A Distinction Without A Difference

“Father,” said Mary one morning, “what made you put up your cards last evening when the minister came in? Why didn’t you ask him to take a hand with you?”

“Oh! ministers never play cards, my child, and it is thought very improper to play in their presence.”

“But, father, I saw you playing backgammon with the minister the other evening. Is backgammon less sinful than cards?”

“Oh! Backgammon is a clerical game, my dear, all ministers play at chess and backgammon. Cards are very disreputable, because there is so much gambling with them among bad people.”


“But, father, I have heard that there is more gambling carried on with dice than by any other means. Why does that not make dice disreputable? And if it is wicked for the minister to play cards, why isn’t it wicked for the church members to do so?”

“Poo, poo! You ask too many questions. My dear, you are not old enough to understand these things.”

“Well, father, perhaps I can understand about dancing. The other evening at Susan’s birthday party, Mr. X, the divinity student, danced as much as any of us, and enjoyed it too, and no one seemed to think he was doing anything improper. So why doesn’t our minister dance, father? Isn’t it as proper for him as for his student? And how long must Mr. X study before it becomes as wicked and sinful for him to dance as for the minister?”

No Dancing

“Dear me! How you do pour in the questions! It is very disagreeable to parents to have their children always asking questions. There is a great difference between ministers and other people. And what would be very proper in me, might be very wrong in our minister. But you shouldn’t be so curious my dear. Now go out and play.”

(Father talking to himself after Mary exits.) “How the little jade has puzzled me with her questions! I do believe she understands the matter better than I do!”

(Mary talking to herself after she exits.) “Oh dear! I wish I was older, then perhaps father would answer me. But I can’t see for the life of me why a minister cannot play at cards as well as backgammon. And I don’t see how being a minister can make right wrong; or being a church member make wrong right. Either one must be MORE than a Christian or the other LESS. Perhaps a minister isn’t exactly a man! I’ll go back and ask father just that one question more!”


The Liberator – September 6, 1839

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