The weekly holidays

What I don’t understand is why the militant secularists are expending so much energy to remove Christmas from the cultural calendar while ignoring Christianity’s more immediate influence on the patterns of everyday life:  the weekly calendar.

Government workers, students in public schools, and many other employees get Sunday off.   That is a direct influence of the Christian religion.  Observance of the “Lord’s Day” used to manifest itself in all kinds of so-called “blue laws” mandating the closing of businesses on Sundays, and though those have mostly faded away, Sunday is still a day off for lots of people, including federal workers!  In fact, Saturday has also become a day off for lots of people, including public school children and public employees.  That recognizes the Jewish sabbath.  You will notice that the Muslim holy day of Thursday is not similarly set apart.  Christianity and Judaism have a privileged place in Western civilization, as evidenced by our observance of their two weekly holy days.  If it’s bad to establish one religion, it’s surely even worse to establish two.

Or three.  The names of the days of the week are also religiously-laden.  In addition to days honoring the Sun (Sunday) and the Moon (Monday), we have days specifically named after Teutonic deities (Tiews’ Day, Woden’s Day, Thor’s Day, Freya’s Day), plus the Greco-Roman proto-god Saturn.

If secularists object to Christ’s name being in Christmas, shouldn’t they object to Thor’s name being in Thursday?  I suppose the difference is that lots of people still believe in Christ, who has pretty much displaced Thor worship.  But still, the secularists believe in one no more than the other.  And, I am told, there are certain pagans who are trying to bring back the old deities.

I hope I am not giving the secularist activists–or Christian activists worried about idolatry when they make weekly schedules–any ideas!  If we start to see lawsuits trying to keep schoolchildren and federal workers from getting to stay home on the weekends, blame me.

But my point is that religion and culture are intertwined to the point that it is very difficult to unravel them.  As has been said, the root of “culture” is “cult.”  Not in the sense of a splinter religious group, but in the sense of “worship.”

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Pete

    “I hope I am not giving the secularist activists–or Christian activists worried about idolatry when they make weekly schedules–any ideas!”

    Not to worry. I wouldn’t be as concerned about giving them ideas as about giving them attention.

  • Pete

    “I hope I am not giving the secularist activists–or Christian activists worried about idolatry when they make weekly schedules–any ideas!”

    Not to worry. I wouldn’t be as concerned about giving them ideas as about giving them attention.

  • kenneth

    It is a wonderfull day, our Christmas day! We have a day we can only hope will somehow be seen as the holy day of the incarnate God. I like Woden personnaly but of course with a cross not a battle ax. On the other hand one might need a weapon against some of the militant cults. Mormanism? is the most obvious threat as they begin to encroach on the nation politics.

    Tis the season,though, to be jolly, ho ho ho!!! Gung ho, give’m Jesus Christ+++

  • kenneth

    It is a wonderfull day, our Christmas day! We have a day we can only hope will somehow be seen as the holy day of the incarnate God. I like Woden personnaly but of course with a cross not a battle ax. On the other hand one might need a weapon against some of the militant cults. Mormanism? is the most obvious threat as they begin to encroach on the nation politics.

    Tis the season,though, to be jolly, ho ho ho!!! Gung ho, give’m Jesus Christ+++

  • Random Lutheran

    …the secularists believe in one no more than the other.

    True. But they actively disbelieve in one particular religion. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be fun for them.

  • Random Lutheran

    …the secularists believe in one no more than the other.

    True. But they actively disbelieve in one particular religion. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be fun for them.

  • LAJ

    People like their weekends off too much to want to do away with them even militant atheists!

  • LAJ

    People like their weekends off too much to want to do away with them even militant atheists!

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    They don’t object, because they can delude themselves into believing their five day work week is solely because of the valiant work of the unions.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    They don’t object, because they can delude themselves into believing their five day work week is solely because of the valiant work of the unions.

  • Tom Hering

    We don’t need fanatics to do away with weekends. None of us would want a good part of the population to enjoy them (at least regularly). Retail, restaurant, and theater workers. Hospital employees. Protective services. Etc. The weekend is a privilege for some, only.

  • Tom Hering

    We don’t need fanatics to do away with weekends. None of us would want a good part of the population to enjoy them (at least regularly). Retail, restaurant, and theater workers. Hospital employees. Protective services. Etc. The weekend is a privilege for some, only.

  • helen

    Pharmacists commonly get three days off in two weeks, one at a time. Two consecutive days (without pleading for vacation time) is rare.

    My Hindu colleague comes in late every day, ‘because she has to shop and prepare her vegetarian lunch’… on Friday she comes in later, or not at all.

    Devout Muslims pray several times in the work day, and it has to be accommodated.
    [So do I, most days, with less ceremony and no public announcement.]

  • helen

    Pharmacists commonly get three days off in two weeks, one at a time. Two consecutive days (without pleading for vacation time) is rare.

    My Hindu colleague comes in late every day, ‘because she has to shop and prepare her vegetarian lunch’… on Friday she comes in later, or not at all.

    Devout Muslims pray several times in the work day, and it has to be accommodated.
    [So do I, most days, with less ceremony and no public announcement.]

  • Rob C.

    The Muslim day of rest is Friday, not Thursday.

  • Rob C.

    The Muslim day of rest is Friday, not Thursday.

  • steve

    Rob is correct. The Islamic Jummah prayers are held Friday and Mohammad said that Friday was the best day because it was he day Adam was created. In some Islamic countries, however, the weekend begins on Thursday. So Thursday would be akin to our Saturday and Friday our Sunday.

  • steve

    Rob is correct. The Islamic Jummah prayers are held Friday and Mohammad said that Friday was the best day because it was he day Adam was created. In some Islamic countries, however, the weekend begins on Thursday. So Thursday would be akin to our Saturday and Friday our Sunday.

  • Dennis Peskey

    Steve (#9) Guess Mohammad missed the part in Genesis 2:15 where God placed Adam in the garden to work – not lay around and watch football. Oh well (I’d check with my Koran but when I moved, my copy sat for three months in the polebarn waiting for completion of my new house. Mice chewed their way in the box; fortunately, the only book they ate was the Koran – the mice all died!)
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Dennis Peskey

    Steve (#9) Guess Mohammad missed the part in Genesis 2:15 where God placed Adam in the garden to work – not lay around and watch football. Oh well (I’d check with my Koran but when I moved, my copy sat for three months in the polebarn waiting for completion of my new house. Mice chewed their way in the box; fortunately, the only book they ate was the Koran – the mice all died!)
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • steve

    Dennis, Friday prayers are all about work. The whole religion is.

  • steve

    Dennis, Friday prayers are all about work. The whole religion is.

  • Tim D.

    “What I don’t understand is why the militant secularists are expending so much energy to remove Christmas from the cultural calendar while ignoring Christianity’s more immediate influence on the patterns of everyday life…”

    The reason is that some Christians are very persistent about “keeping Christ in Christmas”. It is a counter-reaction.

  • Tim D.

    “What I don’t understand is why the militant secularists are expending so much energy to remove Christmas from the cultural calendar while ignoring Christianity’s more immediate influence on the patterns of everyday life…”

    The reason is that some Christians are very persistent about “keeping Christ in Christmas”. It is a counter-reaction.

  • George A. Marquart

    Dear Dr. Veith:
    But unravel we must! My mother was born at the beginning of the 20th century in what today is the Ukraine. She was a Lutheran, as were her maternal ancestors, who came to Russian in response to the invitation of Catharine the Great to farmers from Saxony and other small kingdoms which eventually formed the German State. While I was still in high school, I was wondering why the wonderful Gospel proclaimed by Martin Luther did not take Russia by storm. Eventually the truth dawned on me, and I asked my mother in what language the services were conducted. “Why, German of course,” she responded and it all became clear. It was not the joy of the Gospel that motivated them, or as St. Paul put it in Ephesians 2: 15, “your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” Instead their religion meant holding on to the traditions of their society and pride in their history.

    Similar stories can be found in every society in which people call themselves “Christian.” My own observations and studies lead me to believe that it is invariably (yes, always, without exception) the failure to proclaim the pure Gospel in our churches that leads to tradition and history getting a choke hold on our faith. Lay people and pastors simply assume that what they hear and proclaim is the pure Gospel. This is what they have always been taught so it could not possibly be wrong.

    Let me give you a couple of symptoms of the impure Gospel:

    1. Lack of Joy. I don’t mean the pseudo joy generated by praise bands and emotionalism. I mean the kind that says, “Let my soul rejoice in the Lord, my Savior”.
    2. Qualifiers, such as “true” and “real” added to words like “faith”, “repentance”, “believer” and “Christian”, which make the people of God doubt their membership in His Kingdom. Insisting that something in ourselves, rather than only what God has done for us is responsible for our salvation.
    3. Insisting that the one time Repentance (μετάνοια) which brings us into the Kingdom of God should be repeated on a daily basis, or we will forfeit the Kingdom.
    4. Ignoring our Lord’s and the Apostles’ teaching about the Kingdom of God. In other words, ending our theology with the cross, and ignoring what the ancients knew to be true when they sang, “having overcome the sharpness of death, He opened the Kingdom to all believers”.
    5. Not having a proper understanding about the nature and work of the Lord, the Holy Spirit, most importantly in Baptism, but instead insisting that we receive Him in Holy Communion and other occasions when we pray, “fill our hearts with your Holy Spirit”, or “Come Holy Spirit enter in, and in our hearts your work begin.” Warnings against the “sin against the Holy Spirit” are heard more often than what the Holy Spirit can and does accomplish with His gifts.
    6. Limiting the freedom of the Gospel, because we think that our Lord is not able to accomplish His purpose in people unless they are put in fear of the Law, or of going to hell. On this latter point, it would be useful for every Lutheran pastor to read what Martin Luther had to say about the difference between “Furcht” and “Ehrfurcht.”

    “Comfort, comfort ye my people” is not only appropriate for this season, but always.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • George A. Marquart

    Dear Dr. Veith:
    But unravel we must! My mother was born at the beginning of the 20th century in what today is the Ukraine. She was a Lutheran, as were her maternal ancestors, who came to Russian in response to the invitation of Catharine the Great to farmers from Saxony and other small kingdoms which eventually formed the German State. While I was still in high school, I was wondering why the wonderful Gospel proclaimed by Martin Luther did not take Russia by storm. Eventually the truth dawned on me, and I asked my mother in what language the services were conducted. “Why, German of course,” she responded and it all became clear. It was not the joy of the Gospel that motivated them, or as St. Paul put it in Ephesians 2: 15, “your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” Instead their religion meant holding on to the traditions of their society and pride in their history.

    Similar stories can be found in every society in which people call themselves “Christian.” My own observations and studies lead me to believe that it is invariably (yes, always, without exception) the failure to proclaim the pure Gospel in our churches that leads to tradition and history getting a choke hold on our faith. Lay people and pastors simply assume that what they hear and proclaim is the pure Gospel. This is what they have always been taught so it could not possibly be wrong.

    Let me give you a couple of symptoms of the impure Gospel:

    1. Lack of Joy. I don’t mean the pseudo joy generated by praise bands and emotionalism. I mean the kind that says, “Let my soul rejoice in the Lord, my Savior”.
    2. Qualifiers, such as “true” and “real” added to words like “faith”, “repentance”, “believer” and “Christian”, which make the people of God doubt their membership in His Kingdom. Insisting that something in ourselves, rather than only what God has done for us is responsible for our salvation.
    3. Insisting that the one time Repentance (μετάνοια) which brings us into the Kingdom of God should be repeated on a daily basis, or we will forfeit the Kingdom.
    4. Ignoring our Lord’s and the Apostles’ teaching about the Kingdom of God. In other words, ending our theology with the cross, and ignoring what the ancients knew to be true when they sang, “having overcome the sharpness of death, He opened the Kingdom to all believers”.
    5. Not having a proper understanding about the nature and work of the Lord, the Holy Spirit, most importantly in Baptism, but instead insisting that we receive Him in Holy Communion and other occasions when we pray, “fill our hearts with your Holy Spirit”, or “Come Holy Spirit enter in, and in our hearts your work begin.” Warnings against the “sin against the Holy Spirit” are heard more often than what the Holy Spirit can and does accomplish with His gifts.
    6. Limiting the freedom of the Gospel, because we think that our Lord is not able to accomplish His purpose in people unless they are put in fear of the Law, or of going to hell. On this latter point, it would be useful for every Lutheran pastor to read what Martin Luther had to say about the difference between “Furcht” and “Ehrfurcht.”

    “Comfort, comfort ye my people” is not only appropriate for this season, but always.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart


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