By Lewis Willis
I read articles or hear preachers say, “I’m no longer surprised at anything.” Well, I have not reached that point yet. I still get surprised at the things I see happening. To be sure, the world does an awful lot of surprising things, but the things that surprise me the most are the things I see churches doing, supposedly to the glory of the Lord. The Akron Beacon Journal, on Saturday, October 16, 1982, printed an ad in the entertainment section from St. Vincent – St. Mary Catholic Church announcing, in large type, “Las Vegas Nights.”
On the nights of October 15, 16 and 17, the public was invited to a spiritual feast (?) of poker, chuck-a-luck, roulette wheels and blackjack. The doors opened for these “church activities” at “6:00 P.M. till ??.” And church gamblers were assured that “real money” would be used. The people of Akron were invited to “Cash in on the fun and excitement!”
Oh, there was one other thing. The ad said these “church activities” were for those “18 years and older only.” I remember when the movie industry responded to parental pressure and started rating their movies. A “G” movie could be seen by anyone. One rated “PG” suggested parental guidance. If rated “R”, admittance was restricted; those under 17 had to be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian. If rated “X”, to be admitted one “must be 18 with valid LD. . . no children!” Therefore, if you used the movie rating system to rate this Catholic church’s activities, you could only rate it “X”! Thus, an “X-Rated Church.”
I haven’t been living in a cave, so I am aware that many churches conduct Bingo nights. Some of these jackpots are advertised as high as $1,400 guaranteed. But I can tell you one thing, this “Las Vegas Nights” thing pretty much takes the cake. We’ve heard an awful lot in recent years about the social gospel. Some might say this is the social gospel gone to seed and sprouted! However, the fact is, it is neither “social” nor “gospel.” It is a misnomer to give it that kind of designation.
Think about this a little bit. If you go to Las Vegas to gamble, you do not gamble against other gamblers, you gamble against the house. If this church activity justifies being called “Las Vegas Nights” then I suppose the church is the house. The object out in Nevada is to beat the house. So I guess the object here is to beat the church. The possibilities for this thing are mind-boggling. And, if the crime against God was not so great, it would be laughable. Can you imagine the priest promoting the activity. “Come one, come all. Bring your grocery money, rent money, car payment money, social security checks, unemployment checks, welfare checks and food stamps. Be a big winner and clean out the Lord!”
Obviously, the appeal of such activities is greed and covetousness. Paul called covetousness, “idolatry,” adding, “for which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience.” To escape God’s wrath, He said, “mortify (put to death) therefore your members which are upon the earth” (Col. 3:5-6). Isn’t it ironic that a religious organization that claims to be the religion of Christ would so brazenly lead its own people in a violation of God’s law? To say that people are ignorant of God’s will is an absolute understatement in this case. If the mission of the church is so completely misunderstood, it should not surprise us terribly that they misunderstand “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.”
One wonders how long it will be before this kind of thing will completely replace “upon the first day of the week let everyone of you lay by him in store . . .” (1 Cor. 16:2). Those who still advocate God’s way of doing things, and who oppose “Las Vegas Nights,” might even be designated “antis” or “legalists.” I wonder if my opposition to this is Pharisaical? Our social gospel brethren need to plan their recreational buildings to accommodate such wonderful things as this or the remodeling costs will be monumental. Of course, one or two good nights on the part of the house would take care of that in a flash. These “X-Rated churches” might become the fad of the future. Watch out, brethren!
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 12, p. 361
June 16, 1983