The War Against Rest: New Christian Arguments for the Sabbath

I’m always interested in Christian perspectives on the Sabbath. I’m still at the very beginning of learning about it, but it seems like many contemporary religious Christians think the Sabbath is a great idea, but they struggle with how to implement it. When the Sabbath is held to be spiritually important — but not legally binding — it gets pushed around by other competing precepts. The most problematic such precept in the Judeo-Christian capitalist milieu, it seems, is the celebrated virtuousness of work.

This article contains some Christian wake-up calls about the disappearance of the weekend. It sounds like many thinkers are moving on from “the accusation of legalism or ritual formality that has long haunted Christian discussion of the (characteristically Jewish) sabbath” and finding some religious arguments that have a more Christian flavor, focusing on family and togetherness. And even better, they’re getting into the truly Christ-like territory of arguments for economic justice:

“Commerce and work, and the political power that gathers around them, are eroding the concept of sabbath—of divinely ordained rest—in every aspect of life. The erosion of idleness is active just below the surface of many of our policy debates over work, family, and retirement. … The current debate over the minimum wage—President Obama and several state-level officials are trying to increase it—is ultimately about whether workers ought to have time for anything but work. Working 40 hours a week at minimum wage doesn’t provide enough income to meet the basic necessities of life, especially for a family.”

And anti-materialism:

“[I]n the single-minded pursuit of economic growth, we risk losing something essential to human life. In the case of the week, it is what scholars of religion have called the ‘sanctification of time,’ the punctuation of the ordinary with the special. In the case of family leave and retirement, it is the ‘sanctification of life,’ the idea that conditions such as pregnancy and childbirth, sickness, and old age are to be honored for their own sake. Honoring time and life comes with a dollars-and-cents cost, compensated primarily by spiritual and cultural benefits—benefits our politics aren’t good at recognizing or protecting.”

This is music to my ears. If we’re going to stop the boot of mindless capitalism from stamping on America’s face for the rest of time, we’re going to need some thoroughly Christian arguments, and this post contains many good ones.