This Easter weekend edition of my week-in-review feature that I call "The 3" focuses on: an FBI action concerning illegal gambling, a new legal team to defend the Federal definition of marriage, and the celebration of Christ's resurrection across America and around the world.
3 - Online gambling sites shut down by FBI
The gambling issue presents a challenge for the Christian community, as we recognize that gambling is an addictive practice that promises a false hope of achievement. Money that can be used to provide for the needs of families instead goes into the pockets of gambling purveyors, who profit from the weaknesses of their customers.
In many states across America, the legalization of various forms of gambling has resulted in an attempt to provide another revenue source, even though it is unreliable. These forms include state lotteries, as well the taxation of casinos or electronic bingo halls. But, the benefits to governments are dependent on their citizens, in many cases the poorest, losing money. So, gambling is a bad bet generally, including as public policy issue - a governmental entity should not be endorsing gambling and encouraging people to participate.
The Federal government passed legislation 4 years ago that would prohibit online gambling and set criminal penalties for gambling operators whose sites are available in the U.S. That legislation only took effect last summer, and this week, under the provision of that law, the Unlawful Gambling Internet Enforcement Act, the FBI has shut down three of the largest online poker sites. Here is the story from CitizenLink.
But, there are those in Congress that want to look the other way with regard to the dangerous activity of online gambling. In fact, near the end of last year, Senator Harry Reid, in a move believed to reward casino operators who contributed to his campaign, attempted to pass legislation that would repeal the Unlawful Gambling Internet Enforcement Act. Rep. Barney Frank has re-introduced what is described as bi-partisan legislation that would establish a framework for an Internet gambling industry in the U.S. This is no doubt an effort that will legitimize a very harmful activity with, in essence, government endorsement.
Gambling is an issue about which it's important for the church to speak out. Scores of families are being adversely affected as a result of this idolatrous activity, which harms the economic well-being of individuals and those they love. In an era where governments are cash-strapped and looking for revenue sources, this is a poor suggestion as a solution. In a time when Republicans are being courted by a high-profile casino owner as a potential Presidential candidate, the gambling issue needs to become prevalent in the national dialogue.
Fortunately, in Alabama, where 11 individuals, including 2 casino owners and 4 lawmakers, were indicted on Federal charges related to buying votes for a gambling bill, the prospect of expanded gambling has waned. (Plus, factor in a sizable shift in the ideological makeup of the Legislature.) One of those involved in the case, Country Crossing owner Ronnie Gilley, pleaded guilty this week and will reportedly be cooperating with Federal officials. But this case does point to the alleged corruption that is associated with gambling.
Gambling leaves numerous victims in its wake, and one area in which churches can be involved is in the healing process from gambling addiction. Truly, it is a faith in the resurrection power of Jesus Christ that offers hope to those who are in bondage to gambling.
2 - Defense of Federal Defense of Marriage Act strengthened
There was quite a bit of concern in the Christian and pro-family community when the Obama Administration announced it would no longer defend the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). This was especially critical in that there were two Federal lawsuits at the time that were being litigated concerning DOMA, which provides for marriage to be defined at the Federal level as one man for one woman.
However, there were indications that since the Administration ultimately wanted to overturn the Act, that it was not vigorously defending it in court. So, if there was to be an effective defense of DOMA, it would have to be done by someone else. Enter House Speaker John Boehner, who said that Congress would assume its Constitutional responsibility to defend Federal law, and that intent was ratified by a committee that he had appointed. This week, former Solicitor General Paul Clement, who served in that role in the (George W.) Bush Administration, was appointed as the lead counsel.
Pro-family leaders were ecstatic. For instance, Brian Brown, President of the National Organization for Marriage, said:
"At last we have a legal eagle on this case who actually wants to win in court! Paul Clement is a genuinely distinguished lawyer, a former Solicitor General of the United States, who we are confident will win this case. Thanks to Speaker Boehner's actions, President Obama's attempt to sabotage the legal defense of DOMA is not going to work."
Here is the text of a press release issued by NOM, who is also heavily involved in the battle over the marriage amendment, Proposition 8, in California.
There are two court cases in Massachusetts where intervention will be needed soon in order to defend the traditional definition of marriage, consistent with the definition found in the Bible - one man for one woman. Even though the momentum may have been drifting in the other direction, perhaps this can represent a turnaround in the process to preserve the definition of marriage.
1 - He is risen, indeed!!
The greatest news for the Christian is that Jesus Christ, our Savior, is risen from the dead! Easter is the date on the calendar set aside to commemorate what He has done for us. The resurrection was the culmination of the process that was essentially begun at the foundation of the world to bring redemption to humanity. Jesus was born as a man, lived a perfect, sinless life, and was qualified to be the perfect substitute for our sins. He died on a cross, shedding His blood for the forgiveness of our sins, and triumphed over the power of sin and death through His resurrection. Christians uniquely celebrate this day, and many churches and organizations have used creative means to mark this joyous occasion.
For instance, some 2000 people gathered in a park in Houston, Texas to perform a dance to celebrate that Jesus is alive. The event, called, "Dance Your Shoes Off", also featured the element of participants leaving shoes for the needy after their dance. The event was filmed, and has attracted quite a bit of attention on YouTube.
For more information, visit www.second.org. The song is "Rise Up", performed by Lauren James Camey and produced by Caedmon's Call member Joshua Moore.
On Good Friday, the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham hosted another of its "Secret Church" events, conducted by Senior Pastor David Platt, a 6-hour period of Bible teaching designed to simulate the setting in which many in underground churches around the world might be worshipping. These highly popular events have been hosted by Brook Hills in the past, but this year's Good Friday event featured an estimated 1400 churches participating via simulcast, with a projected attendance of around 50,000 people. It's a solemn event marking a solemn occasion, reflecting on Jesus' suffering and how Christians are suffering around the world. For more information, here is the Secret Church simulcast website.
And, in a number of cities around the world, Christians took part in a unique walk through the city streets, with one or more people carrying a cross, representing the cross that Christ bore. For example, in Mumbai, India, some 15,000 people gathered for the annual event, which also served to protest the treatment of Christians in that country. Here's the Christian Post article about the occasion.
And, finally, on a lighter note, Community Christian Church in Naperville, Illinois, decided to make a parody of Rebecca Black's "Friday" video in an effort to attract attention for its Easter services. Here's an example of a church attempting to be creative, playing off really a cultural sensation (no matter how cheesy!)...it's had over 2-1/2 million views on YouTube, if you can believe that.
He is risen!! Bless His Holy name!