When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
I’ve marched with the teachers and the fast food workers. I’ve collected petitions for clean power and the 31st street bus. I’ve met with aldermen, senators and representatives about fracking and school closures and trash cans, but I’ve never been so moved by an issue to risk my personal freedom before now.
In 2012 half of Chicago's mental health facilities were closed. Our newly elected governor proposes to cut state mental health funding by 15%. Cuts to mental health services are short sighted and result in higher rates of homelessness, more emergency room visits, and more vulnerable people dying.
I can't abide this.
So on Monday I went to Jackson and LaSalle, and joined faith leaders from across the city to ask Gov. Rauner, "What Would Jesus Cut?" With 12 others I chose to engage in civil disobedience and was arrested.
I have never been more sure of anything in my life. I am the sort of person who plans, and plans for everything. I started that day realizing that there was no way that I could predict what would happen. I left my purse and phone behind and pinned a change purse with my ID to my dress.
Let’s talk about the dress for a moment; completely impractical choice of clothing. However, it was important to me that if I was going to do this I had to do it as myself. So I wore a dress and my usual Birkenstock sandals, also impractical, and I pinned my ID to my dress and without a phone, or money, or any idea of how the day would go I went into a situation that was so out of character for me, and I did it with complete confidence; the sort of confidence that comes from doing something that you know is right.
The action went like most actions do. People gathered and chanted. There were speakers. Then those of us who had planned to do civil disobedience took the table representing hoarded wealth, and the divide between rich and poor, and flipped it over in the street. We sat around the table as Drew Rindfleish lead the crowd in chants and song.
there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting
I had anticipated fear but it never came. I felt connected to the crowd on the street in a way that I don’t think I can explain. It was their voices that comforted me and gave me the strength to stay put. The confidence I had started with that morning turned into a different sort of confidence; the sort of confidence that comes from knowing that you are part of something bigger than yourself.
One of our God’s Closet regulars came with us. She is a homeless woman who once had a job, a family, a fairly normal life. At some point she had a mental break and lost her job, her family, her normal life, and became homeless. I saw her singing and dancing with the crowd, her passion, singing “who’s side are you on…” I could feel.
I looked at the others sitting in the circle, I did not see ego, I did not see fear. I saw 12 powerful, confident people. Like me they appeared to be getting their power and confidence from the crowd. And when the police came they all answered the questions the same way:
Do you know that you could walk away right now and avoid arrest? Yes.
Is anyone forcing you to be here? No.
Is it your intention to be arrested today? Yes.
Please stand up so that we can place you under arrest.
And calmly, one by one we stood and went with the police to be issued tickets for “Failure to exercise due care.” They informed us of our court date, and allowed us to go. A couple of the cops thanked us for being there. These cuts are hurting them too.
All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
So, what is the result? The television news included a clip of Rev. Straight making a statement that not enough of our neighbors have heard, “two-thirds of Illinois corporations do not pay any state income tax.” Friends, some who normally don’t care much for politics, saw me on the news, or saw my arrest photo on Facebook and I had the opportunity to tell them, and for them to really listen, as I explained why I was there.
Later the fear came. I sincerely hope that I never have to do this again, but I fear that I will. Not because I fear the sacrifice of my freedom but because I fear that these cuts will be enacted and people will die.
Like I said before, I can’t abide that.
Pictured: Pr. Tom Gaulke, Brianna Tong, Rene Paquin, Rev. Victor Corriano, Pr. Ben Adams, Francisco Herrera, Rev. Rachel Weasley, Will Tanzman, Melissa Rubio, Ruby Pinto, Eli Namay, Catherine Buntin, Rev. Charles Straight