Saturday, January 12, 2008


UP FRONT News January 10, 2007
Published by Tom Weiss
Editorial Advisor: Willard Whittingham
"The paper that can't be bought and can't be sold."

Although some of my friends claim to be atheists, I think their world view might change by experiencing Rev. Demetrius S. Carolina Sr., pastor of the First Central Baptist Church in the Stapleton community on the north shore of Staten Island. The spirit and message of Martin Luther King are alive and well in what is sometimes referred to as New York City's "forgotten borough."

I first met Rev. Carolina almost one year ago at an MLK march and rally in Stapleton, which featured a talk at FCBC by civil rights attorney Norman Siegel. Also present at the church as State Assembly-woman Janele Hyer-Spencer, perhaps the most independent elected official in a borough in which the Democrats are quite tightly controlled by U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton.

Mrs. Clinton and Staten Island politicians such as City Councilman Michael McMahon, State Senator Diane Savino, and State Assemblyman Matthew Titone cannot afford to ignore Rev. Carolina (or, for that matter, UP FRONT News).

I consider myself a Judeo-Christian. My parents, natives of Austria, barely made it out of Hitler's Vienna not too log after Germany took over Austria in the "Anschluss" of 1936. My father's parents, however, did not make it out.

Although I did not have anything approaching formal Jewish education, during my childhood my mother (aside from teaching me about the Dalai Lama and Tibet), had me attend Bible classes run by a professor of classical languages named Dr. Vera Lachmann.

My involvement with faith, however, didn't re-emerge until the 1970's, while I was politically active in human rights issues in Queens when I met Rev. Dr. Timothy P. Mitchell, Pastor of the Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church in Flushing. I was a social worker, union activist, and an elected member of the Community Advisory Board at City-operated Queens Hospital Center, a facility at the time run in a most corrupt fashion by politicians like Mayors Abe Beame and Ed Koch and Borough President Donald Manes. They were among those who, during the legendary "fiscal crisis" of the 1970's (eternally memorialized by the Daily News headline [President Gerald] "Ford to New York: Drop Dead!"), covered up budget cut-caused patient deaths at QHC. I was the guy who, at the cost of my job and as the victim of a bunch of politically motivated violations of my human rights, blew the whistle on the coverup. It took some time before the New York State Health Department substantiated my complaints and I wound up on the front page of the March 1, 1978 issue of the Queens Edition of Newsday as well as covered in a lot of other media.

Rev. Mitchell, no doubt with the anti-poor policy of "planned shrinkage" in mind, referred to the City's practice of cutbacks in essential services, particularly affecting African-Americans, as "genocide."

Although I first became acquainted with Rev. Mitchell through politics, I often attended his services. It was Rev. Mitchell, a close friend and advisor to Dr. King, who in his very inspiring sermons, quite directly introduced me to Jesus. I learned a great deal from Rev. Mitchell and he learned some things from me about Tibet. Indeed, as far as I am aware, Rev.Mitchell may be the first African-American civil rights leader to declare that Communist China has been perpertrating "Genocide" in Tibet.

When, some years ago, I got baptized at Ebenezer (on a morning when the heating pipes for the bath were not working, providing for a chilly dip), Rev. Mitchell took the time to remind those present on that Sunday morning that "Jesus was a Jew." Rev. Mitchell, who is in his seventies, retired last year.

A few months ago, having attended a number of Rev. Carollina's services and worked with him on some civil rights problems in Staten Island - a borough which sometimes lives up to its stereotype as something of a police state - I joined his First Central Baptist Church.

Rev. Carolina has pastored in churches in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York, including Tried Stone Baptist Church in the Bronx. It is not hard to see why his congregations tend to grow in size. His sermons make spiritual and political sense, just like the sermons to be found in particular in the first four books of the New Testament.

Rev. Carolina's ties to the Judeo-Christian heritage are very open. Indeed, in commenting about the fact that the FCBC building used to be a synagogue, he told me that his church has a "Jewish soul." His sermons are full of Old Testament references. His wife Bernice recently did a sermon on the Book of Esther. I suggested that perhaps at a Purim service some time, she might speak at a synagogue. (My former rabbi, the late Harold Swiss of The Little Synagogue, regularly gave talks at a church in Brooklyn.)

And the very live music at FCBC, clearly showing that without gospel music there would be no rock 'n' roll, is genuine. Rev. Carolina is a very political man, who gets up very early most mornings at his home in south Jersey to commute to his political theory teaching job in Manhattan and then to his church across the Bay. He has led demonstrations against police brutality, while standing firmly in support of people, such as myself, who have been victimized by politically motivated crime. Indeed Rev. Carolina, who is very knowledgeable about the political landscape, has become quite concerned about the kind of domestic fascism exemplified by people like the aging but still very active political extremist Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr.
Indeed I was very glad to have Rev. Carolina contribute some comments on a California-based internet talk show interview I did recently on political subjects including Mr. LaRouche.

As far as I am able to tell, Rev. Carolina is a political progressive - definitely not a "neo-con" - who makes up his own mind as the (holy) spirit quite literally moves him. And so I look forward to following up on his invitation to me to organize and coordinate a First Central Baptist Church Social Action Committee.
(Rev.) Carolina Nice.
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