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Rev. VanBaren is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.

 

The Sin of Gambling

 

The evils of this present world abound and continually increase. Wickedness has been present since the fall of Adam. Perhaps there are truly no sins present today that have not been present since Adam’s time. We see forms of these sins today as never before—but the sin is essentially that of pride. It was so in Adam. Man today, as Adam originally, will determine for himself what is good and what is evil. The corrupted nature of fallen mankind is such that man chooses the evil—unless he sees that it might be harmful to him in his present situation.

It is difficult to point to one or another of the evils about us and claim it is the worst of all. There is the sin (and addiction) of drunkenness. There is the sin of lust, together with the enjoyment of that through the drama of this world. There is the sin of violence and the enjoyment of that vicariously through television and movie presentations as well as by video games and over the Internet. There are other sins of addiction to which often even children of God succumb.

Then too there is the terrible sin of jealousy, envy, and the love of money. This explains the rapidly growing evil, in our own day, of gambling. Once, not so very long ago, public gambling was possible only in Las Vegas, Nevada. Today there are gambling casinos in virtually every state. Not only that, some of the states themselves have adopted games of gambling—supposedly to help pay for the cost of education of the children or to lessen the burden of regular taxation.

And, more recently, “Indian” tribes operate many casinos. These have sought to build ever more and larger casinos. A new “Indian” casino is planned for the area of Dorr, Michigan—just south of Grand Rapids. Many of the citizens in the area oppose this. Rev. Doug Kuiper, when still minister in the Byron Center (MI) Protestant Reformed Church, gave a public speech in opposition to gambling. He emphasized the sin of this activity.

What about “Indian” casinos? An article by Rich Lawry that appeared in the National Review, August 25, 2004, states:

American Indians have always occupied an outsized place in our imagination, usually as a noble people at one with a pristine North American continent. It’s time to upgrade the image. Forget buffalo, eagle feathers, and tribal dances. Think slots, Harrah’s and dirty politics.

The California recall is providing the nation an intense education in contemporary American Politics, and high on the list of lessons is that Indian tribes have, lucratively, sold their souls to gambling and can buy off or defeat anyone who might want to stand in their way. California tribes make some $5 billion a year in gambling revenue, and have poured more than $120 million into state political campaigns since 1998. It’s much the same story across the country.

It’s time to ditch the fiction of tribal sovereignty, and recognize the tribes for what they are: good, old-fashioned, all-American sleaze merchants and scam artists. They should be fully welcomed into the American family like used-car salesmen, Hollywood, and telephone marketers.

A 25-member California tribe, the Cabazons, kicked off the explosion of Indian gambling by winning a 1987 Supreme Court decision letting tribes run gambling operations that otherwise would violate state law. Congress soon passed legislation saying that gambling must be allowed on reservations, and states should reach “compacts” with tribes over the details.

In California, then-Gov. Pete Wilson was a tough bargainer with the tribes, so they took matters into their own hands: They spent tens of millions to pass two propositions opening the state to more Indian gambling, and they bought new Gov. Gray Davis ($1.8 million in tribal cash for his re-election last year), who cut a generous compact with them in 1999. California is now on the way to becoming the West Coast’s Las Vegas.

Indian gambling is an ill-disguised scam. Some so-called tribes have 30 people or less. They basically rent their names to Las Vegas casinos that run their gambling operations for as much as a 40 percent cut of the take….

The article concludes:

The ultimate answer to the Indian scam is to end the fiction of tribal sovereignty. If tribes are sovereign nations, why are they allowed to interfere in U.S. elections by contributing huge amounts of money?

When another sovereign nation, like China, pours money into U.S. politics, as it did in 1996, it’s a national scandal and cause for an FBI investigation.

Sovereignty has not only allowed tribes to make an end-run around laws against gambling, but has perpetuated arbitrary third world-style government on reservations that makes it impossible for businesses to operate there….

There appears to be some progress made against the growing evil of gambling. In Michigan there was a voter-initiated law passed that limits this state’s right to introduce additional gambling games or casinos. There must be a statewide voter approval as well as approval of the locality where such gambling would be introduced before the state can expand on its gambling plans. The “Indian” casinos in Michigan supported this law—for it limits competition for them. But—no matter. The state has no right to be in the gambling business. Worse: it seeks to induce its citizens to participate increasingly in the sin of gambling by means of intense advertising campaigns.

In Lynwood, IL there also is an attempt to build a large Indian casino. Area residents have sought to prevent this coming into their neighborhood. It appears that they are having a degree of success. In their local paper, the Northwest Indiana Times, November 23, 2004, David Mitchell writes:

Anti-casino activists are lauding a new law which could kill the plans for a proposed Ho-Chunk casino in Lynwood—or anywhere else in the state.

The Native American Gaming Act made it through both houses of the Illinois General Assembly last week to override a late July veto by Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The new act requires the governor to submit a request and receive legislative approval before entering into a gaming compact with an American Indian tribe.

The law—which specifically targets American Indian gaming—could most immediately affect the Ho-Chunk nation, which has been working on plans for the state’s first land-based, American Indian casino on 432 acres in Lynwood.

“It makes it almost impossible to have Indian gaming in Illinois—ever,” said Carl Smits, president of the group Citizens For Our Community, Inc., which has been strenuously opposing the Ho-Chunk nation’s efforts.

The law essentially takes the power to negotiate a gaming compact out of the governor’s hands and puts it under the authority of the entire General Assembly.

“If you do the simple math on the effort it would take to lobby every legislator … it’s next to impossible,” Smits said.

Still, Smits said his group will continue to petition area municipal officials in the ongoing effort to get local resolutions passed in opposition to the casino.

While the group is opposed to gaming in general, Smits said members specifically dislike the sovereign status given tribal governments and do not believe any ethnicity should receive such benefits.

While the act passed through the state’s General Assembly, the indication is its constitutionality may be challenged on the federal level.

Blagojevich explained his decision to veto the bill in writing on July 30.

“By changing the procedural means by which the state may enter a gaming compact with a Native American tribe, this bill alters the relationship between the legislative and executive branches of government,” he wrote to state senators.

According to Rick Bryant, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who has been among those pushing hardest for the casino, the legality of the measure certainly is an issue.

“We understand the General Assembly’s interest in having a voice in the tribal state compact,” Bryant said. “However, we believe the federal law gives the power to the governor and we are confident that the governor will negotiate a deal that is fair to all parties.”

A strong case could be made that gambling quickly becomes addictive, destroys families through the loss of financial resources, and undermines and destroys the very fabric of society.

But there is the more fundamental question of sin. If one opposes the evil of gambling on the basis that God’s law and Word are violated, then the “radical, religious right” will be accused of confusing politics and religion. Yet surely that must be done—as Rev. Doug Kuiper points out in the pamphlet referred to above. (To see this on-line, go to: www.prca.org/pamphlets/gambling.htm ) However, if one manages to defeat this sin by means of the majority vote of the legislature or the vote of the people, it stands to reason that this “majority vote” can quickly be used to allow for this and other sins later as well. In the final analysis, a changed, regenerated heart is required. Our calling, then, is to testify that there must be repentance and confession of this sin so that these evils are rooted out of one’s life.

 

A Fatherland to be Ashamed of

 

One could have expected it.

The Netherlands, homeland of many of our forbears, has allowed for euthanasia of the terminally ill for some time. There were, presumably, safeguards so that no one could be killed “mercifully” against his will. The Grand Rapids Press, December 1, 2004, shows how this inevitably leads to something even worse and more evil:

Amsterdam, Netherlands—A hospital in the Netherlands—the first nation to permit euthanasia—recently proposed guidelines for mercy killings of terminally ill newborns, and then made a startling revelation: It has already begun carrying out such procedures, which include administering a lethal dose of sedatives.

The announcement by the Groningen Academic Hospital came amid a growing discussion in Holland on whether to legalize euthanasia on people incapable of deciding for themselves whether they want to end their lives—a prospect viewed with horror by euthanasia opponents and as a natural evolution by advocates.

In August, the main Dutch doctors’ association KNMG urged the Health Ministry to create an independent board to review euthanasia cases for terminally ill people “with no free will,” including children, the severely mentally retarded and people left in an irreversible coma after an accident. 

The Health Ministry is preparing its response, which could come as soon as December, a spokesman said.

Three years ago, the Dutch parliament made it legal for doctors to inject a sedative and a lethal dose of muscle relaxant at the request of adult patients suffering great pain with no hope of relief.

The Groningen Protocol, as the hospital’s guidelines have come to be known, would create a legal framework for permitting doctors to actively end the life of newborns deemed to be in pain from incurable disease or extreme deformities….

…Roman Catholic organizations and the Vatican reacted with outrage, and U.S. euthanasia opponents say the proposal shows the Dutch have lost their moral compass.

“The slippery slope in the Netherlands has descended already into a vertical cliff,” said Wesley J. Smith, a prominent California-based critic, in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

It was, of course, inevitable. When abortion and euthanasia are permitted as a matter of “choice,” the outcome must be that at some point others will have to decide who lives and who dies—and how. It is particularly sad when the very land where the Reformation light once shown so brightly, now appears to be in the forefront of those who would deliberately forsake the law and Word of God.