Sunday, February 12, 2006

Church sponsored gambling?

Speaking of my parish... The above link is to the weekly parish bulletin (in .PDF - big file.)

I was rather shocked to see a notice for the "annual summer raffle" for $10,000. Whoa! That's a lot of money! They are selling 275 tickets at $100 each. First prize gets $10,000, second prize is $1,000, and third through fifth place prizes receive $500 each.

This church-sponsored fundraiser doesn't strike me as very Christian. It doesn't seem to be in the spirit of charity. They are encouraging people not to give freely but to buy a ticket in the hopes of winning something for themselves. With stakes that high who wouldn't be tempted. Hell, I'm even tempted. That money could really help me with my student debt and with odds of 1 in 275, those are much better odds than the lottery.

Isn't a raffle just another form of gambling? Sure half the money goes to a good cause, but if the church needs funds they should just ask for it.

Frankly I'm a little disgusted with the whole thing. My town (or village I should say) is a very wealthy place, so perhaps $100 raffle tickets don't mean much to most parishioners. I've bought into raffles for causes before, usually at $5 a ticket or so, and never thought of it as gambling, but with the stakes so high in this case it makes me see it in a different light.

I look back on the past raffles I've bought into and to be honest I was usually more motivated by the hopes of winning the prize or money than by the cause it was for. That's why people have raffles, because they successfully tap into our selfishness. (At least for many of us, there are always those good souls who have given back the proceeds they've won, or are only motivated by charity.) That's fine I suppose for secular causes, like the March of Dimes, but the church as an institution that isntructs people in morals has to hold itself to higher standards and shouldn't be sponsoring activities that encourage vice.

I'm interested in some discussion on this. Should churches sponsor raffles? Am I being too worried over something petty? I wonder if I should talk to my pastor about my concerns or if it's not worth bringing up. Please let me know what you think.

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