Secrets, murder & gambling: my three favorite things
--Richard Castle, The Double Down (2009)
I just finished watching the rerun of my second-favorite Castle episode, where the above quote was delivered by actor Nathan Fillon, who plays novelist Richard Castle, a character who helps the New York police solve crimes while using his hands-on experience in the writing of crime novels.
This episode ranks behind only The Wild Rover, where one of the secondary characters (Kevin Ryan, portrayed by Seamus Dever) goes undercover in the Irish mob. And in a conversation about the show last night, I said that one of my all-time favorite scenes came when actress Stana Katic (who plays Kate Beckett, the co-star and foil for Castle) dropped some thick Russian accent in helping her get into a mob-run poker game.
The point to all this is not to recount my favorite Castle episodes, but to note that the favorite choices come back to some common things, which in turn have cultural and political implications, the kind which I blog about on Blue Dog Reaganite.
I have an interest in the mafia, and a definite interest in gambling. For the record, I don't wager myself, save for an NCAA Tournament pool and an occasional football pool--wagers that amount to anywhere from $10 to $20 for a betting event that stretches several weeks. I do, however take a great interest in point spreads, betting odds, moneylines and the array of tools Las Vegas uses to measure sports teams, and I spent three years working in the sports handicapping business, where my company marketed its picks to gamblers.
All of which would put me in disfavor with social conservatives, the kind of which I would agree with on the right-to-life, euthanasia, the definition of marriage, and other hot-button political topics. My interest in gambling--and the fact I favor complete legalization of all sports betting and casino gaming throughout the United States--is a pretty clear dividing line.
I touched on this point a couple weeks ago in a post about how the pro-life movement needed to unbundle itself from the extraneous issues of social conservatism if they wanted to reach more people. I'll always vote for a pro-life candidate, even I disagree on gambling, but not everyone else will. And more to the point, there's just no logical connection between the two topics.
What I don't quite understand is why Catholic conservatives also fall in line with the anti-gambling crowd. In the late summer of 2012, in a conservative Catholic venue, I gave kind words to New Jersey governor Chris Christie, and cited his effort to legalize gambling as one of the reasons, though not the primary one. I was scolded by a Catholic deacon--not for praising Christie, but for endorsing legalized gambling.
But why? Catholic parishes are legendary for their bingo halls, and having done some volunteer work in there, trust me when I say it isn't a bunch of old ladies putting down quarters while they finger their rosary beads. The games are attended by players who buy as many cards as they can monitor at a time, rapidly using the stamp to fill up their cards every time a number is called out. It was then that I realized that this bingo stuff was really a game of skill, demanding fast reflexes and reaction time. I'm kidding only somewhat on that point.
Nor is the Catholic Church as a whole being inconsistent on this. The catechism that those of us in the pews are called to adhere makes it clear that there is nothing inherently immoral about gambling, a clear dividing line between the Church and conservative Protestant denominations.
Any perceived inconsistency comes either taking the personal beliefs of individual Catholics (which they are quite entitled to) and imputing them to the Church as a whole. Or those same individual Catholics taking their personal beliefs themselves and presenting it as the teaching of the entire Church (something they are not entitled to).
The Catechism Of The Catholic Church does spell out that there can most certainly be byproducts of gambling that are immoral--whether it's cheating at games to betting money that's needed for one's family. But those same sinful byproducts exist with alcohol consumption, and I've yet to hear anyone suggest that we re-enact Prohibition.
Secrets, murder and gambling. Well, I won't say those are my three favorite things. The first two are not even on the list, certainly not the second. And I won't even say gambling is a favorite thing. But it is something I'm interested in. I don't see a reason to apologize for that, and it's long past time to stop making wagering on a football game something outside the bounds of civil society.