THAT our national holidays are fast taking on the character of “holy days,” is evident from facts which are too plain to be overlooked.
The pious and sermonic tone of the President’s Thanksgiving proclamation, its distinctly “Christian” character, and the efforts made by the clergy to secure a public observance of the day by cessation of work and worldly sports, at least during the time of church services, are things to which we have already called attention. They show that this national “festival” day is undergoing a rapid metaphorphosis which will leave it a religious day altogether, to be observed only in a religious manner. The following paragraph from the Christian Statesman, of November 28, adds to the evidence upon this point:—
We regret to be obliged to record that the Presbyterian Ministers’ Association of Pittsburg, at its meeting last Monday, tabled a resolution introduced by one of its members protesting against the popular way of spending a large part of Thanksgiving Day in attendance upon football games. It is bad enough that so many college students and their friends, and members of athletic and even Young Men’s Christian Associations and their supporters, have so little regard for the spirit of the day and the official proclamations for its proper observance. But when ministers and college officers not only wink at the devoting of the day largely to rough sports, but even more or less publicly refuse to condemn and thus in an effective way justify this mode of spending a day specially set apart for the quiet enjoyment of the homes circle and the duties of charity and religion, what can be expected of our young men?
Thanksgiving day, however, is not the only national day upon which an effort is being made to put the stamp of religion. The evidence of this we find in the Christian Endeavorer, for December, 1896. That journal says:—
Many Christian Endeavor societies last year utilized Washington’s Birthday for Christian Citizenship day. They found this plan to be helpful to the cause of Christian Citizenship….
As Washington was distinctly a Christian citizen and showed his loyalty to his divine Master on every occasion, there is every reason why the celebration of his birthday should have a religious tone to it.
The Endeavorer further states that it was supposed that resolutions upon this point would be passed by the International Convention at Washington, but no resolutions were passed on any subject at that meeting. It adds, however, that in probably six hundred communities in this country the coming 22nd of February will be observed under Christian citizenship auspices.
When the popular observance of national holidays takes on a “religious tone,” those who fail to observe them religiously will suffer social ostracism, to say the least. Already it is accounted nothing less than sinful to continue secular work or engage in “rude sports” during the hours of church service on Thanksgiving day. And a like result must follow the establishment of the religious observance of Washington’s birthday.
It is worthy of notice that these national holidays will, under this change, stand upon exactly the same footing as the “holy days” of the Roman Catholic Church. Such days are marked by a religious observance, but not through their whole length. That church requires attendance at Mass or other religious services set apart for the day; and having complied with the church requirements in this respect, the Catholic communicant is at liberty to spend the remaining portion of the day as his own inclination may direct. He is not debarred from indulgence in the popular forms of amusement and recreation, provided these do not interfere with the religious observances which the church prescribes. And not only will these days stand upon the same level as the Catholic “holy days;” they will serve the same purpose. The Catholic “holy days” are for the purpose of exalting and glorifying the church. And when the Protestant Church acquires the prerogative of directing the observance of national holidays, she will thereby exalt herself, and become invested with new power and authority in the eyes of the people. But the whole principle of such procedure is papal, and not Christian; and only that which is in the likeness of the papacy can come out of it.
The only days which can properly be observed religiously are those commanded to be observed by the Creator; for religion is a matter the direction of which is His prerogative alone. He has commanded us to keep holy his Sabbaths, which come on the seventh day of each week. But the leading church bodies have discarded these, and instituted “holy days” of their own. And this is nothing else than a parallel to the spirit and work of the papacy.
THERE is nothing which behaves more uncivilly than the “civil sabbath.”