Blue laws forbidding businesses to operate on Sunday have been on the books for over three hundred years in the United States, but in recent decades they have become increasingly controversial. Jews and Seventh-day Adventists have been among the severest critics, arguing that blue laws violate the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution, in which Congress is forbidden to make laws “respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” They claim that the practice places an undue burden on those who observe Saturday, not Sunday, as their day of worship. Equally vocal in their opposition have been secularists who do not want any day set aside for religious purposes.

In an article entitled “The Lord’s Day and Natural Resources” (May 7, 1976, issue), the editor of this magazine argued that the developing natural-resources crisis requires prompt action. He proposed that all businesses in the nation be closed one day a week and cited Sunday as the logical day for this. The suggestion was based on natural law and the common good of humanity, not on the idea that a particular day should be governmentally ordained for religious activity.

The mail in response to the article dusted off the old arguments that this was an infringement of the First Amendment. Seventh-day Adventists were upset, especially since, in their eschatology, compulsory religious observance of Sunday will mark the closing days of the age before the second advent of our Lord. It may be small comfort to them that Sunday observance is rapidly losing, not gaining, ground.

Approximately thirty states still have some form of Sunday closing, according to Religious News Service. These laws are under attack, however. More and more businesses are open on Sunday, even though many operators of seven-day businesses say they would prefer not to do it. They explain that competition forces them to open every day. New York City’s major department stores (and at least one bank there) have begun Sunday operation in recent weeks. The Metro Council of Toronto, Canada, has approved Sunday opening for stores in one section of that city.

A number of workers who keep either Saturday or Sunday as holy days have been fired or otherwise disadvantaged because of their refusal to work on their holy day. Some of them have filed suit, alleging that their constitutional rights have been violated. Several of these cases (e.g., Parker Seal Co. v. Cummins) are due to be heard this term by the Supreme Court of the United States, and there is good reason to believe that the complainants will win.

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In 1961 the Supreme Court ruled that “insuring the public welfare through a common day of rest is a legitimate interest of government.” This opens the door to legislation closing all businesses on one day of the week. Claims that such laws would violate church-state separation might therefore be hard to prove before the highest court of the land.

Conservation of dwindling resources is a valid reason for agreeing on a certain day for shutting down all business operations. Even though the world has vast underdeveloped sources of energy, there is a shortage of the kind of fuel that keeps buildings warm, provides electric power, and makes possible the operation of industry. To close down virtually all energy-consuming business operations one day a week would be a useful step. The sticky point is the question of which day; no decision would please everyone.

We propose that Saturday be set aside as the day of rest for all people. Those who choose to join in corporate worship of God that day could do so. Others could spend the time in their own way.

Jews and other Sabbatarians would be well served by this decision. For Protestants and Catholics it should prove no theological hardship: apart from the fact that our Lord rose from the dead on the first day of the week, there is nothing in Scripture that requires us to keep Sunday rather than Saturday as a holy day. In the interest of the nation, Protestant and Catholic churches could change their worship services from Sunday to Saturday. Or we could keep Sunday as our sabbath; whatever inconvenience we suffered would be a token of our good will toward a minority whose sensitivities we respect and whose legalistic attachment to Saturday as the sabbath binds them in a way we are not bound.

Saturday closing could not possibly be construed as a religious ploy. It would provide no church-state problem. It would serve the larger interests of humanity. Responsible leaders should discuss the possibility.

Colleges Can Be Redeemed!

Elton Trueblood, the Quaker author and lecturer, is now professor-at-large of Earlham College. The following call to action in Christian higher education is excerpted, with permission, from his article in the “Southern Baptist Educator,” July–August, 1976. It was originally delivered at a Southern Baptist colloquium on higher education at Williamsburg, Virginia.

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The sad and uncontested fact is that the vision of the Christian college is now dimmed. Though a few institutions have maintained the integrity of the vision in both theory and practice, these now constitute a minority. In the majority, the major features are today conspicuously absent. The chapel, far from being central in fact as well as architecture, is often empty. The spring is dry! Sometimes there is a supposed continuity, with worship being conducted, but it is no longer for the entire academic community; frequently we find a dozen where once there were a thousand. Some reference to biblical studies is maintained, but without genuine emphasis, because without requirement. The combination of Christian commitment and scholarly achievement, once the standard, has been either neglected or consciously abandoned in hundreds of colleges. One consequence is a general lowering of standards. Now in a frantic effort to maintain a supposedly desirable level of enrollment, entrance standards are being lowered.

The moral level is often so lax that what emerges is almost total permissiveness. Many, including some teaching faculty, do not uphold the idea of chastity, but opt, instead, for something which they call the new morality. When this is examined with any intellectual rigor, it is very hard to see that it means anything at all, unless it means the complete absence of any objective moral order. It is said, in defense, that the college, in this regard, is not to blame, since this is the way the contemporary society operates. The notion that the college should challenge the world’s ways, rather than accept them with acquiescence, seems not to be seriously entertained. By condoning the loss of standards, the college has nothing left except tolerance, which turns out to be the weakest of all the virtues.

The most obvious phase of decline, so far as the impartial observer is concerned, is that of aesthetic standards, whether in dress, or dining, or manners. Thousands now go through the entire college course without a single experience of dignified dining, and many graduate without having learned the most elemental rules of mannerly behavior. It is widely affirmed that slovenly dress has nothing to do with character, but that this is true is far from self-evident. Indeed there is plenty of evidence to show that slovenly dress, or conscious ugliness, really affects the person at a deep level. How strange that the very institutions for which people have sacrificed, in the hope of raising the cultural level, should now themselves become the enemies of culture. What if the intended cure becomes one of the clearest indications of the disease? There are certainly colleges in which, by almost any standard which can be devised, life is made worse rather than better. Some students become addicted to drugs because of the pressures felt in college, which might not have been felt equally in the world outside. The pressures which lead to unchastity are really greater in some college communities than they are in the homes from which the students come. Is it any real wonder, therefore, that thousands of decent people now are beginning to question the wisdom of the enormous financial sacrifice which college entails? The saddest part of this picture is that the revulsion has come, not merely against secular education, but even more against that kind which was originated and long supported by the Church of Jesus Christ.…

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I am among those who believe that the fair dream which we call the Christian college is still a live option for modern men and women. Some colleges may, indeed, be in such terrible decay that it is a waste of time to bother with them. In short, some of them may be the barren fig trees, of which Jesus spoke in a moving parable (Luke 3:6–9), and consequently, it is reasonable to let them die and be cut down. But these constitute only a small minority. For many … the point of no return has not yet been reached. But the situation is urgent and time will not wait. Our Christian task, therefore, is to use our minds to try to present and to follow a program of renewal.…

What we need now is a concrete plan of action. To this end I now outline a fourfold program, in the conviction that each of the four proposals is necessary. (1) We must accept our uniqueness.… (2) We must accept, unapologetically, the principle of requirement.… (3) We must be sincerely devoted to excellence.… (4) We must reinstate the vision of wholeness.…

The dream which possesses us is truly a noble one. “Methinks,” said Milton, “I see in my mind a noble and puissant nation rousing herself like a strong man after sleep, and shaking her invincible locks.” The task before us is not easy, but perhaps, like Milton, we were made for whatever is arduous. There is nothing wrong with the dream. The question is whether we have that devotion sufficient to give it embodiment.

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Good News Is Factual

Throughout the ages people have had trouble handling the truth. They have tried to shape it to help themselves and to discredit adversaries. They have tried to redefine it to suit their purposes. They have even questioned whether there is such a thing as truth.

Christians sometimes seem to have as much trouble handling it as the unregenerate do. Of all people, those claiming to follow “the way, and the truth, and the life” ought to be able to stick to facts and avoid falsehoods. Ministers of the Gospel are often accused of handling facts, particularly statistical ones, loosely. While the charges may be baseless in an overwhelming majority of the cases, enough are well grounded to cast a shadow over all preachers.

Especially vulnerable to criticism on this count are evangelists who report attendance at their meetings. Enough of them pad their attendance figures that “evangelistically speaking” has found its way into the language of journalists as an uncomplimentary reference.

The Lausanne Covenant warned against becoming “unduly preoccupied with statistics or even dishonest in our use of them.” At no point does that document say that Christian organizations should not use statistics. To the contrary, it says “careful studies of church growth, both numerical and spiritual, are right and valuable.” There is certainly a place for the proper use of substantiated figures in reports to Christian constituencies and even to the general public. But there is no place for wild guesses that are often very wide of the mark. (Not surprisingly, reports on income are usually very low while those on attendance and conversions are high.)

Evangelicals have plenty of reasons to guard against stretching the truth. A good new one is to avoid identification with the tactics of Sun Myung Moon. After his spectacular Washington Monument rally (see October 8 issue, page 59), the self-appointed Korean prophet bought a two-page spread in the New York Times to “thank the 300,000 of you who came to ‘Meet us at the Monument.’ ” The ad appeared six days after the event, and there was time to insert an accurate figure. The seasoned estimators of the National Park Service reckoned only 50,000 there, and veteran Washington crowd-watchers agreed. Even so, Neil Salonen, Moon’s top American organizer, said at the beginning of the evening program that 200,000 were then present, and an ad in Washington papers the next week claimed that 500,000 watched the concluding fireworks display. In the Washington ads an asterisk after the huge numbers indicated that this was an estimate by the sponsoring committee, but the New York Times ad did not even carry that qualification.

That kind of tactic belongs to the charlatans, not to the representatives of Christ, who is truth. People should be given no reason to suspect that legitimate Christian workers are in league with “the father of lies.”

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