"Weekend Reflections on the Recent Events in Newtown, Connecticut"

A Statement from Pres. Marvin A. McMickle:

Twenty-seven wooden angels commemorating the victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting.
Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

I have waited a few days to write out my thoughts about the terrible events that occurred last week at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. There are no words that can help us understand the depth of grief that has encompassed that school and those families that lost loved ones, both children and adults. A peaceful community will forever be linked to other sites of mass killing like Oklahoma City, Columbine, Aurora, Fort Hood, Virginia Tech, a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin and a mall in Tucson where public officials and innocent bystanders were shot and killed.

The fact is, what happened in Newtown is different in its targets, but not different in its causes and consequences. Innocent lives were taken by a disturbed individual that was in possession of a weapon of mass destruction. In Oklahoma City it was an explosive device. In all of the other cases it was guns. Not a pistol for target practice or self-defense or a rifle designed to meet the needs of sportsmen in the woods. In every case the weapons of choice were high-powered, automatic and semi-automatic weapons more suited for a battlefield than as part of the culture of a 21st century industrialized society. Without easy access to such guns it is possible to imagine that none of these horrific events would ever have occurred. Crazed and/or cowardly people do not become mass killers without access to such weapons.

Supporters of gun control gather on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House in Washington, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, during a vigil for the victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Ct., and to call on President Obama to pass strong gun control laws. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

I am comforted by the fact that our public officials extend their "thoughts and prayers" to the families of those that have lost their lives in this spiraling cycle of gun violence. Now I wish those same public officials would expand the breadth and depth of their courage and invite our nation to embark upon a serious discussion about gun control. I can already hear the response from the gun lobby that "guns don't kill people; people kill people." The easiest response to such a knee-jerk comment is that people without assault rifles and other automatic guns do not kill nearly as many people as we have seen in the last few months and years in this country.

Did the founders of this nation really mean that the Second Amendment should give us the right to purchase, own and carry around guns that can penetrate the bullet-proof vests of police officers? Could the patriots of the 18th century–whose weapon of choice was a single shot musket–blame us for wanting to control guns that discharge 10-to-12 bullets per second?  Is it too much to expect that a criminal and mental health background check be performed before a gun can be purchased? We demand an ID to buy alcoholic beverages and tobacco products, but do not expect rigid but reasonable guidelines for purchasing guns. Bear in mind that this is not a call to criminalize guns in America; it is a call to wake up to the fact that the level of violence we see in this country on account of the ease with which guns can be acquired is out of control.

Jillian Soto uses a phone to get information about her sister, Victoria Soto, a teacher at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Conn. on Friday, after a gunman killed more than two dozen people, including 20 children. Victoria Soto, 27, was among those killed. (Jessica Hill/AP)

It may be that our political leaders lack the courage to actually lead on this issue. Maybe they come from districts and regions of the country where gun enthusiasts are plentiful. Apparently the mother of the young man who killed 26 people in Newtown was herself a gun enthusiast. Her son killed her with one of her own guns. Despite the tragedy and irony of that fact, CRCDS and other seminaries and divinity schools ought not be muted in addressing this issue simply because it is politically incorrect. We are not running for reelection to a position in government. We are not looking for a 100% approval rating from the National Rifle Association. We are called to be prophets of protest in a sinful society where many are now saying that the best response to gun violence in the schools is to arm teachers with guns of their own. Is that really where we as a society are headed?

We are in the midst of the Advent season. The themes of Advent are joy, hope, love and peace. All of those themes have been challenged by events in Newtown and other communities. Someone must challenge the nation to reflect on its values and repent of its views. Rather than rush out to buy a gun, may I invite us instead to ponder the lines of the song that says, "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me." This is our calling. This is our mandate. This must be our moment to stand up and be counted! As Edmund Burke said, "The only thing needed for evil to triumph is for good men (and women) to do nothing."

"Human rights forum examines racism, segregation,"
(Democrat & Chronicle article)

This article was published on December 11, 2012 in the The Democrat & Chronicle newspaper in Rochester, NY.

Before destroying racism and mis-education, you must first know they exist.

Which is why a small but committed group of area activists met at the Downtown United Methodist Church Monday night, on the 64th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to discuss points made in the the book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander.

Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School President Marvin McMickle delivered the keynote address, recapping the history of segregation in America.

McMickle shared a personal experience from his youth, when his family was forced — with other blacks — to move to a segregated train car in Cincinnati before heading into the southern states.

He went on to say a family member was shot to death in Kentucky in 1930 when trying to register to vote.

Panelists, Rosemary Rivera, director of Citizen Action of New York, Ricardo Adams a community activist, and Maurice Miller, a college student, each spoke of their experiences growing up with societal pressures and temptations of crime and making wrong choices.

“Sure, I made some bad decisions, but there were some traps set for me,” said Adams, adding that segregation today is still pervasive, though less obvious to some. “The only difference between the Jim Crow now, and the Jim Crow previously, is that slaves knew they were living in the times (of) Jim Crow. A lot of us today don’t know.”

Rivera said some white community activists are too attached to their downtown protest comfort zone to go into black community.

“We have to reach out to the African-American community. We have to reach out to people of color where they’re at.”

Miller, 24, said mixed messages from his father, his friends and the streets complicated his decisions and continue to make it hard for young black men to avoid the “prison pipeline.”

Monday’s effort sprung from a book club, but Rochester activist Ream Kidane, 32 said an organizing meeting seeking to build a coalition to end the mass incarceration of blacks, who statistically are far more likely to be jailed than other Americans, will be held in January.

 - Gary McLendon (GMCLENDN@DemocratandChronicle.com)

"Race, religion and the politics of identity" (Letter to the Editor)

This letter to the editor from President McMickle appeared in today's Democrat & Chronicle.

Former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu recently said that the only reason Colin Powell endorsed President Barack Obama was because they were of the same racial group. Not because of merit; it was solely because of race.

One is left to wonder if this works in reverse for white evangelical Christians that had long defined Mormonism as a cult. Today, however, they are ignoring that core theological belief in order to vote for Gov. Mitt Romney. As one of my colleagues at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, Dr. James Evans, observed at the inaugural symposium “Race, Religion and Politics” earlier this month: “Race seems to trump religion so far as the white evangelical vote is concerned.”

I wonder what Sununu has to say about that. Powell gave a list of reasons for his support that had to do with competence and not color. How sad we keep getting drawn back into this racial narrative; as least so far as the black candidate is concerned.

Pres. McMickle Preaching, Speaking at Chautauqua Institution

President McMickle will be taking part in Week Five of the 2012 season of lectures, workshops and interfaith worship events at the Chautauqua Institution lakeside community, which attracts more than 170,000 visitors each year. He will be at Chautauqua for the week, both preaching and lecturing – you can see his schedule below:

Sunday, July 22, 2012
10:45 Service of Worship and Sermon
5:00 Vespers
Hall of Philosophy

Monday, July 23, 2012
9:15 Devotional Hour

Tuesday, July 24 2012
9:15 Devotional Hour

Wednesday, July 25 2012
9:15 Devotional Hour

Thursday, July 26 2012
9:15 Devotional Hour

Friday, July 27 2012
9:15 Devotional Hour

Are you attending? Please let us know by contacting Barbara Hessdoerfer with details of when you will be there.