Q&A: Fear of Breaking the Sabbath?

A reader from Arkansas writes:

Hello, Mr. McNally. I saw your web site where you listed yourself as a former World Wide Church member. I am a former United Church of God member who is reviewing Karen Armstrong’s book, The history of God. It’s very informative to say the least.

How did you get over your fear not keeping the Sabbath? I’m really wrestling with that commandment. I still feel that eternal damnation is at my heels.

I’d really appreciate your input.

As long as you still think of yourself as a believer, then you’ll be wrestling with various “commandments,” because you’re trying to figure out what God wants you to do, and you ascribe special significance to things like the Ten Commandments. Eventually, I came to the place where I saw the Commandments as I see the rest of the Bible: not divinely inspired, but rather a work of folk literature created by humans. In this light, the Commandments are really just “suggestions” from a time and culture that no longer exists. And while some of them may still carry ethical validity depending on how they are interpreted, that in no way vindicates them all.

If you think you would enjoy reading an irreverent parable that discusses this concept in a humorous way, I recommend Kissing Hank’s Ass.

13 thoughts on “Q&A: Fear of Breaking the Sabbath?”

  1. Hi, “Reader from Arkansas”, Robert gave you a philosophical answer, but I can give you a more practical answer, at least the one that worked for me: I had just started a new job, and was asked to work overtime on “the Sabbath”.

    To this day, I’m sure my former employers and coworkers have no idea why I was so happy to be there, on that particular Saturday. Sure, getting on the bus, and having the industrial area where I worked at the time, be a virtual ghost town on the weekend, was a little freaky at first.

    Once I got in the door, and Surprise! No lightning bolt! I realized I could easily dispense with that last, niggling little bit of doubt left in my mind, about “breaking the Sabbath”, which I had not done, up to that point. (I hadn’t even gone grocery-shopping on Saturdays, before that.)

    I’m not sure if you were looking for a pragmatic answer or a biblical one, but I hope that helps!


  2. I left the church in the late 80s went back a few times and just didn’t feel right there .. Like I has said before I was BORN and Raised in “the church” So its been almost 2 decades since I attended and this is only the SECOND year coming up .. I am NOT keeping the “holy days” all these years .. I have been keeping the Sabbath .. keeping the holy days .. My husband is the one that works “ outside the home” so I didn’t bother to send money .. because I told my self .. I didn’t make any and he never attended .. this past atonement was the first I didn’t fast since the age of 8 years old .. It took me a few minutes to drink my morning soda .. but once I had it down .. I was okay and in fact happy .. as I have let everything go .. including the bible .. I have became the person I think I was born to be .. letting go of the small minded ways they enforce on me .. I remember one day a few years ago .. it just came to me .. hey .. I am going to grow old and die .. I was in the church in the 60s 70s and 80s .. and all they talked about was the END TIMES .. I never got a education .. because of that .. and never pursued the type of work I would have loved to do .. because of that .. so DAMNED brain washed .. But .. when I look back .. I can see the doubt .. I never ever knew I had at the time .. and now to throw all that crap off and discover who I truly am .. is so freeing and beautiful .. I wish it for all the X members !!!

  3. I sympathize with you, Lesa. I got roped in at 18 years of age and was enslaved for 22 years. It took some time to let go of Sabbaths, holy days, clean and unclean meats, etc. With each return to the sanity of my non-religious youth, more peace and happiness came back into my life.

    Today, near the end of this physical existence, I’m truly at peace. I’m not trembling before some “grupen fuhrer” on earth or in that nebulous heaven. Nor am I fearing some lake of fire. I have true peace — the kind of peace I wish to you, the anonymous poster and all others.

  4. I hope this will be forgiven as I don’t mean to preach, but to speak from a perspective we grew up on and is on topic. “Some think one day is more important than another and others think that every day is the same. Let all be sure in their own mind. Those who think one day is more important than other days are doing that for the Lord. And those who eat all kinds of food are doing that for the Lord, and they give thanks to God. Others who refuse to eat some foods do that for the Lord and they give thanks to God. ” Romans 14:5-6. HOW THE HECK DID WE MISS THAT ALL THOSE YEARS!!!??? I was blown away when I read it anew. I can tell you how I missed it. I had the same bible and read only the one ever for years and had the church interpretation for every scripture down for that translation. Imagine my surprise when I picked up a different transaltion that sounded so different and could not therefore remember the “correct interpretation” for the scriputures since they sounded so different. I had to read them for what they said instead of what I was told they said and meant. I have never gone back to my original translation, not that it is a bad translation, but it is bad for me. I got over the Sabbath and holy days pretty fast after I switched translations, but still struggle with the clean and unclean meat thing, but not because I think it is wrong. I can do pork without an issue since it just looks normal, but having never eaten seafood, I cringe at the idea of pulling a lobster or crab apart and eating it. I would be OK if someone else did that part and it just looked like a piece of meat. It just looks to gross for me. I don’t consider it a “religious” block at all anymore. I feel totally free to go to church on Sunday instead of the Sabbath (which I now do – and those people do it for the lord) or not go at all if I have other plans – though my life has Sunday services planned into it. But I feel no guilt in not going if I need to work or we want to go camping or the kids have something with school or sports. when I go I go because it is where I want to be, not because I am afraid of the tribulation and not making it to a place of safety or ending up in the lake of fire. What I do now I truly “Do for the Lord” without fear for missing some minor rule that will condemn me to eternal death. I have so much more peace in my life now and with my personal relationship with my savior – not one dictated by anyone else or some stupid church. I am where I am because I choose to be and if I choose to move to another church it will only be hard because I will have to start relationships over again, not because I fear I am “leaving my calling” or some crap. Good luck with your journey out of bondage. I know mine was a tough uphill battle for many years and I pray for all of you-yes I still do that too and I “do it for the Lord” once or 10 times a day or not for a week – my choice. AMEN!

  5. Christine,

    I can relate to the unclean meats thing. I don’t bat an eyelash over an occasional bacon-burger or a piece of catfish, but I still don’t buy pork chops. On a week-long business trip to Japan a while back, I made a point of trying everything that was put in front of me— which included a lot of seafood. Even though I enjoyed some of it, I still found myself squicked by shrimp, oysters, crab, eel, squid, and snails— simply due to my upbringing.

  6. But did you eat them anyway and not gag? And will you manage it another time? I just can’t get by shrimp looking like a big fat grub and lobster looks like a big red cockroach to me. I wonder if other people from other countries who have never been exposed to it feel like that or is there still something in me that thinks it’s wrong – I don’t think there is. And everyone seems to think it is sooooo good, I feel really stupid not being able to conquer this one. My boss invited me and my husband out for a lobster dinner. I felt really bad, but I ordered chicken. My husband tuffed it out, but he struggled too. He almost made it through a whole lobster, but told me he found the whole thing distasteful. He has done well with shrimp though. Has anyone else gotten by this one and if so how? I would really like to “do as the Romans do” so to speak.

  7. Do as the Romans do .. the whole point of freedom is to do what YOU want to do right :) .. I am Cajun and have never laid my lips on \unclean\ seafood .. yuck and no thanks .. not a bible thang at all .. cause I don’t do bible any more .. But I decided long ago .. I will not eat strange beast .. and if some one wants to buy you some .. No thanks .. i will take the chicken its fine .. People wont be offended if you don’t eat lobster .. the whole point is to live your life happy and if the thought of eating weird creatures makes you unhappy .. that’s a good enough reason not to ..I will only eat a few meats any way .. to much of a animals lover :) .. good luck either way ..

  8. Christine,

    How did I eat them and not gag? Well, I think after this many years out, I have enough psychological distance from the old WCG’s strictures that I can put my squicked-ness aside enough to try a strange food with an open mind. That said, unless I really fall in love with a particular food (and so far I haven’t) then it’s just easy to say I tried it and move on with my life.

    I basically agree with Lesa: don’t worry about offending anyone else by whether or not you choose to eat something for whatever reasons including your religious background. We all have quirks and eccentricities, and we really don’t need to justify them to anyone else.

  9. I’m a control freak. I like to get over things that keep a hold on me. I don’t want to control you or the other guy, but just what I can control (or should be able to) like myself…well I just hate to think this block is still there for me. I tried the lobster my husband put on my plate – when it just looked like a white piece of meat – and it was fine. I have managed to try shrimp a time or 2 and it was fine also. It is purely psychological I think and I hate to feel captive to it. If I tried it and truly did not like it, I would totally agree with you-let it go and move on, but there is this wrinkled old man in my background who had way too much conrol of me for way too long and I just want to be sure the geezer is truly banished. I can still hardly get it to my mouth without that feeling of repulsiveness. Maybe it is just numberous exposures to get used to it. If I find one I really don’t like, I will definately take your and Lena’s advise on that and skip it. I will do what I want when I am sure that is why I am doing it. Thanks for the feedback.

  10. well.. if you like the taste of it and want to eat it .. just keep trying it.. just like everything else .. you will get used to the idea and it will become normal to your life .. good luck !!!

  11. Ham sandwiches and diced ham with eggs have been favorites of mine since 1976, and a few years later I discovered the delicious pork chop. Pepperoni & Italian sausage on pizza? What amazing tastes people (I) missed all those years!

    As to the sabbath question, Robert nailed the answer so perfectly, I say no more.

  12. Ol’ Herbie himself said that if you are in a position whereby your host offers you unclean meat and declining would be offensive, you will not be sinning in eating it – clean/unclean is just a physical sin. He said that he himself had been in situations where he was visiting a foreign head of state and a feast/banquet was made in his honor and included unclean minutes. He ate!

    So, while Ol’ Herbie was pounding on others about clean and unclean meats, he would get his juicy pork chop or some scrumptous sea-food while on one of his (too) many foreign trips! Hey, that lobster or those shrimp cost more than some lousy cut of beef or some chicken quarters … so, let the common-folk buy cheap meats and have enough left over to send to HQ as tithes or offerings!

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