While I was at church this past Sunday, at least one of my grandsons and his dad were at a little league game that started at 9 AM that morning. It’s quite probable that another of my grandsons had a game, too. I thought back to when I was growing up and how Sunday was a day dedicated to church and family time, and not a day filled with organized sports or other activities. In fact, when I was a kid in Illinois the state still had “Blue Laws”, which made it illegal to sell alcohol on Sundays and illegal to open retail stores. We used to drive across the Mississippi River into Missouri to shop on Sunday afternoon (after church, of course).
Now, I’m certainly not advocating a return to the Blue Laws days; however, I do find it both disappointing and somewhat offensive that Sundays have been turned into sports days. It seems that every little league sport of any sort now views Sunday mornings as fair game for practices or actual games. If it’s not baseball, it’s soccer or hockey or basketball or whatever. Our children are not only lured into these things, but are now actually forced into them by the pressure to start competitive sports at younger and younger ages. II have seen articles that blame the passage of the Title 9 laws back in 1972. Those laws encouraged (some might say mandated) the creation of programs to educate and keep children busy (and off the streets). Out of that start more and more “little leagues” for all sports grew, until we have what we have today – seven-days a week sports activities that not only keep our kids off the streets but out of churches as well.
Why is that so important? I believe that a case can be made that the teachings that children used to get by attending church and Sunday School were a critical part of their development into responsible adults. It was, and still is, the primary place that focused upon establishing a moral base for adulthood, through the teaching of right and wrong as defined within religious doctrine. It was a rite of passage on the journey to adulthood that we have largely abandoned as a society and we are much the poorer for that.
I believe that another thing that the usurping of Sundays has caused is exhaustion in both the children and the families. We no longer have a day that we set aside for relaxing and rejuvenation. Instead we are on the go rung to and from activities seven days a week. Not only don’t modern children get bored, they don’t get any rest either. There is less time for reading and play, because they have to get to the next game or to rehearsal for an upcoming recital. There is no time to just be a child; one has to get ready for the next competition. We are teaching them that it’s a win-lose world, a zero sum game in which the one who works the hardest wins. What a shame that they are no longer exposed to the win-win world of Christianity in which making the effort and helping others is more important than winning every time.
All of this could be avoided, if parents just took the stand that Sundays (at least the mornings) are not for sports, but for family time and for church. Unfortunately, the current generation of parents is among the first themselves to largely abandon organized religions. Perhaps that is the fault of the religions themselves, which were slow to change and recognize the needs of younger parishioners. The growth of modern, non-denominational churches sprung from the recognition of those needs and a willingness to change in order to fill them.
However, not all churches can make the change to so-called “modern” services, with praise bands and video productions and other attractions/distractions to lure the young and the bored. Hopefully, for those churches, God will find a way to bring back the folks who have wandered away to watch a Sunday morning game. Sometime, somehow, in the back of their minds God will plant the seed that they are missing something in their lives and that the best place to fill that void is in church. Let’s just hope that the churches can hold on long enough for them to have a place to go back to when that happens. I’ll be there to welcome you back if that happens to you.