Do not suppose that abuses are eliminated by destroying the object which is abused. Men can go wrong with wine and women. Shall we then prohibit and abolish women? -- Martin Luther
I am not morally superior to you, but it is fair to say that I don't gamble. I have been in two casinos in my life, and was not thrilled. I might drop five bucks on a football game once every other year. However, I have never seen the allure of it all. It is a vice I have, on balance, successfully avoided.
This is despite the fact that opportunities to gamble, from the internet to fantasy sports leagues to the lottery, are all around me. The whole business just does not interest me. I fall prey to other temptations, but not to those available through gambling. A favorite ploy of big government groupies is to turn a small truth into a big lie. A tiny minority of gamblers destroy their lives. While this is tragic, it hardly justifies criminalizing what is merely a recreational activity for many. Nor does it justify class-action litigation.
And yet, it is the prospect of such litigation north of the border that has one Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family (FOTF) salivating. In a recent column on World Net Daily, Dobson stated, "Recently, a judge approved for trial a class-action suit filed on behalf of tens of thousands of Quebec citizens harmed by that province's highly addictive video lottery terminals. The $60-billion-a-year gambling racket in this country is watching nervously, with good reason." He would not mind if such lawsuits were filed here in the States.
This business of shifting blame and filing lawsuits is nothing new. We all know about the multi-billion dollar lawsuit against the tobacco companies on behalf of cancer patients. Affluent descendants of slaves are suing for reparations to be paid largely by descendants of non-slave owners. Several cities have sued gun manufacturers on the absurd premise that guns cause crime. A New York lawyer has filed a lawsuit against several fast food chains on behalf of a man who is obese, diabetic, and has had two heart attacks because he has eaten too many fatty and high cholesterol foods. Why does someone not sue Coors or Jack Daniels because they have consumed far too many of their products and thus contracted cirrhosis of the liver? I could go on ad nauseam, but I hope I am making my point.
Conservatives, who make up about 90 percent of Dobson's constituency, like to say they believe in individual responsibility. However, they can be just as puerile as liberals when it comes to blaming others for their problems. They are always ready to blame girlie mags or MTV or a plant that may well grow wild by the reservoir that is a mile or so from my house.
Now we have Dobson blaming casino owners for the excessive gambling of a tiny number of people. Dobson states that, "The human pain and misery meted out by the gambling interests - divorce, domestic violence, child abuse, bankruptcy, crime and suicide - is merely the cost of doing business" for casino owners. Well, if we are going to initiate class action lawsuits against casino owners, let us do likewise with any group of people whom we might blame for our problems. Hmm. Let's see. We could go after the IRS, breweries and distilleries, employers who overwork employees, Ozzy Osbourne, Marilyn Manson, etc. Let's get serious.
Christians pray not be led into temptation and to be delivered from evil. (Matthew 6:13) We do not pray that temptation or evil be eradicated, much less that the state should do the eradicating. We do not pray that some slick lawyer cons 12 brainless jurors into rendering a feel-good verdict. If we pray in such a fashion, we are not praying biblically. Evil and temptation will always be with us. It is our Christian duty to exercise individual self-restraint, not to beg and plead that the state usher in utopia.
I live in Aurora, Colorado, 60 miles north of FOTF headquarters in Colorado Springs. Dobson is held in such regard along the Front Range that some folks no doubt will think I will roast in Hell for dissing Dahhc-tahh Dahhb-son. (Such is the veneration with which they speak his name.)
There is a bumper sticker I see from time to time that reads: "Focus on your own damn family". I apologize for the harsh language, but this bumper sticker makes a pungent point. The Bible teaches that good trees yield good fruit and bad trees yield bad fruit. (Matthew 7:17-20) Society at large judges us by our fruits. They hear the Religious Right crusading to eradicate vice and restore morality through politics, but they see so many Christians bearing such rotten fruit in their day-to-day lives. They already resent the Right's top-down imposition of morality, just like Christians resent the Left's top-down imposition of secularism. It doesn't help matters at all when so many Christians set such rotten personal examples. Who would want to become a Christian when the rhetoric and the substance appear so contradictory?
In all fairness, Dobson and the folks at FOTF do a lot of great things. Unlike Gary Bauer, Jerry Falwell, Ralph Reed, and other Christian spokesmen, Dobson and company are seriously dedicated to doing the real work of Christianity: educating and building strong families from the ground up. I have read some of FOTF's books and profited from them. I admire Dobson's uncompromising pro-life stand as well as his recent urging of Christian parents in California to remove their children from public schools.
I have heard it said that someone seeking the meaning of life should talk to a minister, not a politician. Too many preachers act and talk like politicians. (Dobson is not an ordained minister, but his words carry enormous weight among American Christians.) Their answer to life's imperfections is not to preach the importance of self-restraint and personal repentance and responsibility, but to cry and scream and weep and wail about how their government is not doing enough. They say they oppose political and cultural liberalism. But when the chips are down (please forgive the gambling metaphor), they carry on just like liberals lobbying for more laws and less freedom, and, in Dobson's case, applauding frivolous lawsuits.
Liberals are fond of saying that, just because government is not doing something, therefore no one must be doing it. Conservatives play this same game too frequently. Columnist Cal Thomas has stated that, "the power of a changed life is far greater than the power of the state." If Dobson spent more time doing what he is extremely good at -- ministering to individuals and families about day-to-day Christian living -- and less time engaging in feel-good quick-fix social crusades, we would make more progress toward the kind of society Dobson and others desire. Dr. Dobson, stop acting like such a flaming liberal!
Freely Speaking: Speeches and Essays by Doug Newman
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