Faith in Progress

Faith in Progress

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

“Is health care a right or a choice?” was the question posed to me recently by a high-school student who was interviewing me about current legislative issues.

Last week you received a letter from the leadership of the Community Renewal Society and Protestants for the Common Good about important steps our organizations are pursuing together. Let me provide an update.

I may be one of the last individuals on the planet to realize it, but it is dawning on me that what happens in public policy is not ultimately about facts and figures. It is about images, stories: it’s about what happens in the emotional side of the brain that matters.

The feeling that rises up after only a few minutes of reviewing the proposed budget for Illinois--especially when it comes to human services--is the almost primal urge to scream.

Last week, residents of Chicago received the wonderful news that the coal-fired power plants located within city limits would be shutting down within the next two years. Fisk Generating Station, in the Pilsen neighborhood, will close by December of this year; Crawford Generating Station, located in Little Village, will shut down no later than December of 2014.

For over 40 years, Samuel DeWitt Proctor was a towering figure in the fight for the freedom of African Americans. He would have been proud of what the Chicago organization that bears his name was able to accomplish recently.

On January 31, 2012, PCG joined with a coalition of religious leaders, community activists, and low-wage workers to seek an increase in the state minimum wage. We traveled to Springfield to make the case for SB 1565, which would raise the current level of $8.25 per hour to slightly above $10 over the next three or four years. This higher figure would approximate a living wage.

About six months ago, the income and wealth gap in this country exploded into national consciousness. Until then, it had been discussed mostly in scholarly journals and conferences. PCG had for a long time been urging attention to these disparities given their threat to the common good. We have already developed an educational curriculum dealing with this very topic and are bringing it to your churches.

As we celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr., we recognize his legacy on behalf of racial justice. But let us not forget that on the day he was assassinated, he was in Memphis to lead a sanitation workers’ strike. In the months ahead, he was planning a Poor People’s march on Washington.

In the words of Mary’s Magnificat, we organize ways to lift up the lowly, and fill the hungry with good things. These are expressions of kindness and good will. They are acts of charity. But at Protestants for the Common Good, we believe it is important to remember that Mary’s words call us beyond charity, as important as such acts are.

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