40 Harmful Effects of Christianity – #29

This post is the twenty-ninth in a series that addresses a list of “40 Harmful Effects of Christianity” that originated on the American Atheists Facebook page and has since made its way around the internet. In this post, I examine the following “harmful effect” from the list:

Harmful Effect #29: Blue laws forcing other businesses to stay closed or limit sales, while churches can generate more revenue.

“By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” Genesis 2:2-3

There are at least two problems with the assertion that Blue Laws are a harmful effect of Christianity. The first is that there are no Blue Laws in the New Testament. While work on the Sabbath[1] is forbidden for the nation of Israel under the Old Covenant, there is no prescription for civil government to restrict commerce on Sunday in the New Testament. First century Christians, who were under Roman civil law, were not known for trying to lobby the government to restrict commerce on Sunday.  Christianity is typically understood to have begun circa 30 AD, at the resurrection of Jesus.  The first historical mention of the term “Blue Law” occurred some 1700 years later in the United States. Thus, blue laws originated half a world away and hundreds of years after Christianity was founded in Jerusalem. Can it be fairly said that such laws, while certainly adopted within cultures influenced by Christianity, are an effect of Christianity?

Secondly, is it the case that Blue Laws are harmful? It’s hardly a given that they are. To the contrary, it can be argued that a day of rest is good for workers and society, especially a day where the sale of beverage alcohol is restricted.  It goes without argument to say that the sale and abuse of alcohol has been detrimental to society.  Even in the United States, where religious liberty is prized over theocratic fiat, Blue Laws have been determined to have a secular benefit by governing authorities. Supreme Court Chief Justice Stephen Johnson Field provided this legal opinion in 1896 regarding a Blue Law:

“Its requirement is a cessation from labor. In its enactment, the legislature has given the sanction of law to a rule of conduct, which the entire civilized world recognizes as essential to the physical and moral well-being of society. Upon no subject is there such a concurrence of opinion, among philosophers, moralists and statesmen of all nations, as on the necessity of periodical cessation from labor. One day in seven is the rule, founded in experience and sustained by science. … The prohibition of secular business on Sunday is advocated on the ground that by it the general welfare is advanced, labor protected, and the moral and physical well-being of society promoted.”

Whether or not one agrees with Johnson’s opinion, it is clear evidence that there are secular arguments for the enactment and enforcement of Blue Laws. The authors of this list have once again provided a specious argument against Christianity. Instead, they have taken a political policy they don’t like (the enacting of Blue Laws) and a condition they don’t like (churches receiving revenue), tenuously linked them, and deemed the result “harmful.”

“Jesus said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.’” Mark 2:27

In my next post in this series, I’ll address the following:

Harmful Effect #30: Mayors, senators, and presidents voted into office not because they’re right for the job, but because of their religious beliefs.

[1] Blue Laws typically restrict commerce on Sunday in modern times.  In ancient Israel, the Sabbath occurred from Friday evening through Saturday evening.  Also, modern Blue Laws typically restrict retail commerce, especially the sale of alcohol.  In ancient times, the work being restricted on the Sabbath was manual, agrarian labor. There were no liquor stores of which to speak.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.


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Seth Dunn

Masters of Divinity in Christian Apologetics, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Member of the Evangelical Theological Society Certified Public Accountant

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