It isn’t often that I agree completely and without reservation with Jim Winkler, General Secretary of the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, so I think I should note the occasion before it zips by. He writes in the online newsletter of the GBCS this week on state-sponsored gambling:

Employer-based pension plans are falling by the wayside. Some contend Social Security will not be around when they retire or, if it is, it won’t generate enough income to live comfortably. Never fear! One in five Americans thinks the best way to secure long-term economic security is through the lottery.

In the United States, 41 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico run lotteries. These are a form of gambling that includes such enticements as instant-win scratch-off-a-ticket, Lotto and other assorted daily games.

The United Methodist Social Principles are clear on gambling: “[It] is a menace to society, deadly to the best interests of moral, social, economic and spiritual life, destructive of good government and good stewardship.”

This is not a quaint notion. This is a real struggle against corrupt interests destroying our nation. I am always surprised that those in our denomination who exhibit such great anger against the idea of providing health care for all people or securing the rights of immigrants or bringing an end to war can remain resolutely silent against the patently fraudulent scheme of state-sponsored gambling.

I’m not surprised at that silence. The fact is that many people, including many Christians, think that the battle over state-run gambling is over, and the opponents lost, and that opposing the spread of gambling makes one sound like a modern-day Carrie Nation who smashes dice instead of bottles. While it may be the case that the tide runs strongly against those seek to prevent the states from preying on the weakest and poorest among us, that doesn’t mean that we should give up. Most people have no idea what kind of damage gambling does to countless lives, and the mainstream media has done nothing to educate them. That means other means have to be employed, including the Internet. And certainly the churches have a place in such an effort.

Read Winkler’s whole piece, and then go to First Things and read Maura Casey’s excellent article “Gambling with Lives,” which focuses on the effects that the spread of casinos and especially slot machines have had on thousands, perhaps millions, of people. It is sobering reading.