Playing the Stock Market is Like Playing Powerball
by Jack Reeves
Mayor Homer Cox is trying to lead a coalition of the willing to ban the sale of lottery tickets in Bucksnort. He says he’s doing it “on Christian grounds.”
Homer barely squeaked by incumbent Mildred Rainwater in the last mayoral election. At the last minute he found an issue that turned the tide in his favor. He made a promise to enforce the nuisance animal regulations.
But Homer has been long connected to fringe issues. He was adamantly against electronic voting machines, actually protesting in front of a poll. This and other matters have caused some to label Homer “a has-been.” Be that as it may, he’s trying to persuade the public and the city council to close down the state-run lottery at the Bucksnort Mall.
This past week he was at the Bucksnort Bugle arguing the issue with editor Roy Seabrook Jr. Several citizens hanging around the office followed the exchange with great interest.
“Homer, why are you so riled up about this? The lottery helps the school system,” Roy said.
“Because it’s un-Christian. It’s wagering,” Homer replied.
“My Bible says ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ It says ‘Honor thy father and thy mother.’ It tells me to ‘Remember the sabbath to keep it holy.’ Where’s it say ‘Thou shalt not wager?’”
“Well — you can’t find any verse that outright says you shouldn’t gamble. It just goes against the grain of what’s right,” Homer said.
“It appeals to greed. That’s ungodly. It feeds on weakness of character. It takes food out of the mouths of families. It’s addictive, like liquor,” Homer said emphasizing each point with a different finger.
“What’s the difference between gambling and playing the stock market? A lot of folks lost their britches recently in the market. Isn’t investing your hard-earned money in the stock market gambling?” Roy suggested.
There was a protracted pause as Homer grappled with the question. The office staff stopped working and looked at Homer.
“Homer, it seems like the same should apply to bettin’ on Home Depot stock as bettin’ on the Power Ball,” Roy continued.
“I say you’re right, Roy. Both are contrary to the Scripture. They prey on weakness and greed and lead to corruption. Just look at the recent Wall Street scandal if you have any doubt.”
“Well, if that’s so, Homer, what would you say if I told you that the churches — the Methodists, the Baptists, the Presbyterians, you name ‘em — are under the covers with the Wall Street crowd?””
“I’d say you’re blowin’ smoke out your ear!”
“Homer, this may ruin your day. Go ask any preacher in this town if his church headquarters is invested in the stock market and see what he tells you.”
“You mean they’re using collection-plate money to bet on stocks?”
“Hundreds of millions, Homer. And they lost millions and millions in recent weeks.”
“So they’re all playing roulette? Christians?”
“You really ruined my day, Roy. I’ll see ya in church.”
(Guest columnist Jack Reeves is an award-winning free-lance journalist. In his work heading communications programs for the World Bank and U.N. Development Program International’s agricultural research centers, he has lived around the world. However, he retains a particular fondness for Southern small-town life and writes regularly about it. He has a law degree from John Marshall School of Law and various other degrees from Emory and West Georgia universities. Contact him via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)