Although Georgia has a long history of having one foot in the dark ages when it comes to certain “blue laws” such as the ban on Sunday alcohol sales, it was encouraging that last year Governor Nathan Deal signed into law legislation that would allow local communities to vote on the matter. It is also heartening to see that our local governments are permitting us the opportunity to vote on this matter (as the new legislation did not require such a vote). We should be grateful the governing bodies of the state of Georgia have deigned to permit us the opportunity to have our say on this bizarrely anachronistic ban.
Blue Laws are not in conformity with Jesus’ message
Although proponents of blue laws (laws that ban a range of activities from occurring on Sunday: alcohol sales, automobile sales, shopping, working, etc) often claim there is no religious basis to these laws, history suggests otherwise. The overriding goal of these laws is clearly to restrict activity on one day of the week and oddly that day is always Sunday, the traditional day of worship for Christians. These laws have included both the mandatory closure of all business and in some locales the prohibition of personal work or “non-spiritual” behavior (e.g. arrests for fixing wagon wheels or playing cards are known). Over time the total ban on Sunday commerce inconvenienced even those that had passed such laws. So rather than wholesale repeal they chipped away at these laws, making exceptions for some goods (the ones they wanted on Sunday) but keeping bans on others. And so we end up with a bizarre hodgepodge of restricted goods. For example in Texas up until 1985 laws banned the sale of house wares such as pots and pans. Currently in several states the sale of automobiles and hunting is still banned on Sundays.
Given that there is a clear Christian motivation behind these laws I am perplexed by the rationale employed. I’m not alone. Jesus had no qualms about violating those Old Testament commands that are putatively upheld by blue laws. He is derided by the synagogue leaders for “working” on the Sabbath (Luke 13:13-15). Furthermore the aversion that some Christians have for alcohol is quite odd given that Jesus himself turned water into wine on more than one occasion (John 2:1-10, 4:46).
The motivation behind these laws can be summarized as a general knee jerk reaction of “we must keep things ‘holy’ on Sunday.” However that is not only misguided but is also actually not in conformity with Jesus’ message. Jesus led by example, by words and deeds. Had he desired to forcefully apply God’s laws to the world he would have done the very thing the Jews had expected their Messiah to do: establish himself as a king and militarily conquer the world thus ensuring that his ideals as king were spread throughout the world by the force of royal decree. His inaction in this regard speaks volumes. It says we must willingly follow Him and if we do not it must be our choice. As in the story of the rich man who could not give up his possessions to follow Jesus (Mathew 19:21), Jesus told the man what he must do and allowed him to choose. He did not command him or threaten him with punishment if he did not follow him. In the same way it is extraordinarily un-Christ-like to pass laws that attempt to mold or coerce the behavior of others in a way that you believe to be in line with Jesus’ message. Following the logic of the blue laws it would be acceptable to lock everyone in prison for their whole life as that would 100% prevent any possibility of sin.
There is no virtue in not sinning if it is impossible to sin. You can’t make someone believe as you believe by coercion. Lead by example.