More on Gambling

If you read yesterday’s post on “Britain’s Gambling Epidemic,” you saw that my fellow blogger, Ajoobacats, a medical doctor living in Britain, was really, really mad at me for posting that article, based as it was on information from newspaper articles in The Daily Mail and The Times. I won’t put words in her mouth: you can read her comments for yourself.

But let me say this.

I was a newspaper editor when they introduced a state lottery and then legalized casino gambling here in New Jersey, back in the 1970s. I was there. I covered it. I saw it.

The immediate effect of this was to entice millions of people into gambling who otherwise wouldn’t have been gambling. I remember the pair of schoolteachers who blew their whole life savings on lottery tickets–something like $20,000, at least. They made a huge fuss, and wound up having a face-to-face meeting with the state lottery commissioner–who had a hard time trying to make them understand that when the odds against winning are something like 400 million to one, 400 million to 20,000 really isn’t that much better. It would be on the order of 1 million to 50, if my mental arithmetic is right.

Senior citizens on fixed incomes flocked to Atlantic City to burn up their grocery money on the slot machines. In the inner cities, the lines stretch around the block, the day the Powerball winner is selected. (Given the odds against, there usually isn’t one.)

But I’ll tell you what made the biggest impression on me.

A few years ago, I fell into a conversation with a young woman from an economically depressed area. She already had two out-of-wedlock children by two different men, and was pregnant with a third, by a third. This poor creature confided in me her simple plan for the rest of her life:

To win the lottery and move out West and buy a horse farm, because she loves horses.

To win the lottery. That was her plan.

I don’t care what libertarians say. Gambling is stupid, and for the state to foster it, to grow it, is moral imbecility on the part of persons in the government.

So, no–based on what I’ve seen here at home, I have no trouble at all believing that people in Britain have increased their gambling activities after the government permitted gambling machines to be set up all over the cities.

If that hasn’t happened, I would be surprised. It would go against sinful human nature.


Britain’s Fear of Christians

I told you, you can learn a lot about an era, a nation, by examining its popular culture.

Last night we watched the first episode of a recent (2015) British TV series, Midwinter of the Spirit. It’s about a Church of England woman minister who becomes an exorcist. It’s really rather well done, although the premise does sound kind of lame, if not absurd.

But the thing that most impressed me about it was the way the screenwriters have the other characters react to members of the clergy. The other characters, from all walks of life, behave as if Christianity were some weird tribal cult from the heart of the Amazonian rain forest, complete with shrunken heads.

We have also seen this in other British TV productions: Midsomer Murders, for one.

England was not like this when I was born. This has happened during my own lifetime, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. They’ll still pop into church for the odd funeral or wedding, but for all practical purposes, Britain, cradle of saints, has been de-Christianized.

How? How did that happen? And what do these de-Christianized Brits believe in now? I’m almost afraid to ask, but I want to know. What do they believe in now?

A prediction: phenomena traditionally described as demonic possession will increase as a culture drifts farther and farther away from Christianity, and into God knows what.

The Lost Souls of London

Just how degraded is our culture?

I’ve just read a 2012 novel by the late Ruth Rendell, The St. Zita Society, which reinforces my conviction that the Western world is in serious trouble. Its culture has become toxic.

Rendell for decades wrote about weirdos and their twisted lives, and won every mystery writers’ award you can think of. As if that weren’t recognition enough, she was also promoted to the House of Lords. She was not a person to dismiss lightly.

St. Zita is about life in an upscale London neighborhood, the lives of rich folks and their servants–sort of an Upstairs, Downstairs presentation. As often happens when I read a Rendell novel, I wound up asking myself, “Why am I reading this? These characters are horrible!” To which my wife always replies, “You can’t blame Ruth Rendell for that. She’s just showing you a photograph.”

Okay, the doctor and the Muslim nursemaid are nice people; but aside from them, this Hexam Place is a valley of lost souls. When the Lord demanded of Ezekiel, “Can these bones live,” the same question might have been asked of this bunch of walking dead in London.

Here are the characteristics shared by the servants and their employers, with a few exceptions not enough to matter.

They are interested in other people only to the extent of how they can make use of them.

At all times, their chief concern is how to obtain some sort of gratification, usually sexual, as soon as possible.

The only sin they seem to recognize as sin is to say anything which might violate political correctness. Otherwise, they are devoid of any moral standard. A thief or a murderer will be less despised by them than a person guilty of “homophobia”–a sin which did not exist when Rendell began her career as a writer.

They show no awareness of or interest in anything beyond the immediate here and now.

If this is a photograph of British culture today, it’s a photograph by Diane Arbus.

To make sexual libertinism the centerpiece of life is a modern experiment enthusiastically pursued in all the Western countries. Those who pursue it are spiritually dead.

“Can these bones live?”

To which Ezekiel replied, “Lord, thou knowest.”

I doubt anyone else knows the answer to that question.

But if they do come back to life, it will have to be God’s doing. Not ours.