Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Author Judith Shulevitz on Sunday Enforcement

Do I think everyone else should observe a Sabbath? I believe it would be good for them, and even better for me, since the more widespread the ritual, the more likely I am to observe it. It is much easier to keep the Sabbath, for instance, when your family does, too, though getting children to agree to do anything their friends don't do may prove insurmountable...

I confess, though, that I have a hard time imagining a Sabbath divorced from religion: who would make the effort to honor the godly part of himself if he didn't believe in a deity, no matter how ecumenical? It's just as difficult to envision the Sabbath surviving the current speeding-up of everything without some generally enforced slowdown. The great religions lasted as long as they did because they were able to make their rituals part of everyone's life. Source

What we'd learn is the immense usefulness, to society, of a structured period of non-productivity, as well as the need to enforce that pause. Putting teeth into a neo-Sabbath might involve legislation--tougher laws restricting off-hours and weekend work, or compensating it at a higher rate...
...we shouldn't run scared from the ecclesiastical associations that cling to the Sabbath like earth to roots. Religion is the source of most forms of transcendence in our mostly very mundane lives, whether or not we now pray or believe. Religion has given us storytelling, poetry, music, art, and theater; it has occasioned the founding of universities; it has been responsible for great advances in architecture. There's no reason not to let religion lend us one of its most powerful social ideas--the Sabbath--as well. Source