"The most common characteristic of all police states is intimidation by surveillance. Citizens know they are being watched and overheard. Their mail is being examined. Their homes can be invaded." ~ Vance Packard
D.C. & Vegas: A Tale of Two Sin Cities
For most of my life I had no interest in visiting Las Vegas. I do not gamble and I thought that if I had seen one neon light I had seen them all. Alas, I was wrong. I have been to Vegas twice in two years and I have enjoyed it quite a bit. While I am not morally superior to anyone, I do not partake in the city's steamier entertainment offerings. However, I do allow myself to drop a few bucks in the slots. At the end of my first visit, I was driving to the airport when my cell phone rang. I told my friend I would call her back after I arrived in Denver. I asked myself: 'Is it legal to talk on a cell phone when driving a car in Nevada?' I answered: 'This is Vegas! Everything is legal!' On my second visit I was walking through the casino at the MGM Grand and I saw a sign saying something about Nevada law and sports wagering. I said to myself: 'Hmm. Isn't 'Nevada law' an oxymoron?' Las Vegas is by no means immune to the tentacles of statism. I have read that 125 tax, police and regulatory agencies have authority over what is supposedly the freest city in America. Vin Suprynowicz, one of the finest libertarian writers anywhere, is based in Vegas and writes extensively about overbearing government in Vegas and all across Nevada. Vegas' moniker of 'Sin City' is well deserved. All manner of vice is permitted and celebrated. The city's new motto is 'What happens here stays here.' Yet, while Vegas may revel in its well-deserved libertine image, its powers that be do not force anyone to visit there, or force anyone outside of town to conform to their vision of how the world ought to be. Yet Las Vegas is not the wickedest city in America. Nor, for that matter, is New York, Miami, New Orleans, Los Angeles or San Francisco. That dubious distinction goes to Washington, D.C. Washington, D.C., as we know it thrives because of its reckless violation of five of the Ten Commandments. It taxes people into the pavement. (Eighth Commandment) When tax money reaches Washington, it becomes the object of endless envy and covetousness. (Tenth Commandment) Those at the pinnacle of power lie like so many rugs in order to amass even more power. (Ninth Commandment) In the name of defense, those in Washington wage unprovoked wars, and do not care one iota how many innocents lose their lives as a result. (Sixth Commandment) Washington routinely demands that you genuflect before it. (Second Commandment) Sin in government goes far beyond having a wing-ding with an intern. Yet when was the last time you heard a sermon about the godlessness of so much of what happens in Washington? The same preachers who hoot and holler about Ozzy Osbourne and Paris Hilton say nary a word about the fact that half of your income is stolen before you can even buy groceries. No one has a gun at your head to watch MTV or to go gambling. Participation is optional. However, try changing the channel on the IRS. I know, I know. Pastors tell you that they watch their step preaching on things political for fear of losing their 501 (c)(3) exemption. You cannot serve God and money. (Matthew 6:24) I would ask which god they are serving if they are cowed into submission by the tax police. Worse yet are pastors who accept Uncle Sugar's 'faith-based' money, which flagrantly violates II Corinthians 9:7. Do you expect them to bite the hand that feeds them? Pastors who take taxpayer money fornicate with the world system. Legal prostitution exists not only in rural Nevada. It exists in every church where the pastor sells his soul for 30 pieces of Caesar's silver. Try finding a pastor who preaches against the 20,000 plus laws on the books that leave you disarmed and defenseless against criminals. Has your pastor not read Luke 22:36 lately? Does he not realize that gun control violates this Scripture and is therefore a sin? Oh sure, your pastor may whine and weep and wail about limitations on school prayer. But does he not realize that government schools have no basis whatsoever in the Bible and that God places the duty of raising children on parents and not the state? (Proverbs 22:6 and Ephesians 6:4) Does he not realize that laws interfering with this duty are violations of Scripture and thereby constitute a sin? While the Bible talks about war and makes allowances for war, it is also very clear about how God hates the shedding of innocent blood. (Proverbs 6:17) How many pastors decry the 25,000 plus Iraqi civilians who have perished as a result of the 2003 American invasion? I could go on for hours. What happens in Washington never stays there. Be it oppressive taxation, vise grip-like economic regulation, perpetual war for empire, Waco, Ruby Ridge, Elian or DEA jackboots raiding the homes of non-violent people whose only offense is ingesting the only substance that can alleviate their pain, it all starts in Washington. And it works its way outward from there. There is no penalty for not visiting Vegas. However, if you step out of line, Washington will visit you like an anvil on the head. The 'land of the free' is also the land with the world's highest incarceration rate. I frequently hear that if we let people do whatever they want ' Vegas style ' we will have anarchy! When you let people do whatever they want, you get Woodstock. When you let governments do whatever they want, you get Auschwitz. Which is worse? The church has a fiduciary responsibility to stand firm against sin. All sin. Pastors must not be selective about which forms of sin they preach against. To confront one kind of sin and wimp out in the face of another kind makes no sense.
This column was originally published here.