Sunday, April 30, 2017
Instead of Complaining About the Status Quo,
Become the Change You Desire and Live It
By Pastor Paul J. Bern
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We all need to look for ways to improve our lives and change our world for the better. We're all here for a purpose. It's why God put us all here. It's nice to make and keep new year's resolutions, put a troublesome person out of your life and break other old habits, but many more people are waking up to the fact that it's smarter to improve our surroundings and make the kind of contributions that leave legacies than it is to merely break a bad habit. Breaking bad habits is good, but helping to build a better world is far better. To begin with, we can’t create a better world if we haven’t yet imagined it. How much better then, if we are able to touch such a world and experience it directly, can we enact in the here and now the world we actually want to live in. These kinds of organized grassroots efforts come in all shapes and sizes. At the bottom end of the scale we see Utopian flavored mass movements like “the 99%”, Black Lives Matter, the fight for a living wage, and Occupy Wall Street movements with their stands against inequality, and for free libraries, ethic of social and economic justice, and experiments in direct democracy. At the other extreme we see the ongoing civil war in Syria (and its predecessor, the Arab Spring of 2011) which continues to this day.
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality,” Buckminster Fuller once advised.“ To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” A brilliant insight, but he was only half right, because the best direct actions – and social movements – actually do both. Consider the lunch counter sit-ins of the 1960s. They were not only brave acts of resistance against the racism of the Jim Crow South, but they also beautifully and dramatically prefigured the kind of world the civil rights movement was trying to bring into being: blacks and whites sitting together as equals in public spaces. The young students didn’t ask anyone’s permission; they didn’t wait for society to evolve or for bad laws to change. In the best spirit of direct action, they walked in there and simply changed the world. At least for a few moments, in one place, they were living in an integrated South. They painted a picture of how the world could be, and the vicious response from white bystanders and police only proved how important it was to make it so.
Many people at the forefront of the nonviolent civil rights movement were moved to action by their Spiritual commitments. Be it the “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” of the Four Gospels, or Gandhi’s call to “Be the change you want to see in the world,” the ethical traditions of many religions have powerful roots in dogma that is largely the teachings of men. It is only when people of faith, such as followers of Jesus Christ like myself, try to live out their deep principles and actually walk their talk in the Spirit that they they tend to come up against the power of tradition. Jesus himself (who promised that anyone who followed his teaching would always be in trouble) was one of history’s more brilliant invaders of the human conscience. He didn’t merely argue that true greatness comes from humbly serving others, he illustrated it by washing his disciples’ dirty feet just before the Last Supper. By socializing with outcasts and the poor, visiting lepers, and always raising up “the least of these,” Jesus didn’t simply prophesy a future filled with a beloved community of believers, He made it manifest. And if Jesus did it, so should we!
With the dominance of market capitalism and its apologists proclaiming an “end of ideology” (whatever that is), provocations that stretch our political imaginations are more vital than ever. I would go a step further, arguing that we need to bring back Utopian thinking. Utopian thinking is necessary, because it provides a compass point to determine what direction to move toward and a measuring stick to determine how far one has come. However, in an era of media saturation and distrust, this is increasingly hard to do via criticism alone. Using dystopian visions to sound the alarm – a more and more popular strategy – is just another form of criticism that leaves the status quo standing. What is needed instead are direct interventions that both embody and point toward Utopian possibilities. Contemporary social movements, it turns out, are chock full of them.
Of course, we all know that this has about as much chance of occurring as the WTO has of abolishing itself, that GE is actually going to give back the taxes it dodged, or that DuPont is finally going to do the right thing and compensate the 100,000 victims of the Bhopal chemical spill for decades of suffering. Could we possibly ever live in such a world? “Yeah”, people are saying, “why don’t we live in such a world?” And we’re more motivated to go out there to make it happen!
In 2006 members from a coalition of environmental groups posed as a government agency – the Oil Enforcement Agency – that should have existed, but didn’t. Complete with SWAT-team-like caps and badges, agents ticketed SUVs, impounded fuel-inefficient vehicles at auto shows, and generally modeled a future in which government takes climate change seriously. Clever protest campaigns can bring little shards of utopia not just into the streets but also into our elections and even legislatures. When Jello Biafra ran for mayor of San Francisco in 1979, one of the planks in his platform called for beat cops to be voted on by the neighborhoods they patrolled. Once out in the open, this and other seemingly radical ideas were revealed as the reasonable proposals they were, and thousands of San Franciscans voted for Jello.
Even legislation can be Utopian. A legislative bill called, “What Would Finland Do?” aims to introduce a bill in the New York legislature to prorate traffic fines according to the net wealth of the driver. It wouldn’t pass, but a lot of New Yorkers might think: “Why not?” and the long fight for greater economic equality might inch a tiny bit forward. (Finland, by the way, has such a law, and in 2004 the 27-year-old heir to a sausage fortune was fined $204,000 for driving 50 miles per hour in a 25 mph zone.) Whether religious or artistic, a playful thought experiment, or a serious attempt to be true to one’s values in the face of state violence, Utopian engagement allows us to experience for ourselves (and demonstrate to others), that another world is necessary, possible, and maybe even beautiful.
Saturday, April 29, 2017
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Sunday, April 23, 2017
A Third Warning From God (Ezekiel chapter 7)
by Pastor Paul J. Bern
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If you're one of my thousands of regular readers, then you know that I've posted what I called, “Another Warning From God” as parts 1 and 2 over the last two weeks. Quite frankly, the response was so overwhelming that I decided to re-publish and update yet another warning from God that I posted 2 years ago. You will recall the previous 2 warnings were based on Isaiah chapter 24. For this week's commentary we will need to go to the book of Ezekiel chapter 7. I've prophesied like this before, but I never do this unless I'm sure it's coming straight from the Lord. America is in very serious trouble to the point that its very existence is being threatened. This entire country is in danger of going out the same way the old Roman Empire did: one nasty little piece at a time. But instead of being militarily invaded like the Roman Empire was, America's impending destruction will probably come from within rather than from without. This is very serious stuff, so you will want to take your time and read this closely. Also, you will see that this prediction is coming straight from the Bible, followed by my interpretation of the Word of the Lord. This message is not merely my opinion. For this message from God, I will begin at verse 5:
“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Disaster! An unheard of disaster is coming! The end has come! The end has come! It has roused itself against you. It has come! Doom has come upon you – you who dwell in the land. The time has come, the day is near; there is panic, not joy, upon the mountains. I am about to pour out my wrath upon you and spend my anger against you; I will judge you according to your conduct and repay you for all your detestable practices. I will not look upon you with pity or spare you; I will repay you in accordance with your conduct and the detestable practices among you. Then you will know that it is I the Lord who strikes the blow. The day is here! It has come! Doom has burst forth, the rod has budded, arrogance has blossomed! Violence has grown into a rod to punish wickedness; none of the people will be left, none of that crowd – no wealth, nothing of value. The time has come, the day has arrived. Let not the buyer rejoice nor the seller grieve, for wrath is upon the whole crowd. The seller will not recover the land that he has sold as long as both of them live, for the vision concerning the whole crowd will not be reversed. Because of their sins, not one of them will preserve his life. Though they may blow the trumpet and get everything ready, no one will go into battle, for my wrath is upon the whole crowd.” (Ezekiel 7, verses 5-14)
What does this look like to you? It reminds me of the book of Revelation chapter 18 that I posted a message on last year. Revelation 18 talks about the Great Babylon of the Last Days as foretold by the prophet and apostle John, the half-brother of Jesus Christ. Babylon the Great of Revelation 18, as I have previously proven by way of the Scriptures, is the United States. So we can safely conclude based on verses 5 to 7 that a great natural disaster of some kind or another is coming, probably sooner rather than later. Then the Prophet wrote, “...there is panic, not joy, upon the mountains. I am about to pour out my wrath upon you and spend my anger against you; I will judge you according to your conduct and repay you for all your detestable practices.” What was Ezekiel writing about here? Remember, Ezekiel lived hundreds of years before the birth of Christ. Was he writing about the fall of Jerusalem to the Roman Empire in 70AD? Although this is entirely possible, it is far more likely – based on the wording of the text – that Ezekiel was seeing into the distant future, probably the early 21st century. God will repay America for what she has done. Until recently, the United States was the world's number one polluter. China now has that dubious distinction. Our country has trashed the planet over the decades, waged wars without Congressional approval as required by law, and has murdered millions. Yes, America's armed forces have disposed of its enemies, such as terrorists of all kinds both abroad and here at home. But in the process US assets have killed many hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians throughout the Middle East, in the Balkans before that, during the Vietnam war, and during WW2.
“I will repay you in accordance with your conduct and the detestable practices among you. Then you will know that it is I the Lord who strikes the blow. The day is here! It has come! Doom has burst forth...” What detestable practices could the Prophet have been writing about? Religious and politically conservative Americans vigorously protest against abortion, but they have no problem sending your sons, daughters, nieces, nephews and grandchildren off to war, sometimes to be maimed and killed, or traumatized for life. The more affluent ones don't send their own sons and daughters off to fight their wars – they send yours. My, aren't they efficient! America may be a majority Christian nation (about 70% as of 2016), but the US is also the birthplace of the “prosperity gospel”, which says that in order to receive, you must first give. Of course, that's not what the Bible says at all! “If you have a need”, Oral Roberts, the founder of 'televangelism' used to say, “you must plant a seed.” What the Bible actually says is that we are to “seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these other things will be given unto you as well”. These are the very words of Christ. They are unquestionably pure truth to every genuine believer. It's not about money, it's about the voluntary giving of ourselves towards others while expecting nothing in return. The Greek word for this is “agape”, meaning unconditional love. Tell all that to a 'prosperity gospel' believer and they might even cuss you out or punch your face, I don't know.
“... none of the people will be left, none of that crowd – no wealth, nothing of value. The time has come, the day has arrived. Let not the buyer rejoice nor the seller grieve, for wrath is upon the whole crowd.” This is clearly referring to some kind of economic disaster. If you have investments of one kind or another, better get your money out of Wall Street before the fall of 2018, if not sooner. What happens after that is anybody's guess. But everything will lose a substantial amount of its value, such as stocks, bonds, futures, money market and/or mutual funds, commodities, gold, silver and real estate. It will be, as Ezekiel wrote in verse 5, a complete disaster. “Because of their sins, not one of them will preserve his life. Though they may blow the trumpet and get everything ready, no one will go into battle, for my wrath is upon the whole crowd.” 'Because of their sins, not one of them will preserve his life' seems to be an apparent reference to a heavy loss of life, presumably American lives. I don't know how this is going to happen, but if it's in the Bible, it's got to be true. “No one will go into battle” is a probable reference to some kind of military activity, or possibly the lack thereof. Since a military invasion of the US mainland is unlikely, mainly due to a powerful military, plus well-armed citizens, as well as superior technology, any military activity that Ezekiel was writing about would have to be something from within, such as mass civil unrest or even a civil war. No one knows for sure, but everybody had better start praying about this right away. And now, let's move on to the last part of this revealing chapter, starting at verse 15.
“Outside is the sword, inside are plague and famine; those in the country will die by the sword, and those in the city will be devoured by famine and plague. All who survive and escape will be in the mountains, moaning like doves of the valleys, each because of his sins. Every hand will go limp, and every hand will become as weak as water. They will put on sackcloth and be clothed with terror. Their faces will be covered with shame and their heads will be shaved. They will throw their silver into the streets, and their gold will be an unclean thing. Their silver and gold will not be able to save them from the day of the Lord's wrath. They will not satisfy their hunger or fill their stomachs with it, for it has made them stumble into sin. They were proud of their beautiful jewelry and used it to make their detestable idols and vile images. Therefore I will turn these into an unclean thing for them. I will hand it all over as plunder to foreigners and as loot to the wicked of the earth, and they will defile it. I will turn my face away from them, and they will desecrate my treasured place; robbers will come in and desecrate it. Prepare chains, because the land is full of bloodshed and the city is full of violence. I will bring the most wicked of their nations to take possession of their houses; I will put an end to the pride of the mighty, and their sanctuaries will be desecrated. When terror comes, they will seek peace, but there will be none. Calamity upon calamity will come, and rumor upon rumor. They will try to get a vision from the prophet; the teaching of the law by the priest will be lost, as will the counsel of the elders. The king will mourn, the prince will be clothed with despair and the hands of the people of the land will tremble. I will deal with them according to their own conduct, and by their own standards I will judge them. Then they will know that I am the Lord.” (Ezekiel 7, verses 15-27)
“ ...those in the country will die by the sword, and those in the city will be devoured by famine and plague. All who survive and escape will be in the mountains, moaning like doves....” Here we have another prediction of mass casualties like Ezekiel wrote about in verse 13. Obviously this is going to get very ugly. Plus, if the only survivors will be those in higher elevations, there is sure to be fights and shootings over food, gasoline, attempted robberies and other clashes for what may be minimal resources. “They will throw their silver into the streets, and their gold will be an unclean thing. Their silver and gold will not be able to save them from the day of the Lord's wrath. They will not satisfy their hunger or fill their stomachs with it, for it has made them stumble into sin.” This isn't just a stock market crash like in 1929, or a financial crisis like in September of 2008, this reads like something far worse. It predicts the collapse of everything, even real estate, gold and silver – a complete financial implosion. So, what we actually have here is a prediction of the collapse of the entire capitalist economic system and all the world's debt-based economies. The “debt bubble” created by “the wonder of compound interest”, as it was called when I was just a school-boy, will most assuredly explode, and at the worst possible moment.
“They were proud of their beautiful jewelry and used it to make their detestable idols and vile images. Therefore I will turn these into an unclean thing for them. I will hand it all over as plunder to foreigners and as loot to the wicked of the earth...” So long, profits! Goodbye, capitalism! Everything that has been hoarded by the top 1% of America's wealthy will be plundered by anyone who will be bold enough to grab and carry off all they can. Gated neighborhoods will be overrun by enraged mobs of desperately hungry people who haven't eaten in days or even weeks. Pandemonium will rule and reign on earth while God sits on His throne and rules in heaven.
“I will bring the most wicked of their nations to take possession of their houses; I will put an end to the pride of the mighty, and their sanctuaries will be desecrated. When terror comes, they will seek peace, but there will be none. Calamity upon calamity will come, and rumor upon rumor.” America's biggest debt balance by far is owed to Communist China. As you all must know by now, the interest on America's debt is accruing faster than it is physically possible to pay down the principal. It's only a matter of time before China decides to pull the plug. This will most likely occur by the end of 2018, and maybe even sooner, when the US dollar ceases to be the world's reserve currency. It will most likely be replaced by the Chinese yuan, their equivalent of the dollar. What happens after that only God knows, but don't be surprised to see Chinese troops on America's western shores sometime in the not-too-distant future as they take their collateral for American debt in the form of US real estate. I'm also seeing a clear indication of some kind of terrorist attack ('when terror comes, they will seek peace, but there will be none'). “....by their own standards I will judge them. Then they will know that I am the Lord.” When it's all said and done, everybody will know who is in charge. In the meantime, stock up on non-perishable food and lots of fresh water. Canned good of all types, rice, pasta and dried beans are the least expensive. If you have kids at home, be sure and get plenty of powdered milk and eggs. When it comes to water, buy the 1-gallon jugs at the big-box and grocery stores, they're the cheapest. You're very likely going to need all of it, and quite possibly sooner than you think.
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Monday, April 17, 2017
Sunday, April 16, 2017
The New Face of Capitalism Compared to
Authentic Christianity and the Bible
by Pastor Paul J. Bern
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The capitalist, debt-based economic system that we find ourselves enslaved by for the last few decades – and even before that – has reared its ugly head yet again this past week. United Airlines had a paying passenger literally dragged off a plane, giving him a concussion, and broken nose and other cuts and bruises when he refused to give up his seat. The facts that he had prepaid his seat and that he was a doctor returning to work after a vacation who was expected to report at a preset time, made no difference to the 'security thugs' who treated that gentleman with callous disrespect and a total lack of regard for his personal safety. Our capitalist economic system, it turns out, has degenerated into a Mafiosi-style enforcement-at-all-costs roulette table that is tilted in favor of the house. Our economy is rigged against us, the government knows it and knows that we do too, and they don't care because they've turned the country into a police state to dampen the spirit of revolution. But, as president Kennedy famously said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolt inevitable”.
There is lots more to this than just politics and overzealous enforcement. The 'lots more' of which I write can only be found in the Bible. Whether one believes everything in the Bible or not, and even of one does not believe in it at all, the Scripture that I am about to quote fits the economic conditions of our time nearly perfectly. Allow me to quote from the first of three passages in Scripture that back up what I am writing or speaking about today. The first comes from the Book of Exodus, the 2nd book in the Old Testament, and I quote: “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt. Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless. If you lend money to one of you among my people who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest. If you take your neighbor's cloak as a pledge, return it to him by sunset, because his cloak is the only covering he has for his body. What else will he sleep in? When he cries out to me, I will hear him, for I am compassionate.” (Exodus 22, verses 21-27)
The above quote is an outline from God about how we are to treat disadvantaged people. We all have a moral, spiritual and social responsibility to look after those less fortunate than ourselves. That's what this passage is all about, and it starts with foreigners. Do not, Moses wrote here, mistreat “aliens”. Today we call anyone who is known or suspected of being in our country illegally an 'illegal alien'. Instead of following the Bible as they should, many people vilify foreign nationals whether they are here legally or not. These people coming across our borders aren't an invading army, they're economic and 'drug war' refugees from southern Mexico, at least some of Central America, plus a few from South America and Cuba. God has warned us not to mistreat these people even if we don't like them being here. Those who do not do so are disobeying God whether they realize it or not.
“Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.” All the banks that refinanced anyone who wanted it and that sold houses to people who couldn't afford it 10 or 15 years ago before the 2008 mortgage crisis – this is just one of many modern examples of this that would apply here. So called “upside down” car loans are another example, where a car or truck owner owes more on the vehicle than it's worth. These predatory loans are often sold to unsuspecting customers who don't know any better because no one ever took the time to show them how to navigate our predatory economic system we call 'capitalism'. Those who take advantage of these people will be punished most severely if they do not repent of their ways!
“If you lend money to one of you among my people who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest.” Contrast that verse with today's world of “compound interest”, where greed is king of the hill and militarism is what enforces this institutionalized greed. Credit and debit cards are a fixture of life, and everything in our dying world of today is driven by the profit motive, flying in the face of Scripture and even the Lord himself! Ask yourself why the bottom 99% of Americans are buried under mountains of debt? Because the system is designed that way, that's why. So should no interest be charged on anything at all? Not necessarily, since businesses often operate with lines of credit, as do governments. They borrow from “moneylenders” as the Bible calls them. But to charge people interest for the roof over their head, or for the clothes they wear or the food they eat, is just plain wrong, according to this verse of Scripture.
“If you take your neighbor's cloak as a pledge, return it to him by sunset, because his cloak is the only covering he has for his body. What else will he sleep in? When he cries out to me, I will hear him, for I am compassionate.” This can be translated into modern English as a short-term loan, such as pawning an item or two or taking out a “payday loan” as they are called, among other things. Another way to interpret this would be to declare it sinful and an offense to make anyone put up everything they own as collateral. This kind of thing happens all too frequently in a world where costs continue to race ahead of people's take-home pay. Here in the United States, 25% of our children go to bed hungry each night, and this is happening in what is allegedly the richest nation in history. This, ladies and gentlemen, is inexcusable! And now let me move on to the final part of this message and another quote from Scripture, this time from the New Testament.
“All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to everyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet in the Temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added daily to their number those who were being saved.” (Acts 2, verses 44-47) How about that? Everyone who joined the early churches, which were held in people's houses rather than in large, imposing buildings such as we have today, pooled their resources! Meaning, the entirety of humankind has had the solution to poverty and hunger right in front of them while failing to see it! And why has this escaped us all for so many centuries? Because people don't read the Bible, nor do they regard the Word of God for the societal guidelines and the human owner's manual that it truly is.
OK, now let me give you another similar quote from the Book of Acts. “All the believers were of one heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles feet.” (Acts 4, verses 32-37)
So here we see the same thing we saw above – people pooling their resources and sharing their wealth and possessions! In the 20th century and before that, these kinds of organizations were called 'communes', 'cults' and worse, and were the target of much scorn and derision, as were the hippies that inhabited them. If we look at this from a political standpoint rather than an economic one, we would call those who practiced these things “communists” or “socialists” by today's standards. The least common denominator here is that no one cared about how much money they had or how much profit they made in their business transactions. Although it was evidently not a problem for a head of household to see to the needs of his or her family, anything over and above that went to the church to which they belonged. Why can't most people do this today? Greed, pure and simple. Everyone is so busy looking out for themselves that others who are in much more dire straights are being ignored. It is this very injustice that the Bible addresses, and it rightfully admonishes those who cause such circumstances to occur.
“With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.” Here's an example of how to tell whether the preaching or teaching of the Word is authentic or not. Is the power of God clearly present? Is that power Spiritual in nature rather than emotional? Is that power presented with grace, beauty and a peaceful spirit? If the answer to all 3 questions is 'yes', what you're hearing is not only authentic, it's coming straight from God, inspired by the Holy Spirit! There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.” How many people – Christian or otherwise – would do this today? Chances are you're a homeowner or know someone who is. Would you, your parents or whomever seriously consider selling their house, farm, condo, etc. and giving all the money to a home-based church based on nothing more than what their friends and family had told them? It can be said with certainty that less than 1% of the population would actually do this based on the world in which we are all living. Now you have an idea of just how far off base capitalism is with respect to authentic, nonreligious Christianity!
“Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles feet.” “Levite” means a priest in the Temple who leads worship, animal sacrifices, music, or any other function one can think of in a house of worship. Levitical priests worked for only room and board, they did not receive any payment for their services or duties. So this man Joseph, also called Barnabas (he is mentioned again in Acts chapters 9, 11, 13 and 14, plus Galatians and a couple other places) sold a field he presumably inherited since he had no money to buy it, and donated all the proceeds to the apostles. As before, nobody would do this in today's world to the best of my knowledge. Again, this goes to show us all how far off course capitalism and its byproduct – greed – has taken us. But it's not too late to start building a better world, and we can start by abiding by the Biblical precepts of which I have written today. So until next time, all your stuff is just that – stuff! It can be replaced, but a closer walk with Jesus through those green pastures and besides still waters, just like Psalm 23 says, is irreplaceable.
Saturday, April 15, 2017
Sunday, April 9, 2017
“After Vietnam” 50 Years Later
by Pastor Paul J. Bern
The fiftieth anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s much-beloved (right wing extremists excluded) speech, “After Vietnam” occurred this past week. To commemorate this famous speech I will be posting this slightly condensed version today, particularly in view of the fact that it is at least as relevant today as it was back then.
MLK's “After Vietnam” Speech at Riverside Church, Harlem, N.Y. (1967)
I need not pause to say how very delighted I am to be here tonight, and how very delighted I am to see you expressing your concern about the issues that will be discussed tonight by turning out in such large numbers.... And of course, it’s always good to come back to Riverside church. Over the last eight years, I have had the privilege of preaching here almost every year in that period, and it is always a rich and rewarding experience to come to this great church and this great pulpit. I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join you in this meeting because I'm in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam. The recent statements of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart, and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: "A time comes when silence is betrayal." And that time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.
The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on. And some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation's history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.
Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burning of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: "Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King?" "Why are you joining the voices of dissent?" "Peace and civil rights don't mix," they say. "Aren't you hurting the cause of your people," they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.
In the light of such tragic misunderstanding, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church – the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate – leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight. I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. This speech is not addressed to Hanoi or to the National Liberation Front. It is not addressed to China or to Russia. Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Neither is it an attempt to make North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they must play in the successful resolution of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reasons to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides.
Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the National Liberation Front, but rather to my fellow Americans. Since I am a preacher by calling, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor – both black and white – through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated, as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube.
So, I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such. Perhaps a more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. And so we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. And so we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would hardly live on the same block in Chicago. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.
My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettos of the North over the last three years – especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they ask – and rightly so – what about Vietnam? They ask if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today – my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent. For those who ask the question, "Aren't you a civil rights leader?" and thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace, I have this further answer. In 1957 when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: "To save the soul of America." We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself until the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear....
Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read: 'Vietnam'. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be – are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.... This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I'm speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the good news was meant for all men – for Communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the One who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the Vietcong or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this One? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?
And finally, as I try to explain for you and for myself the road that leads from Montgomery to this place, I would have offered all that was most valid if I simply said that I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of son-ship and brotherhood, and because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned especially for his suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them. This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation's self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation and for those it calls "enemy," for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers. And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond in compassion, my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the ideologies of the Liberation Front, not of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them, too, because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.
For nine years following 1945 we denied the people of Vietnam the right of independence. For nine years we vigorously supported the French in their abortive effort to recolonize Vietnam. Before the end of the war we were meeting eighty percent of the French war costs. Even before the French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu, they began to despair of their reckless action, but we did not. We encouraged them with our huge financial and military supplies to continue the war even after they had lost the will. Soon we would be paying almost the full costs of this tragic attempt at recolonization. After the French were defeated, it looked as if independence and land reform would come again through the Geneva Agreement. But instead there came the United States, determined that Ho should not unify the temporarily divided nation, and the peasants watched again as we supported one of the most vicious modern dictators, our chosen man, Premier Diem. The peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly rooted out all opposition, supported their extortionist landlords, and refused even to discuss reunification with the North. The peasants watched as all this was presided over by United States' influence and then by increasing numbers of United States troops who came to help quell the insurgency that Diem's methods had aroused. When Diem was overthrown they may have been happy, but the long line of military dictators seemed to offer no real change, especially in terms of their need for land and peace.....
At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless in Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called "enemy," I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor. Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak of the – for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours. This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words, and I quote:
Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom, and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism (unquote).
If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately, the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horrible, clumsy, and deadly game we have decided to play. The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways. In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war. I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do immediately to begin the long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict:
 End all bombing in North and South Vietnam.
 Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the atmosphere for negotiation.
 Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast Asia by curtailing our military buildup in Thailand and our interference in Laos.
 Realistically accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has substantial support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any meaningful negotiations and any future Vietnam government.
 Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva Agreement.
Part of our ongoing commitment might well express itself in an offer to grant asylum to any Vietnamese who fears for his life under a new regime which included the Liberation Front. Then we must make what reparations we can for the damage we have done. We must provide the medical aid that is badly needed, making it available in this country, if necessary. Meanwhile, we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. We must continue to raise our voices and our lives if our nation persists in its perverse ways in Vietnam. We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative method of protest possible. As we counsel young men concerning military service, we must clarify for them our nation's role in Vietnam and challenge them with the alternative of conscientious objection.... Moreover, I would encourage all ministers of draft age to give up their ministerial exemptions and seek status as conscientious objectors. These are the times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.
Now there is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us all off on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter that struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing. The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing "clergy and laymen concerned" committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end, unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. And so, such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.
In 1957, a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years, we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which has now justified the presence of U.S. military advisers in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counterrevolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Cambodia and why American napalm and Green Beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, "This is not just." It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, "This is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wounds of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. "The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light." We in the West must support these revolutions. It is a sad fact that because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has a revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgment against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions that we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores, and thereby speed the day when "every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain." A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.
This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing – embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. This oft misunderstood, this oft misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response.... I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate – ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: "Let us love one another, for love is God. And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love." "If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us." Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. And history is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate.
We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight. Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message – of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history. And if we will only make the right choice, we will be able to transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace. If we will make the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. If we will but make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over America and all over the world, when "justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."
Thursday, April 6, 2017
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
Monday, April 3, 2017
Sunday, April 2, 2017
Another Warning to America From God (part 2)
by Pastor Paul J. Bern
Last week when I finished my message, I left off at verse 6 of Isaiah chapter 24, fully intending that my message as I perceived it from the Lord was over and done with. But, as I wrote in last week's message, I felt the prompting of the Lord as I put forth His message, which I take no credit for. I give Jesus all the credit instead. But I am adding a second part to last week's commentary because some additional warning is needed with respect to the United States. Frankly, not enough people are paying attention to what God is trying to say to us all, and those who do pay attention don't always take these warnings as seriously as they should! I know, I know, there are a few out there who think I'm crazy, stupid, or both. Lord knows I've been called all kinds of things in the six years that this website and my blog have been on the Web. But I don't care so long as I have the opportunity to preach and teach about the man in the Glory, Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior! Plus, I discharge my duties as such with a distinctly leftist interpretation, which is more in line with the teachings of Christ as well as the acts of the early Church than the contemporary conservative slant on Christendom. As a colleague of mine likes to put it, it's the same old gospel using new methods of evangelism and new ways of teaching, but it's all still the same Jesus.
As we left off last week, the prophet Isaiah had prophesied that the earth would be burned up, and that very few will escape. So this week allow me to further expound on the prophet's pronouncements over the fate of our civilization, as well as for that of the US. “The new wine dries up and the vine withers; all the merrymakers groan. The gaiety of the tambourines is stilled, and the noise of the revelers has stopped, the joyful harp is silent. No longer do they drink wine with a song; the beer is bitter to its drinkers. The ruined city lies desolate; the entrance to every house is barred. In the streets they cry out for wine; all joy turns to gloom, all gaiety is banished from the earth. The city is left in ruins; its gate is battered to pieces. So it will be on the earth and among the nations, as when an olive tree is beaten, or as when gleanings are left after the grape harvest.” (Isaiah 24, verses 7-13)
I can sum this up in 3 little words: The party's over! Whole vats of new wine will evaporate because there is no one to drink it. The vines on which the grapes grow will wither because there is no one to tend to them. “The merrymakers groan” because the party is over and they nothing left but mean hangovers. “The gaiety of the tambourines is stilled, and the noise of the revelers has stopped, the joyful harp is silent. No longer do they drink wine with a song; the beer is bitter to its drinkers.” This country, and particularly its highly vaunted capitalist economy, is about to be decimated! Please so not misinterpret my meaning here – I mean no offense, nor do I wish to appear unpatriotic, hateful or intolerant. Moreover, I am no communist either! But all we have to do is examine the meaning of these words and we realize their direct application to modern America. The partying has stopped because of a big, ugly buzz-kill that has hit the entire world, starting with the USA. This will occur one of three ways – a nuclear war, an economic collapse, or some kind of unprecedented natural disaster that will pretty much trash the entire United States, and you can probably include at least some of Canada as well. As we read on, we find out the destruction will be even worse than that.
“The ruined city lies desolate; the entrance to every house is barred. In the streets they cry out for wine; all joy turns to gloom, all gaiety is banished from the earth.” This makes me wonder what it was that put such an abrupt end to all the festivities. Well, since it takes money to throw such big and lavish parties, something must have made the money run out. The only thing that could do that would be some kind of economic calamity, and a thoroughly disastrous one at that! I don't care to speculate on how that could occur, since many others already have. “The city is left in ruins; its gate is battered to pieces. So it will be on the earth and among the nations, as when an olive tree is beaten.” What city is this? Nobody knows for sure. Some say New York, still others Washington D.C., still others say it's Jerusalem. The beating of olive trees is an ancient way of harvesting – (what else?) – olives. The olive tree is synonymous in Scripture with the greater Church. There are those who say it's a symbol for the nation of Israel, and they are correct in their assessment. But this includes those non-Jews who are “grafted in” as the apostle Paul wrote. Meaning, both Jew and Gentile will be saved together, and that by a Jewish Messiah! And now let me add just 3 more verses to complete this week's message.
“The floodgates of the heavens are opened, the foundations of the earth shake. The earth is broken up, the earth is split asunder, the earth is thoroughly shaken. The earth reels like a drunkard, it sways like a hut in the wind; so heavy upon it is the guilt of its rebellion that it falls – never to rise again. In that day the Lord will punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below.” (Isaiah 24, verses 18-21)
The floodgates of the heavens have opened? Was Isaiah writing about a torrential rain? Actually, the Bible gives us the answer back at the end of the New Testament, in Revelation chapter 8, verse 7: “The first angel sounded his trumpet, and there came hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was hurled down upon the earth. A third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.” The “floodgates of the heavens” isn't rain, it's a meteor shower! It describes the “first trumpet” in Revelation 8 to a tee! Hail and fire literally rain down upon the earth, and it's mixed with blood, meaning there will be a lot of casualties. A third of the trees will be burned up by the widely scattered meteorites, exacerbating climate change. Moreover, there won't be any grass left, which will be a death sentence for half the insect life on the earth, and every kind of earthworm will go extinct. Not a pretty scene, to be sure. Humankind will soon suffer a disturbingly similar fate.
“.... the foundations of the earth shake. The earth is broken up, the earth is split asunder, the earth is thoroughly shaken.” Without a doubt, Isaiah was writing about a massive earthquake of Biblical proportions. This too can be found in Revelation, but further back in chapter 6, verses 12-14: “I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sack cloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.” These two prophecies were written down nearly 900 years apart, and yet they match up nearly perfectly! Here you can see a good example of how it pays off to study God's Word. You can't find these hidden nuggets of truth unless you dig for them!
Mountains and islands are thrown out of place, or leveled altogether, wrote Isaiah. This is bad news for countries like Japan, New Zealand, and Iceland, and even worse for small ones like Jamaica, the Bahamas, Diego Garcia, the Falklands, and numerous others. Small island nations, as well as entire coastal areas and the state of Florida, would be decimated. The same goes for most of Central America and Indonesia, and neither of America's coasts would be spared. “The earth reels like a drunkard, it sways like a hut in the wind; so heavy upon it is the guilt of its rebellion that it falls – never to rise again. In that day the Lord will punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below.” Much of our current civilization is going to be destroyed, although I believe there will be substantial sized pockets of survivors throughout the globe. However, I don't believe any of the survivors will be in any coastal areas.
What did Isaiah mean when he wrote, “the guilt of its rebellion”? Did he mean 'nonconformity', that those who fail to conform to the Bible and to religion will be punished or even killed? If some Christian “fundamentalists” are to be believed, yes, but I don't agree with those people about that plus a few other things that I'll overlook for now. It's talking about the United States, which brings me to my conclusion. “The rebellion” is a reference to Capitalism, which started in the US after WWII and has since spread globally. As you will recall from one of my weekly commentaries from a few weeks ago, capitalism is considered a sin against God and others (see Exodus 22: 21-27). To apply this directly to modern life, God considers the charging of interest on goods and services (excluding government) to be immoral because it amounts to exploitation of the needy and those who have suffered misfortune. This, by the way, includes mortgages, car loans, and the whole gamut of “financial services” – stocks, bonds, futures, commodities, etc. They all amount to legalized gambling!
Although the US will eventually recover from this series of natural disasters, as will the remainder of the world, the economic system will be shot to pieces and most infrastructure will be destroyed. Hundreds of millions will be dead, and there's not much I can say about that to make it sound or read any better. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the fate that awaits America if she does not change her ways. This is what will happen to the whole world if we don't repent and turn away from sin, or if we don't dedicate our lives to God and to the service of humanity, or both. But if we turn away from our errant behavior, and if America turns away from waging global war and its debt-based economic system and replaces them both with something sustainable, then God may yet relent and allow us to live in the absence of calamity and disaster. The ultimate decision is ours.