Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Saturday, August 08, 2009

The Sabbath dance, in 6/7

I'm privileged to teach in Europe every year for a week or two. Europe, you know, is what the Republican party is afraid we're becoming if we let everybody have access to health care. It's the "post Christian" culture that so many fear we'll become, at great cost to our personal freedoms, if we don't vote properly.

These fears seem almost entirely misguided to me because, though our culture has incredible riches and unique blessings, we'd be wise to exercise some humility and recognize the vestiges of the gospel that reside across the water. What would it mean if we harvested some of our European friends cultural values?

It would mean that we'll spend less on health care per capita while our mortality rates would drop and our longevity rates rise. Church bells would ring at the beginning, middle, and end of each day, along with each hour. Public schools would celebrate "prayer day" where they learn about prayer in history, and spend time actually praying. There would be less access to AK47s and other rapid assault rifles for common citizens, and rates for homocides would be lower, as would the rate of incarceration. It would mean that a barista wouldn't lose their home because they need open heart surgery. These are good and needed changes. I'd suggest the only thing we have to fear is fear itself (to quote a favorite recent socialist).

However, rather than tackle the whole "socialist, church bells, prayer day, gun control" culture, I'd like to just talk about the Sabbath, which is practiced far better in Europe than it is here. Our culture is open for business 24/7. As a result, we've collectively lost our sense of rhythm, and this has serious consequences:

1. Because shops are open 7 days a week, we buy! This piece of our culture has the effect of enabling our propensity to wear ourselves out. In contrast, only activities that enhance leisure and relationship building (cafes, ski areas) are open on Sundays in the places I travel in Europe.

2. Because we buy, we do stuff, and the stuff we do often has the effect of displacing the leisure of eating a meal, slowly, with good friends, good wine, good conversation. Instead we're painting the fence, or cleaning the house, or whatever.

3. These things we do, combined with our love of TV, are effecting our relational capacity. A friend from Europe visited some college students here in the states and found their capacity for lingering conversation lacking, as they preferred, instead to play wii or watch movies.

Of course these are generalizations. Of course there are exceptions. Still, I'd argue that we need to learn from our European friends, how to dance to the rhythm of 6/7 time. Work hard six days a week, and then spend a day investing in rest, restoration, recovery, relationship, recreation, receiving all of it as the gift God intended.

We surely have different vestiges of our Christian heritage more prominent in our culture than our European friends have, but we both have these 'hangovers' from the Reformation (good hangovers... if ever there could be such a thing). It's high time we acknowledged that, maybe they're onto something with this Sabbath thing, and we learn from them. We might not be able to change the culture at large, but surely we can march to a different drummer ourselves can't we?

Have friends over for a meal
Sleep in
Play music with companions
Do something with your spouse: take a bath together, go for a hike, read aloud to each other

In short, make one day different, a day when you quit fighting the battle for survival, and simply enjoy the relationships, food, creation, health, that God has placed on your plate right now. Here's a book that might help get you started... and good Sabbath to you.


At 8/8/09 20:46, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And isn't it sweet that the wealth, strength and fortitude of America has given Europe the opportunity of such freedom by turning the tide of two world wars and defeating the Soviet Empire for them, now standing as this world's lone super power (perhaps not for long) continuing to allow their European ways...

At 10/8/09 13:06, Anonymous jabbott said...

On Sundays we attend Bethany, walk Greenlake, enjoy a meal at Pete's Eggnest, visit the kids, and have some great pillow talk; not necessarily in that order.

The next generation cannot afford 5,000 sf houses and big yards. Like it or not we will gravitate towards the European way of living in smaller spaces, walking, biking, public transportation, etc. in urban communities.

We visited our daughter while she was studying abroad in Vienna. We spent several days there and also took the train to Salzburg. We socialized with her professors in coffee houses as their apartments were too small for any gatherings.

If you want to make the concept of living simply a reality, it's the only way to go. Now if I could just find someone to buy the house, hold a few garage sales, get rid of the stuff, ....

At 11/8/09 08:43, Blogger kylesale said...

I think you may be writing from a perspective biased by who you spend your time with in Europe and the nature of your visits.

As an American living in Europe I would say that your experience is romanticized at best. I appreciate your thoughts but would warn you against inadvertently misleading your readership.

And since healthcare is such a hot topic let me just say national HC aint all it's talked-up to be. A good friend here developed a life threatening blood condition and had to wait 9 weeks to see a specialist...he suffered a mild stroke and got his wait reduced to 6.

It also took my wife months to get proper birth control and it was mis-prescribed, which caused problems that took several more months to correct. I could go on. I'm not saying the US should do nothing, Lord knows the system is busted, I'm just saying do it better (and smarter) than Europe. But with the folks we have in Congress (on both sides of the isle) I'm not confident.

If anyone's interested in hearing other National HC experiences (some good, most bad) my e-mail is Again, I'm not a national HC obstructionist, just an independent realist who's happy to talk, listen and think a little.


At 13/8/09 09:15, Anonymous Ryan said...

Thank you for pointing out the reluctance to follow the Sabbath... I really do feel that this has knocked us, as a culture--and the Church--off of our focus on God. I whole-heartedly agree with your point on the need for such an observance.

And now on to another point. Instead of attempting to "tackle the whole 'socialist, church bells, prayer day, gun control' culture," you just kind of pushed it from behind, so here is my volley:

1. There is no real connection between Obama's health care reform bill and the observance of the Sabbath. Just because there are examples of both in Europe doesn't mean that one goes with the other. And socialized health care does NOT lead to observance of the Sabbath.

2. We are a fallen people. For that reason alone socialism can't work on a human-controlled governmental level. I have been a strong proponent of socialism ever since I read about the early church and Jesus' teaching on loving one another. The gospel reeks of socialist teachings. However, due to our fallen nature, society as a whole CANNOT truly love one another outside of Christ's love. Jesus taught a socialistic theocracy. The church should embrace socialism within itself (as they should embrace God's sole rule) and out of their love for others, people will be welcomed in. But outside of the church (and inside, granted--although this is covered by the blood of Jesus and led by the Spirit), sin abounds regardless of governmental policy. Socialism CANNOT work without a heart of love. Socialism does for society what religion does for the church. I love democracy because I can CHOOSE to love. The connection between democratic government and a capitalist economy is justified since democracy allows--and encourages--personal choice. I will admit that there is PLENTY wrong with capitalism--it's a great illustration of the human heart--greed, materialism, arrogance, etc. I love democracy and capitalism precisely for that reason--it EXPOSES the human heart. It doesn't force me to do things I don't want to do.

I agree. Health care in America does need reform. Christians do need to take Sabbath. But Jesus came to teach his disciples about a theocracy and save those who were lost.

He didn't ask Barack Obama or Europe to do it for Him.

At 13/8/09 10:34, Anonymous Ken said...

Very well said, Ryan. I have never been able to state so clearly and concisely why I truly fear the socialist direction Obama and the left are taking our nation. When we get wrapped up in the details of health care reform, etc. we fail to recognize the true nature of human government is rarely from love for fellow man and is really about power and control. Individual freedom is crucial to allow God's genuine Love to flow from His Church. Society and government cannot dictate love of fellow man as the Old Testament history of God's chosen people clearly illustrates.

At 14/8/09 08:10, Anonymous David said...

Ryan and Kyle, I agree with your assessment that socialism is doomed to fail just as imperialism failed in the last century. However so will capitalism fail, because until Jesus returns all systems are corruptible.

However this does not dissuade me from looking for a system that at least makes an attempt at taking care of one another.

I seriously do not think that providing health care for the less fortunate than we will remove my personal freedom to love or give as Christ has charged me to...nor is it true socialism.

At 14/8/09 13:11, Blogger kylesale said...

David, my sincere hope is that the Administration and Congress can come to a sensible, incremental, solution that covers those who need it without trying to replicate the European model. As I stated before, I'm not against reform, it's indeed needed. I just don't like how it's shaping-up so far.

To your point regarding personal liberty, I don't think you've fully thought through the implications of your assertion. Philosophically you're correct, socialism doesn't mandate that I can't love or give as Christ has charged me to. But in reality our capacity for charitable giving is seriously diminished under a socialist regime. I know monetary giving isn't the be-all but it's significant.

The church I attend in the UK is constantly under financial pressure due to demanding tax rates imposed here. People simply can't afford to be as charitable as they'd like. From conversations I've had this problem is not isolated to my church. Also, the mindset here in the UK is very tilted toward 'why should I volunteer, the govt has X,Y or Z program and I pay for it' among both Christians and non-Christians alike. Statistics have shown that per capita no other nation in the world compares to US household charitable giving or time spent volunteering...I'd hate to see that change.

I agree with you that ultimately mankind is fallen and until Christ's return any and all systems are doomed. I just don't think that's an excuse implementing bad policy. Again, I'm all for good solutions to these heavy issues but I just don't think we're headed in that direction from what I've read.



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