It is never the Church’s job to be “political.” Parties and platforms are not our domain. Preaching the Gospel is.
That said, it is also important that the Christian or Biblical worldview have traffic in the marketplace of ideas. Else, we lack the compassion to minister to the world around us. Hence this letter.
I enlist your prayers for its impact on some in our failing State of New York.
Dear Governor Cuomo, I am writing to you today as a lifelong resident of New York State, as a Father and Husband, as Christian, and as a Pastor who has a charge to care for the souls of those I am called to serve. And I am doing so on the eve of the November 5th vote on the proposal to allow seven casinos to be built in New York State, and in the midst of your continued efforts to enact the “Reproductive Health Act.”
Let me begin by rehearsing some basic Biblical facts so as not to be misunderstood as one who opposes or is “anti” government. As a Christian, I cannot be anti-government. The Bible requires otherwise.
Perhaps you are unaware that the Bible presents to Believers a number of interesting and compelling realities when it comes to understanding ourselves as citizens of earthly kingdoms, and of the Kingdom of God.
On the one hand, we are told directly in Romans 13 for instance, that among other things: a. Believers are to be subject to governing authorities. b. Governing authorities are instituted by God. c. God will judge all those who refuse to be subject to God’s appointed authorities. d. Such authorities have been set in place by God to be a “terror” to bad conduct. e. Such authorities are God’s “servant” for our good. f. Such authorities have God’s sanction to punish wrongdoers even unto death. g. Such authorities rightly levy taxes to finance their efforts. h. Such authorities are to be honored for the offices they hold.
On the other hand, we are also aware that governments are all comprised of people. There is no such thing as a “government” that is not – people. And so it is all governments have people in their ranks of sound moral character to greater or lesser degrees. But the moral character of those in leadership has no mitigating impact on the statements already observed in Romans 13 above.
There is a third thing to be noticed. We as Believers have both a warrant and a responsibility to call sin sin. First, in ourselves individually, in the Church, in the World at large, and even in the government as well.
All the above said, we also notice – especially in the New Testament, a stark lack of the Church “confronting” even the dreadful Roman Empire under whose wicked policies it sometimes suffered horribly.
Fourthly, we have the interesting example of John the Baptizer in Matthew 14 calling Herod to task for his immoral action in taking his brother Philip’s wife as his own.
Fifthly we have the scene of Paul before Festus in Acts 25 – where falsely accused, and before a clearly pagan ruler, as often as Paul had opportunity he spoke about Christ and “reasoned about righteousness, self-control and the coming judgment.” (Acts 25:25)
So what does all of this have to do with the Stewart-Cousins (S.438) Reproductive Health Act and the proposed Casino Referendum? Everything.
Mr. Cuomo, I do not come to you to find some exemption for myself over some unjust law or treatment. Nor do I come with a political agenda or a party to either endorse or vilify. No, I come to plead with you in the first case to keep New York State from preying on the multitudes of those who statistics clearly show can least afford to lose their money and livelihood in legalized gaming. To expand this wretched industry – even under the guise of providing new revenues which “can” be used for good is no valid argument.
Just because Bernie Madoff was able to (and DID) provide well for his family and staff didn’t excuse his theft of untold amounts. And just because some property taxes may be limited or diminished is no argument to inflict all of the ills that the expansion of gaming will bring along with it. Yes, it will increase revenues, in the short term, but at what cost when weighed against human good and flourishing? Do dollars really mean more to us than human souls and wellbeing?
Yes, Gambling Lobbyists (according to the NY Times October 15 edition) have spent $59 million in their efforts to see this kind of referendum pass since 2005. Yes, it is reported your own campaign fund has received over $1 million in this effort. But are you for sale? Is the NY Legislature for sale? I want to believe not. I pray not.
I do not come with a means to make up the loss if you do not receive those funds. I come with a plea to have mercy on the poor under your care by refraining from putting before them more false hope of enrichment by risking money they can ill afford to risk, and the pain and human suffering that results in their families. I come to plead against the collateral damage the gaming industry inflicts – well documented over decades in studies such as those cited by Earl L. Grinols of the University of Illinois. (Earl L. Grinols, Gambling in America: Costs and Benefits – New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004). His verdict: “The evidence indicates that casino gambling fails a cost-benefit test by a wide margin.” Quoting Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary – “Grinols’ research led him to estimate that the introduction of casinos in a community would produce about $34 per adult, per year. At the same time, gambling exacts a toll of far greater dimensions, estimated at between $180 and $289 per adult citizen, per year. The casinos do usually produce income, but this income is canceled out by social costs. As Grinols documented, other problems associated with casinos include marital breakup, the abandonment of children, psychological stress, loss of employment, and suicide.”
This decision is NOT a win for the people of New York Mr. Governor. It is only a win for those seeking to benefit from the pockets of those who can ill afford to lose more. Let’s face it, the gambling industry (and NY State when in league with it) only wins when people lose. How can a government called to do good to its people, willingly sanction what will positively do them harm, only to increase its income? How can you? Please stop this.
As for the expansion of abortion “rights” under the “Reproductive Health Act” – let me but briefly reiterate an old argument – its being old not making it any less true by virtue of its age.
I will not argue here for what I cannot hope to accomplish – returning to an end of abortion altogether. Perhaps in time such a day can come to our State once again. I address here only the legislation currently in debate.
All animal life, including human life has stages. It must begin somewhere, move through its various stages and at last end – at least physically. These things are self-evident.
So I ask simply, what form or stage of human life – on the basis of it simply being a form or stage – demands less dignity, less compassion, less protection under the law?
If our current laws can recognize that a mother using alcohol or other drugs while pregnant can be held liable for endangering the life and health of her unborn child – without a time stamp, how can we ignore that same reality when it comes to another killing that baby in its mother’s womb? When a Scott Peterson can be charged with 2 homicides in the course of murdering his pregnant wife, how can we possibly, logically, ignore that same life when it comes to abortion? We cannot. It is not rational. And then to consider expanding such irrational behavior so as to ensure unlimited access to abortion should Roe V. Wade be overturned (as reported you said by Jessica Bakeman in the Feb. 17 2013 Democrat and Chronicle) is astounding.
Mr. Governor, your role in government is to protect life, not expand the conditions under which it’s cessation can be accommodated. Even our penal codes recognize that violence done to the helpless is especially heinous and reprehensible. And what life is more helpless, more in need of our compassion and care than one in its earliest stages of development? We dare not sacrifice the lives of the totally helpless on the altar the undefined well-being of those more able to access support and gain the aid of others.
Mr. Cuomo I am not against you, or the government. I am for you. I am for your wellbeing – beyond mere perceived wellbeing – but for the very state of your soul as one who will one day have to give an account (as we all will) before the God who created us. I am not asking you to do a “righteous” thing in retreating from these causes to somehow earn favor with God. The Bible is clear that our relationship to our Creator can only be restored through turning from our sinful course of living as though under our own autonomous authority and not His, trusting in the atoning death of Jesus Christ on the cross to pay the penalty for that rebellion (and its fruit) and have the righteousness of Christ Himself placed on our account through faith. That is the Gospel. What I am asking you to do is recognize these legislative agendas as unrighteous, as those that promote the lack of self-control in spending and catering to special interest groups who do not have the dignity of human life at the fore. I am asking you to weigh your decisions in a scale that takes into account standing before the living God to give an answer in judgment for your decisions. Were they loving toward God and humankind – or merely politically, financially and self-indulgently expedient? These are hard questions, and not thrown out as attack missiles, but as probes to get at your own heart and motivations. Goads to self-examination under the reality of Biblical truth.
However I am against bad decisions. Decisions that devalue human life and permit making defenseless prey out of the poor and the unborn. And these two issues cannot be more germane to where we are legislatively in New York State right now.
I plead with you sir, I beg you – reconsider on both of these fronts. Boldly buck the cultural trend which drags our society ever deeper into the loss of human dignity for the sake of revenue and convenience. Yes, it will make some aspects of governmental business harder, and less profitable. Perhaps we’ll have to forgo some creature comforts or services. So be it. Better that, than continuing to devalue human life in those horrendous ways.
Thank you for your consideration, and service to this citizens of this State.
Reid A. Ferguson.