The N.C. House recently voted 83-35 to repeal a 145-year-old ban on Sunday hunting with firearms. If the Senate passes the bill, we will join 39 other states that allow hunting on Sundays.
One can argue endlessly the particulars of Sunday observance, whether one can worship in the forest as well as the sanctuary or whether the real Sabbath is Saturday or Sunday. History shows the early church applied the Fourth Commandment, “Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy,” to the first day of the week, Sunday, the day Jesus rose from the dead and completed the work of man’s redemption and secured the sure hope of our eternal rest.
In places where Christianity has spread, this practice has been adopted in large degree not simply by the church but by the culture. Traditionally, Sunday has been reserved as a day for worship, family and rest for man and animal – a cessation from the normal routine to focus on nobler aspirations. Societies founded on Christian principles have even recognized the value of sanctifying the day with various laws – laws that lend to keeping the cares of life and our pursuits for pleasure and profit from overcoming our natural proclivities to neglect the necessity of character-building, of exchanging the greater for the lesser, the temporal for the eternal.
During debate on Sunday hunting, one lawmaker called it “a common sense bill,” arguing that hunting was really no different from the other distractions already taking place on Sunday. No one can deny his point. Yet I suggest that’s all the more reason not to keep adding to the list.
like the “Lord’s Day” must find their place in the larger social context. The problem, however, is that when the general context ignores religion as it mostly does nowadays – failing to properly respond to its sacred institutions – the value of religious influence on the culture becomes greatly diminished, if not ultimately lost. Such cannot bode well for our state and nation.
Sunday is the prime time for churches to provide their critical contribution to the general welfare. Studies have shown church attenders have more stable family lives, fewer out-of-wedlock births, fewer abortions, less crime and more positive health outcomes. They are also more likely to overcome alcoholism, drug addiction and poverty. Churches hand down the virtues that make a people self-governing – a necessity for a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Moreover, when people fail to properly govern themselves, the state often has to step in, which creates the danger of larger, more expansive, abusive government policies.
Some Christian friends, trying to salve my heartbreak
over the House’s passage of Sunday hunting, encourage me to concentrate on weightier matters. I concede that issues regarding assaults on life, religious liberties, marriage and the family are of grave urgency and importance, but I cannot overlook that these problems have a root.
In the 17th chapter of Jeremiah, the prophet denounces the rebellious actions of Israel: lying, theft, adultery, murder, idolatry – nearly any sins that can be named. Nevertheless, he instructed that if they would keep the Sabbath Day, the Lord would restore the nation.
Certainly, Jeremiah wasn’t saying that if they would keep the Sabbath, they could continue lying and stealing. He was saying that the country had morally fallen because it had neglected that special day on which the inner man is the emphasis, the day on which communion and a right relationship with God are especially established. He was saying, when you return to recognizing the Sabbath aright, much of what is destroying you from within will lose its sway.
As innocuous as the Sunday hunting bill may seem, it barters away something primary for something secondary – something that will benefit a few at the expense of something that functions to the benefit of everyone. Legal Sunday hunting is but one more thing to undermine, frustrate and compete with the irreplaceable work of our churches.
Lawmakers certainly understand the necessity of legislation that creates a friendly business environment, but churches also need government to consider whether its actions are friendly to the ministries of houses of worship. Each time we weaken the significance of the “Lord’s Day,” we create a chasm that cannot be bridged.
Rev. Mark Creech is executive director of the Raleigh-based Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc.