Last night I accompanied my lovely wife and our youngest daughter to see Disney’s A Christmas Carol in 3D. It was quite an experience on many levels; from watching a fast-moving 3D movie while suffering from vertigo, to trying to enjoy one of my all-time favorite Christmas stories despite Jim Carry playing the main character. Overall though, it was a good film which I heartily enjoyed. The creators stayed mostly true to the original yet added a few “Disney-like” interpretations which were good for the ride.
Unfortunately, I can’t say the film was perfect. I took issue with one small portion of the story and while it would probably be a minor thing to most people, it seems to me Disney inserted one particular scene for no other purpose than to take a back-handed slap against Biblical Christianity. I find that to be maddening.
The issue revolves around a scene where Ebeneezer Scrooge, accompanied by the Ghost of Christmas Present, stands over a local bakery and observes as customers are busy preparing for their Christmas dinner. Scrooge turns to the ghost and accuses him and his brethren of being cruel to the poor by forcing this bakery to be closed every seventh day. Scrooge says it’s the baker’s livelihood and the only way for the people to get their food, thus it should remain open seven days a week.
The ghost responds by saying there are men in the world who claim to know him and his brethren but in fact, do not. These “men of the cloth”, as the ghost puts it, are responsible for shutting the bakery. He tells Scrooge to blame them, not him and his fellow ghosts.
Now I admit, maybe I’m over reacting a bit, but I found this scene to be troubling on several levels. First of all, the closing of the bakery every seventh day is clearly a reference to stores and businesses being closed on Sundays; an old religious custom that is no longer practiced in most places. The fact the ghost references men of the cloth as being responsible is further proof that he’s blaming the Christian tradition of keeping businesses shut on Sunday for alleged hardships it might cause the poor.
Second, it was completely unnecessary to the story and as far as I know, is not even part of Dickens original writing. I’ve seen every version of A Christmas Carol and don’t recall this scene in any of them (if I’m wrong, I apologize here and now), so why insert it in Disney’s story?
Third, and probably the thing that makes this whole scene offensive, is the implication by the ghost that the religion he represents (necromancy) is somehow superior to Christianity because ghosts would allow a business to remain open on Sunday. This is preposterous! I will gladly stack up the merits of Christianity against those of necromancy any day; Christianity will always come out the clear winner. But that’s a different blog for a different day.
But getting back to the idea of businesses being closed on Sundays, do you remember when America used to observe that tradition? I do. When I was young my parents made sure all the grocery shopping was done on Friday night, the gas tank was filled Saturday afternoon, and on Sunday the city was a ghost town except for the churches filled with worshipers. After church we would go home to await the arrival of my grandparents or even pile in the car and go to Buffalo to visit them. Sunday was a day of peace, rest, and family.
I also remember when our city and state leaders began discussing the idea of businesses opening on Sunday. Being that I was so young I don’t know which businesses were closed voluntarily and which were regulated, but I do know there was a lot of controversy when the shops and stores began opening on Sunday. One the one hand I’m glad government regulation doesn’t prohibit Sunday business; we all could use less government. But on the other hand, would it kill us to honor the idea of the sabbath and voluntarily refrain from business just one day a week?
Stephen Grover Cleveland, the former President, NY governor, and mayor of Buffalo once wrote:
“The citizen is a better business man if he is a Christian gentleman, and, surely, business is not the less prosperous and successful if conducted on Christian principles…”
According to Cleveland, business is better off for both the business man and the consumer when it’s conducted according to Christian principles, an idea with which I couldn’t agree more. When God remains Supreme and all business is subject to his authority, he will direct things to be done that will benefit all of mankind, across the board. But when business becomes supreme it acts in its own self-interests without regard for those whom it may negatively impact. To me, the choice is clear.
If I could speak to the fictional Scrooge and Ghost of Christmas Present, I would challenge them both to provide historical evidence to support the idea that business must be conducted seven days a week. Did we as a nation suffer significantly back in the early seventies when we couldn’t buy gas on Sunday? Are the poor any better off now that they can purchase goods and services on Sunday? The obvious answer to these questions is “no’ and I would dare say we were all better off when the nation observed its sabbath of sorts in days past.
I am a capitalist indeed, but I am a God-fearing man first and a family man second. To me, God and family out weigh any perceived benefits of a seven day business week regardless of the economic benefits. When business was closed on Sundays it was a built-in day when everyone was guaranteed to have free time to spend in worship and with family oriented activities. But now, even though most Americans still normally work only five days, having businesses open every day of the week presents boundless opportunities for conflicting schedules. Worship and family time are not planned for or depended upon any more, so these things fall by the way side.
I have owned several businesses in my life time, and although I was always my only employee, I still committed to not working on Sundays. Every once in a while an emergency would come up that would change my plans, but for the most part I remained faithful to the day of rest. I can say with complete confidence that none of my businesses suffered from taking Sundays off. Even if they had, the time spent with my family at church and doing other things together is more precious to me than any amount of silver and gold. So I didn’t make a few extra bucks; so I sacrificed a bit of luxury in order to benefit my immediate family as well as my Christian one. Isn’t that the precious lesson Ebeneezer Scrooge was supposed to learn from his frightening Christmas Eve experience?
Dickens ended his story on that glorious Christmas morning by saying his grouchy old hero went on to be a man of his word and one who kept Christmas throughout the year. If I could write a sequel it would include Scrooge spending his Sundays with the Cratchit family while the bakery and his own counting house remained dark for the day. The day of rest was God’s invention; he will take care of those who willingly honor it, for in so doing we are honoring him.
So God bless us, everyone!