“Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”
I've been in Vegas before this last week, but I never spent any significant time there. People go to Vegas from all over the world to experience all it has to offer. Unlike most people, I didn't go there specifically to visit Vegas, I was there for a Jiu Jitsu tournament. I loved my time competing with my teammates and watching and encouraging them! In the midst of it all, I was able to talk with some of the locals (Lyft drivers and others) about Vegas. This place that attracts millions with its audacious, gold plated buildings like Trump Tower, the Hotel/Casino combination that lines the Strip with food, gambling, and sexual temptation is shiny and attractive on some level. I'm not condemning food, it's good and you need it. I'm not necessarily condemning gambling, that needs further clarification, but not here. I'm not condemning sex in its God-designed context. However, certain expressions of all three of these things make apparent the depravity and sinfulness of all humanity.
Think about the reputation Vegas has. We (my team, my wife, and my dad) went to Fremont Street, old Vegas where the the largest LED screen in the world is located. No doubt, it's cool! It's also getting another upgrade. But, Vegas is "Sin City!" It's marketing has included phrases like "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." Of course, anyone with any sense knows that's not true. Not only is it untrue, the moral messaging is horrendous. It is a blatant attempt to remove guilt so people will come and engage in the kind of morally vacant behavior the city encourages and sells in an attempt to entertain the masses.
I couldn't help but think about the depravity that was sitting right on the surface and think about what must be sitting just below the surface or even deep below the surface. When I got home, someone asked me if I saw (not visited, but simply saw) any prostitutes. What a weird question, but it tells you of the reputation this place has. The only thing I could think of was the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorra or perhaps Corinth. This is what the world has to offer, and what I saw was people engaging in the depravity openly. I saw families with young children walking down Fremont Street where men and women wore next to nothing (literally, next to nothing). Unfortunately there are some things you can't unsee like the man who was wearing nothing other than an adult diaper, the men and women wearing the minimum of what was legal (apparently Vegas doesn't require a lot of clothing), or the simulation/enticement of what was available if you wanted it.
I know, you may like Vegas. Certainly there are some things that are worth seeing. I'm not saying you should never go there, my point is a different one. What does Vegas, sin city, tell us about humanity. The message is pretty blatant and simple. What does humanity look like when you remove the concepts of guilt and shame? In large part it looks like Vegas. Proverbs 5:3-4 warns us against such licentiousness "For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword." We should take that seriously. Engaging in all that a fallen world has to offer will lead to a bitter ending. What happens in Vegas goes home with those who participate.
I'm not condemning Vegas, not exactly. Vegas displays, in part, what is in all of our hearts. It makes known the depravity of humanity, the sin that has infected us all, and our need for the grace of God. If you visit Vegas with a moral and Biblical filter I don't know how you can walk away without seeing humanities need for Jesus. The reality is, what is on the surface in Vegas is available in your town and mine. Vegas simply commercialized the sin nature and depravity that is close to us all. Thanks be to Jesus for the grace that is found in the sacrifice of the cross and the glory of the resurrection.
John Byrne is a pastor who has been spouting off his opinions his entire life (just ask his mom). This little blog is his venue for continuing in this tradition.