Sacred Rage

Just when you think the state budget crisis can’t get any worse, it does.

By failing to pay for services rendered, we are about to force the closing of the Philip J. Rock School and Center, which is the only year-around residential program for children in Illinois who are both deaf and blind. Does our public immorality know no bounds?

If this does not cause church congregations all across our state to express collective rage, I don’t know what will.

This is exactly what PCG is urging clergy and lay leaders in churches throughout Illinois to do. We are calling for a “Budget Sabbath” (perhaps we should have a contest to think of a better name) on the weekend of Sunday, September 26.

We are asking ministers to preach on the budget crisis: we will provide fact sheets and in-depth material. We are suggesting that Sunday education forums be devoted to the topic. And we are urging individuals in congregations to sign the petition on behalf of a Responsible Budget.

Why do I cite the Philip Rock School? So much other damage has already been done: through budget cuts and the failure to pay bills, we are shredding our entire social services safety net, cutting teachers, and closing libraries. But there is something symbolically, as well as tragically real, about turning our backs on individuals—children—who are both blind and deaf.

From my own experience I realize the term “budget” does not generate excitement. After flirting about a year ago in my home church with the idea of an educational program called Budget 101, the idea slipped away, and we are now concentrating on violence. We have a banner in front the church with the names of all the Chicago children who have been shot in the last year.

We should do this. But we must simultaneously recognize that we will not ultimately be effective in addressing violence without turning to budgets.

The single best thing I have read recently on violence appeared in a Chicago Sun-Times editorial after the shooting of Officer Michael Bailey:

“…In a moment of frustration…when asked by a reporter if Chicago needs more cops or more social programs, Mayor Daley snapped, ‘Everyone says we need everything.’

But the mayor was on to something. Our city does need everything. Chicago needs more parents, to echo the sentiments of Bill Cosby, who do a better job of raising their own children. Nothing matters more than strong families.

But Chicago also needs…a wide range of civic reforms and initiatives that could make all the difference…better schools, fewer guns, more summer and after-school youth programs, more and better drug treatment programs and more jobs.

Chicago needs more cops, but more social workers, too. None of this is easy. None of this is cheap. But it’s the only way.”

Isn’t it obvious that very little can be done on behalf of those most in need without careful attention to budgets?

Please join us on the “Budget Sabbath” to declare that the budget crisis in Illinois is not morally permissible. Let us assist you in this expression of sacred rage.


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