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Friday, 10 July 2015

Clothed in the Last Shreds of Christendom

An interesting piece from Giles Fraser: "Money is the only god the Tories want us to Worship on a Sunday".  Giles Fraser goes to great lengths to explain how the Constantinian settlement lost Christians an interest in forgiving debts. And yet forgets somehow that it was the whole Constantine business that gave the Church the ability to dictate its day of rest to everybody else in the first place.

It's Giles Fraser here who seems to be trying to wrap himself in the last shreds and patches of Christendom. But it's all gone now. Christians can't claim privilege. If the Government decides that every day's just like the rest, then the conclusion that Sunday's best is one for faith communities, in their own right or rite. Giles Fraser can't decide that everybody else - atheist, Muslim, Hindu, 7th-Day Adventist - can't go shopping on the basis of his own faith story. Sorry, That't not how it works.

It's a post-Christendom world. We've got to learn to live with it. We can still have our own views, and we can still express them. We can still join  political parties, and vote in line with our conscience.

But we can't just tell people what to do any more.


  1. Erm. May I point out that the ban, as we know it, on Sunday trading is of very recent origin, no earlier than the 19th century I believe. Various laws concerning trading hours were brought in then, and tightened up after the Second World War, rather as a humanitarian measure designed to give shop workers (who never had a strong Trades Union) the security of at least one full day of rest per week. The fact that this day was a Sunday was simply because most of the great reformers were Christians, although this latter fact about them tends to get brushed under the carpet, now. Can't go acknowledging that Christianity was responsible for some good in the world, after all.

    And also because, until well into the middle of the last century, this country was overwhelmingly a Christian country, in a way that it is difficult for those who cannot remember life before the 1970s to imagine. It wasn't a case of an intransigent minority of Christians claiming privilege, imposing their views on a multicultural society, but that of a majority expecting the minorities to fit in with its way of life.

    Times, as you say, have changed.

    1. Dickens is not my favourite Victorian author, but doesn't Scrooge buy a turkey On Xmas Day?

    2. Sure. That's my point: the Sunday and evening trading laws were brought in piecemeal during the 19th century. Up till then, shopkeepers and street traders could trade whenever they or their unfortunate employees had the energy to do so. Look at Hogarth prints. There were plenty of loopholes in these laws, which became very complex, so when the first Labour government got in, they passed the Shops Act 1950 attempting to codify previous legislation.

      Tony Hancock did a lovely radio show entitled Sunday Afternoon at Home, I think, which brilliantly conveyed the delights of Shops Act Sundays. And in contrast I remember reading some Victorian tract concerning a hero who defied the Squire's orders and refused to help with the harvest on a Sunday, for reasons of conscience, although rain was threatening, and got persecuted for it.

  2. I believe that the Commandment to "Keep Holy the Sabbath Day' is at least one that we should follow. If it's good enough for God, than it should be good enough for us.

    Certainly the history of Sunday trading in legal terms is only a couple of hundred years old, but the tradition of resting on the Sabbath dates back to the original ancient Church and before that in the Jewish Torah.

    I don't have any problem of those who need to shop on a Sunday as it might be the only available day for them, due to long working commitments - but as a consumer accessory, to put money into the pockets of big business, it's just a sop to a political philosophy that I don't subscribe too. Yes those who work in retail deserve time off, and I don't see why we need the large stores open for the convenience of those who have ample opportunity to shop during the week. Give us a break from the money and consumer oriented culture and let us have one day a week, relatively free from it's influence.

  3. I don't see why every single waking hour of the week has to be colonised by shopping. Christendom or no Christendom, a shared day of rest when nobody is obliged to work is a good thing, whether that's used for worship, family time, community events, or doing nothing at all. There is a wisdom in a shared 'Sabbath', and the church can still make the case for that wisdom. Accusing the church of 'telling people what to do' every time we give a Christian perspective on public policy is normally the job of the National Secular Society.


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