Of God Gambling and Guns
As Christians we are called upon to pray for a just and peaceful ordering of our society. I would like to share with you two invitations for you to consider how we might live out our Baptismal Vow to “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself” and “to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.”
The first invitation comes to us from Mr. Bob Kay, the Vice Director of the New Hampshire Council of Churches, of which the Diocese of New Hampshire is a member. It urges action on some upcoming legislation that would allow Casino Gambling in our beloved state. Religious traditions stress the value of freedom from behaviors that lessen human dignity. No one can reasonably argue with the fact that gambling has destroyed people’s lives through addiction. Individuals and families have been ruined. The electronic “near win” class of games are deliberately engineered to increase the pernicious addictive power of gambling. Addiction, in what ever form, is the antithesis of freedom. It makes little sense that a state whose slogan is to “live free or die” would pin its financial hopes on an activity that imperils its citizens, erodes community, and exacts an incalculable social and spiritual toll.
The second invitation I would like to share is written by a new friend and brother of mine in the House of Bishops. The Rt. Rev. Ed Konieczny is a former police officer and has a powerful story to tell about his own relationship to guns. I invite you to read his short testimony as a compelling example of how we can be civil and humble in our public discourse about matters that tend to polarize and divide us even as we strive to fulfill our baptismal covenant.
Bishop Rob Hirschfeld
About Casinos in New Hampshire
From Bob Kay, Vice President, New Hampshire Council of Churches:
A hearing before the House combined Finance & Ways and Means committees for the Casino bill (SB-152) has been set for next Tuesday, April 16 beginning at 10:00 AM in Representatives Hall (State House). The New Hampshire Council of Churches and its ten member denominations (including the Episcopal Diocese of NH) has for years advocated for the prohibition of expanded gambling in New Hampshire, especially in the form of a Casino loaded with video slot machines which are known to be addictive and destructive to vulnerable families and individuals. I urge all to take the following actions:
The Rt. Rev. Edward J. Konieczny is bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma. He was previously a police officer in Southern California.
By Edward J. Konieczny, Special to CNN’s Belief Blog
(CNN) — Both sides of the gun control debate think I’m on their side. I am the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma, a believer in Jesus Christ and for more than 18 years before entering seminary, I was a police officer.
While I try to preach God’s love and mercy, I also have a concealed carry permit and sometimes take my gun on long drives through the isolated areas of my diocese.
I live with the knowledge that I share responsibility for the taking of a human life in the line of duty and that a good friend on the force was shot and killed after we’d swapped shifts. And I wouldn’t be writing this article if the rifle that was pointed at my head one night by a man in the grip of a mental illness hadn’t failed to fire.
Until very recently, I was adamantly opposed to any expansion of gun control. But as I have reflected on the current debate — and the emotionally charged and morally complex gun-related moments in my past — I find myself struggling and evolving in my understanding of guns in our society. I think it is time for an honest conversation about the assumptions on which both sides in the gun debate base their arguments. It’s time for both sides to acknowledge that neither offers a complete solution to the problems of violence in our society.
In 1979, one of my best friends, a fellow police officer named Don, swapped shifts with me so I could play in a police softball tournament. During that shift, Don was escorting a man from a bar when the man pulled a semiautomatic weapon from his coat and shot Don in the chest. Don died at the scene.
The man who shot Don was a convicted felon, recently released from prison. He should not have been able to buy a gun, but he had bought the one he used and several others from a licensed dealer.