Here in Ohio, we have yet another voter referendum on casinos, Issue 3. In the course of the last 25 years of my life, pro-casino forces have tried to shove gambling down the throats of Ohioans with one voter referendum after another, but we’ve always gagged and spit them out.
Churches and police have stood arm in arm against gambling. Church leaders cited the studies that showed without a doubt that gambling destroys families.The Ohio Fraternal Order of Police was relentless in detailing the studies that prove that casinos lead to exponential jumps in crime.
But that was then. Now the police endorse the casinos.
Why? Sadly, I can reduce the answer to one character on the keyboard: $
Not only will law enforcement get two percent of the casino tax (which would make their share $19 million a year), but they will certainly drain additional money from taxpayers when crime increases—along with the need for more police to contain it—and the casino tax mysteriously fails to cover the added expense, as “We Who Know How These Things Work” know it will. It’s the ultimate in cynicism from the police. Rather than seeing crime as evil, they now see it as job security, their fair share of the filthy lucre, plus an additional shot at more funding. And my momma always told me I could trust a policeman. Ha!
Honestly, it’s a short trip from there to endorsing street drug sales. And prostitution. Heck, why not let the state’s legislators run a human organ trafficking ring out of the capitol building? Next thing you know, the state budget will be met by selling your liver and kidneys or mine to the highest bidder.
No bottom exists when money becomes the raison d’être. Today, morals and ethics take a distant third to money and lining one’s own pocket with it. I hate to be a cynic, but our culture as a whole in America is doomed if the answer to everything always comes down to cold, hard cash.
Look at the Roman Catholic Church and abortion. The RCC itself is staunchly anti-abortion, but the people in the seats are, by majority, for it. Big disconnect. So it’s not hard to imagine protestant churches as entities being strongly against this vice or that, but later finding that the individuals within are less inclined to match the doctrinal line. And money is a big divider.
The churches in my area are standing against the casinos, but when you talk with people outside their hallowed sanctuaries, many of them are mumbling the mantra of the casino marketers: more jobs, money for schools, and on and on. They wonder how any of that can bad.
We equate our jobs with money, so we let our jobs define us. “So what do you do for a living?” is usually the second question we ask someone after “What is your name, please?” A person’s answer usually tells us all we need to know about his or her salary. And from that we decide whether this is a person with whom we can be friends or who can benefit us as we claw our way to the top.
Heaven knows we need the right people in our churches. We make the business owner an elder and relegate the convenience store cashier to dumping out the Sunday nursery diapers.
And it’s all about money.
Truth is, Jesus doesn’t define us by what we do for a living. In other words, you are not your job. Nor does Jesus care all that much about how many earthly riches you and I have, for He looks on the richness of the heart.
I think I can also say without qualms that Jesus doesn’t like it much when we stand for money more than we stand for truth. I once visited a rich church comprised of a number of fast trackers to the upper echelons of management in one of the largest companies in town. Those men talked a great deal about stopping this vice and that in the name of Jesus. But when their own company took an antithetical position on a vice issue, these fellas shut up pretty quickly rather than risk their ascent to the corner office.
And that’s pretty much how each of us would have played the same hand, if dealt it. We really do love our money more.
What this economic dive has taught me more than anything: When it all comes down to it, we Americans will always choose money over Jesus. That’s the real American Christian either/or. And it’s only becoming more apparent as our societal restraints unravel. (Which is why it’s no coincidence that Hollywood is rolling out a timely new movie based on the old question of whether or not a person, for a large sum of money, would push a button guaranteed to anonymously kill some random person in the world. Answer: I think most people would, regardless of their religious beliefs. Of course, Hollywood wants to impose unrealistic consequences for the sake of suspense, but you and I know that most people would not spend more than 30 seconds pondering consequences. Everyone dies eventually, right?)
Honestly, I’m shocked that a few churches in Ohio haven’t publicly allied with the police to tout the need for casinos. If the casino referendum should—miracle of miracles—go down to defeat, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some churches lobbying for gambling next time the vote comes up (which it seems to every two years). If things get bad enough, we can always find ways to put a Christian spin on just about everything. Besides, selling your soul doesn’t hurt much when you do it one small chunk at a time.
I mean, we all have our price, don’t we?