Monday, June 08, 2009
Uncle Ben's Book Blog: The Peculiar Life of Sundays
I have just finished the book and found it to be something very useful for those of us who are Calvinistic sabbatarians to read and consider. As I noted previously, the book begins with a chapter that sets the mood for the book, then moves on to a brief discussion of Sunday in antiquity, focusing on Augustine. This is followed by four chapters on the observance (or non-observance) of Sunday in England from the Elizabethan through the Victorian eras. Miller does this by sampling the writings of three sorts of people and the manner in which they practice Sunday (see my previous posts on the book).
Miller then devotes two chapters to sampling American practices of Sunday, ranging from Jonathan Edwards to the modern poet Robert Lowell. The final chapter surveys the state of religion in America (with a useful discussion about the difference between "religious" and "spiritual"). He concludes with a section on the future of the Sabbath, concluding that it is an almost lost force in American culture, and that that fact is unlikely to change. In the early chapters of his book, Miller makes the distinction between those who see Sunday as a holy day,a Sabbath; those who see Sunday as a holy day/holiday combined, and those who see Sunday as a holiday. We currently face the fact that Calvinistic sabbatarian denominations make up about 1 to 1.5 percent of the population of the USA. And even in our circles, most members (and at least a large minority of ministers) see Sunday not as a Sabbath, but as a holy day/holiday.
Two further observations: First, quoting from Craig Harline's history of Sunday, Miller notes that in "1890 there were 660 Sunday papers in the United States" (264). I thought Harline should have looked to see if he could have found six more. Second, many of the non-observant and lapsed Christian writers that Miller quotes spent their Sundays as children in a painful sort of forced inactivity or in a painful sort of forced activity (extended church services, extended catechizing, etc.) that made me wonder about what we are doing to our own children on our Sabbaths. Are we making our Sabbaths a day that our children hate?
(See also my Amazon review under "otrabbi.")