Beating the Odds

Christians in two states defeat gambling by exposing its harmful effects on the poor.
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This fall Christians won a great victory for good government and liberal values. But no one expressed it in those terms. In the media it was painted as a victory for the repressive moralism of the Religious Right.What we're talking about is a reversal in the spread of state-sponsored gambling. The biggest victory was in Alabama, where Governor Don Siegelman had been swept into office on his promise of a referendum to legalize a state lottery. Polls showed 60 percent of voters favoring the referendum.But churches throughout the state mobilized a campaign in opposition, uniting believers across denominational, racial, and geographical lines. Not far from the state capitol in Montgomery a billboard asked, "Lottery? WWJD [What would Jesus do]?" Since statistically the poor spend a much higher percentage of their income gambling than do the rich, pastors condemned the lottery plan from the pulpit, arguing that it is morally wrong for the state to raise money by preying on the poor."A lottery is the most regressive of taxes," Michael Kelly explains in the Washington Post: It's a way of saying, "You want better schools but you don't want to pay for them? No problem, we'll get the poor folk to pay your freight."Though outspent four to one, the churches prevailed and voters rejected the lottery plan—an astonishing victory.Two days later, South Carolina's high court handed the gambling industry another defeat, declaring a proposed state wide referendum on video poker unconstitutional. The ruling leaves intact a law prohibiting the game as of July 1, 2000. This in a state where last November then-Governor David Beasley, a Christian, was ousted precisely because of his firm opposition to gambling. Again, it was churches that helped ...

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Charles Colson
Charles Colson was the founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries, an outreach to convicts, victims of crime, and justice officers. Colson, who converted to Christianity before he was indicted on Watergate-related charges, became one of evangelicalism's most influential voices. His books included Born Again and How Now Shall We Live? A Christianity Today columnist since 1985, Colson died in 2012.
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