Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Give the Earth a Sabbath Day

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Give the Earth a Sabbath Day

Article excerpt

As religious leaders and their congregations go green, they've neglected one Judeo-Christian teaching that could cut energy consumption and pollution by 14.2857 percent.

That's one-seventh, just as the Sabbath halts work one day out of the weekly seven.

The day of rest - long considered a gift from God - is meant to create a joyful, liberating respite from worldly concerns such as work and consumption, activities that both use the earth's resources.

So renewed observance of the Sabbath could also be a gift to the air, land, and water that we consume the other six days of the week.

"Six days you shall labor and do all your work," Yahweh told the Israelites at Sinai, "but the seventh is a sabbath of the Lord your God; you shall not do any work."

Jews have interpreted the Fourth Commandment to mean that they cease creative labor or work on the seventh day, or Saturday, just as God created the world in six days and then stopped. They leave nature alone for the day.

Even starting a fire is banned, so many Jews, mostly Orthodox, don't drive - since that involves combustion - and live within walking distance of their synagogue. In the same spirit, Yahweh told the Israelites to leave fallow their farm fields during the sabbatical year, an ancient form of rejuvenating soil.

The early Christians switched their attention to Sunday, when Jesus rose from the dead. Like the Jews, some Christians consider the day itself to be holy and, traditionally, avoid anything that detracts from its divine nature: work, business, and shopping. Though their primary obligation is to attend services, they also imported the Sabbath spirit of rest and joy.

For Muslims, Friday is holy. They don't sanctify this "day of assembly," or Juma, with rest since God does not need rest. In the Koran, Allah directs Muslims to attend congregational prayers at midday but they can then return to work. But Friday is a day off in many Islamic countries, and Muslims consider Juma a time for charity, family, and quiet enjoyment.

Each religion's teaching makes a powerful case for calling it quits one day a week. …

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