Friday, July 17, 2009

Ohio Churches Think They’re the Fun Police

Governor Strickland of Ohio has decided to allow slot machines at horse racing tracks, because the state is out of money and he needs to find a new source. I’m not a big supporter of the idea, since I’ll never use the slot machines and the people who will use them the most are gambling addicts. At the same time I don’t think it’s the job of the government to illegalize everything that could be addictive, so, friends and relatives of gambling addicts, show some spine and take control of the car keys and charge cards. The Ohio church people, however, think that it is the responsibility of the government to illegalize anything that they think is immoral.

OK, church people, take a walk around the neighborhood and look at the other houses of worship. Do they believe all the same things that you believe in your church? No, that’s why they’re in different buildings. So what makes you think that whatever is believed in your building should be imposed on everyone else in Ohio?

Nonetheless, the newspapers all have articles about how church people have vowed to fight the Governor’s decision with law suits and protests. The governor, himself is an ordained Methodist minister (it hurts my brain to write that) so it doesn’t take much extrapolation to conclude that not all religious types are in agreement, but that seems to be irrelevant to the outraged guardians of goodness.

Here’s the thing, church people, there’s a place for you to dictate your version of morality; your church. The job of a religious group is to impose their beliefs and moral codes on the people who have agreed to be part of that group, then if one from your group breaks the no slot machine rule, they can be shunned or stoned or forced to clean up after the potluck or whatever. What you do not have the right to do is go out into the greater community and say “All you people who have no prohibition against video slot machines in your sacred texts, must, nonetheless, be deprived of video slot machines so that we are not tempted to break the no video slot machine commandment of our religion.” So, to use the popular sheep herding analogy: go tend your own flock and keep your nose out of other flocking people’s business.


Wes said...

Hi, I really don't care much whether you all have video slots or not, but I am curious about something. You say that you think "evangelical xians should butt out of our government and educational system". Are there other tax-paying Ohio citizens who should not be allowed to participate in their political system, or are evangelicals the only ones who should be excluded?

Pat Pope said...

I think it's funny that on this site there's an ad for getting a pastoral degree!

Anonymous said...

So- when Martin Luther King Jr and William Wilberforce decided that their faith would not allow them to remain silent on the evils of slavery and then segragation, they probably should just have kept their mouths shut? After all, anyone who didn't believe like them was entitled to their own opinion on the matters, right?

What a ridiculous, tired out argument.

Everyone acts, votes and advocates out of their worldview, including you. For you to think that someone should be disqualified from the public square or even public office because of a particular part of their worldview is bigotry in the extreme.

I'm sorry your Governor is a Methodist. Maybe you could get a "religion" test passed in your state that would bar anyone from office who expresses a religiously-informed opinion! You'd have to change large parts of the Constitution, and there are probably some passages in the history books you might want to excise, but at least you could keep those pesky Christians out of the public square. Jew, Muslims and all the rest too! Now wouldn't that be Utopia?

Anonymous said...

This blog post has been linked on a email sent to evangelical pastors, so you are getting the litany of "worldview" crap and references to MLK from people who don't understand separation of church and state. Of course, they also don't understand their own sacred texts, which endorse both gambling and slavery (not to mention alcohol.)

Anonymous said...

Well anonymous, explain your understanding of "separation of church and state."

It is my understanding that the constitution simply reads (and I paraphrase) that the gov't shall make no laws governing the establishment of religion. In other words, there is to be no "State Religion." Christians are not barred from participating in their governmental processes.

Jason said...

I'm an evangelical pastor and I basically agree with everything you said (though at our church I'd say that we try to learn in community what it means to be faithful rather than "impose" some sort of moral code). If we did a better job of living what we say we believe, folk would be inviting us to share our views rather than wishing we'd shut up.

I think the situation with Wilberforce and King is different from today in that at the time they were part of cultures (Victorian England, the American South) that were predominantly Christian and thought of themselves as such. So as people with some recognized leadership authority they were calling their own to be faithful to what they said they believed. Nothing of the sort is the case in present-day Ohio (nor was it in Maryland when we went through the same thing over slots in the last election cycle).