Faith in Progress

Faith in Progress

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

The debt crisis looming in Washington makes clear that we are in the midst of a new civil war in this country. The divisions between us are deep, even spiritual. The fight is not really over the size of the deficit, nor even about expenditure cuts. They are about taxes as the lifeblood of government.

The Fourth of July, a day of pride for all Americans, has special significance for the Tea Party. With the sound of fireworks still ringing in our ears, it is a good time to ask whether their constant invoking of our founders is anything more than political expediency disguised as history.

Acts of political courage are not all that common these days. That's why County Board President Toni Preckwinkle's presence at a rally in downtown Chicago last Friday calling for an “End to the War on Drugs” was a singular event.

The Illinois General Assembly has gone home for the summer, but not before passing a 2012 state budget that drastically cuts services for the neediest and most vulnerable people in our state. The sad and stark truth is that most of the cuts were unnecessary: there were reliable sources of revenue that could been called upon.

We invite you to join us on June 8 at Victory Gardens Theater. Friends of PCG will attend _The Gospel According to James,_ which, in the words of the playwright, “is about redemption, forgiveness, and the ferocious power that one’s memory has to protect the individual.”

We are facing a budget crisis in Illinois. Not like several months ago, before the legislature increased the state income tax. Then we were trying to determine if our state could remain solvent. Now we must decide whether we have a soul.

It is hard to believe how mindless, even cruel, we can be when it comes to budget cuts in tough times in Illinois.

Now being considered: a reduction of nearly $45 million in TANF, the program that provides temporary cash assistance to needy children and their families. Grants are only 25% of the federal poverty level, $474 for a family of four. The number of children served would be reduced by one-third.

The so-called War on Drugs has turned the United States into a “prisoner nation” with horrendous consequences for African Americans. Pam Rodriquez, head of Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC) served as staff director of the Disproportionate Justice Impact Commission Report, mandated two years ago by the Illinois General Assembly.

Why should Christians care about drug policy? Just last week, our new Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle answered this question with a forthrightness I have rarely seen in any political leader. Holding up a copy of the book The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness, President Preckwinkle stated that we as a society we are guilty of “institutional racism.”

PCG’s commitment to the environment has always required us to care for God’s creation--and to help the most vulnerable among us, those who have contributed the least to the problem, but stand to suffer the most.

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