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Baptist anti-gambling study seeks to educate church members in Miss.

JACKSON, Miss. (BP)–A new publication for educating church members about gambling has been released by the Mississippi Baptist Convention’s Christian Action Commission.
“Tables of Fortune: Lost Hope … Lost Lives, Gambling in America” is the title of the new 52-page book, with an accompanying 48-page leader’s guide, that was introduced at a series of gambling conferences around the state Sept. 21-24. The book was co-authored by Elizabeth K. Holmes, CAC consultant for women’s and family issues and chair of the education committee of the Mississippi Baptist Gambling Task Force; CAC Executive Director Paul G. Jones II; Larry Garner of Mississippi’s Metro Baptist Association; and William H. Perkins Jr., editor of The Baptist Record. It was produced by a special allocation from the Mississippi Baptist convention board.
“Tables of Fortune” is the direct result of the work of MGTF. “During the period in the 1980s when there was a push for a state lottery, we came to realize that the people in our churches were woefully ignorant about gambling and had no convictions about the moral problem,” Holmes said.
As a result, the MGTF was formed and met in September 1996 for a weekend retreat. The task force identified four areas of concern. First was ministry, both to those broken and devastated by gambling and those who work in the casino industry. Second, if ministry was to be conducted, there was a need for training at the church and associational level.
Third was confrontation. “We will never give up [on the fact] that gambling is a moral and social problem. We will not stop fighting the expansion of [gambling],” Holmes said.
The fourth area of concern was education. The only way to confront the ignorance and lack of conviction on the part of people is to educate them, Holmes said.
According to Jones, the book and leader’s guide, are the only materials of its kind available to the local church. With it, church leadership and membership can begin to be educated about the true nature of gambling, Jones indicated.
Copies of the book are being mailed to every Mississippi Baptist church, Jones said. Orders are now being taken for the book’s second printing for $3 each — well below what a book this size would cost through normal channels, Jones said.
“We want to put [this book] in the home of every family in Mississippi,” Jones said.
“We have to dream big. We cannot have successful opposition to gambling without conviction on the part of Mississippi Baptist people,” he added.
Garner said the key to gaining that conviction is education. He pointed out the material is written on two levels: the cognitive level, presenting the reader with facts about gambling, and on the attitudinal level, affecting the person’s attitude toward gambling.
The book consists of four chapters. The first chapter gives the history of gambling.
“It tells how we got into the situation in which we are,” Garner said.
The second chapter presents biblical principles which point against gambling. “Jesus valued people above things, which is in contrast to the gambling predators who in their greed prey upon people,” Garner said.
The third chapter addresses the human toll of gambling. “The true destructive nature of gambling is revealed in a true-life story of how gambling ruined one Mississippi Southern Baptist woman,” Garner said.
The final chapter is a call to action. “Do we allow the gambling tree to keep growing in Mississippi?” Garner asked.
The leader’s guide provides suggestions for teaching each chapter. It also includes a complete set of overhead cell masters and handout masters which can be reproduced, according to Garner.
Future plans include children and youth editions, plus an expanded version of the adult book, Jones said.
Barrett Duke, who specializes in gambling issues for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, commended the Mississippi Baptist Christian Action Commission “for their commitment to educate the people of Mississippi about the dangers of gambling. This resource is an extremely important tool to help the churches in Mississippi fight back against the ever-increasing stranglehold of gambling on their state.”
Duke said the CAC book “marks an important step in the growing effort to equip people against the false lure of gambling.”
“Before our battle with the forces of gambling is ended,” Duke stated, “every church in the Southern Baptist Convention will need to provide some kind of anti-gambling teaching material for their members. It is my prayer that every church in Mississippi will put this excellent material to use, and that many other churches throughout our country will follow their example.
“I am convinced that when Baptists know the facts, they will do the right thing. Education is the key to our success against gambling. Mississippi has pointed the way with this new resource,” Duke said.
For more information about the new resource, contact the CAC at P.O. Box 530, Jackson, MS 39205-0530; telephone, (601) 968-3800.

Art Toalston contributed to this story.

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  • Carl M. White