Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Alcohol and Sunday

Note: The following is the original, unedited version of the article which appeared in last Sunday's Ft. Wayne Journal-Gazette.

When I was in seminary in South Carolina, I worked full-time for a large retail store and went to school part-time. When I began working for this store (1981), the store was not open on Sunday due to the “Blue Laws” which prohibited most retail sales on Sunday. They were called “Blue Laws” because the original legislation was printed on blue paper. Although some stores were allowed to open for business, most stores remained closed. But within about 3 years, the laws were changed, and stores began to open on Sunday afternoon, then eventually all day. At first, Sunday sales did not have much impact on total sales since sales on Sunday seemed to diminish sales on Monday. However, eventually Sunday became a major day for retail sales on its own merit.

The history of restricting business activity on Sunday in America goes back to 17th century England and the influence of the Puritans. British settlers in America brought these beliefs and practices with them. What is interesting is that, even after Puritan influence in England had ceased, the English people still chose to treat Sunday differently from other days for another 200 years.

Restricting business and other activities on Sunday is directly due to the influence of Christianity on society and society's respect for Christianity. The almost total freedom today which businesses have for Sunday sales and work is in direct proportion to the decline of Christianity's influence on American society and, to some degree, society's lessening respect for Christianity. Since I have a political science degree, I have to admit that, Constitutionally, it is difficult to maintain restrictions on Sunday sales. Restricting any sales of any product on any day cannot be based on any preference for any religion, no matter how much I might personally wish sales of certain products to be restricted or even eliminated. Any restrictions which remain in place are due to the lingering influence of Christianity on our society. As this influence is waning, we see these restrictions eliminated as people become more comfortable in changing them.

America began with strong influence from Christian churches and the Bible. Some may not like this fact, but it is nevertheless true. America's beginnings were not influenced by Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, or any other religion except Christianity. As our country becomes more religiously diverse and, in some cases, antagonistic to Christianity, those remaining laws in the legal code which give subtle preference to Christianity will probably disappear. For example, most businesses are still officially closed on Sunday. Why is this? The traditional reason is so that people may go to church. As more people abandon Sunday church, keeping businesses closed on Sunday have more to do with personal rest and recreation than worship of the Lord God.

For the record, I support restricting alcohol sales on Sunday. Actually, I wish we could eliminate the scourge of alcohol completely. Alcoholic beverages are a dangerous product which ruins families and is responsible for many deaths and accidents. In our community, I see the trucks filled with alcoholic poison drive by our church taking their deadly product to its weak victims. I find it interesting that when a dog attacks and kills someone, that dog is almost always destroyed. Although alcohol kills many people, it continues to be promoted and accepted. The most our society does is to prohibit alcohol's sale to certain ages (which practically doesn't work that well), to tax the product for revenue, to limit its advertising, and to prohibit drinking and driving a motorized vehicle.

Contrary to what some believe, the alcohol Jesus drank was not anything like today's alcoholic beverages. The wine of NT times had far less alcoholic content and was always mixed with water to dilute the wine and purify the water. To use Christ's example to support the consumption of modern alcoholic beverages is historically inaccurate. If someone insists on using the Bible to support the consumption of modern alcoholic beverages, then he should also follow their practice and use the same kind of wine diluted with water. Those who resist doing so reveal more about their heart attitude than they realize.

However I accept that restricting alcohol sales on Sunday is probably a lost cause and legally questionable in today's cultural and legal environment. The movement to legalize alcohol sales on Sunday is another indication of the post-Christian atmosphere in our country. The solution is to give people the gospel, one person at a time, and for those pastors who still believe the Bible to preach God's moral law to an increasingly deaf society.