The Gambling Bill: a challenge for us all

Today, the final vote on the Gambling Bill will take place in Parliament.  This has been one of the most contentious pieces of legislation to come out of the current Labour government: if passed, it will pave the way for the UK’s first "supercasino" in Manchester, with the promise of 16 new casinos elsewhere in the UK.

There is nothing in the Bible that explicitly forbids gambling per se, and those who support the bill point to the local regeneration and investment that would benefit the communities in which these casinos are built.

However, I am concerned about the effects on the poorest people in our communities.  You do not need to look far to see a lust for wealth and a widespread hankering after what we do not have in our society.  Whether it’s a new car, the latest plasma wide-screen television or a bigger house, we are bombarded at every turn with the message that we should aspire to these things.  And for the very poorest, it can seem as though the only way to attain financial security, never mind these luxuries, is to turn to gambling.  In the UK, gambling turnover has increased from £2billion to £50billion from 2001 to 2005.

So I am concerned about the exploitation of the poor and the potential of these new casinos to breed more addicts.  This becomes all the more important when we look at yesterday’s official figures which showed that the number of children living in relative poverty in the UK rose by 200,000 last year.

This presents the church with a challenge.  What do we do about working with those in need in our communities to help them realise their potential and work towards achieving it, not through fake promises of wealth, but through real and sustainable transformation?

I’d love to hear your thoughts….

11 comments

  1. Quite agree. But I suspect the government view it as a new source of tax revenue and the tax from the profits of £50bn of sales is considerable. I think ultimately the counter argument from the Treasury (which I don’t agree with) would be,’How else are we going to finance the demand for a health service free at the point of demand given current demographics?’
    I think it is also worth considering not just the effect on the poor but the fact that gambling tends to also to increase the number of people who are in financial difficulty, i.e. who become poor, who would not have been otherwise.
    Lastly, realtive poverty is a tricky one. Maybe the gambling industry just had a bad year and paid out to some big winners, thereby increasing the average income and ‘condemning’ at a stroke 200,000 children to a life of poverty?!

  2. The irony of the gambling bill being rejected by the house of lords is that the same number of bishops turned up for this vote as turned up for the SORs vote … and the amendment was upheld by the same number. They might have voted against the gambling bill and in the same moment guaranteed that the government will reform the lords so that they are no longer there!
    Having said that, it seem that Rowan Williams, who was there, is the person speaking the most sense about this issue: why does the government think that the best way of bringing regeneration to a community is to build a casino! Sorry, that just doesn’t make sense to me. I probably don’t have much of a problem with casino’s per se (gambling is so available online anyway), but lets not fall for the spin that this is going to bring prosperity to the poor areas of manchester (or wherever)!

  3. I agree with John. It is rank hypocrisy to express concern about the effect a casino may have on the poor in our communities yet be involved in a project funded by a form of gambling. Shouldn’t our prime concern for society be that we preach the Gospel in its entirety. True satisfaction in life comes from contentment and without Christ there is no contentment.
    Faithworks gospel seems to say ‘Oh well! this or that piece of legislation was bound to come about anyway so lets just work within it and make the best of it!’ Faithworks speaks the language of compromise and there can be no compromise the the world.

  4. John
    Thanks for the comments again. I appreciate that you hold a different view to Steve on the atonement. However, I would point out to you that there are a number of different ways of understandsing the doctrine of Christ’s death. Clearly some of these move beyond the realm of Scripture, but many do not. You clearly feel passionately about the issue of penal substitution. This is something I would happily discuss by phone with you and you can contact me via the details on the Faithworks website http://www.faithworks.info
    However, important as your view on this, and other things are, they are not the only views. Your comments on your understanding of the ‘Gospel’, the ‘Atonement’, the place of ‘Action’, the place of ‘Service’ and a number of other areas have been worded very strongly, and whether or not you have intended them to be, they have also sounded very aggressive. Your understanding of many of these things is much narrowed than mine would be – but the debate around those differences could be a healthy – were it not articulated so personally and aggressively.
    The issues you raise are ones which are very important, but once again I would suggest to you that EVERYTHING Faithworks does is motivated by a commitment to God, His Word, His world, and His Kingdom. You are perfectly entitled to higlight the fact that you disagree with my view, but I am not willing to keep comments on the blog that are aggressive, or personal in their nature, or that lead to a very strong condemnation of other Christians who hold a different theological position to you or me, yet love the same God with deep passion and commitment. Faithworks and I (and Steve Chalke) passionately believe in the Gospel, the atoning work of Jesus and the power of God’s Spirit working in and through people. How people come to faith is not always instantaneous, and I think that some of your understanding of ‘proclamation’ and ‘good news’ differs sharply not only to my understanding, but many other Christians’.
    The blog postings are listed under subject and foci, and the flow of discussion is aided much more fully by keeping to the subject, if that is possible. There are many examples on the blog of people who sharply disagree with me or with Faithworks, but manage to be clear, passionate and open about that without becoming personal and aggressive.
    Having just reveiwed your comments across the site, I have taken the decision to filter any further comments that you might make to avoid having then to delete material that is either overly personal or overly aggresive in its tone. The comments you have made will be removed at the end of the day.
    Feel free to continue to comment, but be aware that in the interests of maintaining mutual respect and dialogue on the blog, all of your comments will be monitored before being added.
    Once again, should you wish to discuss any of this with me, I would be delighted to talk to you via the office or in written correspondence.
    May God bless you and use your passion for him to grow the Kingdom of God.
    Malcolm Duncan

  5. Malcolm
    I have been following with interest the discussions on your blogs in recent months. I have made the odd contribution. I am somewhat dismayed that you invite comments on various subjects then step in to censor what which you consider offensive. If my comments are removed then I shall be delighted to be counted along side John McVeigh. However offensive you may feel his approach to be he does make points which are worthy of discussion publicly.
    The underlying point in all of the issues you raise in your blogs is how to respond to the social ills of the world around us. I firmly believe as a Christian that our primary concern for our fellow man should be his spiritual welfare. The real problems of the world are spiritual. The local church is God’s organization for dealing with such problems and the gospel of Christ is the means He has given us with which to confront them. There are countless organisations which address the social needs of mankind and countless opportunities exist for people of all faiths to work within them.
    As a Christian I am not called to partner with those of faiths diametrically opposed to the Word of God. Yes, I may live and work with them but spiritually I have nothing in common with them. As a Christian I am free to work in any organisation and be a witness to Christ in my work.
    I came across this quotation by yourself, ‘A Christian faith that locks itself away from the political and social challenges of its contemporary culture is irrelevant!’ Strong words indeed! Millions of faithful men and women living as best they know how – irrelevant.
    I came across these two quotes:-
    Freedom of speech is the concept of the inherent human right to voice one’s opinion publicly without fear of censorship or punishment. The right is preserved in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is granted formal recognition by the laws of most nations.
    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_expression)
    Ultimately, the word liberal connotes a more progressive attitude towards Christianity based on individualism, in its emphasis on individual subjective experience, and liberalism, in its respect for the freedom of the individual to hold and express views which fall outside the boundaries of conservative orthodoxy and tradition. Disagreements between conservative and liberal Christians arise most frequently when the latter perceive that the former are exhibiting a lack of compassion, mercy, love and inclusiveness, and when the former perceive the latter to be abandoning essential Christian doctrines. (http://www.apprising.org/archives/2006/02/emergent_church_20.html)

  6. Steve
    Thanks. I am sorry you are dismayed that I have chosen to step into remove John’s comments. If you read carefully what I have said about my reasons for removing his comments, you will see that it is not because of what he has said at all. Instead, it was the tone of his comments. I recognise that you hold similar views, but you have articulated them in a non-personal way. You have not called my colleagues or others ‘anti-christ’, you have not fallen into the trap of accusing those you disagree with of ‘apostasy’ and you have remianed clear, but gracious in your comments.
    I have been clear in the blog that I welcome diverse and strident opinion, but I am not willing to leave comments on public display that caricature, attack or malign other brothers and sisters in Christ in a personal or aggressive way.
    If you would like me to remove your comments from the blog, I will happily do so, but I think your comments have been valid, even though I strongly disagree with them.
    Hope that helps and thank you for taking the time to

  7. How sad that the Word of God is treated with such contempt by those involved in Faithworks.
    There seems to be more concern for the personal feelings of those who would deny the basic teaching of scripture, than with standing up for the Lord Jesus Christ.

  8. I’m not treating the Word of God with contempt at all John, and I believe that my colleagues are standing up for Christ. I leave it to the members of the Faithworks Movement and every other follower of Christ who explores who we are and what we do to determine their own position.
    Once again, I remain committed to ensuring that the comments on the blog are not personal, and are not aggressive. Please articulate your comments graciously and in a non personal way

  9. Malcolm,
    How can you claim to be standing up for Christ, when you and Steve Chalke ignore what he teaches on key subjects?
    For example, Steve Chalke denies the doctrine of the blood atonement, yet Hebrews 9 v 12 states: “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.”
    How is it “standing up for Christ” to deny what Christ has done for his elect?
    Equally, you yourself claim that homosexuality and Christianity are compatible – yet Paul in Romans 1 v 27 could not be more unequivocal in his condemnation of homosexual practices: “And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.”
    If its “aggressive” to point out where people deny the word of God, then Christ Himself must surely be labelled “aggressive” in His defence of His own teachings.

  10. John
    Thanks for the email – I don’t think your last post is inappropriate at all – thank you for it.
    On the Steve front, he DOESN’T denyh the atonement at all. He disagrees with one understanding of the atonement – namely penal substitution, but he fully endorses and believes in the atoning and substitutionary death of Christ. His view is not disimilar to many evangelical and non evangelical leaders. The emphasis on PENAL substitution is what Steve disagrees with. I hope that helps.
    My view of homosexual practise is not as you stated. I have made it perfectly clear throughout our engagement on the issues around the Sexual Orientation Regulations that we are not morally endorsing same sex relationships in our support of THE SOR’s. Once again, I come back to the central point I have made repeatedly – and that is that acceptance of a person’s humanity and human dignity does not equate to agreement with their lifestyle. The SOR’s are not about moral endorsement, they are about service provision. Our stance is based on a commitment to the non-discriminatory delivery of services and a commitment to respect the human rights and dignity of others, even those with whom we might or do have a moral disagreement.
    I have repeatedly made my position on human sexuality clear. I am conservative in my approach and believe that the best place (and God designed place for that matter)for sexual activity and sexual relationship is one of marriage as defined by the Scripture, which is a lifelong, monogomous relationship of fidelity, trust and commitment. This relationship is publicly witnessed and witnessed by God, and is for good or bad, well or ill, etc. Clearly that then leads to questions about sexual practise outside that context – not just homosexuality, but heterosexual relationships outside of mareriage etc. I refuse to single out homosexuality as worse than other pratices outside the biblical imperative on marriage.
    I also refuse to elevate sexual behaviour andresponsibility above the biblical teaching on other things, such as judgementalism, legalism, gluttony, greed, hypocrisy, lying etc not to mention the decalogue and the wide breadth of teaching and command contained within both Testaments of the Bible. I would be interested to know if you think that sexual practise is actually more important, than the teaching of Scripture on how to treat asylum seekers, foreigners, the poor, the hungry, those in need for example. Or indeed whether or not you think the Bible’s commands around use of arms, or charging of interest on money, or cancellation of debt etc also carry moral and spiritual weight in the same way as the teaching of scripture on sexuality does. Indeed, there is also an argument that indebtedness itself is a sinful lifestyle choice, therefore we are faced with a decision about mortgages, loans, banks, pension funds etc.
    I think our discussion about biblical authority is a very important one – perhaps I should start a post on it separately here so that the dialogue can continue in a place where other people can also engage? What do you think? But I do not think that narrowing the dicussion of biblical authority to those things you agree with is a fair way to have the discussion. What do you think about the way we tend to highlight sexual sin over all others. What do you think about usury, indebtedness, foreign policy, taxation, how you treat the poor, how you feed the hungry, embrace the needy etc? Are these in the Bible? If they are, what weight are they given? For example, why does the New Testament (and the teaching of Jesus in particular) devote about 500 verses in the Gospels on how to use and treat money and possesions, yet way less to sexual practise (In fact Jesus says nothing about homosexuality at all – although I think there are very clear exegetical reasons for that and I think the whole teaching and trajectory of the bible needs to be taken into consideratgion – which brings much more clarity to the issue). If you think we should return to strict application of the Old Testament law for example (which I do not) should we then re-introduce stoning for adultery and the whole range of Old Testament punishment? I do not. If you think we should live within the literal context of the New Testament, should we demolish church buildings, re-introduce slavery, so that we can encourage slaves to obey their masters, consistently denmand that women remain silent in the church and start a campaign to remove all images of Mary riding into Bethlehem on a donkey (because it is not in Scripture)?
    Some of those questions may seem frivilous, but not one of them is. At what point do we each recognise that the question of the authority of the bible IS a key issue, not least because we are ALL subjective in choosing those bits that apply to us and those bits that do not. (The idea, for example that the ceremonial law and the moral law of the Old Testament can somehow be separated so we live by the second and ignore the first is a dichotomy that the people of Israel would never understand because TORAH is about all of those regulations, and the stories and accounts of creation and covenant and hope and eschatology etc.) We too often talk about the ‘authority’ of the bible whislt at the same time we ourselves ignore huge chunks of it. So we actually mean the authority of th bits of the bible that I think are important.
    My own view of Scripture is that is has final authority in matters of faith, doctrine and practise because it carries the delegated authority of God himself. I also think that it must be understood in the light of tradition (although we need to be careful not to elevate tradition above the narrative)and we must examine the way scripture has been handled and understood by the great cloud of witnesses that have preceded us – we are not free to make it up as we go along. To treat scripture in the way and dignity it deserves, we must also use reason – not elevating reason to divinity though – and we must endeavour to understand the context, flow, constistency, language, nuance, lexical and epistemological implications of the words and stories and accounts and genres and idioms and metaphors of Scripture. Lastly, for scripture to have its impact on our world and our lives, it must be lived, encountered and experienced. We must liberate it from the ridiculous ‘proof texting approach’ of many and allow it to become the shaper of our lives, our worship, our witness and our practise. We must also see it as the unfolding story of God in which we ourselves have a part. (I like the idea of the great narrativer story of God and his dealings with the world as defined by Scripture in five Acts as discussed by Tom Wright, the Bishop of Durham – they are Creation, Fall, Israel, Jesus and the Church. In this approach all of the bible is vital to our understanding of our own lives and the future because we are also part of the last act – the church. This is not dispensationalism, but instead it is acknowledging the great sweep and ovcerarching purpose of God in the world, from creation to consummation. That consummation will not take place until the return of Christ, when he finalised the establishment of His Kingdom, which was begun with his birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension. We now live in the tension of the last act of history – begun by God through Christ. This is what the jews call the Messianic Age, and we Christians call the Kingdom. But the New Testament is the opening scene of this act and we must stay true to it, live within in and be shaped by it – we are not free to change it. Instead we must do the hard work of understanding and applying it – and all of its principles, not just the ones we like. And we cannot do that unless we understand how it relates to the Old Testament and how we relate to Jesus and through Jesus to Israel etc.
    Having said ALL OF THAT (Phew!) I come back to my initial point, my engagement in the SOR’s is shaped by my reading of the Bible. I am not morally endorsing homosexuality. But if you are asking me does God love the homosexual? My answer is a resounding and unapologetic YES! Because he yearns and longs for all to come to know him and walk with him and there is no graded difference in wrong choices that any of us make. To accept someone unconditionally is not to endorse their choices, it is to acknowledge their inherent equality and dignity.
    This is the Jesus way.

  11. John,
    Malcolm is absolutely right. You will note my contributions have largely clashed with some of Malcolm’s and others, but we were debating around a specific issue so the dialogue, nay argument (let’s not be coy!), was a robust one. All in Faithworks would agree on the need for preaching the Word and evangelism directed at individuals. But to take the argument back to the same issue over atonement all the time is a red herring. It was dealt with when the book came out. This is a blog largely about the gospel application to a social setting and discussions surrounding biblically based approaches to broad views of society, politics and, I would say, culture. I’m no apologist for liberal theology, but you can’t just quote scripture and think that’s the end of the argument. It is the beginning, indeed the anchor, but God has given us reason and the Spirit to enable us to feelingly understand how to apply the scripture in complex social situations which are generally inherently more complex than individual situations, although not always! That’s why I object to your tone as it implies a cutting off of debate and argument (some prefer to call it dialogue), that there is nothing more to discuss. This is not the case.

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