WALKING BY FAITH
Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Light, will take place on Tuesday, December 16, through Wednesday, December 24, 2014. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is Wednesday, September 24, through Friday, September 26, 2014. Ramadan, the Islamic Revelation of the Qur’an, is Saturday, June 28, through Sunday, July 27, 2014. Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, is on Thursday, October 23, 2014. Easter, the Christian celebration of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, is Sunday, April 20, 2014.
Why list all of these religion’s holy days together like this? Well, each of these religious holy days is not anchored to a particular day of the year. They’re based on other calendars or seasonal indicators. Like Easter, they can be early or late in a standard 365-day year.
Only one of them is celebrated with vacation days in the United States school systems, and Christmas is a federal holiday.
Christianity has enjoyed a place of privilege in our culture. In a country founded with religious freedom, one of those religions has had a little more freedom. The standard work week ran Monday through Friday, with Sundays and then Saturdays being considered weekends to be granted for personal refreshment and use. Even Wednesday evenings have been set aside in several school districts as days for faith education and instruction. It was easy to work in religious practice and commitment in a culture that automatically set aside Christianity’s special days.
This is slowly changing.
Work weeks are becoming less predictable as shifts are scheduled on a seven-day week. Sporting events, school trips, and practices are becoming less forgiving of faith-based absences as they begin to occur on weekends and holidays. Christianity is no longer given special space and treatment by the culture at large.
And here’s the thing—we shouldn’t have it.
Christianity should not be privileged in a culture that claims to be founded on religious freedom. Logically, that just makes sense. Whether that means bringing the status of other religions into equal privilege, declaring national vacation days for Rosh Hashanah or Eid al-Fitr (the end of Ramadan), remains to be seen. In the meanwhile, we have to decide how to live today.
Rather than lament the loss of this cultural privilege and status, however, we need to learn to live faithfully in the world as it is. Just as other religions have learned to remain faithful without the advantage of having their worship days and holidays nationalized with vacation, we too need to learn how to make decisions when challenged on our time and priorities.
What does this mean? It means finding the strength to acknowledge that today’s culture does make us decide between church and other activities sometimes. Sunday mornings will have sports tournaments and church services. Wednesday evenings will have practices and Confirmation and youth group. Saturday nights will have late parties, and friends and relatives will take weekend trips to the lake or elsewhere at the last minute. Winter will happen. Alarm clocks will sound. Calendars will be double-booked.
This is not going to change—choices will always have to be made. Weekly Shabbat services take place on Friday nights, and I’ve yet to see a serious change made for the Jewish religion. Complaining about the loss of Sunday morning privilege will not help you attend more church, nor will it help you make it to more activities.
I will not tell you that it’s okay to skip church for a party or tournament or other activity.
I will also not tell you to skip the party or tournament for church.
I will tell you that this is a choice. I hope that acknowledging that this is a reality will help you address these choices in an intentional way—a way that recognizes faithfulness, reality, and balance.
Time is spent on priorities. Our actions reveal much more about us than our words ever could. They reveal to anyone watching what it is we value and believe. As we continue through Lent into Easter, we are called to reflect and evaluate what it is we believe and how we live that out.
Christianity has a position of privilege in our society. It is growing into a less privileged position—as it should in a culture based on equality. It is up to each of us as individuals to discern how we, without that special treatment, will walk through this life faithfully and intentionally.