|Moses Receives the Ten Commandments|
St Etienne Church, Mackenheim
Photo credit: Ralph Hamman (Rh-67) (GNU Free Documentation Licence)
(source: Wikimedia Commons)
Sadly, the Sunday trading laws were eventually changed. Only eight years later, the Sunday Trading Act (1994) was passed. It was only passed onto the statute book, though, after opponents had been assured that no person (or at least 'shop-workers') would be forced to work on Sundays, especially if to do so went against their Christian beliefs. It was recognised that Sunday is a special day for Christians, a day which we observe as the Sabbath of the old Law (see comments, below). The then Conservative government, under John Major, also acknowledged the importance of Sunday as a secular 'day of rest', and the need for families and communities to have at least one day during the week in which they can spend some quality time together and / or with others.
It is doubtful whether the Sunday Trading Act would have been passed into law if it weren't for the fact that Christians (and others) had been given the statutory guarantee that they would not have to engage in servile jobs on Sundays. Yet, soon after the bill was passed into law it became apparent that any such statutory promises were worthless -- those entering work or changing jobs after 1994 would have to work on Sundays if they agreed to accept this as a condition of their employment. And, as can be expected, more often than not most post-Sunday Trading Act contracts stipulated that Sunday working would be a requirement of employment. In choosing not to work on Sundays, it became clear that any such (ordinary) person would soon become unemployable.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago when a High Court judge, Mr Justice Langstaff, ruled that observing the commandment to keep Sunday holy is not a Christian "core belief" (see Telegraph). As such, ruled the judge, Christians have no right to refuse to work on Sundays -- despite the fact that the Catholic Church teaches that each one of her members must keep Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation holy, by hearing Mass and refraining from servile work. In other words: "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labour, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates." (Exodus 20:8-11) [see comments, below]
Mr Justice Langstaff, who happens to be the senior judge on employment law in England and Wales, reasoned that because many Christians choose to work on Sundays, any commandment to observe that day as holy must be optional, and therefore not that important.
Yet, in the recent past, courts have often ruled in favour of adherents of minority religions who insist that they must observe holy days or keep certain rituals -- despite the fact that most of their fellow believers don't observe the same standards. For example, according to the Telegraph: "In 2008 Sarika Watkins-Singh, then 14, successfully claimed she was a victim of unlawful discrimination because she had been excluded from school in Aberdare, south Wales, for breaking a jewellery ban by refusing to remove a “kara” bangle which she said was central to her faith. But in her case the court did not examine how many Sikhs wanted to wear similar items of jewellery."
Many people call themselves Christian, but surely Christian morality doesn't depend upon majority observance? The fact that many so-called Christians choose to co-habit before marriage does not make it right -- and no secular judge can make it so. The same goes for observing the sacredness of the the Lord's Day. The fact that many so-called believers might not want to worship God on Sunday, or keep the day holy by refraining from work, does not mean that the moral obligations enshrined in the Third (Fourth, if you're a Protestant) Commandment have suddenly become obsolete. The Church, unlike the state, does not change her mind in order to appease those who refuse to obey unchangeable truths -- be they in the majority, or not.
In a matter of weeks, the present UK government will seek to enact a law that will completely redefine the meaning and purpose of marriage, despite strong opposition from people of all faiths and none. Those who are for 'marriage equality' (also known as 'same-sex marriage') constantly refer to the fact that, according to them, Christians who do not wish to solemnise 'gay marriages' in their churches won't have to. They insist that there will be a 'quadruple lock' to guarantee that no minister or priest will be forced to act against their conscience in this matter. But what about lay people -- owners of hotels or florists, for example -- who refuse to cater for same-sex marriages? What about teachers who can only -- in conscience -- teach the reality that matrimony is the union of male and female for the hopeful procreation of new life?
We have already seen that the secular world, often taking its cue from relativist Protestantism, builds its flippant promises on sand. A law that guarantees protections is as reliable as a wind that blows one way today and another tomorrow. In less than 20 years, the Sunday Trading Act has crumbled in the face of turbo-capitalism, rampant consumerism, and militant secularism.
What was for centuries an accepted fact, namely that Sunday is a Christian holy day, has now been rejected as nonsense by a secular court of law! So, are we really expected to believe that 'quadruple locks' will protect people from attempts to force them to recognise (or even solemnise) 'same-sex marriage'? If a certain amount of so-called Christians suddenly decide that they are for 'marriage equality', what's to stop a judge in a few years' time from claiming that marriage between a man and a woman is not a core Christian belief?
Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have not we prophesied in thy name, and cast out devils in thy name, and done many miracles in thy name? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity. Every one therefore that heareth these my words, and doth them, shall be likened to a wise man that built his house upon a rock, And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and they beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded on a rock. And every one that heareth these my words, and doth them not, shall be like a foolish man that built his house upon the sand, And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and they beat upon that house, and it fell, and great was the fall thereof.