- 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!
Sunday, March 4, 2018
Who we say we are, as opposed to who many of us actually are
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.
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....