Faith in Progress

Faith in Progress

Al Sharp, Executive Director of PCG, shares his perspective on key issues of the day.

Not too long ago, the police department, the prosecutor’s office, and the public defenders association in Seattle, Washington were stalemated. They had been fighting for eight years over allegations of discriminatory law enforcement against African American and Hispanics for low level offenses. Finally, a police lieutenant interrupted one of their meetings: “This isn’t helping anyone. What can we do differently?”

Protestants for the Common Good will host a viewing of _Defamation_ on Sunday, October 7th at Chicago Theological Seminary and, we invite you to join us--to engage as this interactive court-room drama unfolds around these issues. We hope you will join the conversation.

I’ve been thinking a lot about water lately--how I take it for granted, how I just assume there will always be enough of it, and how it never occurs to me that the water coming out of my faucet could be anything but clean.

Plenty of gory stories about injury, mayhem, and death in America this summer, highlighted by mass violence in suburban Denver and Milwaukee. Illinois has escaped those incidents, we think. Oh, but then there’s Chicago, with its own -- more extended in time and space -- version of injury, mayhem, and death: what seems like daily and nightly violence in the city’s streets and alleys.

What is really needed, now, are game-changing ideas and solutions brought to bear on what we currently understand as drug policy. The general public must recognize that our drug policies do not necessarily address addiction as a disease for which there are successful standards of treatment with reasonably high, as well as cost- effective, cure rates.

Why have "Faith in Progress" as the title of this column? I can address this question by reflecting upon the life and perspectives of Martin Luther King Jr. What would he think about our life together today? What were the sources of his hope?

One of the interesting things about important social change is that you can never quite predict when it will happen, even when you know it is inevitable. So it is with the decriminalizing of small amounts of marijuana in Chicago. The idea simmered in the mind of Mayor Richard M. Daley and the Chicago Police Department for years. The Chicago City Council approved the measure today.

Who of us would dare ask that we be measured against the Sermon on the Mount? Consider what Jesus asked of us: Turn the other cheek? Give the coat off our back? Forgive seventy times seven? We know the inevitability of falling short. But, concerning one injunction, we can’t even tell where we stand...

Less than two years ago, Illinois for the first time in our history placed limits on contributions to political campaigns. It took anger and dismay over the travesties of the Blagojevich administration for this measure to pass. Its purpose was both to limit corruption and the influence of organized wealth at the expense of the very poor. Now the Democratic leaders in the Illinois General Assembly are trying to create wide loophole in this historic bill.

Fifteen years ago I was thrilled to be asked to help build a brand new organization called Protestants for the Common Good. Our purpose was to become an alternative to the political religious right by connecting our faith to public action. We have more than succeeded in this goal.

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