Thursday, November 8, 2012

Social Justice: Issue 1 -- Rest

That both liberals and conservatives have ideological balloons to be busted ought to go without saying.

But, I don't know or minister to a lot of liberals, plus they're so easy to bash, I think I'll leave them alone for right now. :-)

To lay my cards out there: I am a conservative of a sort, though I have some really unconventional thoughts on immigration and other issues not really worth mentioning here. On economic matters, I lean heavily libertarian. I don't advertise it, and I don't usually bring it in to the pulpit unless it is quite evidently the burden of a text. I usually will only preach against the dangers of dependency, and abortion, when it comes to issues in the polis anthropou.

There is a great danger in that position, though, and that is many people who hold it believe it frees us from any obligation to the poor, be they the indigent poor, the "fatherless and widow," or the working poor. Self-reliance is a Christian virtue, as long as one understands that it does not mean independence from God. But, there are people in every society who are forgotten, and unable to fend for themselves.

And, the Christian is to advocate for justice on their behalf, and expend his own personal mammon of time, talents, and treasure for their well-being. It does not follow because one believes the state is not responsible for the well-being of individuals (beyond basic safety and services), or that the state ought not to order anyone to provide for anyone else, that therefore my conscience is free to ignore the plight of those who cannot fend for themselves.

There are fundamental issues in advocating for the poor that we ought to uphold, as Christians. The minor prophets, especially, tell us what these issues are. A fundamental issue, of course, is rest: that is, adequate time for the body and soul to recuperate, to enjoy life, and to enjoy God.

Presbyterians have been so busy arguing for centuries over what may or may not be done on the Lord's Day that we have missed a fundamental point. The fundamental point isn't football on TV or with the kids in the yard. The fundamental heart of the Sabbath is rest and mercy.

How interesting that the Sabbath is not a covenantal ordinance, but a creational one. Like marriage, it is not just for believers, but intended to be a blessing.

Please don't misunderstand me: I am not arguing for the imposition of a repressive Sabbath, or arcane and now silly blue laws that forbid hunting on Sunday in Virginia, etc. I am arguing for the fundamental principle that all God's creatures: manservants, maidservants, oxes, and asses, and strangers within the gates, ought to be given protected rest.

In the midst of that protected rest, believers may worship.

Lord's Day observance has become a class issue. If I can afford to have a Monday-Friday job, with my weekends free, then I can worship with the people of God. But, if I work in the restaurant industry, or for Lowe's or Home Depot, the notion that I, as a believer, might be granted a day of rest on the first day of the week as a fundamental part of my religious commitment, is not a protected right.

During our time in Virginia, I remember one of the blue laws coming up for discussion by the legislature on precisely this point: the protected right of a worker to choose Sunday as his mandatory day of rest. The legislature considered doing away with that right, and ultimately did, if memory serves. And, there was no resultant Christian outcry. In a country where every person has every discrete right protected by code, ought not the day of rest to be protected?

But, the issue is larger than that.
And, the principle carries farther than Sabbath.

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