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Poker, whether you’re into it or not, is huge. It’s happening; it’s out there. And Texas Hold ’Em is the granddaddy of poker games,” says Rev. John Van Sloten of New Hope Christian Reformed Church, Calgary, Alberta.

Van Sloten, known for connecting God to pop culture—including “The Simpsons,” Metallica, and the movie Crash (see p. 32)—once again stretched the boundaries with a message about the poker craze sweeping the world.

“I would say that this is the farthest out we’ve ever gone into the secular world, and we were met with the most responses,” he said. Approximately 250 people came to the service, and another 300 people listened online. Met with positive and negative feedback from congregants and others, Van Sloten said he’s glad people are questioning the craze.

“I came away with a more gracious stance and a better understanding of what drives people to engage and that there is this fine line where any good thing can turn ugly and become destructive,” said Carol Ellergodt, a member of New Hope CRC.

Van Sloten noted there’s no explicit biblical teaching that gambling is inherently wrong. But he’s careful to point out the many dangers surrounding the game.

“I believe that everything in our world belongs to God, including this poker craze,” he said. “While there’s a lot of evil resident there, there’s also some good. I spoke about this so that the good and true facets of what happens in gambling might be both identified and reoriented.

“The all-too-human desire to experience risk prevalent in the game might be understood as a pointer to the nature of faith,” he said. “The disproportionate, unfair risk/reward reality of gaming is to some degree analogous of the upside-down, undeserved nature of grace. What we search for in the game of poker is really just an expression of what we’re meant to ultimately search for in life.”

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