When I joined the Salvation Army as an officer in training in 1976 the concept of trading on Christmas and Easter was simply not on the radar. It was a concept we could not conceive of in any shape or form. On our Sundays out at the training corps (church) we were not allowed to buy anything including a Sunday paper! On the odd occaision somebody did we were all marshalled for a lecture on the evils of doing business on a Sunday.
How far have we come? Today not only do Christians go to the shops, movies, sporting events on Sunday, they own the shops, they work in them and they are fully involved with Sunday trading. In fact it isn’t even raised as an issue any more.
So why are we concerned about trading on Good Friday, Easter Sunday or Christmas Day? Hasn’t the horse actually bolted a long time ago? Many areas already have Easter Sunday trading, Star City casino will be open and we have football matches played on Good Friday, attended, often by sell out crowds. At those football matches you can gamble on the outcome by buying tickets in the first scorer etc.
The debate has been sparked by the proposed opening of TAB outlets on Good Friday. As a non-gambler I can see no need for the outlets to be open and to encourage gambling, especially when there are no race meetings allowed (yet) in Australia. But commercially I understand their desire. You can already gamble on Good Friday, on the internet through commercial gambling organisations, so if, as the TAB is, you are in competition with them you would like to operate at the same times as they do. Interestingly, as many of these outlets are now placed in hotels which will not be opening on Good Friday I struggle with how this does give opportunity for people to gamble any way. But….
Gambling is, like alcohol, a major problem in our society and we don’t need more opportunities to binge on either. Yet will one more day make a difference or is it just a last ditch stand against the inevitbable?
While as a Christian I do believe Good Friday is important (understatement), Australia has moved from a perceved Christian Country to a multi-cultural/multi-faith one and perhaps it is no longer appropriate or even practical to hold Christian festivals as sacred and to be observed by all.
Perhaps as Christian the importance of this debate is to reflect on how we have been complicit in the watering down of the sacred in our lives. How do we live and do we live in a way that keeps the Sabbath Holy? Can we imagine people today refusing to particiapate in a sporting event because it is held on Sundays, or Good Friday? Can we imagine saying no to our children’s sport, movies or shopping specifically becuase it is on a Sunday? What is our faith asking of us and how do we engage in this debate, if we have already accepted as normal that Sunday is just another day.
Interested to read what you think?
(The thoughts expressed here are designed to get you thinking only)