Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Gambling and social justice

Russell Moore arguing that legalized gambling (casino and otherwise) isn't primarily a moral issue. . .

But gambling isn’t merely a “values” issue. Neither is it primarily a “moral” issue, at least not in terms of what we typically classify as “moral values” issues. Gambling isn’t primarily a question of personal vice. If it were, we could simply ask our people to avoid the lottery tickets and horse-tracks, but leave it legal. Gambling is a social justice issue that defines how it is that we love our neighbors and uphold the common good.

Gambling is a form of economic predation. Gambling grinds the faces of the poor into the ground. It benefits multinational corporations while oppressing the lower classes with illusory promises of wealth, and with (typically) low-wage, transitory jobs that simultaneously destroy every other economic engine of a local community.

In the end, the casinos will leave. And they’ll leave behind a burned-over district with no thriving agricultural, manufacturing, or tourism economies. In the meantime, they leave behind the wreckage of “check-to-cash” loan sharks, pawn shops, prostitution, and 1-2-3 divorce courts.

Conservative Christians can’t talk about gambling, if we don’t see the bigger picture.

Moore goes on to write that the best way for Christians to undercut the appeal of gambling is to faithfully and compassionately preach the gospel to those vulnerable to the allure of the slots. Read the whole thing!

On a related note I'm not surprised to see that the billionaire bankrolling Newt Gingrich's campaign is a casino magnate. How telling that he's prepared to spend millions to stop Rick Santorum because he doesn't like the Pennsylvanian's social conservatism. I wonder how those South Carolina voters that gave Gingrich his big moment in the sun feel about that? Say what you will about Santorum, he's a principled conservative in the traditional sense of that oft-corrupted word. I'd love to see him debate the President on some of the major social issues that divide our country right down the middle, issues of more lasting significance than budgets and taxes (though budgets and taxes can effect those issues).

As Ross Douthat wrote recently:

From election to election, politics is mostly about jobs and the economy and the state of the public purse — which is as it should be. But the arguments that we remember longest, that define what it means to be democratic and American, are often the debates over human life and human rights, public morals and religious freedom – culture war debates, that is, in all their many forms.

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