Dear Alabama Politicians,
The great Christian apologist CS Lewis once predicted we would eventually live in a society of “men without chests,” presciently seeing a time in which man’s base desires would outstrip his values. Right now, I am praying Alabama won’t sell her soul to “fix” a budget shortfall.
The state, properly ordered and functioning, should add to the common good and human flourishing through its governance. My politically conservative friends seek to do this by limiting the State’s interference in private affairs and seeking out fiscally and socially conservative legal agendas. I resonate with this because society needs free consciences and healthy families.
Quite often, my friends and fellow Christians who, politically speaking, lean to the left seek to achieve this through programs and initiatives that provide resources for upward mobility to the impoverished among us. This is an end desire I commend, even when I, at times, disagree with the means, because I want to share our Lord’s heart for the poor. Scripture is clear, at many points, that we are called to care for the poor among us.
This is why I am baffled by the persistence that many folks in our state have in their pursuit of a state-sponsored lottery. What sort of moral compass allows left-leaning politicians to (rightly!) lambast predatory pay-day lenders’ mistreatment of the poor at one moment and press for the State to enter into a similar relationship with those citizens at another?
Furthermore, right-leaning politicians claim to be advocates of “conservative principles” and “familiy values.” Nothing says conservatism quite like expanding the State’s purview to include gambling. Nothing says “family values” like scratching off bread from the tables of children in our state. What kind of mindset praises fiscal conservatism but preys on the poor through a lottery to make the state’s ends meet?
You might see a letter from a pastor about gambling as one more example of Evangelical prudishness or Baptist fundamentalism on display (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). However, I hope you will see that the issue is much deeper than whether or not one of my middle-to-upper-middle-class congregants buys a scratch-off ticket. I am, instead, worried about the way that state-sponsored gambling preys upon the poor and disenfranchised among us.
Scripture teaches us that love believes all things and hopes all things. I truly believe that most left-leaning politicians genuinely want to love the poor and disenfranchised. I also believe our right-leaning politicians want limited government and are convicted that society is best ordered when families are in tact. However, Scripture also teaches that while being innocent as a dove, we ought to be wise as a serpent. We have many who seem to be betraying their own consciences for the sake of political expediency. If we choose to cut society’s feet off to pay for their prosthesis, I am not sure we have their best interest in mind.