A friend forwarded me a copy of a recent cover story in the San Diego Reader, the city’s alternative newspaper, profiling several members of a purported Christian card counting ring.
The tale of Will and Shirley, who held Bible classes in their home for newly married members of their San Diego church, according to the story, and Nate and Faith, who were recruited by Will and Shirley, smells to me like fiction.
It brings to mind the fabricated writings of Stephen Glass, former staffer for The New Republic.
Among his more infamous articles was a completely made up tale, titled “Spring Breakdown,” about hard-drinking, drug-abusing, sexually-promiscuous Young Republicans at the 1997 Conservative Political Action Conference.
Glass’ scandalous career at TNR was dramatized in the film “Broken Glass.” Much as the highly-suspicious story of Will and Shirley, Nate and Faith and their gambling ring was featured in the documentary “Holy Rollers: The True Story of Card Counting Christians,” which was released last month on Blu-Ray and DVD.
Glass’ deceit went undetected by his liberal editors at TNR because it seemed perfectly plausible to them that Young Republicans at a conservative conference would get drunk, get stoned and get sexed up.
In much the same way, the editors of the San Diego Reader, the producers of “Holy Rollers,” were all too willing to believe that true Christ followers would actually operate a card counting ring.
Indeed, the Reader says that, before Nate and Faith made a commitment to join the ring, they ran it by the pastor of their church and their Bible study group.
“Most people were supportive,” Nate told the paper, although one couple had a problem with the idea. “It was mostly the wife,” Nate explained. “She had a problem with the deceit.”
But they worked it, out, he continued.
How? By agreeing that Christ would probably take a dim view of gambling? By deciding that money made by counting cards at casinos was unclean, and that it wasn’t less so if used to plant new churches or for other good purposes?
No, the alleged Christians agreed that Nate would never take trips alone to Vegas, that he would always have a spotter and that he wouldn’t pretend to be someone he wasn’t.
“I would go into it,” he told the Reader, “with integrity and honesty.”
I believe the story of Christian card counters is made of whole cloth, like Glass’s fictional account of Young Republicans participating in alcohol- and drug-fueled sex parties.
Will and Shirley and Nate and Faith may indeed have been members of a card counting ring. But there was absolutely nothing Christian about it.