Advent mourning for Michigan State

Near the end of the fall semester at MSU, news has come out about how Michigan State handled allegations of abuse. Sadness and anger seem to be the only appropriate response to the news: how can our world be so broken? Why did so many people not listen well when informed of problems? Why did people not want to listen? Why was MSU’s reputation more important than the well-being of those (potentially) hurt?

As we have been remembering all through Advent, the world is not how it ought to be. This is why we desperately need a Savior – this is why Christ came to earth in the first place and why we need to continue to long for Christ to come again: so that all things might be made well (including judgment on those who have harmed others).

Please pray. Pray prayers of lament for all that has gone wrong; prayers of lament and healing for all those hurt and still hurting. Yet pray also that God will work in the midst of these revelations to bring about change and that Michigan State might become more of a place where people listen to those who are hurting and advocate for justice and good.

Responding to Charlottesville

Staying silent after the events this weekend in Charlottesville is not an option. At the same time, many graduate and professional students don’t know how to respond. Certainly most graduate students (Christian or not) would condemn racism, white supremacy, neo-Nazism, anti-Semitism, and any other sort of hatred towards another person. Yet, responding well to a situation is hard: unfortunately, most graduate and professional students find it hard to find enough time both to research what actually happened and to participate in good events that truly speak against this hatred.

I, too, don’t know enough or understand enough about what happened in Charlottesville. I am thankful, however, that I am part of a wider church (Christian Reformed Church and beyond) that has others who have already written wise words in response.

Jul Medenblik, the president of Calvin Seminary, highlighted both how Calvin Seminary is a “diverse, international community [that] is a wonderful anticipation of the great multitude ‘from every nation, tribe, people, and language’ who have been redeemed by Jesus Christ (Rev. 7:9-10)” and that they take “seriously the call of Synod 1996 of the Christian Reformed Church ‘to witness publicly against racism, prejudice, and related unemployment, poverty, and injustices and in defense of all people as image bearers of God.'” Because of this, they/we “condemn all manifestations of nationalist racism and white supremacy, including recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia.” An official statement of the Christian Reformed Church can be found here.

Chong, a former campus minister, has written a helpful and pointed article in the CRC’s monthly magazine, arguing that we are not only to denounce racism but also that we are to respond further by praying, examining ourselves and working.

Finally, to understand better the situation this past weekend, I suggest reading Brian McLaren’s first person account of his experience there (as clergy) where he also suggests next steps.

Reflections on “Radical Marxist, Radical Womanist, Radical Love: What Mother Teresa Taught Me about Social Justice”

After 18 months of planning (I checked – my first communication was on June 29, 2011), we finally hosted the first ever Veritas Forum at Michigan State University. We at Campus Edge were proud to team up not only with the national Veritas Forum organization, but, more importantly, to partner with a whole group of local ministries: River Terrace Church, Riverview Church, St. John’s Catholic Church and Student Center, Christianity and Culture, University Christian Outreach, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Spartan Christian Fellowship, The Furnace at MSU, and All Saint’s Episcopal Church. We were thrilled to see around 200 people come to this exciting event.

We hosted Dr. Mary Poplin, professor of education at Claremont Graduate University, as she presented “Radical Marxist, Radical Womanist, Radical Love: What Mother Teresa Taught Me about Social Justice.” The talk was interesting – Dr. Poplin is an engaging speaker and a wonderful person with whom to converse. Perhaps the most important thing Mary did, however, was to spark dialogue. In the days leading up to the event, the Facebook page was the home of a heated debate about the criticisms leveled against Mother Teresa by Christopher Hitchens (and others). In the days since the event, I’ve had coffee with colleagues and friends to discuss further what we thought of Mary’s talk. From the time I spent with Mary, I know she would be thrilled by the conversations all across campus that have been sparked by her presentation and I know that they will continue for some time.

What may be most exciting of all is the number of people who have said that this talk challenged them to think or live differently. Students have shared that the Veritas Forum gave them a better understanding of how to share their faith. Others were challenged to be more forgiving or to take seriously God’s call to justice and mercy.

I am excited to continue the conversation in the weeks and months ahead and look forward to bringing more partners on board for next year’s Veritas Forum. Stay tuned!

– Kory Plockmeyer