Federal Sabbath Laws

By Graham Glover

tired

We are a tired nation. We work too much. We don’t vacation enough. We are poorly disciplined in taking time off from our jobs, our studies, and a variety of social activities. It seems as though we sleep less and less, and the notion of a mid-afternoon siesta is almost laughable. If we complain about being tired, we are called lazy. If we aren’t giving 100% every day, we are told that we will never be the best at our craft. Hard work – more work – drives our society and our economic system.

That being said, it’s time for Americans to rest.

The problem is how to enforce rest. We are, despite the claims of some, a capitalist nation, that isn’t overly keen on shorter work days, longer vacation time, mandatory maternity/paternity leave, more liberal policies toward sick time, etc. Most of us work 40+ hours a week, with 2 weeks’ vacation per year. For many, longer hours and less vacation are the norm. Our work-driven society seems hardly conducive to rest. If one job doesn’t pay the bills, we get another. If one spouse can’t afford to stay home with the kids, they find work, only to put their children in daycare – sometimes for 12 hours a day. Hard work, which almost always means more work, is the driving force behind much of what we do in America and I can’t envision many scenarios where this ethic changes. Except one: the institution of federal Sabbath laws. If changing the amount of hours we work isn’t possible, then it’s time to teach our nation to work smarter by resting more. It’s time to shut things down on Sunday.

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That means no businesses are open on Sunday. No restaurants. No grocery stores. No shopping malls. Nothing. Sunday is a day to rest. And the best way to rest is to literally stop working. That means your leisure activities that involve things being open may not be possible on Sunday. Others can’t rest if businesses remain open. It’s time to spend time with your family, your friends, your neighbors. It’s time to stop working and ideally, disconnect from your job, your school, and yes…even your computer, smart-phone, and TV. This is one of the things the Sabbath is about – rest.

We’ll obviously leave some essential services open on a limited basis: hospitals, law enforcement, etc. Perhaps even a gas station or two, but by and large, Sunday will become a day of mandatory rest. For those that must work on Sunday (to include clergy), another day of the week will become their Sabbath day of rest. No exceptions.

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Think this idea is ridiculous? Offer an alternative. Think we Americans don’t work hard enough? Show me a nation that does. Think we don’t need more rest? Explain why not. Think these laws would be a tacit endorsement of religion by the government, and a violation of the establishment clause? Tell me how the federal government isn’t involving itself in religious affairs already.

I’m all for hard work. I’m all about rewarding those who put forth the most effort. Federal Sabbath laws are not a call against those whose work ethic has given them worldly riches and wisdom. Indeed, I think it is quite the opposite. I want more Americans to achieve their vocational goals. I want better educated citizens. I want more productive workers. I want increased financial stability. But to achieve these goals we Americans must rest. We must stop thinking longer hours and more days of work is the key to achieving what we want. We must take time away from these things in order to get better and more productive at them. And unless we force our nation’s hand on this issue, I don’t see how we ever learn to do so.

Hammock

12 thoughts on “Federal Sabbath Laws

  1. Rev. Graham,
    A most delightful article, regarding federal Sabbath laws. In principle, I’m all for it. Might I make three suggestions: first, that “all businesses” that are to be closed are those engaged in manufacturing, and in wholesale and retail trade and services. (Thus exempting family-owned farming.) Second, as there might be some crack-pot attorney besides myself who objects on constitutional grounds, we might be on a firmer legal basis if such laws were passed state by state. Third, and most importantly, Luther’s explanation to the Third Commandment, “We should fear and love God, so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it” makes no specific reference to the Sabbath, Sunday, or any other particular day. We just might get this law passed in every state of the Union, and by overwhelming majorities, if we shift the “day of rest” to Monday! As for me and my house, we would vote early and often for a day of rest on Monday!

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      1. David, why Saturday? Politically speaking, I have no objection to it. The point is to rest. Theologically, although Christians are not precluded from working on the Sabbath, I think Sunday makes the most sense for America.

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    1. Michael, thanks for the comments. I’m on board with suggestion #1. I like the intent behind #2, but am fearful that if left to the States most would not pass. But if you think that’s the better route, then I’m a go! As for #3, as noted with David below, I’m not wed to any day of the week. Sunday seems to work best, since most Americans have their day of worship on Sunday, but your point is well taken.

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  2. Well my Grahambicious friend, I am, perhaps for the first time, in whole hearted agreement here. I am even ready to completely comply with this plan, and in many ways and more often than not, I already do. One thing that we must consider though, the NFL! I mean, college games are on Saturday, so where do we move the NFL to? They must also rest, though some might consider their football an essential service.
    I am ready to get behind this push! America, it is time for change we can believe in! And, let us add the afternoon siesta during the workday as well!

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    1. Mike, Mike…you raise a very important question. What to do about the NFL? Maybe we make it one of those essential services? The marco point is to embrace rest. We’ll worry about the details later…

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      1. If the NFL is an “essential service” than we are truly in trouble as a nation. It is just a sporting event. . .
        It’s hard to believe that this would ever fly. In Florida we can’t even seem to make motorcyclists wear helmets and everyone is up in arms about “common core” in the schools. Will those people tolerate the federal government telling them when to rest?

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  3. I propose to change the calender to 9-day weeks (i.e., 6 working days and 3 weekend days). The extra work day (let’s call it Lameday) would allow us to get more things done on a weekly basis. The extra weekend day (we can call it Grahamday) could be a mandatory day of rest. If you do the math, you get a total of 17 extra weekend days per year. This will force more rest and really allow people to recharge between weeks. At the same time, the extra work day will make our work weeks more productive.

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  4. I’m not sure doing it through more laws is the answer. I agree that we need to take an actual day off the grid. A real family day a day where we worship, eat & gather together as family and as a family of believers. I remember when I was a child that Sundays for quite some time where just that. My mom made a roast or turkey after church. We played cards and ate together. Here’s the thing; we can just do it. We as individuals and we as a church body even can just declare this as our right of freedom of religion in this great land. Let’s just do it. Let’s say, ” it’s against my religion to work on Sunday”. It’s a post modern world. What’s good for us no one can judge against us for, right??? I’m taking an oath. Who’s with me??????

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    1. joy2thewhirld, yes we can just do it. And to the extent that the US Army will allow it, I’m in too!

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  5. Fish, I’ll give you the NFL if you can ensure college football Saturday’s remain sacred!

    I understand this idea is likely to never become a reality. Our economic impulses drive us too much, as well as the points you make. But, I still think the point needs to be made about us resting more. I have no idea how to enforce this or make this change. Personally I need to take my own counsel. Hopefully others will consider it as well…

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