Back in the early or mid-1970s, another Kansas City Star reporter and I were assigned to do some stories about what repeal of blue laws might mean in our area.
As most of you know, blue laws forbid most businesses from being open on Sunday. They were a holdover from the era of Christendom, when Christians in the U.S. set not only the religious agenda but also the social and economic rules.
Eventually voters decided to abandon those Kansas City blue laws, meaning that now on any Sunday you can buy pretty much whatever you want in almost any business establishment.
Today I want to share with you an argument in this Vox piece that I don't agree with, at least not fully. The author, Lyman Stone, argues in favor of returning to a time of blue laws -- and, interestingly enough, comes at the question from what he says is a progressive, pro-labor union stance.
"(P)rogressives and religious conservatives alike," he writes, "should unite to push for more blue laws that protect the sanctity of life outside of of work. Over the past 50 years, many institutions that once protected American workers and families from the ravages of unbridled capitalistic excess have been eroded. The most prominent such institution that may come to mind is the labor union. . ."
Blue laws, he writes, "have their origins in various kinds of religious convictions (but) they are ultimately part of what economic historians would call a 'moral economy,' or an economic system where the moral or ethical norms of a society are sufficiently strong that, with or without the intervention of the state, certain values are prioritized above the market itself."
I don't doubt that the disappearance of blue laws have meant that many workers are more exploited than if such laws remained in effect. And as a person of faith I agree that our lives need some built-in sabbath.
What I don't like, however, is for the state to legislate this matter. It strikes me as a way for the government to be the guarantor of certain religious views -- not unlike certain predominantly Muslim countries in which blasphemy is a crime against the state.
What such laws tells me is that the government thinks the established religion is so weak that it cannot survive without the strong support of the state. Religion that cannot survive on its own merits doesn't deserve to survive.
At any rate, give the blue laws piece a read and see whether you agree with any of it. If you're viewing this blog post on your weekly holy day, you have my permission to wait until Monday.
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A 'GENIUS' PREACHER
The Rev. William Barber, a leader in the renewed Poor People's Campaign, has won a MacArthur "genius grant." And he'll be speaking in Kansas City in a few days. He's a dynamic prophetic voice, but is having trouble being heard in this era, when the national leadership seems to be made up mostly of privileged millionaires or billionaires.