National Sunday Law - Fact or Fiction?

Chapter 5

Is the National Sunday law a real threat?


In 1998 a number of worried Seventh-day Adventists sent me e-mails. The Vatican had recently released an apostolic letter the Pope had written entitled "Dies Domini." In this letter Pope John Paul II extols the virtues of Sunday-keeping to his followers. Some Adventists conjectured that this might be the long-awaited beginning of the National Sunday Law. I read the Pope's letter and found nothing to warrant any concern about forthcoming Sunday legislation. The Pope briefly stressed the necessity of Catholics ensuring that governmental legislation respects their freedom to worship on Sunday:

"Therefore, also in the particular circumstances of our own time, Christians will naturally strive to ensure that civil legislation respects their duty to keep Sunday holy."1

Of course, Seventh-day Adventist leaders often encourage their members to do the exact same thing--supporting legislation that guarantees their freedom to worship on the Sabbath.

Even though there was nothing in the letter to cause concern, for a while their was some excitement among Adventists. Perhaps their prophet's words were finally coming true. But alas, nothing happened and the excitement gradually fizzled out. It began to appear as if the Adventists, desperate for any validation of their National Sunday Law theory, were grasping onto any mention of Sunday by a Christian leader as an indication of the long-awaited Sunday laws.

While Adventists are fretting over a National Sunday Law, their Christian brothers and sisters seem to have no interest whatsoever in forcing Sabbath-keepers to worship on Sunday. It is true that there are some Christians who would like laws that would give them freedom to worship on Sunday without being forced to go to work. However, to imagine that Sunday-keeping Christians want to force others to observe Sunday as a religious day is preposterous.

The most avid group promoting Sunday observance in the United States is the "Lord's Day Alliance." Recently the leader of that organization was asked if he intended to enforce Sunday observance upon Sabbath-keepers. Here is his response:

I believe in the volunteer way of worship and I do not believe that there should ever be a state church and therefore do not propound any kind of a civil religion.

I appreciate the freedom we have in our country and as I told you, I will do everything I can to help maintain that freedom, which includes freedom of worship. It is also completely foreign to me...to be involved in any kind of persecution with anyone who disagreed with me on any subject including the day of worship. ...we believe that the best way for people to worship as they should, is to worship as they are led without any legislation forcing that worship or that day of rest.2

This is a typical response from Christian leaders. They have no interest in enforcing Sunday observance on Sabbath-keepers. Below is an example of how one typical Christian church views the subject of enforcing religious laws on others:

Individual Soul Liberty
Every individual, whether a believer or an unbeliever, has the liberty to choose what he believes is right in the religious realm. No one should be forced to assent to any belief against his will. Baptists have always opposed religious persecution.3
Most Christians agree with what the apostle Paul said:
"One man esteemeth one day above another; another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it."4
Most Christians would agree with Paul that the day of worship should be a matter of personal conscience and should never be an issue to divide believers. Most Sunday-keeping Christians would probably be shocked and outraged if they were told that Adventists teach that Sunday-keepers are going to be involved in persecuting Sabbath-keepers. Most Sunday-keeping Christians would be appalled at any such action and would fight against any legislation that would infringe upon the religious freedoms of other Christians.

The truth is that the Seventh-day Adventists have never produced any substantial evidence that Christian leaders intend to enforce Sunday observance on Sabbatarian Christians. On the contrary, there is significant evidence that Congress has no intention of passing any Sunday laws any time in the foreseeable future. For example, notice what the former United States House majority leader, Dick Armey wrote:

"I have not heard of any legislation in Congress which would establish a national blue law setting aside sunday as a national day of worship."5

The only evidence Adventists have is the behavior of the Catholic church in the past. Their theory is that the Catholic church will once again regain supremacy in the world and will re-institute the inquisition and other religious persecutions of the past.

After spending centuries apologizing for past errors it is difficult imagining the Catholic church re-instituting the very institutions it now admits were wrong. It is also difficult imagining the world community sitting idly by and letting the Vatican murder all the Sabbath-keepers in the world. What would Catholicism possibly hope to gain by killing all the Sabbath-keepers in the world? If they ever were to attempt such an outrageous act, they would be regarded as worse than Hitler, whom the entire world loathes. Would that be a wise thing for the Catholic church to do? Would that make them popular? Far from it! If they ever attempted such an act the whole world would probably rise up against them just as it rose up and destroyed Hitler.

All the speculative talk of Catholicism regaining control of the world is amusing. For centuries the Catholic church has been on a steady decline of power. The church is losing ground in many places throughout the world. Pentecostal and other Protestant churches, including Seventh-day Adventists, have made tremendous progress in winning converts in the once Catholic strongholds of Central and South America. If the conversions continue at present rates, the Catholic church will soon become a minority in a number of these countries. In Europe the people are, for the most part, living in a secular, post-Christian world. Christianity in general and the Catholic church in particular no longer have any relevance for many Europeans. The Catholic church has been struggling financially. It has been having difficulty attracting new priests and nuns. The Catholic church has even gone so far as to meet with its one-time enemies--the Lutheran church--and redefine its teaching on salvation in order make peace with the Lutherans. The Catholic church is also facing difficulties with sexual misconduct of priests, priests who publicly differ from the papal policies, and internal strife on a number of issues, such as the ordination of female priests. Rather than being a super-power poised to take control of the world and enforce Sunday observance upon everyone, Catholicism is a declining church, struggling to survive in a world that no longer grasps its relevance.

What about when Catholics and Protestants unite upon an issue? When they stand together do they have the political muscle to enforce their will upon the people of the United States? Not at all. For over 30 years Evangelical Christians and Catholics have unitedly battled to stop the murder of innocent babies in abortion clinics. This is a passionate issue that evokes strong feelings from many Christians. Despite all the strong feelings, despite all the attempts by church leaders to get their flocks involved in the battle, very little has been accomplished. If Catholics and Protestants have united upon the abortion issue for over 30 years and yet have not managed to pass a law stopping it, then how does one expect them to pass a law regarding Sunday observance--an issue that most Catholics and Evangelicals have no interest in? Can you imagine a pastor standing up in his pulpit trying to get his flock motivated to go out and pass laws to kill Sabbath-keepers just because they prefer to worship on Saturday instead of Sunday? That is the height of absurdity! If any pastor got up and said such a thing to his congregation it would probably be the last sermon he ever delivered in that church!

The religious groups that are supposed to be so strong and so anxious to persecute Sabbath-keepers are in reality suffering from the same spiritual bankruptcy, malaise, materialism, confusion, corruption and internal divisiveness as the Seventh-day Adventist church is suffering from. The Christian church is no longer making the rules in the United States. The Christian church is struggling just to maintain its position in an increasingly secular and materialistic society. In fact, the church does not even have the power to keep existing Sunday laws (called blue laws) on the books in the United States. According to Joseph Conn, a leader in the organization "Americans United for Separation of Church and State," new Sunday legislation is now highly unlikely in the United States:

I think there is little chance of Sunday legislation in the United States in the immediate future. Here the trend is in the opposite direction. Sunday closing laws are gradually being repealed or struck down by the courts.6

While Ellen White's end-time Sunday law scenario might have seemed somewhat plausible in the 1880s, it is so implausible today that it borders on absurdity. One would have to search long and hard to find a single Sunday-keeping Christian who wants to use force to get Sabbath-keepers to worship on Sunday. In recent years some Seventh-day Adventists have suggested that the Sunday law movement is taking place covertly. It is happening behind closed doors, under the covers of secrecy. Thus the National Sunday Law has become the ultimate conspiracy theory. Who are these mysterious people who want to enforce Sunday worship upon the world? Where are they? What are their names? What are they possibly gaining by hiding?


NOTES

1. Pope John Paul II, Dies Domini.

2. Jack P. Lowndes, Executive Director, The Lord's Day Alliance of the United States, in a letter to Azenilto Brito, dated March 5, 1993.

3. Regular Baptist Church, The Baptist Distinctives.

4. Romans 14:5,6.

5. Dick Armey in letter to Paul Lorenz, October 2, 1992. To view a scanned copy of the entire letter, click here.

6. Joseph Conn as quoted in Liberty.

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