evolve into a beehive configuration, having a kind of lateral management structure. I don't think that's too far into the future, either. One thing I am sure about – the governmental and economic systems as they currently exist are unsustainable. A huge economic crisis is headed our way. It's not a question of if, but of when.
The only other possibility would be for Jesus to return and take his people home (see Matthew 24, Luke 27, Daniel 9). To put it mildly, that would stop everything and everybody in their tracks! Everything I just wrote about in the opening paragraphs would no longer make any difference! To spare you all any long, drawn out explanations, anywhere from 10% to as high as 25% of humanity will leave earth all at once during the 'rapture' of the greater Church as the apostle Paul prophesied in 1st Thessalonians chapter 4, verses 13-18, and I quote: “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and that he rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, and with the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
“We believe that Jesus died and that he rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep”. Notice the emphasis on Jesus' resurrection as the starting point. On the other hand, “fallen asleep” was a pseudonym in the 1608 King James version for being deceased that was carried over to several other versions, such as the NIV. The following verse is just a fancy way of saying that upon the 'rapture' of the greater Church, those who died while practicing their faith in Christ would be the first to be taken up, followed by all those believers who were still alive at the halfway point of the seven years of tribulation when the 'rapture' will actually occur (see Daniel 9, verse 27). “....the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” This is the ultimate fate of every true Christian. We will meet the Lord in the air, or in heaven, and either choice is fine with me.
But until then and while we're waiting for the 'rapture', people are still really upset about the huge pay cuts they have had to take to remain in the work force, their lowered standards of living, unfair burdens of student loan debt, increasing environmental pollution, and burnout from longer work hours adds insult to injury. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Moreover, I don't know how much longer American workers, managers and their families are going to be able to put up with this situation. But at the end of the day, we had all better be satisfied and thankful for what we do have, because it can all be taken away in an instant by fire or natural disaster. While standing up for what is right and just are always good things, we should adopt the attitude of the apostle Paul, who, when he wrote his beautiful letter to the Philippian church, said, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content no matter what the circumstances. I know what it is like to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret to being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” (Phil. 4, verses 10-13)
We can all learn a good lesson from the apostle Paul in those verses above. Paul evidently didn't worry about having all his needs met. Paul is telling us all to stop worrying about material possessions like money and investments, the most stylish clothes, ever more over-sized houses and faster cars, and countless status symbols in American society that don't amount to a hill of beans in the sight of God! In my humble opinion, people had better start learning to live with less, not more. America is addicted to materialism, but the coming financial disaster will break that addiction for good! People will have to relearn the time-honored lesson that there is more to life than just 'stuff'.
Tough times are coming. Nobody knows the exact timetable for this, but I view this as my duty as a licensed minister to warn people about the coming financial calamity and its probable consequences so they can prepare. I also view this as being part of my overall job description, since I am a humble servant in His Majesty's service. What is also a part of my job description is to be a watchman in the fortified guard tower, scanning the horizon for any sign of a possible attack or potential intruder from Satan and the forces of darkness. Thanks to my own relationship with Jesus, I can evade these forces of evil I have written about. By reading your Bible daily, you can achieve the same and dedicate it all to Jesus. In fact, we would all do well to do the same.
Wednesday, December 14, 2016
Tuesday, December 13, 2016
Sunday, December 11, 2016
John Glenn Saw No Conflict Between Faith and Science
by Pastor Paul J. Bern
STS-95 crew member, astronaut and U.S. Sen. John Glenn poses for his official NASA photo taken April 14, 1998. Photo courtesy of NASA via Reuters
For by Him all things were created; things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Colossians 1: 16-17)
The passing of American hero John Glenn this past week has given me cause for reflection. When I think of heroes, Jesus Christ is the first person that comes to mind. Since he has saved us all from our sins against God and each other, Jesus is the obvious first choice. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is another example of a hero that I can think of, the late president John F. Kennedy is yet another. I can think of still more examples from the Bible, such as St. Stephen from the Book of Acts chapter 6, Joshua and Caleb from the Book of Joshua, and the apostle Peter, to name a few. And then there is John Glenn. As an American astronaut he gained heroic stature when he became the first man to orbit the earth aboard Friendship 7 in 1962. Previously, he won five Distinguished Flying Crosses in World War II, and years later went on to become a U.S. Senator from Ohio.
Perhaps less well known is that he was a man of deep Christian faith. This past Thursday, when he left the bounds of earth one final time at age 95, he passed into the arms of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He was one of the pioneering astronauts of the Mercury program at a time when space travel was extremely risky. He said he prayed every day during that time. Those prayers were needed on Glenn’s historic first orbits in space. During the return on February 20, 1962, Glenn’s heat shield was thought to have come loose and many believed it might fail during re-entry, which would cause Glenn’s capsule to be incinerated in its fiery descent. Glenn was instructed to take manual control of the capsule and described “a real fireball outside” as he re-entered the atmosphere. Thankfully, his and many other prayers were answered when he splashed down safely in the Caribbean.
Shortly after his flight, he delivered a sermon, “Why I Know There is a God,” that described his enlarged perspective on God as a result of the mission. In his message, he marveled at the size of the universe. “Our galaxy is some 100,000 light years in diameter. This makes us realize how difficult it is to visualize the tremendous scale of the universe beyond our solar system. The limits of the telescopically observable universe extend at least two billion light years from us in all directions,” he told his listeners in 1962. Then he expressed awe at discoveries from the microscopic level. “Come back to what we know of atomic particles, the smallest particles known. Atoms have a great similarity to our solar system in that they have electrons rotating about a nucleus in regular patterns. Now what is the point I am making?” he asked. “It is the orderliness of the whole universe about us, from the smallest atomic structure to the most enormous thing we can imagine. Could this have just happened? Was it an accident that a bunch of flotsam and jetsam suddenly started making these orbits of their own accord? I can’t believe that. This was a definite plan. This is one big thing in space that shows me there is a God. Some power put all this in orbit, and that power keeps it there.”
John Glenn may best be remembered as one of the 20th century’s greatest explorers, the first American to orbit the Earth and, later, the oldest man in space. Glenn also will be remembered for his long career as a U.S. Senator, representing his home state of Ohio for 24 years as a moderate Democrat. But less well-known is the fact that Glenn was an elder in the Presbyterian Church who saw no conflict between his beliefs in God and in science. He told The Associated Press last year he believed scientific discovery – including evolution – should be taught in schools. “I don’t see that I’m any less religious by the fact that I can appreciate the fact that science just records that we change with evolution and time, and that’s a fact,” he said. “It doesn’t mean it’s less wondrous and it doesn’t mean that there can’t be some power greater than any of us that has been behind and is behind whatever is going on.” And in a space-to-Earth news conference during his second space flight at age 77 in 1998, Glenn told reporters his view of space only strengthened his belief in God. “Looking at the Earth from this vantage point, looking at this kind of creation and to not believe in God, to me, is impossible. To see the Earth laid out like that only strengthens my beliefs,” he said.
From high above Earth, John Glenn saw the face of God. He was not alone. There is something about the beauty of space, Earth and the universe that touches many people's spirits. Logic-oriented scientists and daring pilots turn spiritual, some even evangelical, after their space flights. Glenn and most of his Mercury astronauts strongly testified about how faith helped with their groundbreaking flights. John Glenn summed it all up while in orbit. “To look up out at this kind of creation and not believe in God is to me impossible,'' Glenn said in a Sunday news conference, responding to a reporter's question. “It just strengthens my faith.'' Glenn said recently that evolution should be taught along with all other types of scientific discovery, and this view does not contradict a belief in God. He went on to say that recording the scientific changes that occur over time due to evolution fit comfortably with his view of God as Creator.
Sunday, December 4, 2016
This Week's Bogus Unemployment Report Is a Sin Against Us All
by Pastor Paul J. Bern
I have always believed that being a good Christian means standing up against social and economic injustice. After all, being religious without putting one's faith into action is like calling oneself a Democrat or Republican without ever voting. The Bible says in the New Testament, “Faith without works is dead”, and I'm a firm believer in putting that into practice. One social injustice that I wrote about in my 2011 book, “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto” was the outsourcing overseas of what used to be good American middle class jobs. I have some ideas about what is wrong or unjust in this great country of ours, and the following is just one example of what I would like to see fixed within society at large. I am talking about this week's federal government's press release that puts American unemployment at 4.6%. This simply hilarious number is being peddled to the American people at a time when only 61% of American adults are working. So, we're supposed to believe America has 4.6% unemployment while over one third of our workforce has given up looking for work out of sheer discouragement!
Now that Washington is waking up to the destructive impact of outsourcing good middle class jobs overseas, something the American people have known about for years, globalism's advocates have decided this facade of lies has to be maintained by the elite 1% at all costs. The Wall Street Journal, a supposed bastion of truth, recently stated that "the fact is that for every job outsourced to Bangalore, nearly two jobs are created in Buffalo and other American cities." I bet “Buffalo and other American cities" would like to know where these jobs are. On October 25, 2011, 60 Minutes had a program on unemployment in Silicon Valley, where formerly high-earning professionals have been out of work for two years and, today, cannot even find part-time $9 an hour jobs at Target.
The claim that jobs outsourced by US corporations increases domestic employment in the US is one of the greatest hoaxes ever perpetrated on the American public (excluding the biggest one, which is the so-called “Federal Reserve”). Based on a bit of research that I have done from an economics standpoint, I can tell you that our country's governmental and business leaders have reached this erroneous conclusion by counting the growth in multinational jobs in the U.S. without adjusting the data to reflect the acquisition of existing firms by multinationals, and for existing firms who have turned themselves into multinationals by establishing foreign operations for the first time. There is no new multinational employment in the U.S. Absolutely zero. Existing employment simply moved into the multinational category from a change in the status of firms to multinational. American workers have become expendable because corporate America has decided they are too expensive to keep around. I know this to be true because it once happened to me.
The jobs that replaced the ones that were outsourced overseas for pennies on the dollar consist of waitresses and bartenders, health care workers, social services, retail clerks, and while the bubble lasted, construction. These are not the high-tech, high-paying jobs that the "New Economy" promised, and they are not jobs that can be associated with global corporations. Moreover, these domestic service jobs are themselves scarce. Just ask anybody trying to find one. Until this past year the construction jobs had all but vanished. Did you ever wonder how it was possible to have simultaneously millions of new good-paying middle class jobs and virtually the worst income inequality in the developed world, with all income gains accruing to the mega-rich? Or was that just me?
Education is no longer the solution it once was. For example, we already have more engineers than we have jobs for them due to outsourcing. A Philadelphia marketing and research firm called “Twentysomething” found that 85% of recent college graduates planned to move back home with parents. Even if members of the "boomerang generation" find jobs, the jobs don't pay enough to support an independent existence. And let's not forget that nearly all of these recent graduates have student loans with payoff balances in the tens of thousands of dollars. This in turn ruins their credit, which makes finding employment even more difficult. Reporters repeat the lie that the unemployment rate is 4.6%. The government's own more inclusive rate stands at 17%. Statistician John Williams, who counts unemployment the way it is supposed to be counted, finds the unemployment rate to be 22%. In my 2012 book, “Occupying America: We Shall Overcome”, I estimated the total unemployment rate to be 24%. Near the end of 2016 as I write this, total unemployment plus under-employment remains stuck at roughly the same figure.
To keep our eyes off the loss of jobs to outsourcing, policymakers and their minions in the financial press blame US unemployment on alleged currency manipulation by China and on the financial crisis. The financial crisis itself is blamed by conservatives on low-income Americans who took out mortgages that they could not afford, and on US “entitlement” programs. In other words, the problem is China and the greedy American poor who tried to live above their means, or who are allegedly too lazy to work. With this being the American mindset, you can see why nothing is being done to save the US economy.
We need to stop blaming poor people and minorities for America's problems. If anyone wants to know what is wrong with our country, the answers are located inside the D.C. Beltway, and they are there in abundance. This country can end or greatly limit unemployment, homelessness, poverty and economic inequality by simply reeducating its population. The Bible says in the Old Testament, “The people perish for a lack of knowledge”, and it's ever so true even after all the centuries that have gone by. The US is the only remaining developed country that does not do this for its citizens. The same can and should be done today, and I think it should also be a jumping-off point for overhauling or replacing the US public school system.
Take all the long-term unemployed, particularly older workers like I was, and send them back to school for up to two years (four year programs would be available at extra cost using my idea), and allow them to earn the degree, diploma or professional certification of their choice. Do the same for all parolees, as well as all homeless individuals who are judged healthy enough to work – anyone who might otherwise find it nearly impossible to find employment. Should the taxpayers pick up the tab for this? No way, let corporate America be compelled by law to pay for the retraining of these still-valuable US workers! If they can afford to send our jobs overseas for pennies on the dollar, then paying for up to 2 years of school to teach new trades to anyone who wants retraining should similarly only cost them pennies on the dollar relative to their exorbitant annual profits. Moreover, these multinational corporations already engage in enough tax dodging and evasion to pay for all of it!
There is a price to be paid for social and economic injustice, and it's a steep price too. Human being are driven by, among many other things, a desire for achievement, or to better one's lot in life. Those who see opportunities to improve themselves or their situation are by nature predisposed to take advantage of that opportunity, whatever it might be. So, when people find themselves being denied opportunities to succeed, along with the rewards that accompany that success, they resent it. It hurts our feelings because it seems as if we are being punished for wanting to better ourselves, as if we have done something wrong. There are those who might say, “This is something that's beyond my control”. But I continue to maintain that only happens when one capitulates to that 'something', whatever it may be. But if we band together and fight the 1% elitists, we have them outnumbered by 99 to 1, and I predict that is exactly what will happen if our new president sells out to Wall Street like he seems to be doing. As the late president Kennedy once said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make a violent revolt inevitable.”