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NORTH AMERICA'S largest purveyor of Christian merchandise recently began opening its 315 stores on Sunday afternoons. Family Christian Stores touted its decision as a way to expand ministry opportunity. According to a press release, the firm sees it as a way of fulfilling its "calling to provide … Bibles, books and other Christian resources to meet their [customers'] needs—when their needs arise" (italics supplied). That sense of urgency makes them sound more like a crisis hotline than a retail store.

The media were quick to make comparisons with other Christian-owned businesses that do not open on Sundays: Lifeway Christian Stores, Mardel Christian and Educational Supplies, Hobby Lobby stores, and Chik-fil-A restaurants. Family Christian Stores did not see the parallels. "No one is going to hell if they don't eat a chicken sandwich on a Sunday," FCS president David Browne told The Dallas Morning News—as if souls hang in the balance because they can't buy Max Lucado or John Eldredge between noon and five on Sunday.

Hardly anybody thinks people are going to hell anymore if they do buy a chicken sandwich or go shopping on a Sunday. But The Charlotte Observer's Ken Garfield thinks that maybe U.S. culture is going to hell because of its surrender to the rat race. He called the FCS announcement "another sign of the culture turning Sunday into one more day in the rat race—that no matter what your faith, or even if you have no faith, life is too demanding to allow anyone to take a step back and a day off."

Garfield hinted at the spiritual dimension of a weekly day of rest: Faith is what allows people to emulate God and rest from their works. "Life is too demanding" for those of little faith, because the inability to rest is the ...

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November 2003

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