It has become extremely necessary for me to revisit the subject of gambling given the present climate of the territory. The Virgin Islands is at the crossroads of history and its development: We are still trying to recover from the ravages of the flood and storms of 2017; our financial services industry is still under attack; and the fluidity and impact of the worldwide pandemic of Covid-19 are very real. Life as we knew it has been forever altered.
In times of uncertainty, we need to rely on the One who has proven to be “our help in ages past, and shelter from the stormy blast”: Jehovah, our God. And we must also resist the sin of idolatry.
It was with a heavy heart that I prayed at the Sixth Sitting of the Second Session of
the Fourth House of Assembly on March 27, “Forgive us, Heavenly Father, for speaking out of both sides of our mouths: We call you lord and provider on one hand, and on the other hand we intend to legalise sin in order to augment our economy or placate the boisterous. Remind us, Heavenly Father, that a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. Help us,
like Joshua, to decisively choose to follow you wholeheartedly and desist from using your name to propagate our own selfish agenda.”
The bill entitled Gambling (Gaming and Betting) Control Act 2020 was on the order paper of that day and later withdrawn. The bill has since been introduced and had its first and second readings in the HOA in a subsequent sitting. The bill is again on the order paper of this present sitting of the House.
It is the right of any government to pass any legislation it deems necessary.
However, I have read the bill. In its present form it is at best dangerous, and even with amendments it will still contradict our frequent claim to be a “Christian nation.” So my purpose today is to address the issue of duplicity, otherwise referred to as contradiction or hypocrisy. When faced with the same paradox, Jesus asked his audience, “Why do you call me Lord and do not the things I say?”
I propose the following for your consideration:
- Morality cannot be legislated, so why should we legalise “sin” in any form?
- Are we prepared for the many ills that accompany legalised gambling?
- How do we explain to the next generation that we trust God to supply our needs and yet resort to gambling to supplement our revenue?
- Why would we engage in practices that can potentially entangle us again with the yoke of bondage?
- How can we call for freedom and equality, and then subject our people to potentially addictive practices?
- How can we be adamant about following the advice of the experts regarding, for example, Covid-19, but blatantly ignore or even denounce the warnings and dangers concerning legalised gambling?
- Sometimes percentages of the profits from gambling are used for a good cause. Does the end therefore justify the means?
- Assuming we all want what’s best for the Virgin Islands, our intention is good. Why should we judge another’s actions and expect others to judge only our intentions?
- Are we prepared to further erode the fibre of society in the name of financial prosperity? In other words, are we going to use our health to get wealth and then spend that wealth to regain our health?
- Do we wish to be numbered among the likes of pro-life proponents who fight for the unborn, but show little or no concern for his quality of life?
- Even if one argues that there is no biblical law against gambling, how does he explain the biblical principle of “shunning the very appearance of evil?” Is it not better to err on the side of caution?
And the probing continues.
A call to choose
I appeal to the statesperson in all our politicians, the conviction of our spiritual leaders, and the good sense in all of our people to do the following:
- Do the research and be guided by the facts and stats.
- Show you care more for the next generation than for the next election.
- Call on the creative genius of all the people of the Virgin Islands to come up with wholesome alternatives that do not compromise our convictions and jeopardise the well-being of our territory.
- Manifest synergy in what we say and do and eschew duplicity, for scripture says, “a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8) and “whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).
- Do the things that are consistent with our Christian values and truly honour the faith and goodwill of our ancestors or else denounce our claims of being a God-fearing people: “Choose … whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15).
Dr. Turnbull is the senior pastor at Cane Garden Bay Church.