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On July 29, 2011, two award winning gospel artists are scheduled to perform at The Arena at Golden Moon Hotel and Casino in Choctaw, Mississippi. CeCe Winans, an eight-time Grammy winner, and The Mighty Clouds of Joy with Russ Taff are the headline acts for this "Southern Gospel Celebration." Certainly this seems odd at first glance, but should gospel artists take their good news into casinos? The Problem With Gambling and Casinos Gambling has always had a stigma, but is it really a sin?

What could be wrong with responsible enjoyment of gaming? Gambling is evil because it feeds on greed and sloth. The whole appeal of gambling is that with some help from "Lady Luck," the gambler can turn a few dollars into a fortune without the work usually needed to earn that amount of money. As the casino ads declare, someone has to win. The truth is that the casinos are the winners. They are profit makers not charitable organizations.

Too many individuals and families lose when gambling entangles them. While the Bible does not specifically deal with gambling as we know it today, its principles are still clearly against the false promises of gambling. Paul warns the young pastor, Timothy, "For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." (1 Timothy 6:10) Gambling amounts to trusting in chance or fate instead of God.

Reaching Those in Need? Even if you accept that gambling is a sin, shouldn't those who proclaim the gospel of hope go to those who need to hear that message the most? Wasn't Jesus accused of hanging around with sinners too much? Maybe Ms. Winans and Mr. Taff are doing the work that most of the church is afraid to tackle. Are they bringing the gospel message to those who need to hear or are they bringing their fans into a trap? Is it more likely that someone will heed God's call to repent or succumb to mammon's slot machine jingle?

As I review the ministry methods of Jesus and Paul, they certainly cared about proclaiming hope and grace for those who needed it. However, they did not normally go to the places of sin and temptation of their day. They met people in the places of everyday life - wells, homes, job sites, roads. Paul went to the synagogues to meet those already seeking God. He did not go to the pagan temples or brothels. Still, there can be effective ministry by individuals reaching out in places of darkness.

But that is a special calling to be approached carefully. It is far different than asking your followers to come into a place of dangerous temptation. The Real Message Ms. Winans and Mr. Taff are serving the casino's interests. The Arena where they are to perform is "set within the casino floor." The casino must believe that these artists will draw new patrons (their fans) to their gaming tables and slotoff.com slot machines. They are being hired to draw people into the casino, not to minister to those already there.

And certainly Golden Moon's goal is to turn those new customers into repeat business ("repeat business" being a casino euphemism for "enslaved to greed"). While these artists' lyrics praise and glorify God, I doubt that Ms. Winans or Mr. Taff would be able to freely share God's Word about greed or covetousness. Could they proclaim freedom from the addiction of gambling? Instead, their fans might conclude that gambling must not be terribly evil, especially if these Godly artists are performing there.

Jesus' warning is harsh and pointed: "but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea." (Matthew 18:6) Ms. Winans and Mr. Taff may have pure motives. While neither answered e-mails about why they chose such a venue, I don't think they are intending evil or harm. But, they have chosen poorly.

It is unwise and Biblically unsound for these gospel artists to perform for and in a casino. The stakes are literally too high. Also by this author: More against-the-grain thinking: "Go Green: Use MORE Paper" More faith-in-real-life: "Hope When There is No Cure" Scripture quotations from NASB Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation

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