Login

Recent Blog Posts

Gambling, Peter FitzSimons and the Church

Peter FitzSimons is one of Australia’s most notable anti-God whingers. Not that I am protesting, his rants are sometimes amusing and at times they touch on truths that Christians ought to reflect upon. I reckon though that FitzSimons could turn almost any conversation into an expostulation about “those hypocritical Christians”. 
 
Today he has found his latest trigger point, the Jesus hot air balloon. In a series of quick bursts FitzSimons manages to debunk the resurrection of Jesus, discredit sportspeople who credit God, undermine clergy who speak against gambling, remind everyone that he’s offended by evangelism, deny hell, support Tony Abbott’s changes to the anti-discrimination laws, take an interest in Rome’s real estate market, have a dig at the not-for-profit sector, and give another plug for ethics classes to be taught in schools. Amazing effort!
 
I won’t expend words to comment on all of these things, but I would like to offer two responses:
 
First, FitzSimons chooses his targets carefully. He holds as an example of Christian hypocrisy, the $30 million that the Catholic Church has spent in purchasing a residence for George Pell in Rome. I agree that such extravagance is outrageous, but  what I notice is that FitzSimons fails to mention the many millions of counter stories in Australia of Christians sacrificing and giving their money, time and energy to help others. He picks on one example as though this is normal Christian practice, when he and most other Australians know that that is not the case. 
While not an Australian study, Robert Putnam who is Professor of Public Policy at Harvard, published a report three years ago indicating that on every measurable scale religious Americans are more generous and altruistic than their secular counterparts: they give more blood, they are more likely to give money to the homeless, they are more involved in civic life, they give more aid to the poor and so on. I suspect that results may be similar amongst Australians. Mr FitzSimons, by all means critique the failings of Christians, but don’t hold up a bad apple and conclude that all apples are bad. I’m sure you would not appreciate myself denouncing the evils of Joseph Stalin and then concluding that all atheists are totalitarian monsters who want to kill millions of people! 
 
Second, to argue that Christian concerns over gambling should be ignored until such time that Christianity becomes a registered business and supports ethics classes in school, is ridiculous. To suggest that Christians have no grounds for complaining about gambling is really a nonsense. 
 
Might I point out that Christians have the same rights and freedoms as other groups in Australian society and that we appeal to the same common law of the land. Also, we can vocalise opposition to an issue without expecting or requiring laws to be made. 
 
Despite FitzSimons’ protestations, Christianity is no more a business than is atheism. Both world views exist in our country within the paradigm of a secular society: one serves to give money away (which despite a few bad apples, is the reality) and the other exists, well, I’ll leave it up to the atheists to explain that one. 
 
Christians have been speaking long and consistently about the evils of gambling. The Rio Jesus figure is just the latest example of a culture that not only accepts but now depends on gambling for financial stability. Sure, Christians are outraged that the Christ who gave his life to save the broken is being used to promote a practice that destroys lives. We don’t need to appeal to a law or take a class in secular ethics to express this valid anger. The greater objection here is an old one, gambling harms people, and the Christian message of love urges us to speak up and to help those who are left in its wake.
 
Instead of attacking Christians with hot air, perhaps Peter FitzSimons could expend some energy to partner with Christians to speak against this terrible social problem. Perhaps he could employ the time and money of the Atheist Foundation of Australia to work alongside other groups to support victims of gambling. 
 
---------------