Vol. X No.26
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
In this issue:
Charity AND Justice
“My Soul magnifies the Lord…
He has brought down the powerful
From their thrones,
And lifted up the lowly;
He has filled the hungry with good things..”
Luke 1:46, 52–53
In our churches, acts of charity abound during the Christmas season. Some of us prepare food baskets to take to the local hospital, others gather coats for homeless shelters. We construct “angel trees” with branches holding the names of children who would not receive presents were it not for the generosity of others.
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.
In the words of Rev. Susan Johnson,
senior minister of Hyde Park Union Church, last Sunday: “Let us dwell this season on Mary’s witness and participation magnifying God for us … helping us to understand where God is, what God is doing, what the signs are—scattering the proud, bringing down the mighty, lifting up those of low estate, feeding those who hunger and thirst, sending away those who have more than enough…”
The Jesus to whom Mary gave birth did not speak in political terms. But he constantly told parables and raised questions about power, wealth, poverty and justice. He gave us a Gospel to which we cannot fully respond unless we wrestle with these same questions today. Most immediately, he asks us to understand why we are more divided by wealth and income than at any time in our recent history.
Mary’s Magnificat calls us to remember the struggle a year ago that led to an increase in the Illinois income tax from 3% to 5%. The charitable acts taking place in our churches this season pale in significance compared to cuts to services for the poor that would have been necessary had that increase not occurred. Even so, human services for the needy have been drastically slashed over the past twelve months.
Illinois, with its flat income tax and regressive sales and property tax structure, still places an unjust burden on the poor. We tax those at the bottom of the income scale at an effective rate of about 13%. Those in the top 20% pay a rate of about 4%. We are reversing Mary’s Magnificat as we fill the rich with good things and send the poor away empty. We need a progressive tax structure in Illinois, both to raise desperately needed revenue, and because it is just.
In fifteen years heading PCG, I have become struck with the degree to which churches on matters of social justice reflect the communities in which they are found. Shouldn’t it be just the opposite? Our message should be radical and transforming. The Gospel calls for something closer to what our lives together would look like if we really believed what Mary’s Magnificat tells us about how God will become visible in the world—a God who “has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly.”
Let us dedicate ourselves anew not only to charity but also to justice as we enter fully in to the joy of this Christmas season.
The Rev. Alexander Sharp, Executive Director
Last April, 2011, Rev. Alexander E. Sharp , PCG Executive Director, announced his decision to step down from the position of Executive Director no earlier than January 1, 2012 and no later than June 30. He expects to devote his work full-time to drug policy reform both in Illinois and in other states. The PCG Search Committee, comprised of PCG Board members, is currently seeking applications for the position of Executive Director. Procedures for applying are noted in the posting.
PCG Editor and Theologian-in-Residence Larry Greenfield writes on the relation of biblical texts, current events, and the common good. This week in, Invention, he writes,
Christmas is, after all, an invented date…The much more serious question is whether Christianity itself is an invented faith. Continue Reading...
PCG staff and board members report on policy initiatives. This week in, Mixed Results, Laura Dean F. Friedrich writes,
The General Assembly’s 2011 legislative year finally ended on December 13, 2011 after it passed two significant bills—one to give some tax relief to low-income, working families who are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit and the other to grant highly-profitable corporations tax breaks. Continue Reading...
Authors share their reflections on faith and the community. This week Rev. Susan Johnson contributes Scattering the Proud, Sending the Rich Away.
Rev. Susan Johnson discusses themes of danger and hope in the Magnificat and asks us to dwell on Mary’s witness and participation, which magnify God for us – that is, making God visible, tangible, palpable, follow-able, helping us to understand where God is, what God is doing, what the signs are – scattering the proud, bringing down the mighty, lifting up those of low estate, feeding those who hunger and thirst, sending away those who have had more than enough already. Continue Reading...
Biblical scholar Jay Wilcoxen advocates for the plain and direct sense of the Lectionary readings for each week.
- Jan 6, The Epiphany (Year B)
“Epiphany is light to the nations, whose sages come to find a king, and who hear of their inclusion in the good news. ”
Jay Wilcoxen reviews the expanding genre of Study Bibles, a new review each month.
- The Most Famous Study Bible of Them All: The Scofield Reference Bible
“Whether counted by sales, by persistent devotion of readers, or by longevity in print, Scofield’s Reference Bible is undoubtedly the most famous—and infamous—study Bible in all of Protestantism. This now hundred-year-old Reference Bible became a trademark of Fundamentalist Orthodoxy, and made John Nelson Darby’s Dispensationalism the principal guide to Bible prophecy. ”
Noteworthy PCG events, opportunities and press.
PCG believes that it is imperative for people of faith to participate actively in our political democracy. Learn how to become an advocate.
Read about the results of PCG’s legislative work during the spring session of the Illinois General Assembly. Our work on the state budget crisis, in concert with the Responsible Budget Coalition, continued throughout the entire 2010 legislative session, with approval of the long-sought income tax increase coming on the final day, January 11, 2011. We celebrate several other important legislative successes, achieved during the 2011 session, particularly in the areas of criminal justice and the environment. Contact Laura Dean Friedrich if you would like more information about our policy advocacy work.
PCG is working with the Raise Illinois Coalition to pass legislation to increase the minimum wage in Illinois. A full-time worker making the current minimum wage ($8.25/hour) earns about $17,000 a year before taxes, which studies have demonstrated, is simply not enough to live on in Illinois. As disparities between the rich and the poor grow larger, increasing the minimum wage by 50 cents each year for four years (until it reaches $10.65) would go a long way in keeping families out of extreme poverty. Please take a moment to sign one of two petitions to members of the Illinois General Assembly. Faith leaders and clergy are asked to sign the faith letter and church and community members are asked to sign the voter letter. We hope to deliver the letters and signatures at the beginning of the new legislative session in January. For more information on the bill, please visit Raise Illinois.
Protestants for the Common Good is on Facebook, and we’d love for you to “Like” us. Use it as a way to keep up to date on events and action alerts, to see interesting news articles and blog posts, and to stay in touch with other fans of PCG. We also encourage you to invite others to join, make comments and post relevant articles or links, and let us know what you think by emailing Betsy at email@example.com. In addition to “liking” our facebook page, for those of you who use Twitter, you can now follow PCG.
Please join in the work of Protestants for the Common Good and our coalition partners by attending the following events.
Rockford, IL: Would you like to make an impact in Rockford? Are you tired of seeing significant change pushed to the curb? Are you looking for partners to build safer, healthier, more just neighborhoods? This upcoming training may be for you! Emmanuel Episcopal Church (412 North Church Street) will host a training in community organizing for residents and leaders of Rockford. The free training will be conducted by staff from the Industrial Areas Foundation, and dinner will be catered each evening, also at no charge. The two-part training will take place on January 11 and 13 from 6–8:30pm each night. For more information, or to register for the training, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (815) 979–7883.
Evanston, IL: Rev. Al Sharp, Executive Director, will be preaching at Northminster Presbyterian Church during the main service at 9:30 a.m. Following the service, he will lead the adult education hour from 11:00 a.m. until noon. Rev. Sharp will focus on PCG’s new education program on the disparity of wealth and power. Northminster Presbyterian Church is located at 2515 Central Avenue in Evanston. For more information, contact the PCG office at 312.223.9544.
The Common Good Network welcomes responses from readers about individual articles or the newsletter as a whole. We also welcome submissions from our readers. Take a moment to tell us what you think. Please email your suggestions, comments, and submissions to email@example.com. Protestants for the Common Good relies on its members and readers for much of its support. If you are able to contribute, please do so.
© 2011 Protestants for the Common Good. All Rights Reserved.
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