Why Do We Have Blue Laws

Not that long ago, malls in some states, North Dakota, were closed on Sunday. Then grocery stores were open, then malls in the afternoon and so on. Sales of alcohol were strictly limited also, none on Sunday until relatively recently. Then, alcohol was allowed only after Noon on Sunday.

While some of these “Blue Laws” were supported by businesses which did not want to staff more hours a week, the real support came from the religious community. It was believed, and apparently there is some evidence for this, that malls and bars compete with churches for peoples’ time. The link laments the time when lawmakers were sensitive to the preferences of churches in such matters is gone.

I know from a former life that there sometimes are good reasons for limiting hours businesses are open. Bars at night, for example, have more police calls than other types of businesses. Laws that close bars by 2PM limit the number of police officers a city needs to hire. Bars open in the mornings, like Sunday morning, don’t have problems and this is not a reason to keep them closed.

I don’t know of a reason, other than competition with church, retail stores cannot be open whatever hours they choose. In towns/cities with lots of tourists retail stores are open early Sunday morning. I remember being in Wall, SD back when stores were mostly closed on Sunday. Little Wall, however, knew people could find some other time for church.

20 Responses

  1. Schurkey

    “Competition with church”? Sort of. Less competition with the church, more acquiescence to the Corporate god.

    When your employer demands that you work, you have little real choice. The Sabbath tradition has been so immensely screwed-up by The Church that it’s little wonder Corporations now have tremendous power over our time.

    Oh, sure…just quit and get a different job. For the folks at or near the bottom-end of the workforce, that’s often not realistic. Then the advice has to be “Don’t be at or near the bottom-end of the labor pool”, which is similarly un-helpful except in a general sense.

    Government protection is appropriate in this case, but is essentially non-existent any more. Corporate America won, in the same way that the Christmas Shopping Season starts about the same time income tax refund checks show up in the mailbox. The goal was perpetual shopping all day, and twice on weekends.

    1. morgan 7:47 I could never figure out why you can’t buy a car on Sunday in MN

      That is true in other state as well so I have heard. I think it is because car dealers do not want to staff their stores on Sunday.

  2. Jinx II

    Most of the population doesn’t feel any obligation to restrict their behavior on Sunday due to religion.

  3. Patricia twist

    If you are a Christian, and you have to work on Sunday, there are plenty of other times and days to fellowship and ‘go’ to church. Church is not a building and ‘worship’ is not just for Sunday. Church is a people and personally, I can worship right here in front of this computer screen. Getting together with other Christians is also our duty, however, and we need the support. Thanks for listening.

    1. Patricia 7:17 Nice post. I don’t know a lot about the Christian tradition world wide on Sunday closings. In the little community where I grew up most everything was closed and no farmers were seen on tractors. Other farm work, caring for animals was done.

      I’ve always wondered how Sunday was treated by the Spanish conquerors in Latin America. That is, what was the custom in Spain? Because after the forced conversion from native religions to Catholicism mass and the biggest business day of the week were both on Sunday. It was such an investment to travel by foot or donkey from the mountains into the village with produce to sell it could only be done once a week. I guess God only came up with the rule of Sunday closings when societies could afford not to work on Sunday.

      Now, couples with children and not much income need to switch being home and working so God has changed the rules back to what they were in old Latin America.

  4. Juan Ruiz

    The great paradox Christians don’t seem to get is that Sunday, as the word suggests, is a day to worship the Sun, as Constantine did his whole life. The Sabbath is Saturday. That is day mandated in the Ten Commandments. In their desire to completely separate from Judaism, early Christians opted for paganism. Much like they did for Christmas and Easter.

    1. Schurkey

      As I said…the Sabbath has been so COMPLETELY screwed-up by The Church, it’s no wonder that it’s faded from prominence, practically faded from memory.

      Most of the damage to Christianity has been done from within.

    2. godless

      re: The great paradox that “Sunday” is a Pagan day to worship the sun.

      Exactly Juan, shocking how many sacred christian traditions are actually pagan.

  5. godless

    Blue laws are a result of theist lawmakers realizing they can’t write a law requiring people to attend church.

  6. Mike

    Shurkey, your focus on keeping the Sabbath seems to be genuine, unlike most of the atheist crowd that blogs on this site. I know that members of the Seventh Day Adventist churches dwell on that subject quite a bit, so perhaps that is your interest. Their church is the sponsor of a Sunday morning show called, Amazing Facts, which I find interesting. Maybe you have seen it.

    You may think it odd, but I would agree with almost any of their beliefs, except their insistence that the Sabbath be celebrated on Saturday. Let me explain: The Sabbath Day was created to provide for a day of rest and use that day to worship God. Obviously, some professions do make it difficult to accommodate this. However, the point is that we don’t worship a day.

    Since Christ rose from the grave on a Sunday, Christians chose that day to celebrate that faith, making it their new day of rest, and to differentiate themselves from the Jewish traditions We should remember why. The point of all those Jewish laws and traditions was to be a harbinger of the One who would be the perfect sacrifice that pays the price for all of mankind. Jesus Christ is that perfect Lamb of God, so we are now saved by grace through faith, not by following laws.

    1. Mike 1:50 Since Christ rose from the grave on a Sunday, Christians chose that day to celebrate that the Sabbath…

      Not to get too picky here, but so far as I know, none of the narratives say Christ arose on Sunday. One of the versions says the women came to the tomb on the “third day”, apparently that is the Sunday you speak of, and no Jesus. No one claimed to have seen him come alive and the various tales about it were written later without first hand witnesses.

    2. Schurkey

      From the NIV, other translations similar.

      8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

      The first word is “Remember” not “Choose”.

      The Sabbath has more than one purpose–pragmatically, it represents earthly rest for servants and animals of burden* (the first “labor laws”, intended to apply to everyone including slaves and others at-or-near the bottom of the social structure (the “working poor”.) Perhaps ESPECIALLY those at or near the bottom, since otherwise they’d be working 7 days a week JUST LIKE NOW. In a more spiritual sense, it’s also a weekly reminder of God and Creation, although in that context “days” would not refer to literal days, but to some other periods of time.

      The wealthy and powerful (individuals and corporations) have always done what they could to get the weak and poor to work “on call”, whenever it was convenient for those in power, with little regard for the employee’s well-being. Keeping the stores open on the weekend in ND was a way of reducing sales loss to border states. The rich get richer, the poor work weekends.

      The poor have no advocates against reprehensible business practices: Government is in bed with the Corporations, “Union” is practically a dirty word (and with some reason, that’s another power structure that failed some ethics tests) and We The People get piss-poor representation at both the State and Federal legislatures. There are workplace wage ‘n’ hour rules, OSHA, Workmen’s Compensation, and the like…but they’re largely toothless tigers.

      * in addition to caring about society’s human downtrodden, God also attempted numerous animal-welfare and anti-cruelty laws. They were misinterpreted by the Jews. I truly believe that God doesn’t have anything against cheeseburgers, it was the cruelty of boiling a calf in it’s mother’s milk He was upset about. What could have become a Jewish tradition of responsible animal husbandry instead became a bunch of useless prohibitions against meat and dairy on the same plate.

  7. The proscription to keep holy the Sabbath does not foreclose Christians from working on Sunday if their jobs require it, e.g. ER physicians, firefighters, pharmacists to name a few. However, working for a living on Sunday is to be avoided, if possible. The focus is to be on recreation and worship. Catholics are required to attend Mass. Mass can occur between approximately 3 pm on Saturday until Sunday at 11:59 pm. Dispensations are provided in unusual circumstances.

    For those overly and eternally wrapped around the Saturday vs. Sunday controversy, you can rest assured Christian worship on Sunday will not doom one to eternal damnation. Worship should take place every day. However, we are required to come together as a community of believers to worship, thereby putting the lie to folks who think they can worship exclusively at their lake cottage, bedroom or living room. Perhaps if you are infirm, a POW, or on a desert island, you can justify skipping communal worship. If you have questions, please refer to your favorite search engine for answers.

  8. Catcher

    @ 9;34 forward; Unknown to many, during the week of Passover, there are actually two (2) Sabbaths. the weekly and the greater.
    google; “why do Christians worship on Sunday, (first day of the week) Several sites, Fully explained, including no new covenant rule for any particular day. Tradition being what it is, is not a rule or law.

    As for “paganism”, I’ve ‘splained this before. Every day of the week and month of the year is based on either a Roman God-goddess, or pagan ,god. (if you will), Tue, Tuesdag, Oden, Odensdag ,Thor, Thorsdag, Frya, Fryasdag. All Nordic Gods / demigods. For one to piss and moan about Christians using pagan terms and the atheists fully acknowledge the days of the week as they are after Nordic deities, is not well thought out, and are as guilty of pagan worship, influence if they look at the calander of their work week. and say they work on Oden’s day, (Wed.) Thorsday, (Thursday) Frya; Friday. The same for the months of the year. In short, for 365 days a year, the names are pagan, but no paganism is present, but atheists still use it..

    Now we come to Easter, AKA Oster, East). In Christianity, The same. It happened during Passover, based on the Hebrew calendar .No pagan content.

    The old and worn out saw of paganism in Christianity is bankrupt.

    Re. Christmas: Early on, it was never celebrated in the Christian community. but because the pagans did celebrate the change of seasons, The Christians much later started to add a commemoration of the birth of the Christ. Since the Christian chronilogical calendar was empty on that date It was added as a custom, If the competition is having a sale to attract, have a promotion of your own. No law requiring, or preventing. (Adeaphora), (Things neither commanded nor forbidden.)

    In addition–re. the three days from death to resurrection- Not necessarily three full days. “On the third day”. “On the first day”—Tail end of first day, and beginning of the 3rd day. On does not mean the very first or last minute of either day. I went to bed at 1-am, and got up at 9am. went to bed at 11 pm the same day. a full 22 hours in between, but the first day. The Hebrews had different meanings as to what hours were than we do today.

  9. mark anthony

    And. if I am not mistaken the Roman eight day market day. And the astrological roots of Saturn Day, Mari, Mercerdi, Jedi, etc. And what about Zeus/ Deus/ day. For my part I can’t understand why people on this site get all riled up about these issues. They seem to think that they have proved something or other. phooey .

    1. mark 5:11 For my part I can’t understand why people…get all riled up about these issues

      Ah yes, someone who has never lived in a community where the pious ruled. What was done, or not done on Sunday, was talked about more than any other sin. When I was a Mayor, Fargo advocated lifting the Blue Laws. We had people at City Commission meetings who talked emotionally at length at exactly what was allowed and not allowed on Sunday. We heard lots from the Bible.

      1. mark anthony

        OK if you get exited about Blue Laws. I don’t: grew up a mostly Lutheran town. They lived it up on Saturday night, quiet on Sunday. Nobody got up a sweat about it. Don’t see why a day of rest is such an awful thing. Unless, of course, you are a gung ho capitalist.

  10. Mike

    Very good dissertation, Catcher! I had a minister 20 years ago that actually spoke about that three days vs. 3rd day question and he agreed with you. A good case can be made that it was THREE FULL DAYS, because as you correctly pointed out, there were 2 Sabbaths that could have been celebrated. It’s conceivable that Christ could have gone to the cross on a Wednesday, which would get you the three full days.

    However, as you correctly pointed out, using the term: adiaphora, we do not dwell on the question of three full days vs. the 3rd day. Just like we don’t fixate on worshiping on Saturday or Sunday. Many churches even hold services during the week in the summertime to accommodate those lake home or other vacationing people!

    And to speak to your last paragraph, the time of day was viewed differently back then. Perhaps, from the Jewish belief that the Sabbath began at sundown, the days started at 6 am and ended at 6 pm. Hence, Christ went to the cross on the 6th hour (12 noon) and died at 3 pm, which for them was the 9th hour. Because the Jews were worried about the time crunch – the Sabbath was coming up – they were very concerned that they get Jesus’ body in the ground by nightfall, the 12th hour.

    Since many men can languish, gasping for breathe, for many hours on the cross, that was why the Romans were told to break the prisoner’s legs, causing death by suffocation. They can’t use their legs anymore to lift themselves up and grab a breathe. For those that might deny Jesus was dead and thus deny the resurrection, the Romans further emphasized his death by sticking a spear inside him. All rather gruesome stuff!

    Lastly, it is kind of a silly argument for pagans to bring up the origination of the days of the week. I put it in the “so what” category. However, it is very interesting to note that most of these formerly pagan holidays, like the celebration of spring or December 25th, have now been converted to Easter, Christmas, etal. Holidays are just one more example of what Jesus once said about himself long ago: “I have come that they may have life and that they might have it more abundantly.”

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