Monday, March 26, 2018
Five years in the making, this first of a series is a lot more than just a compilation of Bible studies. This collection of Paul's writings presents them from a broader perspective that are much more applicable to modern life than one might expect. Each study is limited to a few pages for the sake of brevity. This study of Paul's writings is done from a whole new 21st century perspective that is sure to educate while making the process enjoyable. Over 550 pages of enlightenment! A must-read for believers, whether they attend church or not! An inspirational guide for secular folks too! Watch the video at https://youtu.be/N4RXD3iOnxI
Building On The Foundation Of Christ
[1st Corinth. chapter 3]
This week's Bible study of the writings of the apostle Paul will be on the third chapter of St. Paul's first letter to the church at Corinth. In this passage of Scripture, Paul is teaching about building on the foundation of Christ as a way to avoid divisions within the church, and he is doing so in the context of the state of the early Church at that time. Paul is addressing specific issues that had been brought up previously by this congregation, presumably regarding certain disagreements and arguments that had sprung up among them. In the early part of this chapter Paul finds himself having to rebuke this congregation for their lack of unity due to disputes among them concerning their views on what it meant to be Christian. We will begin at the first verse as usual.
“Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly – mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, 'I follow Paul', and another, 'I follow Apollos', are you not mere men? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe – as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.” (I Corinthians 3: verses 1-9)
As you can see, Paul is telling the early Corinthian church to grow up, stop fighting among themselves and to quit acting like children in the faith. Paul is admonishing them to become more mature in their faith as God first intended. But he is also saying that it doesn't matter how they first heard the Gospel being preached or from who they heard it. What is important is that the Gospel originates from God, not from mere men. Jesus is the message, and we are the messengers. Paul then refers to a well-known Old Testament verse, “One man plants, another man waters, but it is God who gives the increase”, stating, “...for we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building”, with another translation of 'building' in this context being 'storehouse' or 'barn'. Paul is saying that all blessings come from God, and He can send even enough to fill up any storehouse. Paul then continues in verse 10.
“By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple.” (I Corinthians 3: 10-17)
When Paul says “I laid a foundation as an expert builder”, he is speaking in the context of himself being the founder of the church at Corinth. He then states definitively that anyone building on his foundation had better not use any combustible materials, referring to the Old Testament, which calls God a “consuming fire”. This was written as a warning to the church against the pursuit of material gain and the hoarding of money and goods. This same warning is just as valid to the church today as it was when those words were first written nearly 2,000 years ago. Paul then adds that putting too much faith in our earthly works and treasures won't necessarily prevent us from getting to heaven when we die, but it will be the same as escaping from a fire with nothing but the clothes on our backs. It was also a warning that Christ is the only true foundation upon which the Church is built, and that anything less is impure at best, and heresy at worst. Finally, Paul compares the early church to a new temple of the Lord in which He can dwell, and he reminds us that, “...God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple.” Paul then concludes the chapter beginning at verse 18 by completing his warning to keep the church on the foundation of Christ.
“Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight. As it is written: 'He catches the wise in their craftiness', and again, 'The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile'. So then, no more boasting about men! All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future – all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.” (I Corinthians 3: verses 18-23)
To put this into 21st century English, Paul is warning the church, “Don't kid yourselves. People who think they are smart aren't as smart as they would like to think. In the end, everything belongs to God. Anything that is not consumed in His consuming fire, will stand the test of time and be permanent. Everything else is just temporary anyway.” And I believe Paul is telling us these things to make sure we keep our values in perspective, so we can be more spiritual and less superficial. This is a good thing for all of us to put into practice, so let's all start to do this today. That way we'll be able to advance the state of all our lives as we transition into tomorrow.
Get the digital edition on Kindle ($9.99) at https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=node%3D154606011&field-keywords=the+apostles+in+plain+english+1%3A+the+apostle+Paul
To buy direct from the author ($19.95) go to http://www.pcmatl.org/#!books-and-donations/c17et
Get it in audio format on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Apostles-Plain-English-Vol-Appearance/dp/B0746TTGBN/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1503076680&sr=1-1&keywords=the+apostles+in+plain+english+vol.+1%3A+the+apostle+Paul
Watch the video at https://youtu.be/N4RXD3iOnxI
Sunday, March 25, 2018
Putin's Re-election and Bible Prophecy:
Closing In on Armageddon
by Pastor Paul J. Bern
[Ezekiel chapters 38 & 39, part 1]
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The re-election of Russian president Vladimir Putin last Sunday was confirmation for the Trump administration that we must either work together for our mutual good, or we will wind up killing each other off in a nuclear war. His re-election was also confirmation for on-their-knees Bible-believing Christians, whether they attend church regularly or not, that the “Gog-Magog War” from Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39 is getting close. To explore the significance of this, today I am initiating a 3-part series on this topic to try and better explain this prophecy, since there is so much material to go over. So let me get started by pointing out some related prophecies elsewhere in the Bible that relate to what we'll be examining today.
First, we have the Psalm 83 war, which describes an unsuccessful invasion of Israel by its neighbors. This appears to have already occurred in the form of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, which resulted in the recaptured of Jerusalem by the Israeli Defense Force. Those old enough to remember the Yom Kippur War of 1973 have undoubtedly heard the argument that the Psalm 83 war was actually that war, but that's just Christians and Jews arguing with other Christians and Jews. Since that prophecy has, either way, already been fulfilled, there is no further point in debating this issue. If those people spent the time they devote to disagreements and spent that on the needs of the people – especially their Spiritual needs – the world would be a much better place. There are at least one and probably two world wars that will occur very closely together (see Ezekiel chapter 7 and Revelation 18, both of which describe America's coming destruction, and Revelation chapter 9, which describes World War Three in alarming detail), but none of those can be called the 'Gog-Magog' war for reasons that I am about to make clear. For my text for today, I will start in Ezekiel chapter 38, commencing at verse 1.
“The word of the Lord came to me: 'Son of Man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal; prophecy against him and say: 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against you O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. I will turn you around, put hooks in your jaws and bring you out with your whole army – your horses, your horsemen fully armed, and a great horde with large and small shields, all of them brandishing their swords....Get ready; be prepared, you and all the hordes gathered about you, and take command of them. After many days you will be called to arms. In future years, you will invade a land that has recovered from war, whose people were gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate. They had been brought out from among the nations, and now all of them live in safety. You and all your troops and the many nations with you will go up, advancing like a storm; you will be like a cloud covering the land.” (Ezekiel 38, verses 1-4, 7-9)
One thing you will notice right from the start is that there can be no question about who is in charge of things. Sorry to disappoint or offend any atheists who happen to stumble onto this posting, but that's just the way of the universe that God spoke into being. I can't force you to believe it, so I'm not going to try. Beyond that, the first new thing we see are the words 'Gog and Magog', where Magog is the kingdom and Gog is the king, president, or other head of state. As such, Gog is also a military leader. The text is worded, interestingly enough, “Son of man, set your sights against Gog, of the land of Magog....”. In the four Gospels, Jesus sometimes referred to himself as the “Son of Man”. Ezekiel 38: 2 is the only place in the Bible I can remember right now where the words “the Son of Man” are used to refer to anyone else but Christ. This should give you all a good idea of how esteemed Ezekiel was in God's sight, something we all should be aspiring to.
“I am against you O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. I will turn you around, put hooks in your jaws and bring you out with your whole army.” 'Meshech' is an old Hebrew word for the geographical area around Moscow today, and Hebrew is the original language of the Bible. The second part of that quote, I believe, is currently being put into play, so to speak. What would bring out Moscow's entire army? Probably not an attack on the US, or at least not at this juncture. As I wrote above, that occurs later in Bible prophecy's timeline. So what else could Russia be entangled in to the point of having “hooks in (their) jaws”? The one-word answer is, Syria, which is Russia's only ally that has a Mediterranean seaport. Syria borders Israel, and those two countries have been at each other's throats for centuries. If Israel were to invade Syria, Russia and Iran would be obligated by treaty to come to Syria's aid. So we can all clearly see now that the stage has been set for the Gog-Magog War as I write this.
“After many days you will be called to arms. In future years, you will invade a land that has recovered from war, whose people were gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate. They had been brought out from among the nations, and now all of them live in safety.” The words, 'people gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel' refers to the United Nations resolution that made Israel a nation back in 1948, followed by the resettlement of the Holy Land in the ensuing years. This part of the world that we now call the Middle East was largely uninhabited back then, particularly the area where Israel is today. But today, with the Israeli Defense Force being one of the most powerful army and air force in the world, and with a rapidly-expanding navy as well, the words, 'now all of them live in safety' are the fulfillment of that prophecy. It's just that the remainder of Ezekiel 38 is still rapidly unfolding. “You and all your troops and the many nations with you will go up, advancing like a storm; you will be like a cloud covering the land.” Gog of Magog, the prince of Meshech (Moscow) is none other than Vladimir Putin. And, Putin's Russia, together with her allies and the armies of other nations around Israel (Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt and Libya, and possibly Somalia), is going to attack Israel! I don't know when, but we won't have a long time to wait, I'm certain about that. Now let's move on to part 2 of this week's message, beginning at verse 14 of chapter 38.
“Therefore, son of man, prophesy and say to Gog: 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says: In that day, when my people Israel are living in safety, will you not take notice of it? You will come from your place in the far north, you and many nations with you, all of them riding on horses, a great horde, a mighty army. You will advance against my people Israel like a cloud that covers the land. In the days to come, O Gog, I will bring you against my land, so that the nations may know me, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes.'” Ezekiel 38, verses 14-16)
Haven't you taken notice, Vladimir Putin, of Israel living in relative safety? Israel has beaten back all attempts to attack it militarily and economically to the point that nobody in the Middle East; not Egypt, nor Iran, nor Turkey, and those are the three biggest military powers in the region, with Saudi Arabia also in the running, dare touch Israel. All have attacked Israel in the past except Turkey, and all that their combined military's could muster was no match for lowly Israel, the smallest country in the whole region. But lately the stakes have gone up considerably. The largest discovery of natural gas ever uncovered has, only in the last year, been found about 60 miles off Israel's Mediterranean coast – more than Saudi Arabia and Kuwait combined! Putin's main interest in Syria is two-fold – first, because Russia can add a vitally-important southern seaport, and second for what everybody is fighting over – the oil pipelines that run from Syria north through Turkey and into Europe. That is exactly why Vladimir Putin's Russia is taking such a long, hard look at Israel.
That's also why Putin is Gog, Russia is Magog, and why Putin will ultimately strike at Israel. When he does so, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria and eventually several African countries will all join together in confederation to attack Israel. “You will come from your place in the far north, you and many nations with you, all of them riding on horses, a great horde, a mighty army. You will advance against my people Israel like a cloud that covers the land.” Russia and her allies will attack very quickly and with the utmost decisiveness, like a mob of millions. The next verses tell what the outcome will be. “In the days to come, O Gog, I will bring you against my land, so that the nations may know me, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes.” They will advance and conquer much territory, and at least for a short while, they will be successful.
But God clearly wants to make an example out of Vladimir Putin and Russia's military might, as he stated in verse 2, “I am against you, O Gog of Magog....”. Again God says in verse 16, “I will bring you against my land, so that the nations may know me....”, meaning that there will be no one left on the face of the whole earth who will not know exactly who God is and what he can do. Not when he finishes doing what he does to any nation that dares to attack Israel. Israel, you see, is God's Holy land. For a detailed description of Israel's true territory – as set forth by Almighty God himself – read Joshua chapters 13-20. For a short version, read Joshua chapter 1, verses 2-4, and you'll know why God gets so angry whenever any nation attacks Israel. And next week we'll move on to part 2 of our study of the Gog-Magog War.
Wednesday, March 21, 2018
Sunday, March 18, 2018
Progressive Christianity, Worker's Rights and Social Justice
by pastor Paul J. Bern
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The recent settlement of the West Virginia teacher's strike, which resulted in a 5% pay raise after lasting for nearly two weeks, will soon echo across the landscape of American labor, and hopefully for the entire world as well. People everywhere – and I mean globally – are literally starving for a pay raise. Today's labor market – not just in America but globally – already has within it the seeds of revolution, and the people are most definitely ready to rise up, if only I could get you all to turn off your damned televisions and gaming consoles!! This isn't about religion, this is about justice and equality, and the Bible has plenty to say about both. So, for those of you who may think the Bible is some antiquated rule book that has lost its relevance, allow me to set the record straight.
In Psalm 106 verse 3, it says, “Blessed are they who maintain justice, who constantly do what is right.” In Proverbs 29 verse 4, it says, “By justice a king gives a country stability, but one who is greedy for bribes tears it down.” Come to think of it, I'm going to send that Bible verse to every member of Congress in Washington, D.C.! The prophet Isaiah lamented the lack of justice in his own time – so this problem is not new – when he wrote, “So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, and honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes prey. The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice.” Here's one more sample of the mind of Almighty God: “And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: 'This is what the Lord Almighty says: Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts, do not think evil of each other'.” All of the above truths were brought sharply into focus most recently by the West Virginia teacher's strike. The ugly truth we all must face is this – if our net take-home pay won't even cover the most basic of living expenses, we are economic slaves! Rather than elaborate here, allow me to post an excerpt of my first book from 2011, now in its third updated edition. Enjoy!
The Ongoing Battle for Worker's Rights Across America
(excerpt from, “The Middle and Working Class Manifesto”, by Rev. Paul J. Bern)
America has become a ticking time bomb of inequality and lack of opportunity. The rights of US workers have been trampled underfoot by the rich multinational corporations and the top 1% elite, who have outsourced all our jobs overseas as they leave us high and dry on the island of minimum wage jobs with no futures. There are also a growing number of employed people who, despite having a job, are still living in poverty. There are at least 19 million US workers who now fall into this rapidly growing category. The median US income of $35,000.00 a year is not going to get you far in today's economy, and half of the country is making less than that. The reason we struggle with these things is because the Economic Elite have robbed us all through the systematic confiscation of middle class wealth, security and prosperity. This has caused tremendous suffering among workers throughout the world, it is no less than a criminal act, and it is the result of the largest single transfer of wealth in all of human history from the world's middle classes to the rich.
The first thing on any list of worker's rights is that of a fair and realistic minimum wage, and more fundamentally, the basic human right to a decent livelihood. Unemployment as we have previously known it must now come to an end forever. This does not mean unemployment will be eliminated, but periods of unemployment can and should be converted to times of retraining to acquire new skills or to even completely change careers. What gives any wealthy corporate 1%'er CEO or their subordinates the right to tell anybody, “Sorry, you are not needed around here anymore. Your skills, experience, and your work ethic no longer matter here. Our company's bottom line and the interests of our shareholders are far more important than that of our workers.” This is the essence of what it means to be fired. In my view, this is demeaning to the point of being abusive, and it is therefore an abuse of authority.
This brings me to the point that I wish to make. In today's world, if the net take-home pay of any given individual does not meet, or just barely meets, that same individual's daily cost of living, then that is tantamount to economic slavery. Let me say that again because this point simply cannot be overemphasized. If your take-home pay won't even take you home, you are a slave. Oh, you are free to move around and to come and go as you choose and take care of business, that is true. But if after you go to the grocery store, pay the light bill (assuming you are fortunate enough to be able to do that), put gas in your tank (assuming you are lucky enough to still own a car) and set some money aside for this month's rent or mortgage (if you're not already on the street or living with relatives) – and then, after all that you peek into your wallet and realize that you have $7.00 left to live on for the whole stinking' week, that's when you know you are a slave! What happens to the people whose incomes are at or below minimum wage? They go hungry and are often homeless. Many of these newly homeless, formerly middle class people also have kids who have fallen into poverty along with their parents. As I write this, it is profoundly sad to report that 1 in every 5 American kids will be homeless at some point in their childhoods. And this is happening in the United States of America, supposedly the richest country in the world? This is a moral outrage, a social injustice, and it is economic discrimination of the worst kind!
Since it is an issue of economic discrimination (regardless of race or religion), it also becomes a 21st century civil rights issue creating a demand for fundamental change in the way our economy works and the way our government works. This too, then, is cause for protests, demonstrations, boycotts, occupations, general strikes and other forms of peaceful civil disobedience. On this point alone, there are enough issues on the collective dinner plate of the American people to foster open revolt throughout the land. Never mind everything else that I have written about. Think about it for a minute. How does it feel to be a slave? Makes you feel kind of angry, doesn't it? Maybe even violated on a certain level, like we've been raped? The time to rise up and say, “No more!” has arrived. It's time for all of us to get out from in front of out TV's and our gaming consoles and computers and to get our backsides out in the streets and start protesting – a lot! And that's just for this issue alone. Now allow me to point out a couple of subcategories.
The first sub-category under worker's rights is the right to better and more comprehensive unemployment insurance, and to also allow some independent contractors to draw unemployment provided certain conditions are met (subject to future legislation or referendum). Any worker who has lost his or her job through no fault of their own will be entitled to up to 52 weeks of unemployment compensation instead of the current maximum of 26 weeks due to a continued turnover in the job markets of most developed countries, starting with the US. Besides their job search, at any time during the worker's period of unemployment he or she should have two other options available to them to assist in the development of their careers. The first should be the ability to sign up for public works projects to obtain immediate employment if it is needed. (The worker's second option will be reeducation, and I will touch on that one next so please bear with me). Workers will be required to choose one of the above to qualify for benefits. We have been needing massive public works projects to repair America's crumbling infrastructure for decades. I would conservatively estimate that anywhere from 1-3 million people could be employed this way as contract laborers, salaried employees, or subcontractors, depending on the need. The fact of the matter is that we need jobs, we need lots of them, and we need them right now! Seven twenty five an hour won't work either. Let's strike and protest for action while we engage in other methods of passive resistance on this matter. We might as well, because things are going to continue to get worse until we do.
The next sub-category of worker's rights is the right to free vocational retraining for life. Period, end of story. Anybody can go back to school and get retrained at will, up to and including a 2 year degree (with a 4-year available for some additional cost) at little or no cost. Large, wealthy corporations with robust cash flows, as well as millionaires and the super-rich, will supply the necessary funding through what I call in my book “the excess wealth tax” (you can buy the book on Amazon from right here). Since corporate America made the decision to send their factories and all the jobs those factories provided overseas to lower their labor costs, and since this action has caused the obliteration of millions of American careers, it will be corporate America who will shoulder the expense of retraining these people whose careers evaporated through no fault of their own. If they take your job away, or if they export or downsize your career out of existence like I experienced myself, then it is those same corporate henchmen who must pay for your reeducation. Higher public education is a basic, fundamental human right. It is not a privilege! As of today, higher education, and the fundamental right to improve and enrich ourselves, is an essential human right that must be had by all without qualification!
Now I know what at least some of you are thinking right now – “who's gonna pay for all this?” That is a perfectly valid question. Let me put all this into perspective for you. If your US government took all the money that was spent in a single day on the twin occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, plus the clandestine and illegal wars and “black ops” in Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, Syria and elsewhere and set it aside in an enormous savings account, there would be enough money to send every American school age kid from the first grade through high school and upwards to any public college, state university, or vocational or technical school to earn their degree of choice with the tuition fully paid for, plus the cost of all their books and supplies, their meals during school hours, Internet access, new computers, and with access to public transportation covered for those who need it.
So, for those who say we can't afford to send everyone to public or community colleges with most if not all of their expenses fully paid, or that the money to accomplish this just isn't there, either doesn't know what they're talking about, or they are elitists and bigots who can't stand to see middle and working class and minority students getting ahead. Access to higher education – and looking after the children of those who are retraining – is an American civil right that should be equally available to all without qualification, not just to those who can afford the 'tuition'. Would you like to see test scores improve in our nation's schools? Tell all those kids that they are all going to public college at taxpayer expense, and watch their grades shoot up like rockets at Cape Canaveral. Give them an incentive to do better and our kids will rise to the challenge every time!
The right to family and sick leave, which must include maternity leave for women, is the final right I have listed for all workers and independent contractors. Every other country in the developed world from Europe to Canada to Japan has paid family and sick leave for its workers – all except for the US. It's way past time for Congress and President Trump to bring our country up to speed with the rest of the world. Moreover, medical, family and maternity leave should be allowed for up to 3 months per calendar year, and it must be made illegal to fire someone from his or her job because that employee needed to take family or sick leave. The right of all individuals to have medical, family or maternity leave must be had by all, without interference or fear of retribution, for the strengthening of our families and the nurturing of our children. The fundamental rights of workers must be honored and acknowledged by rule of law, and by a culture change that puts people before profits, which goes hand in hand with Progressive Christianity. As the old ways of greed-based capitalism continue to die of old age, this is the new reality we must all embrace if we are to thrive in the 21st century.
Tuesday, March 13, 2018
Sunday, March 11, 2018
Why Are the World's
Young Adults Leaving Churches?
By Pastor Paul J. Bern
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Someone asked my opinion earlier this week about why so many millennial's are leaving church, and what can be done about it. After doing some reflection, prayer and meditating, and based on some personal observations, there are quite a few reasons why this is so. To begin with, the fact of the matter is that young Christians often feel forced to choose between their logic and their faith, between evolution and Creation, and between compassion and piety, as if they are mutually exclusive of each other. Meaning, churches who are losing members do so due to politics and religion undergoing a merger while missing any semblance of the awesome power of the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This attitude dates all the way back to the time of Christ, when the temple high priests and the Hebrew religious establishment of that time were expecting the Jewish Messiah to arrive as a conqueror who would set up his Kingdom in Jerusalem – in opposition to the Roman Empire, echoing the “patriot movement” of today – and rule the entire world. That day is coming, but not on those terms, until all the Scriptures have been fulfilled. Jesus said about such people, “Woe to you, Pharisees, because you give a tenth of your mint, rue and all kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.” (Luke 11: 42) God is running out of patience with those who “tithe” weekly while doing nothing for the less fortunate!
A second and equally noteworthy reason that churches are losing America's young professionals is that young adults perceive evangelical Christianity to be either too political, too exclusive, too old-fashioned to the point of being and thinking backwards, too unconcerned with social justice and hostile to liberal, progressive, environmentalist and LGBTQ people, among others. Most of all, I have met modern Christians who refuse to congregate and worship with anyone other than their own race. Rev. Dr. King said it best back in the 1960's when he stated, “The most segregated place in America is at church on Sunday morning”. To a large extent, this has not changed much over the last 50 years or so. Does organized religion think that young adults don't see this for the hypocrisy that it is? Who, after all these decades, still does not understand that there will be no bigots in heaven??
A third reason that some well-established churches are driving millennial's and young adults away is the time-honored yet non-scriptural tradition of abstinence from alcoholic beverages. There are at least a few well-known Christian denominations – which I will decline to name – who “teach” that abstinence from alcohol is essential to salvation in Christ. But they have forgotten all about the twin facts concerning this subject; the first is that Jesus' first miracle was changing water into wine, and the second is that there were at least two glasses of wine – and probably more – that were served at the Last Supper on the night before he was crucified. Even the apostle Paul advised Timothy, “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.” (1st Timothy 5: 23) Earlier in this same book, Paul advised, “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the Word of God and prayer.” (Timothy 4: 4) Since this includes the grapes that make the wine, Paul's teaching also extends to other natural substances, like medical marijuana and 'polysyllabic' mushrooms, both of which are proven to treat or cure bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, chronic alcoholism, seizures and even certain forms of cancer. That's why America's young adults look at the entire 'abstinence-is-godliness' issue and see it for the spiritual BS that it truly is.
Then there is another one of my pet peeves, that Old Testament-based “teaching” about giving a tenth of your income each and every week, otherwise known as tithing. It is based on two verses of Scripture, the first from the book of Deuteronomy chapter 14, verse 22, which says, “Be sure and set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year”. According to Scripture, tithing only occurred on certain feast days; Passover, First Fruits, the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles (see Leviticus 23, verses 4-44). But modern churches take this much further than that. Their pastors, deacons and other elders will use a well-known verse from the book of Malachi, the very last book of the Old Testament. It reads as follows: “'Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me'. But you ask, 'But how do we rob you?'. 'In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse – the whole nation of you – because you are robbing me'” (Malachi chapter three, verses 8-9).
Yet the Bible tells us that the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of the Old Law, as it is written, “Do not think I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them.” (Matt. 5: 17). So when certain pastors quote from the Book of Malachi, they are taking it out of context. Still, modern-day preachers and evangelists use these verses to convince their congregations to keep giving more money and other donations as if the above verses were directed at the faithful. In reality, these passages were severe admonishments from God, not towards members of the Church, but rather directed at the leadership. Evidently there was some embezzlement going on because the priests kept too much of the offerings for themselves. This had nothing to do with the offerings of the faithful, and it still doesn't!
The evangelical obsession with sex can make Christian living seem like little more than sticking to a list of rules. The world's young adults long for faith communities in which they are safe asking tough questions and wrestling with doubt. We are taught to abstain from sex before marriage and not to commit adultery, yet all the while those who teach this commit the same sins in secret, as if God doesn't know what they are doing. These are the same people who condemn same-sex marriage while committing their own immoral sexual behavior, such as being addicted to pornography. According to statistics provided by the National Council on Churches, combined with statistics from the CDC right here in Atlanta, roughly one half of Christian men, and about 40% of Christian women, are addicted to porn. That's why I'm saying those who teach 'abstinence' are a bunch of hypocrites!
Time and again, the assumption among Christian leaders is that the key to drawing people in their twenties and thirties back to church is simply to make a few style updates – edgier music, more casual services, a coffee shop in the fellowship hall, a pastor who wears skinny jeans, an updated Web site that includes online giving via texting. But here’s the thing: Christians of all ages have highly sensitive BS meters, and we’re turned off by anything that smacks of consumerism. What millennial's really want from the church is not a change in style but a change in substance, and much more of it. We want an end to the culture wars. We want a truce between science and faith. We want to be known for what we stand for, not what we are against.
People today want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single political party or a single nation. We want to be challenged to live simply, care for the poor and oppressed, pursue reconciliation, and become peacemakers. What people today don't want are anti-abortion, “pro-life activists” who happen to be war hawks who are anti-national-health-care. In other words, they want authenticity, and millennial's aren't finding it in the churches. Millennial's aren't leaving churches because they don’t find the 'cool factor' there; they're leaving the church because they don’t find Jesus there. Like every generation before ours and so every generation after, deep down, we long for Jesus Christ the Son of God and everything he brings, which is life everlasting through his Holy Spirit! But I would encourage church leaders eager to win back young adults to sit down and really talk with them about what they’re looking for and what they would like to contribute to a faith community. The immorality of fighting wars, of extreme inequality, of the race-based drug wars while opiates are legal, and caring for the fatherless, widows and orphans would be good places to start. The point is, we must all start somewhere, or we will all end up nowhere. Better get going....
Sunday, March 4, 2018
Some Very Hard Questions for 'Christian America'
By pastor Paul J. Bern
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The United States has always had a time-honored tradition of being a Christian nation founded by Christians for Christians. This tradition was only recently brought into question by none other than former president Obama, who said back in 2010 that “America is no longer a Christian nation”. Contrary to what our President thought, our great country was in actuality founded on religious freedom by the early Pilgrims, who were Protestants escaping religious persecution by the church of England, not to mention the Vatican. Ever since then, the tradition of Christianity (regardless of whether you belong to a church denomination or not) has been passed down through the generations until modern times. Within the last generation or so, particularly within the last 10 or 20 years, there has been a noticeable drop in church attendance throughout North America and much of Europe. People have been turning away from their faith in droves. Protestant churches are losing members at about the same rate in which they are gaining new ones, the Catholic church is doing even worse, with the end result being what amounts to a revolving door of membership and participation. I have been aware of this for some time and, speaking as a minister, this has really been bothering me lately. So, I have been contemplating the reasons for this diminishing of faith and commitment, within the church and without, in order to try to change them.
A journalist once asked Mahatma Gandhi what he thought of Western civilization and Christianity. He answered: "It's a good idea. They ought to try it". Similarly, we might urge followers of world religions: "Those are some nice moral principles. You ought to live by them." Reliable polls tell us that America is the most religious nation in the industrialized world. More that 90 percent of our population say they believe in God, and that they pray regularly. In his New Testament Epistle, James expressed the Christian view that "faith without works is dead." Similarly, Judaism calls for "mitzvah's" -- good deeds. And Islam also requires acts of charity. How do these sentiments translate into action? Let's look at our national religious behavior report card for a reality check.
- America is the world's richest nation. Yet the U.S. Census Bureau reports that 54 million Americans live in poverty. That includes one in four children. If another country was doing this to ourselves and our children, we'd be at war. Why aren't we doing more to help out the weak, the vulnerable, the disenfranchised, and the weary? Why do so many prosperous people keep it all to themselves?
- We are a religious nation, and yet: The U.S. poverty rate is the absolute worst among developed nations according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Demographers say that the poverty rate will rise this year from 21 percent to 27 percent, which will be the highest percentage since the government began calculating poverty figures in 1959. Fifty four million Americans are on food stamps (the highest ever) and the number is expected to rise above fifty six million by the end of 2019.
- We are a religious nation, and yet: According to the Census Bureau, 19 million people lived in working-poor families in 2008. The 2010 census showed a much higher figure approaching 24%. As of 2016, the last year demographics are available, that number is approaching one third. Things are close to becoming exponentially worse! The Feeding America Network reports that only 36 percent of their client households have one or more adults working. These are people who want to work but can't find jobs, or who can't feed their kids or themselves because they only make minimum wage. For this to happen in the richest country in the world is inexcusable!!
- We are a religious nation, and yet: The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty estimates that 700,000 to 2 million people are homeless on any given night in America. Here in Atlanta where I reside, estimates of the homeless population on any given night range from 3,000-10,000 people. Also, a new class has emerged in America: the working homeless. The current minimum wage of $7.25 hourly here in Georgia and elsewhere (primarily “right to work” states like Georgia) is pitifully insufficient income for a single person to rent an apartment, let alone a family.
- We are a religious nation, and yet: The elderly, the poor and others on fixed incomes are often forced to choose between food and medicine. Speaking as a retired technology professional and an Internet pastor who worked for 35 years in the professional world, this is a social outrage and an economic injustice that I have personally experienced. Speak up for the less fortunate, because you have a better than even chance you may wind up that way yourself some day!
- We are a religious nation, and yet: 56 million Americans, including 26 million children, experienced hunger or the risk of hunger in 2016. That's more than a fourth of all households. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, hunger in American households has nearly doubled in the last five years. As I write this in early 2018, this number has swelled to at least 54 million, and the number of underfed American kids is approaching 28%. In the richest country in the world, this is simply inexcusable! We have to do something, and by writing this I'm trying to help accomplish exactly that.
- We are a religious nation, and yet: American restaurants throw away more than 6,000 tons of food every day and grocery stores discard an estimated thirty million pounds of food daily. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Loss Project estimates that Americans throw out 25.9 million tons of food each year. More disturbing: a University of Arizona study reports that 40 to 50 percent of all food ready for harvest never gets eaten. America's wastefulness is downright sinful in the sight of the Lord; there is no better way to describe it.
- We are a religious nation, and yet: The United States is the only industrialized nation that doesn't provide very low cost health care for all its citizens. So-called “Obamacare” promised to correct much of that, but it is nowhere near enough. All the president and Congress had to do was to put the whole country on Medicare. Doing so would eliminate the need for Medicaid, saving over half a billion dollars annually, and if Obamacare were to be merged together with Medicare, the extra expenditures for Obamacare would be eliminated as well. And, we would have one health care system for the entire country.
- We are a religious nation, and yet: We have the best medical technology and treatment capability in the world. Yet the United States ranks 37th for health care system performance by the World Health Organization. Why is this so?
- We are a religious nation, and yet: The latest report on life expectancy shows a slight drop in the United States that will place us even lower than the current ranking of 49th among nations of the world – a lower life expectancy than many less developed countries. A Columbia University study attributes our decline from 11th place in 1950 to the much lower present ranking to our inadequate profit-driven health care system.
- We are a religious nation, and yet: The current US minimum wage of $7.25 hourly for roughly two thirds of the country, which was raised from $5.15 four years prior to that, still keeps families stuck at or below the poverty line. France, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, England, the Isle of Man, and many other nations – particularly Australia – have a much higher minimum wage than we do.
- We are a religious nation, and yet: The latest census figures show the gap between rich and poor widening to the largest margin ever. The top 20 percent of workers earning more than $100,000 a year received 49.4.percent of all income compared with the 3.4 percent earned by the bottom 20 percent. The richest 1 percent pockets more than 30 percent of total income which is greater than the total amount earned by the bottom 50 percent combined. Economic inequality – not just in the US but globally – is a ticking time bomb waiting to go off, and when it does, the greed-based capitalist economic system we are currently stuck with will have to submit to a complete make-over or face extinction.
- We are a religious nation, and yet: The wealthiest segment of the population is fighting tooth and nail for lower tax rates and other tax breaks while joblessness, poverty, crime, homelessness and hunger are rampant in America.
- We are a religious nation, and yet: In 1994 a million innocents were slaughtered in Rwanda. We watched and did nothing. Similarly, we did little to stop the genocide in Darfur. Further slaughter is now ongoing in Syria, Somalia, Iraq and Yemen while the world watches and does nothing. Will U.S. “leadership” intervene on humanitarian grounds? History does not suggest a positive answer. Nor do the Scriptures, where regarding such people it is written, “Let the blood of our sins be on ourselves and our children!” (Matthew 27: 25) And so it is, unless God starts seeing some major changes of heart among us all.
- We are a religious nation, and yet: There are at least 59 Holocaust museums in the United States dedicated to raising awareness of the Nazi genocide and to help prevent similar horrors from ever happening again. Add to that the numerous holocaust museums and memorials around the world. Yet genocides, mass murders, school shootings and other atrocities such as child sex slave trafficking persist. Who are the customers for these pimps? Who is supplying the weapons to these mass shooters? Who is taking decisive action, who is pretending, and who is doing nothing except complaining? Some of us need to put our Christian money where our mouths are.
- We are a religious nation, and yet: Americans make up 5 percent of the world's population, and yet our country produces 25 percent of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions, which are raising the earth's temperature ("greenhouse effect") to dangerous levels. How is it that we are trashing the planet God created for each of us, while continuing to profess our love for its Maker?
- We are a religious nation, and yet: Fossil fuel consumption is destroying the planet, but we refuse to develop a "Manhattan Project" for alternative energy, nor do we have one for battery technology so we can park the majority of our gas and diesel burning cars and trucks, something that is sorely needed.
- We are a religious nation, and yet: Scientists warn that the environmental doomsday clock is ticking. The icebergs are breaking away and melting before our eyes, revealing islands we never saw before. We watch and debate but do too little to preserve the environment for ourselves and future generations. In our hubris we forget that we are guests on a tiny rock floating – in an infinite universe of rocks – that uniquely supports life in a delicate balance of natural and mysterious forces.
- We are a religious nation, and yet: Smoking continues to compromise the health of more than 20 percent of our population. The Surgeon General tells us that cigarette, pipe and cigar smoking, in addition to contributing to a number of cancers, increases the risk of almost every known disease. The American Lung Association reports that each day nearly 6,000 teens under 18 years of age start smoking. But we refuse to put an end to tobacco use. At the same time, medical and recreational marijuana is still illegal at the federal level while having been proved to be not only harmless, but with significant medical uses and benefits. In so doing, we have criminalized a creation of Almighty God's (see Genesis 1: 11) that does no harm, while allowing the use of one that does!
- We are a religious nation, and yet: Leaders of some of our biggest corporations and privately held firms, as well as prominent investment advisers (men and women of "faith"), have cheated, deceived and destroyed their companies and clients, ruining the lives and futures of untold numbers of individuals and families for their own profit.
- We are a religious nation, and yet: We have the largest prison population in the world. Currently more than 3 million people are incarcerated, 1 in every 18 adults is in prison, on parole or probation adding up to a total of over 10 million. One out of every eight Americans you see on the street or in traffic has a criminal conviction in their background. The U.S has a greater prison population (in percentage of population) than many countries that we consider to be in violation of human rights.
- We are a religious nation, and yet: According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, world military spending for 2012 reached $1.531 trillion, a six percent increase over 2008 and a forty-nine percent increase over the year 2000. The United States accounted for forty-six percent of the total world military expenditure ($661 billion). China was a distant second accounting for 6.6. percent followed by France's 4.2 percent, the UK's 3.8 percent and Russia's 3.5 percent. The proposed U.S. military budget for 2018 is $886 billion. Nice job, Washington!
What is religion? Organized religion is a multi-billion-dollar business disguised as a honeycomb of non-profits (actually, more like a hornet's nest). On the other hand, followers of Jesus – who Himself was crucified mainly because he preached against organized government and organized religion – exercise the very essence of true Spirituality by showing love, caring, serving, giving, sharing, oneness, brotherhood and sisterhood, compassion, empathy and selflessness. Summed up: "Love thy neighbor as thyself." I'm so glad that we are a religious nation. If only we were all Christian too....
Thursday, March 1, 2018
Get the latest book offering from Rev. Paul J. Bern; “Cannabis Legalization and the Bible: Compatible Or Not?”
Today's post includes an in-depth interview with Shane at the pro-legalization website and blog Cheap Home Grow (cheaphomegrow.com); check it out from right here
This Is What A Police State Looks Like
For nearly half a century, America’s police forces have undergone a process of militarization. They've upped their cache of assault weapons and military defense gear, increasingly deployed SWAT teams to conduct ops-style missions on civilians, and cultivated a warrior attitude within their rank. While major metropolitan areas have maintained SWAT teams for decades, by the mid 2000s, 80 percent of small towns also had their own paramilitary forces. But, beyond deep reporting of individual journalists and scholars, little is known about the extent of police militarization across the country. The ACLU has attempted to bridge that knowledge gap with a fairly recent report called “War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing.” Below are some of its most significant findings:
1). The federal government’s war on drugs is the single greatest catalyst for local police militarization. Far from being used for emergencies such as hostage situations, the ACLU found that 62% of all SWAT deployments were for the purpose of drug searches, and 79% were to search a person’s home with or without a search warrant — usually for drugs. These deployments are invariably violent and feature bands of heavily armed officers ramming down doors or chucking 'flash bang' grenades into people's homes. Innocent people are often caught up, and sometimes killed, in the ensuing chaos. Examples of this include Eurie Stamp, a Massachusetts grandfather who was shot dead by an officer as police attempted to locate Stamp’s girlfriend’s son for a drug offense. Other SWAT-induced tragedies abound: The ACLU has found that dozens of people were killed or injured as a result of paramilitary deployment. For decades, the federal government — in its quixotic quest to eliminate drug use — has abetted these aggressive tactics with programs that create incentives for militarization. One is called the 1033 program, which was launched in the 1980’s to create a pipeline for military equipment between the Department of Defense and local law enforcement. There are few limitations or requirements imposed on agencies that participate in the 1033 Program. In addition, equipment transferred under the 1033 Program is free to receiving agencies, though they are required to pay for transport and maintenance. The federal government requires agencies that receive 1033 equipment to use it within one year of receipt. Equally to blame is the federal Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program, another 80’s artifact that gives local police forces incentives to seek out low-level drug offenders in exchange for grant money. US Attorney General Eric Holder has called for the need to ensure that the police have the trust of the community, and it has the potential to do some really good work. But I am concerned that if the Justice Department continues to grant money to local police departments, money they use to engage in paramilitary weapons and tactics, the Attorney Generals’ good work will be undermined.
2). Militarization is occurring with almost no oversight There is virtually no oversight for SWAT deployment at the state level, meaning no agency or governing body tracks how, and for what purposes, SWAT teams are dispatched. There are few exceptions. Maryland passed a law mandating the state to track SWAT deployment after the mayor of a small municipality had his home raided, but that law is unlikely to be renewed this year. The Utah state legislature recently agreed on a bill to track SWAT deployment and is currently going forward with implementing the law. Local agencies usually engaged in after-action reports of SWAT use, but the ACLU found these reports were “woefully incomplete.” The ACLU also discovered there are no uniform standards for deploying SWAT teams. Discretion ultimately rests with police officers themselves.
3). Non-whites are more likely to be targeted by SWAT deployments. It should come as no surprise that the people most persecuted by police in their communities are also more likely to have their front doors bashed down by a police battering ram. Many of the SWAT teams examined by the ACLU “either do not record race information or record it unsystematically.” Nevertheless, the report found that for all people affected by a SWAT deployment, 37 percent were Black, 12 percent were Latino, 19 were white, and race was unknown for the rest of the people impacted. Racial disparities were even more pronounced when examining the purpose for SWAT deployment. When SWAT was dispatched for drug raids, 68 percent of the time their targets were Blacks or Latinos, while targets were white only 38 percent of the time. Similarly, when SWAT was dispatched with warrants to search homes, non-whites were affected to a greater degree than whites. In contrast, nearly half of those affected when SWAT was deployed for emergency situations (hostage, barricade, or active shooter scenarios) were white, while only 23% were non-white. Basically, non-whites were not only more likely to come into contact with paramilitary police forces, but their contact was usually prompted by drug searches rather than the sort of emergencies where you may actually want police to show up.
4). Police are secretive about their use of SWAT Overall, the ACLU report lacks the sort of robustness you might expect for a definitive report on police militarization in America. This is largely the fault of police agencies themselves, who denied nearly half of the ACLU’s public records requests in part or in full, and who keep poor records of their own SWAT use. Those difficulties seem to inform much of the ACLU’s recommendations to local, state and federal officials. Above all, the organization calls for a streamlined system of record keeping for SWAT deployment and equipment procurement. No such system currently exists. The ACLU also asks that standards for deployment be bolstered and unified across precincts, and that federal programs incentivizing militarization be weakened or dismantled outright.
How did we allow our law enforcement apparatus to descend into militaristic chaos? Traditionally, the role of civilian police has been to maintain the peace and safety of the community while upholding the civil liberties of residents in their respective jurisdictions. In stark contrast, the military soldier is an agent of war, trained to kill the enemy. Clearly, the mission of the police officer is incompatible with that of a soldier, so why is it that local police departments are looking more and more like paramilitary units in a combat zone? The line between military and civilian law enforcement has been drawn for good reason, but following the drug war and more recently, the war on terror, that line is inconspicuously eroding, a trend that appears to be worsening by the year.
Originally called the Special Weapons Attack Team, the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) units were inspired by an incident in 1966, when an armed man climbed to the top of the 32-story clock tower at the University of Texas in Austin and fired randomly for 90 minutes, shooting 46 people and killing 15, until two police officers got to the top of the tower and killed him. This episode is said to have “shattered the last myth of safety Americans enjoyed [and] was the final impetus the chiefs of police needed” to form their own SWAT teams. Use of these paramilitary units gradually increased throughout the 1970s, mostly in urban settings. The introduction of paramilitary units in America laid the foundation for the erosion of the barrier between police and military, a trend which accelerated in the 1980s under President Reagan. In 1981, Congress passed the Military Cooperation with Law Enforcement Act, which amended Posse Comitatus by directing the military to give local, state and federal law enforcement access to military equipment, research and training for use in the drug war. Following the authorization of domestic police and military cooperation, the 1980s saw a series of additional congressional and presidential maneuvers that blurred the line between soldier and police officer, ultimately culminating in the passage of the National Defense Authorization Security Act which created the Law Enforcement Support Program, an agency tasked with accelerating the transfer of military equipment to civilian police departments. Between 1995 and 1997 the Department of Defense gave 1.2 million pieces of military hardware, including 3,800 M-16s, 2,185 M-14s, 73 grenade launchers and 112 armored personnel carriers to civilian police agencies across the country. Between January 1997 and October 1999 alone, LEAP facilitated the distribution of 3.4 million orders of Pentagon equipment to over 11,000 domestic police agencies in all 50 states. By December 2005, that number increased to 17,000. The agreement authorized the transfer of federal military technology to local police forces, essentially flooding civilian law enforcement with surplus military gear previously reserved for use during wartime. But this was only the beginning.
In 1997, Congress, not yet satisfied with the flow of military hardware to local police, allocated $727 million worth of this equipment. Among the hand-me-downs were 253 aircraft (including six- and seven-passenger airplanes, and UH-60 Blackhawk and UH-1 Huey helicopters), 7,856 M-16 rifles, 181 grenade launchers, 8,131 bulletproof helmets, and 1,161 pairs of night-vision goggles. The military surplus program and paramilitary units feed off one another in a cyclical loop that has caused an explosive growth in militarized crime control techniques. With all the new high-tech military toys the federal government has been funneling into local police departments, SWAT teams have inevitably multiplied and spread across American cities and towns in both volume and deployment frequency. Criminologist Peter Kraska found that the frequency of SWAT operations soared from just 3,000 annual deployments in the early 1980s to an astonishing 40,000 raids per year by 2001, 75-80 percent of which were used to deliver search warrants.
Then there are the effects of the war on terror, which sparked the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the introduction of DHS grants to local police departments. These grants are used to purchase policing equipment, although law enforcement is investing in more than just bullet-proof vests and walkie-talkies. DHS grants have led to a booming law enforcement industry that specifically markets military-style weaponry to local police departments. If this sounds familiar, that's because it is law enforcement's version of the military-industrial-complex. By instituting public policies that encouraged the collaboration of military and domestic policing, the US government handed a massive and highly profitable clientele to private suppliers of paramilitary gear. Following the breakdown of Posse Comitatus in the 1980s and '90s, gun companies, perceiving a profitable trend, began aggressively marketing automatic weapons to local police departments, holding seminars, and sending out color brochures redolent with ninja-style imagery. Private suppliers of military equipment advertise a glorified version of military-style policing attire to local police departments and SWAT teams. One such defense manufacturing company, Heckler and Koch, epitomized this aggressive marketing tactic with its slogan for the MP5 submachine gun, “From the Gulf War to the Drug War — Battle Proven.”
The most widely used justification for the purchase of heavily armored war machines is that violence against police officers has increased exponentially, necessitating tanks for the protection of the men and women who serve our communities. But examination of the FBI's annual Uniform Crime Report, a database that tracks the number of law enforcement officers killed and assaulted each year, reveals that this is simply not true. According to the UCR, since 2000 an average yearly toll of about 50 police officers have been killed in the line of duty, the highest reaching 70 in 2001. So the notion that militarization is a necessary reaction to a growth in violence against police officers is absurd, considering that violent crime is trending downward. Others argue these tanks are needed in case of a terrorist attack or a natural disaster. But on September 11, 2001, I do not recall the NYPD complaining that a lack of armored tanks was impeding its policing efforts. And during the catastrophic tornado that tore through Joplin, Missouri several years ago, heavily armored vehicles weren't present nor were they needed to assist in the aftermath. The majority of paramilitary drug raid proponents maintain that military-style law enforcement is required to reduce the risk of potential violence, injury and death to both police officers and innocents. The reality is that SWAT team raids actually escalate provocation, usually resulting in senseless violence in what would otherwise be a routine, nonviolent police procedure. Just consider your reaction in the event of a SWAT team breaking down your door in the middle of night, possibly even blowing off the hinges with explosives, while you and your family are asleep. Imagine the terror of waking up to find complete strangers forcing their way into your home and detonating a flash-bang grenade, meant to disorient you. Assuming nobody is hurt, what thoughts might be raging in your mind while the police forcefully incapacitate you and your loved ones, most likely at gunpoint, while carrying out a search warrant of your home. Assuming you were able to contain the mix of fear and rage going through your body, consider how helpless you would feel to know that any perceived noncompliance would most certainly be met with lethal force.
We have created circumstances under which the American people are no longer individuals protected by the Bill of Rights, but rather "enemy combatants." The consequences of such a mindset have proven time and again to be lethal, as we now rely on military ideology and practice to respond to crime and justice. For some insight into the implications, one needn't look any further than minority communities, which have long been the victims of paramilitary forces posing as police officers. Black and Latino communities in the inner-cities of Washington DC, Detroit and Chicago have witnessed first-hand the deadly consequences of militarization on American soil. Military culture now permeates all aspects of our society. Does anyone really believe that heavily armed soldiers trained to kill are capable of maintaining an atmosphere of nonviolence?
Asset forfeiture, another means of enriching law enforcement at the expense of the very people the cops are paid to protect, is on the rise. Civil asset forfeiture is government seizure of property and cash, even when the owner isn’t charged with a crime. Innocent owners must go through a costly, time-consuming process to get their property back — and even then they may be denied. Police departments get to sell the seized property and keep most of the proceeds. This author predicts that because of the shaky US economy and budget crunches, police will continue to increase searches, raids, and seizures to generate more revenue. According to the Wall Street Journal, in 2010 alone, federal, state, and local government stole homes, cars, boats, and cash in more than 15,000 cases. The total take topped $2.5 billion, more than doubling in the next five years, the last year that these figures were available as of this writing. Top federal officials are also pushing for greater use of civil-forfeiture proceedings, in which assets can be taken without criminal charges being filed against the owner. Unlike in criminal cases, the poor are not entitled to free legal representation to help them get their property back. This means, to anyone with common sense, that an individual’s property could be seized without due process of law, a CLEAR violation of the Fifth Amendment.....
Watch the video https://youtu.be/o_UXdIsBuf8
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