One of the best Christmas gifts I received this year was some Star Wars California lottery scratcher tickets from my brother-in-law. On the surface, it was a nice experience scratching Star Wars cards with the Star Wars coin tokens he gave with the scratchers. Winning $79 was fun, too! Being a Star Wars fan, I thought of how much of a crime it would be for some fanatical collector to see me enjoy disfiguring the beautiful art. I did not care one bit, though. Some art is meant to be spent. As a musician, I know what it is like to have a one-of-a-kind show. Once you finish the show, the memory is all you have. You cannot frame that. But, it is always there. A piece of art is nice on your walls, but an experience is something we value in our culture. What a great gift.
Deeper than this fun experience, I realized that I had a taste of another world. I don’t often go to the corner market or 7-11 store, so I don’t usually even see the places where you buy lotto tickets. Gambling is a serious issue for some people. I think that some entertainment for one person is poison for another. We all have our weaknesses, in other words. Beyond this, there are always people out there to profit on the misfortune of others.
Here is what Dr. Lia Nower, a specialist in gambling says about lotto gambling and scratchters in an interview in Counselor Magazine: The Gambling Addiction Era Cometh: A Thought-Provoking Interview with Dr. Lia Nower
"On one level, lotteries are like any other form of gambling — totally dependent on random chance. There are some important differences, however. Contrary to popular slogans like “Somebody’s got to Lotto, it might as well be you,” the truth is that it’s much more likely to be anybody other than you. Unlike with casino table games with predictable odds, you have a much better chance of getting struck by lightening twice than you do to win even a modest sum in the lottery. There are also those who say the lottery is a regressive tax on the poor; it’s actually a regressive tax on the poorly informed. Lottery tickets, particularly scratch-off variations, provide immediate gratification and arousal that fuel more impulse purchases, similar to putting coin after coin in a slot machine…"
In our culture today, we have such a wide choice of vices. In this article you have blogging addiction, Star Wars addiction, collecting addiction and gambling addiction. We want an experience and we want some how for it to transform our lives. If we win the lotto, we are changed. If we have that perfect set of Star Wars coins, we are complete. If we get thousands to listen to the rants on our weblogs, we are codified. Somehow, these all fall short in the kind of change that actually makes life more meaningful.
However, when your brother-in-law gives you an experience and you share it with others, it somehow has meaning. After all, you can’t hang all of life on your walls. Somehow, the rite of passage of scratching your first lotto tickets is like the kid who slays his first deer or catches his first trout. What I hope we Christians do is share the real experiences of our faith instead of trying to always be on the right side of the argument. There is a lot to learn from a few lotto tickets.