How our Faith Informs our Opposition to Casinos

We’d like to take a moment to share with you, our fellow members of First Church, how our faith has informed our strong opposition to casinos. We applaud the UCC’s past resolutions on gambling, but want to provide some further perspectives on why we’re working and praying hard for the YES on 3 cause, and why we hope you will too.

Our favorite parts of being members of First Church are the opportunity to help serve those in need, and to be part of a multi-generational community where we can learn from our elders and help guide our youth.   As we’ve researched this issue, we’ve learned that casinos in Massachusetts would do a great deal of harm to those three groups: those in need, our elders, and our youth.

Casinos Exploit the Poor

It’s no secret that casinos oppress and exploit the poor. According to a 2004 study by Welte, et. al., people in the lowest financial quintile have more than 3 times the rate of pathological gambling than people in the top four quintiles. The authors of the study theorize that “the poor may see gambling as an escape from poverty, making them more prone to gambling pathology.” The mathematics of gambling dictate that for the vast majority, it is not an escape, but means of falling deeper into poverty.

In Luke 14:18, in which is Jesus quoting from Isaiah 61, it is written that: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor.”

The mathematics of gambling dictate that for the vast majority, it is not an escape, but means of falling deeper into poverty.

As Bishop Douglas Fisher of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Mass puts it, “Jesus comes to bring good news to the poor. Casinos are bad for the poor. We follow Jesus.” His statement is a must read, full of theological and other reasons to support the YES on 3 cause. The Massachusetts Catholic Bishops also recently released a thoughtful statement in support of YES on 3 based largely on the exploitation of the poor. We believe that putting a casino in impoverished locations like Springfield and Everett is a social injustice, and the right thing to speak out and oppose it.

Casinos Harm Our Older and Younger Neighbors

From Mark 12:29-31: Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ “

Our older neighbors all too often turn to casinos in attempt to fill the voids they feel due to lack of human contact and caring.

Casinos are supposed to keep underage people off the gambling floors. But the temptation of alcohol and gambling means that many of our youth will attempt to gamble anyway. “About one-third of those banned from Colorado’s casinos are being kept from playing the state’s slots, card tables and roulette wheels after being convicted of underage gambling infractions.” And we shocked to see this 2008 article which stated that “the number of underage gamblers turned away from casinos or arrested in New Jersey had been about cut in half – from a high of 144,000 in 2001 to last year’s low of 77,000.” Those who gamble at a young age are at increased risk for gambling addiction.

Our youth don’t have to enter a casino’s doors to be harmed, as the increased gambling addiction that comes with proximity to casinos, causes increased domestic and child abuse, divorce, and bankruptcy. And the free alcohol that would be allowed from 8AM – 2AM threatens us and our children on the roads. The tiny town of Ledyard, Connecticut that is home to Foxwoods casino has the highest rate of drunk driving accidents in the state, with 4 drunk driving deaths tied to the neighboring Mohegan Sun casino in 2009.

Our older neighbors all too often turn to casinos in attempt to fill the voids they feel due to lack of human contact and caring. The slot machines, designed to maximize “time on machine” and get the patrons into the zone where their problems fade behind the spinning reels, are a poor substitute for compassion, caring, and human touch. For a truly heartbreaking study of casinos and seniors, please read http://americanvalues.org/catalog/pdfs/seniors-in-casino-land.pdf. Our older neighbors deserve better from all of us.

Massachusetts Can Do Better, and the First Church can help

We were deeply inspired by a Letter to the Editor that reads in part, “

Even if the casino delivers all the tax dollars, jobs, and shiny renovations (which, of course, is not a guarantee), is a casino really what we want for our city? What would be your dream of a healthy, vibrant, productive, and sustaining economic development plan for [Massachusetts]?

We need to remember something that Christ taught, and we’ve all experienced in our lives: that the right way is not always the easiest way.

Casinos promise jobs. Are they the jobs we want our children to have? Is the work dignified? Is it work that is productive, helpful, and useful to our community and world? Is it work that allows for the expression of one’s personal religious or moral values? Is it work that provides long-term stability to households and communities? …

Casinos promise economic development to a city. Is it a sort of development that gives the residents a sense of ownership and involvement? Is it economic development that brings dignity and pride? Is it development that will allow and encourage local businesses and entrepreneurs to thrive? Is it development that provides a healthy, safe and vibrant environment in which families can raise their children? After the initial windfall of capital investment, is it development that will sustain the community around it?

We are reminded of 1 Timothy 6:10: “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” By encouraging a YES on 3 vote, we can help thousands avoid those many sorrows.

Finally, we need to remember something that Christ taught, and we’ve all experienced in our lives: that the right way is not always the easiest way. After lots of study and prayer, we feel the right thing for our state, those in need, and our neighbors is for all of us keep our state casino-free. Please prayerfully consider joining us on the YES on 3 team to repeal the casino law.   For further information, see the Faith for Repeal website.

 

LGBT Love & Support in Northampton!

First Church Longmeadow marched in the 33rd Annual LGBT Pride Parade in Northampton earlier today, our Open & Affirming status proudly displayed on our banner!  Here are some photos from the march for your enjoyment.  Thank you to all the participants & supporters!

 

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Pride4And here is a moving sign that was spotted along the parade route.  Food for thought concerning why we were there today, and why the Open & Affirming status of our congregation is so very important & a gift to be treasured & protected.

Joining Faith & Action: UCC v. Cooper

BREAKING NEWS:

Today, the UCC filed a pivotal lawsuit (UCC v. Cooper) in the State of North Carolina challenging the constitutionality of the State’s laws inhibiting same sex marriage.

Here is a fantastic website from the UCC which provides detailed explanations, court documents and the latest news on this lawsuit.  This website may turn out to be the best place to find current & accurate information about the ongoings of the case.

Here is a concise & convincing message from Reverend Geoffrey A Black concerning the case & the reason for the UCC’s legal challenge:

Reverend Emily C. Heath has published a detailed article today on HuffPost Religion – she is in the forefront of marriage equality efforts & her article is a must-read.  Here is the article that appeared today in the local paper relative to the action, the Charlotte Observer.

The conversation is ongoing on Twitter & Facebook under #FreeReligion.  There is a new Facebook page for the UCC specifically dealing with the lawsuit.  Please visit, read & show your support for the UCC’s valiant effort by “liking” this page.

First Church Forum would like to urge all of its readers:  Please read as much as you can about this case.  It will be important to understand the nature of these claims and the particular challenge of the lawsuit, so that you can be the most effective advocate.  Please fervently pray for the plaintiffs, ministers, lawyers and all those involved in mounting this constitutional challenge.  We are reminded today how very far we still must travel on the road toward marriage equality & religious freedom in America.

Review: Years of Living Dangerously

years-of-living-dangerouslyyears-of-living-dangerouslyEarlier this week, our Transition Longmeadow group plus some other First Church members watched the first episode of Showtime’s “Years of Living Dangerously” in the Buxton Room.  It is well done, powerful, and instructive. I especially liked the section addressing how  scientists might be able to talk with the more evangelical churches.  The other three messages of the series are, as distilled by Environmental Defense Fund membership director Sam Perry:

 

  • There isn’t a corner on the globe not already impacted by climate change. The first episode takes viewers from the Texas Panhandle to the Indonesian rainforests to the deadly conflict in Syria. The devastating climate crisis is already hurting communities around the world—and it’s only getting worse.
  • Ordinary people will need a lot of help as the climate crisis deepens. Just ask the millions of Syrian refugees. Or the Texas cattle ranchers. Or the people of Indonesia working to protect their forests.
  • Many more people need to understand what’s happening. There is still way too much confusion and denial out there—the climate debate has been polarized for long enough and we need a much broader awareness of how serious this crisis is.

 

 

More information & an opportunity to view the first episode of this remarkable 9 part series can be found here in the Environmental Defense Fund’s website.  You can also watch this video here on Showtime’s official website.  Please tune in to watch this important video.  You can also sign up to host a local viewing party here.

I give this film:

Four Roosters: Very Good

Four Roosters: Very Good

Do you have thoughts on the series, or questions raised by this material?  Please leave your comments below.

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