Forget righteous indignation.
With the fight against a lottery in North Carolina a lost cause, the mood for many in the faith community is best expressed by one of the lottery's leading opponents.
"A sense of resignation," the Rev. George Reed of the N.C. Council of Churches in Raleigh said.
Lottery tickets go on sale Thursday, but the sermons and prayers in some N.C. sanctuaries on Sunday generally focused more on Lent than on the advent of state-backed gambling.
The Rev. Dan Burrell of Northside Baptist Church in Charlotte said in an e-mail that he feels "sort of a resigned ambivalence" to the start of the lottery. Though he shares the widely held belief that poor people play more than wealthy people, thus deepening their poverty, he said he knows there's no stopping it now.
The Rev. Sam Roberson, head of the Presbytery of Charlotte, said he grieves over the start of the lottery -- in part because gambling now will join such topics as the weather, Panthers, Bobcats and college basketball as a regular part of water-cooler conversation.
"I don't expect many diatribes against the sins of gambling coming from our pulpits," Roberson said in an e-mail to the Observer. "However, serious attention from the pulpit on this issue would do all of us some good. ... All in all, we'll not be a better state because of the lottery."
Many denominations and religious groups have long fought gambling in all its forms.
A Lutheran Church Missouri Synod commission, for example, adopted a committee report that said gambling encourages the sins of greed and covetousness.
The United Methodist Church calls gambling "a menace to society, deadly to the best interests of moral, social, economic, and spiritual life, and destructive of good government "
But with scratch-off game tickets available beginning at 6 a.m. Thursday, Reed of the N.C. Council of Churches is calling for the crusade to move from protest to watchdog.
Faith leaders should monitor how the lottery develops, he said. They should watch to make sure the state doesn't target the poor with advertising. Congregations should develop programs to educate people about the dangers of gambling and addictive behavior. Leaders of congregations should keep a close eye out for fellow members who might be buying too many tickets.
"If people aren't already in that mode," Reed said, "now is the time."
The Rev. Norman Kerry Jr. of Chappell Memorial Baptist Church in Charlotte opposes the lottery in the belief it blinds people to one of life's essential truths. Rather than a get-rick-quick venture like a lottery, he said, it takes hard work, an education and a vocation to succeed.
And faith, too.
"As a person of faith," he said, "I believe that God will provide for me."
But Kerry's enough of a realist to accept the fact that not every member of his church who might buy a lottery ticket will come to him seeking prayer, guidance or forgiveness. And so, with the N.C. lottery about to begin, he said there's more to do now than just rail against it.
"We need to do some teaching," Kerry said, "and encouraging of our members."