I read a discussion about sporting events taking place on Sunday mornings. One of the suggestions was Christians should band together and demand no sporting events on Sunday morning. Families should be able to attend worship without having to disappoint their children, or let down the other team members, and so on. It reminded me of many discussions I have heard over the years when pastors get together or during annual meetings and really any time the topic of church attendance or youth group attendance might come up. “People’s priorities are messed up.” “Nobody is dedicated to church anymore.” “ Church should be a number one priority.”
It also reminded me of an ethics class I took in seminary. We talked about several different approaches to ethics such as teleology, deontology, virtue ethics and situational ethics. For our final we wrote about which approach best described our own perspective on ethics. I don’t remember much from this (or any other) seminary class. So, I turned to the internet to refresh my memory and found teleology is about consequences of actions, deontology is about following rules, virtue about character and situational ethics about context. I don’t remember much but I do remember I wrote my paper on teleology in a large part because it was the approach to ethics which seemed to lend itself best to public discourse and conversation among those of differing belief systems. Anyone can consider and discuss various consequences of particular actions. But, for example, if I have my set of rules and you have your set of rules all we can do is yell our rules at each other. Not much room for conversation.
Not only does it make more sense to utilize an ethical system which lends itself to public discourse but it seems to me to be more consistent with the ethic displayed in the life of Jesus. Jesus refused a narrow definition of “neighbor.” Jesus repeatedly healed and lifted up those who were not the traditional religious crowd. Jesus told us to love one another, to feed the hungry, to reach out to the outcast, and did not tell us to give them a confessional exam first. We are to care for all people regardless of their beliefs. How can we do that if we are focused only on what is best for Christians and speak in language only Christians would understand or agree with?
Sure, we could all stand up together and demand no sporting events on Sunday mornings. We could do the "Christians demanding culture mold itself to fit us” thing. Or we could think about why Sunday might be an important day for all people. We could think about why a God of justice and love might have commanded a Sabbath in the first place. Did God institute the Sabbath so we could make sure and give our weekly sacrifice of praise? Eek. Or perhaps so employers and slave owners would not work others to death. So that even the lowliest could have time with their families, time to take care of their health, time to rest.
So what if we took time to consider the coaches, umpires, referees, and facilities managers who are forced to work on Sundays for those sporting events? What if we broadened our concern about the Sabbath beyond sporting events on Sundays? We could consider all those families with more than one person working (often low wage) jobs with shifts seven days a week so that they do not have a common day off in which to have family time. We could think about people in serving professions: nurses, police officers and the like who are needed seven days a week and consider how to honor and care for them. We could consider other consequences of an economy which never takes a day off. What if Christian concern was not focused upon our own precious worship time but rather on the needs of the poor, the outcast, and those with little power? What if we showed concern for families other than our own? What if we stopped behaving as though the greatest injustice in the world is low attendance at worship?
Sorry if I sound angry and cynical again. Sometimes it is frustrating to be teleological in a world where Divine Command Deontology gets all the press.
Gotta use these big words while I remember them. Tomorrow I will be thinking, “what was that again? I know it started with a 't'….”