Saturday, June 11, 2011

Church, Gambling, and Children

Yesterday was Peter's first church festival. He played the Duck Pond game, choosing his duck all by himself, and won a mini beach ball! (In this game, you pick up a duck, read the number on the bottom, and win a prize from that number bucket. It's very challenging.)

Tonight, however, was for the adults. My friend Becky and I went to the festival together, leaving Peter with my husband for some male bonding. Becky and I spent a total of $2.50 among the Duck Pond, Plinko, and the Lollypop Tree (guaranteed wins at all three!). I'm the proud owner of 2 pieces of candy, a pencil, a kaleidoscope the size of a toilet paper tube, and a cow stamp. We had a blast.

I think Peter had fun too. He's not sure.

I don't know if you've been to church festivals, but the Catholic ones I've attended always feature gambling. 50-50 raffles, a grand prize raffle, put your chips down on a number and spin the wheel, and sometimes more serious games like blackjack. I'd never really thought much of it, having grown up around them.

This year, I was listing the attractions and finished with, "and more serious gambling, which is in the gym." It suddenly struck me that it was odd to have an attraction at a church festival that has an age restriction. To relieve my cognitive dissonance, I just ignored it. Then, while walking the festival, I heard a vendor trying to convince two girls to come gamble in order to win chocolate. The girls were about ten years old.


I don't think gambling is evil. I don't think alcohol is evil. However, I do think both of these are potentially addictive. I do think they should be reserved for when a person has a certain amount of maturity and can understand exactly what he is doing. I sincerely hope that the people running the games of chance would intervene if a festival attendee was risking too much, but I am not confident of that being the case.

I also know many people can gamble responsibly and have a good time doing so. They enter the game with the knowledge they may lose it all, but think the thrill is worth a few bucks. More power to them. My question is, to what extent is the church culpable? Should they monitor the games? Should they have them at all?

One thing is certain. Peter will be shown that it's a lot cheaper to just buy a candy bar, and quite possible to have fun without gambling.


  1. Liana
    I agree with your thoughts that gambling and alcohol are not inherently evil. Action and inanimate objects, separated from humanity, never qualify for judgments in moral quality. Morality, it seems to me, comes down to an issue of human intent and motive, and any effort to determine, with any degree of certitude, the motives of another individual and/or group is difficult, at best, if not outright impossible. In fact, while it is possible to uncover our own true motives for many of our actions, it is never guaranteed. We, as a species, possess the unique ability to lie to ourselves.
    What troubles me about this same issue (gambling), relevant to its use by Christian institutions as a vehicle for raising funds, is that it seems to proclaim that the church(es) is no longer willing to be vulnerable to and dependent upon the widow's mite.
    Churches and individuals live within a wider cultural context, and it is often quite difficult to determine to what extent we are influenced by our identity with cultural vs. religious values/motives. They have become so alloyed that some do not even acknowledge that they might be in conflict with each other.
    There is so much to be said about this issue, and this is not the forum for doing so in any meaningful way. I wish there were a time and a place.
    Your final paragraph introduces a word that has consistently triggered a reminder to me of language's limitations! Fun? Wow! What does that mean? I have grown much more comfortable with words like peace and joy. I find most people's definitions of fun, well.....disturbing.
    I end with a request.Could you explain your blog's title? Of what, exactly, are you working to be worthy? I am very interested to know.

    Joy and peace
    Mr. H

  2. Mr. H,
    Thank you for your thoughtful response. I hadn't considered fund-raising relative to dependency on tithing, so you have certainly given me more food for thought.
    I have discussed with others the idea that many people seem to identify as Americans first and Christians second, which seems to be one facet of the cultural vs. religious values. It is difficult in some situations to tease these apart.
    I tend to use "fun" to describe light-hearted entertainment, while joy describes something much deeper. I agree that the excuse, "We were just having fun" often is used to justify actions that bring no joy to anyone. For me, I cannot have fun without joy, but can (and have) experienced joy even in suffering. The subjectivity of fun does render it less meaningful, though.
    Finally, my blog title. It is taken from Ephesians 4:1, "I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received." I am working to be worthy of my vocation to marriage and motherhood, and the many little ways God calls me each day. This call changes on a regular basis, as does my response. I regularly foul things up along the way, but I am working to be worthy. Thanks again for your response!