Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Remember the Sabbath, says Kentucky doctor-author Matthew Sleeth. By Peter Smith

When some stores opened on Thanksgiving Day, bleeding Black Friday into Black Thursday, many observers lamented the latest sign that Americans’ lives are being increasingly crammed with the business of busy-ness.

More and more holidays are becoming days of shopping and other business, and Sundays long ago ceased to be quiet days of rest and worship.

A Kentucky doctor and author is part of a growing movement in the opposite direction.

The doctor’s prescription: Keep a Sabbath.

The principle is at least as valid today as it was in ancient times when it was incorporated in the Ten Commandments, says Matthew Sleeth of Wilmore, Ky., a former emergency-room doctor who launched a Christian ministry to promote environmental care.

“Now we’re consuming seven days a week,” said Sleeth, author of the new book, “24/6: A Prescription for a Healthier, Happier Life.”

“The problem with that is it’s not very fulfilling spiritually, and I don’t actually think it’s sustainable economically,” he said. “…And it’s bad for the planet.”

Observant Jews have for millennia been setting aside the Sabbath — from Friday night to Saturday night — for worship, rest and family activities.

Christians, in addition to worshiping on Sunday, have in recent decades followed the secular trend toward doing more shopping and other work on Sundays, Sleeth lamented in a recent book talk sponsored by the group Kentucky Interfaith Power And Light at Highland Baptist Church in Louisville.

Sleeth said it’s no coincidence that studies have found strong health outcomes for Seventh-day Adventists, who follow the traditional Sabbath rules and other biblical codes.

The concern is widespread.

As noted in our previous post, a statement issued last month by Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian theologians called for Christians to recapture the importance of Sundays, and there’s also a movement called the European Sunday Alliance trying to make a work-free Sunday a standard throughout the European Union, arguing from both social and religious perspectives for “the independence of persons from a purely economic-driven lifestyle.”

Sleeth says the most important thing is not which day is the Sabbath but to have one, period. Preachers who work on Sundays, he said, need their own day off.

The soft-spoken Sleeth left a well-paid medical career several years ago and, with his wife, Nancy, formed the ecologically oriented ministry Blessed Earth.

Sleeth had become convinced he was seeing the catastrophic results of environmental waste in the cancer-ridden and asthma-choked patients arriving at the hospitals where he worked.

He now does what he considers preventive medicine. It’s less dramatic than his former “ER”-paced life — “There is no show called, ‘Prevention,’” he quipped — but he believes the results can be more enduring.

He has promoted what many Christians call creation care through sermons, talks and books such as “Serve God, Save the Planet” and “The Green Bible” — which includes a subject index of environmental topics and commentaries by Sleeth and other writers.

His latest book draws the connection between creation care and personal care.

“The thing we’re supposed to steward, that’s more important than anything, is humanity, and we’re not doing a very good job of it,” he said.

Sleeth cited a classic work of C.S. Lewis, “The Screwtape Letters,” in which an experienced devil outlined his strategy of keeping people away from God: “Keep them busy.”

Sleeth cited the examples of Christian-owned businesses such as Chic-fil-A and Hobby Lobby that have found they can remain profitable while closing on Sundays.

It’s part of an ancient biblical principle, he said, that includes not just work-free Sabbaths but also allowing pastures to rest and not harvesting a field completely, leaving gleanings for the poor and hedgerows as a sanctuary for wildlife.

A day of rest, he said, doesn’t mean a day of just kicking back. It can involve such deliberate activities as walking and light gardening.

What it does mean, he said, is powering down the laptop and smartphone. And slowing down enough to listen.

“I’ve not had the experience of an angel showing up at the bottom of my bed,” Sleeth said. “What I’ve had is life. I believe the Lord is trying to speak to us all the time, and we are too busy to hear and to think about it.”  Read the full story by Peter Smith in

Source: Courier-Journal.comNovember 23, 2012
Author: Peter Smith has covered religion for The Courier-Journal since 2000. He blogs about religion and spirituality and how they intersect with our ethics, our work, our schools, our government and other areas of our lives ... more

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