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Some Things Said… (June 07) (2)

Good and evil

It’s not complicated, but we’ve complicated it. There is good in this world and there is evil. There has always been an objective morality. We ignore it at our own peril–and our culture has been ignoring it for a while now. …That is why more than one-third of American births are to unwed mothers–double what they were in 1980. It’s why popular culture has gotten excessively vulgar and cynical. It’s why many experience a breakdown in civility and good manners every day… We’ve loosened up plenty. That’s why so many worry that basic morality is in swift decline in America. –Tom Purcell from The Patriot Post Vol. 7 # 25, 6.18.07

True earmarks…

Emails and instant messages flying through the ether. In a week, the iPhone. See them run. See them text-message, those messages, that attention-span, ever more brief, ever harder to have and to hold. –Hugh Fitzgerald, as found at the New English Review

The Gay Gospel

Homosexual activists are making inroads in the Evangelical community by promoting a false gospel; one that views homosexual temptations as normal. Joe Dallas, Pastoral Counselor and Director of Genesis Biblical Counseling has just published a book on this trend titled The Gay Gospel. Matt Barber, CWA’s Policy Director for Cultural Issues, talks with Joe about this trend and how Christians can reach out to their friends and family who may have fallen for this deceptive theological error. –as found at the Concerned Women for America website, 6.23.07

Less Praying, More Working and Playing

For many Americans, Sunday is unlike any other day of the week. They spend its luxurious hours curled up in bed with the paper, meeting friends for brunch, working off hangovers, watching golf, running errands and preparing themselves for the workweek ahead. But Sunday is also, for many, the Sabbath — a special day for religious reasons. Not that you would notice.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy,” we are told in Exodus. Of all the gifts Jews gave the world, that of a weekly day of rest is certainly one to be cherished. And yet the Sabbath is now marked more by its neglect than its keeping. Or so says Christopher Ringwald in his new book “A Day Apart.”

Mr. Ringwald notes that in the late 18th century, states banned entertainment, hunting or unnecessary travel on Sundays. The Second Great Awakening in the early 1800s spread Sabbath-keeping to the frontiers. Church membership doubled, Sunday schools proliferated and long sermons dominated the morning.
It was unthinkable that the general store would remain open on the Sabbath.

“Nothing strikes a foreigner on his arrival in America more forcibly than the regard paid to the Sabbath,” Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in 1840. “Not only have all ceased to work, but they appear to have ceased to exist.” The so-called blue laws that were a part of American culture — closing down bars and preventing the sale of liquor on Sunday — were commonplace well into the 20th century.

But the Sabbath today is at odds with commercial culture. To generalize shamelessly from personal experience: My brother-in-law, who manages a national retail store in Colorado, works on Sundays, following church. He was shocked recently to find out he is now required to open the store on Easter Sunday. Easter used to be the one Sunday each year when retail stores closed.

No longer.

Of course, debates over the proper observance of the Sabbath date back to ancient times. One early conflict between Jesus and his fellow Jews was over what it meant to keep the Sabbath. Jesus’ failure to hew to ever-expanding rules — he healed the sick on the Sabbath — angered the Pharisees.

Not that Christians later fell into easy agreement about Sabbath conduct. In another new book, “Sunday: A History of the First Day From Babylonia to the Super Bowl,” Craig Harline shows how all sorts of complicated rules governing work, travel, sex and leisure grew up around the Sabbath in medieval Europe, creating a tangle of proscriptions that had overwhelmed the day by the 14th century. One genre of church mural at the time, known as the “Sunday Christ,” showed Jesus surrounded by tools of the fishing, carpentry and farming trades.

Each ax, rake and fishing hook inflicted a fresh wound on the crucified Christ. The message was not lost on worshipers: Work on the Sabbath only added to Jesus’ suffering.

Reformation leader Martin Luther resisted such Sabbath guilt, saying that the commandment was kept by daily worship and high regard for God’s Word, not strict rules governing behavior. Discussing the Sabbath, he highlighted Paul’s relief at being free from the demands of Jewish law. And yet from the 16th century to the modern era, a Sabbath consensus emerged. Christians were to keep Sunday as a day of rest and worship, and their governments supported this pious notion. The day of rest did not become secularized until very recently.

What happened? It is hard to say. Both Mr. Ringwald and Mr. Harline note that our religious practices are more and more isolated from the habits of the broader culture. Think only of the coarseness of the Internet, gossip rags and Hollywood fare in a country that claims 45% church attendance every Sunday:
We live now on two tracks, a secular and a religious one, shuttling between them all too easily.

This Sabbath dissonance was evident even in the 1950s, Mr. Harline notes. More than 90% of American homes had a television, and some 37% were tuned to Sunday football.

“Sundays changed when the world changed,” he writes. Stopping farming in the Middle Ages was easy. But to close restaurants, shut up amusement parks or clear the airwaves when Americans with money were trying to spend it that day was impossible. –excerpted from the Wall Street Journal column Houses of Worship — by Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, 6.15.07

[Ed. People have been worshipping the god of the pillow or the god of the tackle box for some time now and it typically has nothing at all to do with the Sabbath or religion. Many of those same people, along with the one’s who believe that there is something called the Christian Sabbath may claim to be religious, yet they each know next to nothing about either religion in general or Christianity in particular. Then with writers and religious thinkers confused as to what constitutes the Sabbath, small wonder people observe this or that, or nothing at all. Why, it’s as if they had never read the Bible.

So, it seems to some that you can’t find anyone around to observe the Sabbath. What, I wonder, could be at work in all this?

I believe that it is important to take some time off work for rest or recreation (which as Stephen Covey reminds us, is a compound word). Even Jesus did that. But, I’m not for confusing religious symbols and observances, as is actually noted in this column. The Sabbath is not the first day of the week and never has been. Jesus observed it because he was born a Jew and honored Jewish law, and it was commanded for them to observe each and every week. It has never been commanded of any other group, and as such Christians do not observe it. And it is not to be confused with the day Christians do observe as their day of worship regardless of what Martin Luther may have thought on the matter.

People will and do use any excuse either consciously or unconsciously to observe what they want at the expense of anything else. That is not likely to change. And it usually has nothing at all to do with Sabbaths. So the popular concepts and confusions remain. ]

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