Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 25, 1958

Was It Gambling?


Was it gambling? We have been asked this question by a number of people in recent weeks — all of them having reference to the appearance of a gospel preacher over an extended period on the TV Quiz show "21". Some thought it was; some thought it was not. All agreed that it was most decorous gambling (if it was gambling), dignified, sedate, and most entertaining. Dr. Wade Ruby, professor in Pepperdine College and preacher for the Hollywood Church of Christ, acquitted himself rather well in the affair, winning some $67,000.00. This he can add to the $12,000.00 he had won last year in the TV quiz program "Hi-Lo", also a contest in which one matched all his winnings against the chance of increasing the loot.

Actually, we think all who understand what gambling is will have to agree that Dr. Ruby did indeed indulge in gambling on these shows. He put up no stake to start the game, but after his first winnings, he then ventured his total stake each time he decided to try for more. He became in the process "a nationally known gambler"!

But we are not so much interested in Dr. Ruby's successful venture into the fields of chance as we are in the obviously declining moral standards of which his experiences but furnish an example. Gambling, drinking, dancing, and all the formerly recognized evils of an unChristian society are now made so very, VERY respectable, innocuous, and acceptable among even the most conventional and religious people. Five or six years ago we were holding a meeting in a Texas town where it was common knowledge that one of the elders habitually put up a little bet on his frequent domino games in one of the town's domino parlors. When the other elders discussed the matter with him he was surprised to learn that anybody at all took any exception to his practice. He said he could easily afford to lose the couple of dollars he put up each week; that he looked upon it somewhat as others would look upon spending two dollars for a ticket to a football game. It was pure entertainment, and the insignificant side bet served only to increase the interest of the game and enhance the pleasure he derived from it. He bet on the horse races in much the same way. He was never interested in winning the money, and never ventured more than a piddling amount on any race. But to have a horse come under the wire ahead of the field when he had "two dollars on the nose" gave him greater pleasure than he would have had if he had not had the trifling bit of money up.

The great pressure of national advertising has convinced many impressionable people that the "man of distinction" is invariably a man with a cocktail glass in his hand; and that the truly cultured and civilized lady is one whose breath carries the unmistakable odor of cigarette tobacco. The shockingly brief "shorts" have become so commonplace now as to occasion very little comment from anybody any more. And the church lotteries and "bingo" games have long since accustomed the average man in the street to the thought that "taking a chance" in the hope of winning something is simply a part of our national life — moral, respectable, and inevitable.

It would be most interesting to us to sit in a class and hear Dr. Ruby explain to an intelligent teen-ager that what he did is NOT gambling, but playing a slot machine in Las Vegas IS gambling. Or would he take the Catholic Church's position that gambling, per se, is not wrong or sinful, but only becomes so when other factors enter in to degrade it? And we doubt not that many thoughtful parents over the nation will be having trouble explaining to their children why it is wrong and sinful to gamble in the face of the certain protest from the youngster, "But, mother, it CAN'T be wrong to put up a stake in a game of chance, else this fine gospel preacher from the Hollywood Church of Christ would not have done it on the TV show!!"

The face of evil is rarely ugly or repulsive in its early years. It is so innocent in appearance, so respectable, so obviously free from anything wrong or vicious. But once the initial compromise has been made, once the course is set, then, little by little, the true character of the thing begins to develop. And there is an inevitable progress from an innocent TV quiz game to a friendly game of dominoes (with a little "stake" put up to increase the pleasure), to dropping a few nickels into a slot machine, to trying one or two passes at the crap table, to the roulette wheel, to the poker table, and to the frenzy of the compulsive gambler. One has but to visit Las Vegas or Reno to see the terrible final product of this innocent beginning — as one has but to visit skid row or the psychopathic ward of the city hospital to see the final "finest product of the brewer's art." The innocent social drink, the "dinner cocktail," the night-cap seem innocuous enough. It is only when we see the final product that the evil can be recognized.

All of this but serves to emphasize that the Christian is truly a "pilgrim and a sojourner" on the earth. He lives in the world, but not of the world. His eyes are set on another country. He abstains from the very beginnings of evil, and does not compromise the battle by accepting worldly standards. Whether Dr. Ruby thought he was gambling or thought he was not, he has unquestionably weakened the moral position and done injury to the battle being waged by all sincere people who honestly and conscientiously believe and teach that gambling is wrong.

— F. Y. T.