“Ask a Priest: It Is OK to Hang Out at the Las Vegas Strip?”

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Q: Say someone is going to take some friends out to the beach where there are a lot of immodestly dressed people. Would that person sin by putting her friends in occasion of sin for taking them to a place where there is a lot of occasion to sin? Would we have to go around asking people if it’s an occasion of sin for them or do we just assume it’s not? Sometimes, with men especially, I feel like it could be assumed to be an occasion for them. I encounter this problem very often, living in Las Vegas. Sometimes we go to the Strip, where there are many good tourist attractions. Nevertheless, many women dress immodestly or there are strippers in plain sight for everyone. We also go to this place where they have free circus shows, though the acts are sometimes immodest because of the clothes. But there aren’t an occasion of sin for me. Would I have to avoid going to these places with everyone? – K.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It’s good that you are raising these kinds of questions.

It shows that you are sensitive to the near occasions of grave sin, especially for the men in your life.

Maybe it’s good to recall St. Paul’s words, “Whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

You might want to step back and look at the big picture.

You mention that you live in Las Vegas. You mention the presence of immodestly dressed women and strippers along that iconic stretch of hotels and casinos, the Strip.

It’s not likely that you will change the culture of the city anytime soon. So what to do?

It sounds odd but maybe a financial concept would help: zero-based budgeting.

The idea in zero-based budgeting is that every item, every expense needs to be justified. Things aren’t accepted “because that’s the way it’s always been done.”

In the spiritual realm this means taking a critical look at how we “budget” our time.

We ask ourselves, is this thing or place or event going to help me grow in holiness? Will it help my friends and family grow in holiness?

In practice this means asking pointed questions:

Why do I go to the Strip with my friends? Is this the best use of my time?

What is it about the Strip (or beach or wherever) that attracts me? What does it say about me and my values? Is it a place that will help my male friends?

Are there alternatives to the Strip? Are there other places to relax? Could I dedicate my time to other things, such as charity work at a parish or shelter?

The way we start to change a culture is by living more fully as Christians.

As to your specific question: We need not going around asking people what an occasion of sin for them is. That would be an indiscreet question. Nevertheless, we should try to anticipate what will be problematic places for them and look to suggest healthier venues.

Perhaps all this is something to take to prayer. The Holy Spirit seems to be nudging you to review some aspects of your life. It’s a sure bet that there might be a special grace awaiting you.

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