Coded gray.

Sunday 7 September 2003

Path in the woods

Pic of the day: A church is not the only place in which to consider our path through life.

Sinning against the Sabbath

There was an informal discussion in an online forum about whether or not to support homosexuality. I said that if people have weird sex, eat pigs or work on Saturday, that's a matter between them and Jehovah. (Actually most linguists now believe that the best English spelling of the Name is Yahweh, but the older spelling is still familiar because of the Witnesses.)

It may seem like a cruel thing, to compare these things. After all, to some people only their own sex is appealing at all. There are probably few people who can only eat pork. On the other hand, sexual involvement is optional. You won't starve to death if you don't have sex (it only feels that way sometimes). People will rarely be offended if you don't have sex. You are not likely to lose your job if you don't have sex (except if you're a female singer or model, I guess). You can even love without having sex. (And the other way around.) But to this day, there are people who are willing to face discomfort, poverty and even death rather than breaking any one of the many commandment of their God. No matter how random that commandment looks.


Holding afterthought over my words, I considered further. Jesus, whom some of us call the Christ, once said that the Sabbath was created for the benefit of humans, and they not for the Sabbath. This was a pretty revolutionary idea at its time, I think, and it probably still is.

For some obscure reason most Christian churches still stick to the Sunday as an alternative Sabbath, even though the original reason is lost in the fog of history. (Most likely it was a compromise with the Mithra and Sol Invictus cults, which had a strong following in the Roman army. There is no mention that Jesus ever wanted to change the Sabbath, only its meaning.) When I grew up, it was still common to hold the Sunday as a special day, although not as much as the Jews hold the Sabbath. But we did only the most necessary of work on the farm, for the animals to not suffer. Then we washed, and put on special clothes. Every third week there was a church service in the neighboring village, and my grandmother would go there to attend. I often went with her. I thought it was OK. But those days are gone. Now, I keep neither the Sunday (which I don't believe in anymore) nor the Sabbath (which I was not raised to).

But if the Sabbath was made for mankind, then surely it is good for something. People come up with various reasons for more obscure commandments: The sexual restrictions were in order to prevent sexually transmitted diseases mostly, and some against the genetic deformities caused by incest, and some perhaps to keep population growing ... an important thing in a time where you constantly had to defend your country from enemies and wild animals. The prohibition against pork, shrimps etc was because these foods contained harbingers of disease. And so on ... we explain it all logically, and then we choose by ourselves whether or not to obey the old rules anymore. What with the new technology we have, we can easily overcome some of the dangers that these old laws protected society against. Or is that so? So now that we have Prozak and psychotherapy, we don't need the Sabbath anymore?

I don't go to work neither on Saturday nor Sunday, so on that accord I am fairly safe. But the commandment was enhanced further as to "carry no burden" on the day of the Lord. Some take this to mean you can't go backpacking for instance. But how about the mind? Was it not for the protection of the mind as much as the body that this commandment was given? I dare say it was, although I'm sure most people were pretty worn out on Friday afternoon too. But now that we have come so far that even our race for ever more entertainment becomes a burden for us. Are we having fun yet? Must hurry to be entertained before the weekend is over!


It may be stupid to obey blindly, especially when this causes one to frantically attack those who don't do the same. But it may also be stupid to be so "smart" that we think once we understand something, we are no longer bound by it. Gravity still works perfectly even though we understand a lot more of it than our ancestors did. And human nature has changed only a little more. Perhaps if we set aside a little time for quiet reflection, to open our eyes and look at creation, to open our inner eyes and look at ourselves, to audit our own soul ... I think perhaps we could gain some wisdom, too. And then we might start to understand the true meaning of the rest of the commandments? It just might be worth a try.

(Why was I blathering about homosexuality in the first paragraph? How is that relevant to an otherwise nice sermon on the Sabbath? In case this did not come through clearly: In the law of Moses, the two sins were considered to belong in the same class. Sodomy or working on Saturday were both reasons for execution without appeal. From the discussions, I see that one of them is still hotly contested, while the other is accepted without lifting an eyebrow. I wanted that eyebrow to be lifted. But for the record, my expertise is in breaking the Sabbath.)

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