The Ohio Lottery Commission has a new advertising campaign. The campaign’s slogan is: “It’s not your character, it’s your chemistry.”
The campaign is aimed at the 5% of Ohioans who are compulsive gamblers. The purpose of the campaign is to absolve them of moral responsibility for their gambling. Instead, it’s the fault of their brain chemistry.
In effect, the State of Ohio is “writing off” 5% of its citizens. They’re basically telling them that they’re stuck with their addiction until such time as scientists are able to figure out how to alter the chemistry of their brains. Meanwhile, the State continues to promote gambling & collect millions of dollars in revenue. I believe it’s morally repugnant what the various states are doing.
The advertising campaign is an example of biological reductionism. Biological reductionism is a view ascribed to by an increasing number of those in liberal academia. Their argument is that we humans are just a mass of atoms and chemicals, and it’s the darn chemicals that are responsible for our behavior. In other words, they reduce all human behavior to each person’s brain chemistry – hence the term “biological reductionism.”
Biological reductionism is not only wrong, but dangerous. Quoting Dr. Albert Mohler, a Baptist theologian:
“Once we buy into this kind of biological reductionism, eventually character does disappear, and there is no personal responsibility. That, however, is a society that gives itself over to moral anarchy,…”
As Christians, we do not deny that brain chemistry might be an issue. The Bible tells us that the “entire creation” was affected by the Fall. “Entire creation” includes even our body chemistry. However, the Bible is equally clear that this doesn’t relieve us of personal responsibility for our actions.
Thankfully, God sent His Son to pay the penalty for our sin and to set us free from sin’s controlling power. This is an important part of the Gospel: the idea we’ve been redeemed and are no longer slaves to sin, including the sin of compulsive gambling. (I’ll leave it to another time to discuss whether gambling – compulsive or not – is a sin.)
I’ve known some compulsive gamblers and I’ve seen some of the suffering their gambling has wrought -- not only for themselves, but for their children, neighbors, co-workers, even society as a whole. They should not be written off, but rather we should proclaim to them freedom through Christ.