God vs. Gambling

A group of sixteen Miami-Dade pastors and ministers, mostly from Black Baptist churches, held a press conference today at Jordan Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Liberty City to declare their opposition to gambling in the Miami Jai Alai, Flagler Dog Track, and Calder Race Track.

There was something depressing about the event. What was it?

Was it the staging? The pastors gathered atop a shoddy wooden stage in front of a shoddy fold-out table to make their announcement in front of an audience of less than a dozen people. Three of them, including New Times, were reporters.

Was it the questioning? The Miami Herald’s Joshua Johnson seemed rather unduly bent on mocking the pastors’ position. What about money for education, he asked. When the pastors suggested that gambling is no solution to Dade's educational woes, Johnson moved on to another line of questioning: What about his, Johnson's, dear old grandmother? She plays the lotto. “What would you tell me to tell my grandmother?” he asked.

Not that anyone in the group was talking about ending the lotto, but still -- several pastors replied that for some people (Johnson's grandmother excluded, we hope), gambling can be an addiction.

But still, there was something else that cast a shadow on the whole affair. After the conference, Reverend Dr. Willie Sims (pictured above), who heads the Baptist Ministers Council, emphasized to New Times that he was against gambling because of what he’s seen it do to his own community. “Many of us have family members and parishioners who have suffered from gambling,” he said. “How can we stand before our congregations and not stand against gambling. . . When Jesus walked through the temple, he saw gambling, and he was angry.”

Reverend Sims waved his arm across the Liberty City panorama outside: vacant buildings, empty lots filled with garbage–urban poverty and its trappings.

It was depressing.

“We’ve got enough negative things already,” he said. “We don’t need gambling.”

-- Isaiah Thompson

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