By Bob Allen
Baptists in North Carolina opposed to ending the state’s ban on Sunday hunting got some accommodation in a compromise measure passed by the legislature that prohibits hunting with a firearm between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on Sundays, hours when most rural congregations gather for Bible study and worship.
Mark Creech, head of the Christian Action League — an interdenominational public policy organization representing conservative Christian groups including the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina — called the final version of the bill sent to the governor June 30 a “partial victory for us.”
“The Christian Action League appreciates the sensitivity and respect shown by lawmakers in adding this provision,” said Creech, who broke with fellow conservatives in the National Rifle Association to oppose lifting North Carolina’s century-and-a-half ban on Sunday hunting. “Moreover, without such a provision, I am concerned other Sunday laws already on the books that show deference to the churches could be jeopardized.”
Creech, a former Southern Baptist pastor, said many people today view any effort to defend a special observance of the Lord’s Day as old-fashioned, puritanical and impractical in today’s complex economy.
“But the fact is, if we have no concern for setting aside one day a week for special worship and focus on the things of God, we’re not likely to honor the Lord the other six days of the week,” Creech wrote in a commentary. “If we are concerned about using all the days properly, we should also be concerned about using the Lord’s Day right.”
Despite arguments to the contrary, Creech submitted that “if we are to reconnect with our spiritual moorings, if our nation is to once again be restored to its former glory, if we are truly to maintain our heritage, it will involve a return to honoring and keeping the Lord’s Day.”
Creech said Sunday rest is intended “not just for man” but for animals as well.
“Man and nature run on a seven-day clock,” he said. “One day is essential for rewinding. Sunday is for worship — a time to be still and listen for the voice God — a time to break away from our focus on the temporal and give ourselves to those things eternal — a time to concentrate on character building — a time to make certain we are adequately concerned for God’s business and not just our own.”
“This legislation by no means outlaws the Lord’s Day or destroys it, but it does add an additional distraction by law that simply allows it to go by default,” Creech said. “Human experience has shown us the importance of the Lord’s Day. We do not live by bread alone, neither are we the sum total of our amusements and indulgences. We live by a right relationship to God and in obedience to his commands.”
The Baptist Faith and Message describes the Lord’s Day as “a Christian institution for regular observance.”
“It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should include exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private,” the official confessional statement of the Southern Baptist Convention says in Article 8. “Activities on the Lord’s Day should be commensurate with the Christian’s conscience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.”
While most attention to revisions to the Baptist Faith in Message in 2000 focused on narrowing parameters regarding the role of women in the church and home, the reworded article on the Lord’s Day softened language used in 1925 and 1963 versions saying Sunday should be characterized “by refraining from worldly amusements, and resting from secular employments, work of necessity and mercy only being excepted.”