Rev. Mark H. Creech
It has been a startling evolution to witness in North Carolina. Republican lawmakers, long-standing friends of Christian values, are now touting for increased gambling.
House Bill 954 – Video Lottery Entertainment is a measure championed by Rep. Harry Warren (R-Rowan). Another Republican, Rep. Tim Moffit (R-Henderson), is also a primary sponsor. The bill, if passed, would place into operation thousands of video poker-type devices across the state under the auspices of the state lottery. Numerous experts have referred to these video gambling machines as the “crack cocaine of gambling.” They are highly addictive and destructive.
In August of this year, the state Senate passed Senate Bill 688 – Sports Wagering, an initiative that would legalize sports betting in the Tar Heel state. John Rustin of the North Carolina Family Policy Council rightly condemned the legislation, saying it would “flood our state, and especially our children and young adults, with never-ending advertisements for gambling on amateur, electronic, collegiate, and professional sporting events.” He added that it would result in tens of thousands more of our state’s citizens and their families becoming victimized by a predatory gambling industry.
SB 688 was championed by Senate Majority Whip, Republican Sen. Jim Perry (Lenoir) and voted for by eight other Republicans: Senators Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), Kathy Harrington (R-Gaston), Todd Johnson (R-Union), Michael A. Lazzara (R-Onslow), Michael V. Lee (R-New Hanover), Tom McInnis (R-Anson), Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick) and Vickie Sawyer (R-Iredell).
The overwhelming support of Senate Democrats for the bill along with nine Republicans was enough to get it over the top to succeed. So, one might conclude that the bill was initiated by a Republican and wouldn’t have passed if it were not for the few Republicans who went along with it.
In an article titled, Video Gambling Legislation Advances as GOP Softens Its Stance, 30-year veteran journalist, Lynn Bonner, writing for NC Policy Watch, noted:
“The state lottery passed in 2005 with no Senate Republicans voting in favor. A Republican senator who was absent for the vote and did not actively oppose the lottery lost his primary the following year.
“The Republican position on gambling has morphed since then.”
Indeed, it has.
Admittedly, this writer was prepared to excoriate Republican lawmakers now in support of more gambling and explain in this editorial some of the reasons this may have come about. But then it hit me; judgment should begin first with the House of God.
In his terrific book, Seducing America, Rex Rogers correctly argues that our Christian forebears were adamantly opposed to gambling. He writes that they “considered gambling a moral threat, and they acted against it accordingly.” He adds this opposition wasn’t only from theological conservatives, but liberal churches also. “But now,” says Rogers, “many people on both ends of the theological spectrum seemed to have lost interest in the subject. What has happened to us?”
Yes, what has happened to the church on this issue? Rogers gives some reasons why Christians have been slow to respond to the advances of commercialized gambling. Here are a few:
- Conservative Christians politically came of age, so to speak, during the 1970s. They focused primarily on issues like “abortion, pornography, crime, gun control, sex education, creationism, family values, and prayer in the public schools. Gambling was not on the list.
- “Conservative Christians, particularly those who call themselves fundamentalists, have been historically reticent to get involved in politics or social concerns. While theologically conservative pastors may preach on gambling as part of the stewardship of one’s finances, they are less likely to mount local campaigns to thwart the development of gambling enterprises…”
- “This generation of Christians is uninformed about the rapid growth of commercial gambling, unaware of its financial and moral dangers, and, consequently, unconcerned about gambling as a social question.”
- “Ambivalence toward the morality of gambling stems from lack of awareness of the history of gambling, the abstract nature of the issue, and ignorance of biblical principles. Few Christians seem to be able to say forthrightly whether gambling is a virtue or a vice and why.”
- “Christians have been lulled to sleep by ‘gambling creep’ – the gradual but steady introduction of gambling into mainstream American life.”
As of 2019, 45 states now have lotteries. Here in North Carolina, we have the lottery, casinos, and video sweepstakes are operating illegally in numerous counties. Yet, while most of this was happening, the opposition was, at best, rather lukewarm.
- “Christians are just as materialistic as anyone else. We’re victims of what Bill Hybels labeled ‘the Monster called, More.’” We’re susceptible to the lure of quick riches, the easy dollar, and the free lunch. So, Christians gamble too.”
Shame! Gambling is a wicked vice that undermines the character of our culture. The list of its deleterious effects is long. If Republican lawmakers are to regain their footing on the matter, it will only likely come about because Christians are seriously engaged on the subject. This means Christians should clean up their own lives and repent of any participation in gambling, as well as aggressively oppose it. Otherwise, gambling will continue its steady “creep,” and Christians will share in its negative outcomes and responsibility.
As Rogers concluded, “Theological disapproval does not always translate into social or political opposition. Saying most Christians are against gambling is one thing. Demonstrating Christian anti-gambling activity is another.”© Rev. Mark H. Creech
The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.