By Todd Jennings, Guest Blogger
This week, the controversial documentary Holy Rollers: The True Story of Card Counting Christians releases to DVD, Blu-Ray and DVD. The film was a sleeper hit on the independent film festival circuit, taking home several Best Documentary awards.
Holy Rollers follows a group of Christian friends, pastors, worship leaders and church planters who form a team of blackjack players that use their earnings to support their families and even ministry efforts. As the title suggests, these are not amateur gamblers; they are expert card counters.
Early in the documentary, one of the main members of “The Church Team” says, “For those of you who hate casinos, we’re doing our part.” Despite much of the documentary taking place at blackjack tables in casinos around the country, the team makes their feelings about casinos clear: “They suck goodness out of the world.” Their job, as many of them see it, is to “liberate money” from the casinos. These sentiments—ones that challenge commonly held evangelical views on gambling, blackjack and casino culture—set the tone for much as the story as team members wrestle with the idea of being “Card Counting Christians”.
As the team comes together, each discusses their own initial conflict with the idea of gambling, hanging out in casinos, and using deception (disguises, fake names, being removed from casinos) to do what is necessary to win at blackjack. For them it’s a business—one that is attempting to take down an enterprise that some of them see as predatory.
Though the emphasis of Holy Rollers isn’t to make a moral or biblical case for gambling or card counting, the team makes several things clear: card counting is not illegal; card counting takes hard work; and they are first and foremost Christians, and their faith is the cornerstone of their team dynamic. It’s easy to question their actions—but not their sincerity.
Beyond the ethical implications of their activities, there are frequent conversations about accountability, the Holy Spirit, and even Bible verses they use to remind themselves of their “calling”.
“You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.” Deuteronomy 8:17-18, NIV
Though not marketed as a Christian film (it does contain profanity, drinking, brief shots scantly clad Las Vegas models, and, obviously, gambling), the subject of Holy Rollers does offer challenging questions to Christians about more than just the ethics of Blackjack and card-counting—but also how far you can go to be in the world, but still not of it.
The Official Trailer for Holy Rollers: The True Story of Card Counting Christians