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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
           Friday, May 9 2003 

Jon Kennedy, webmasterMother's counsels

Some of the topics I wanted to take up under the discussion of gambling, related to conservative author and speaker William Bennett's being "outed" this week as a high-stakes gambler for at least the past decade, are covered very well in a widely published column by Associated Press religion writer, Richard N. Ostling, linked here. So rather than reinvent something already out there, I'll recommend reading that article and confine my continuing remarks to my own history of being anti-gambling, rolled into a tribute to my late mother apropos Mother's Day this Sunday.

My introduction to the concept that gambling is a sin came, like most of my conceptions of sins, under my mother's tutelage. Though Dad liked to mingle with the crowds at carnivals, Mom disliked carnivals probably because of the three (maybe four) strikes they had against them. They usually had girlie (or "girlesque") shows which had the main purpose of enticing impressionable teenage boys into lustful thoughts and possible acts. They included seers and conjurers who were no doubt summoning the dark side to tell fortunes for a price. "Carneys," as carnival workers are called, are generally recognized as an unsavory lot, not to be trusted as far as you could throw them. And most easily explained as evil and out of bounds for Christians by Mom, carnivals have games of chance that promise wonderful prizes for the lucky. Mom's answer to most questions like "what's wrong with that?" was often, "it just is," especially if she couldn't find a proof text from Scripture declaring God's wrath against it. So to the extent that I trusted my mother I had to take the warning seriously (if I wanted to be a Christian), but to the extent that I wanted to consider myself a rational animal, I had to investigate the whys and wherefores of such counsels.

List member Jim Martin got to one of the bedrock issues pertaining to gambling as sin by suggesting in response to Wednesday's first installment on this topic that it's based on coveting, which is condemned in God's list of the top ten sins (aka the "Ten Commandments"). Gambling is definitely related to coveting, and its handmaid, greed, one of the seven deadly sins of venerable tradition. The midway barker's yells, "best prizes on the midway" or "easiest cats to knock down" are calculated to get the coveting juices flowing. Even the charitable bingo game touts its prizes as something you have to have to be the envy of all your peers, which is itself a double-jeopardy sin (wanting to be envied, aka, vain pride added to the desire to possess for its own sake).

As with most theological precepts, as I've matured and gotten educated I've had to revisit such learning mileposts to re-examine whether the underlying "theology" holds. And with gambling my naive assumptions have been reinforced many times over. Not only is it rooted in covetousness, spending your money on such vapid pursuits is bad stewardship (I could never play even an unpaying pinball game for this reason, even though I don't remember Mom ever mentioning pinball as bad). Having talked with more admitted gambling addicts than drug addicts in my time, I've been convinced that it's a social disease that could be cured fairly easily if "society" chose to do so. But as I've watched movies on the Las Vegas lifestyle and gambling as a syndrome, and reading Tom Wolfe's essays about it, it's dawned on me that the "lucky" part of gambling is probably an even bigger no-no in terms of the big ten, than is "thou shalt not covet." It is, I think, covered on the very first commandment: "Have no other gods." I've come to believe that "luck" is the biggest false god worshipped in our society, and nowhere else is this more true than the craps tables where prayers to Lady Luck ring out 24/seven: "Come on, come on, baby needs a new pair of shoes" is (I'm given to believe) more common in Vegas and Atlantic City than the Jesus Prayer, "Hail Mary," or "Our Father," maybe all together.

—Webmaster Jon Kennedy

 BUMPERS STICKERS FOR LADIES

ALL STRESSED OUT AND NO ONE TO CHOKE
I CAN BE ONE OF THOSE BAD THINGS THAT HAPPENS TO BAD PEOPLE
HOW CAN I MISS YOU IF YOU WON'T GO AWAY?
And last but not least:
IF YOU WANT BREAKFAST IN BED, SLEEP IN THE KITCHEN

— Sent by Mary Ann Losiewcz

Thought for today

Arguments are to be avoided; they are always vulgar and often convincing.

— Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

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