So, the newshounds have finally caught up with An Lanntair’s plans to open one Sunday each month. It is a big deal for them, and for those people living in Lewis who don’t like the island very much the way it is. For the media, it is an excuse to point the quaint, wee island out to mainland sophisticates, so they can laugh at our eccentric ways. Somewhere, right now, I guarantee you, a ‘journalist’ is writing copy that contains the words, ‘they’ve only recently been allowed to hang their washing out on Sunday’.
People outside of Lewis love this. To them, we are hilarious anachronisms in black clothes. The only modern thing about us is the microchip implanted in our heads, controlled by the minister from his study computer. Him and his big, fluffy, white cat.
We are other. And we always have been. It makes us fair game.
Here, I’ll empty out the sack of cliches, and you can write the headlines yourselves – just pick and mix. Strictly Sabbatarian. Narrowly Presbyterian. Deeply Religious. Chained-up swings. Swimming prohibited. Wee Frees. Disapproval. Opposition. Planes. Ferries.
You know, the usual sort of thing. Journalists are after a couple of hundred easy words, so I suppose it’s no wonder they resort to rummaging in the stereotype bin. Tomorrow, they will be casually ripping into someone else’s community.
The people I really don’t understand are the ones who live here in the island. I get that they want to make it like everywhere else; no one can punish them for the fact that they apparently lack any feeling for the uniqueness of the place. We have a saying in Gaelic, ‘an rud nach d’ fhuair Niall, chan iarrar air e’. Similar, I suppose to the English: what would you expect from a horse, but a kick?
But do they never stop, in their endless, whining, ‘but I waaaaant’, to think about why Lewis has not ‘caught-up’ with the rest of the country? Could it possibly be because Lewis did not need to be like other places, having enough of its own character to stand apart?
However, the decision is made. The cinema will open one Sunday a month. To begin with. And then the gallery, the cafe, the shop. Will that be enough for our restless secularists who apparently can’t be alone with their families even one day a week? Of course not. Already they are talking about the swimming pool. Then it will be buses, shops, supermarkets . . .
Then, though? Then, they will be satisfied?
Not even then. Discontentment like theirs knows no end. That’s why they are building themselves this house of cards – they think, ‘one more blow against the Lord’s Day and we will be happy; one more victory over Christ and we will have Him beaten’.
They expect opposition from the church. No – correction – they want opposition from the church. It entitles them to rail against religious privilege, if anyone representing an island church raises even one objection to this latest ‘development’.
Well, they won’t get it. The time for that is long past. They are using their God-given free will to spend their time as they choose. Nothing I or anyone else can say will change that. Already, they know that it’s wrong to keep none of it back in tribute to Him. Oh, they’ll deny it. But they know.
It is called the Lord’s Day, not because He commands us to spend it in chains, bored, and reading the Bible without understanding.
He wants us to fulfil our purpose, which is twofold: to glorify Him, and to enjoy Him.
This is not the language of bondage, but of freedom. God wants us to choose to spend time in His presence – He doesn’t compel, or command; and He will not drag you to Himself kicking and screaming.
Though, one day, you may wish He had.
And, even though this step has been taken, it does not mean the atheists have won. They are not victorious in any sense that I can envy. I can say that even though the auditorium will be full on the first open Sunday, because every ticket has already been sold.
It was calculated that way. Some savvy person knew that these superior beings who will not allow their children to be duped by fairytales from the Middle East, would like nothing better than a Sunday afternoon watching aliens and spaceships.
Harmless escapism? I suppose that all depends on what you’re fleeing from.
Meantime, we Christians will be invoking that much talked-about religious privilege. We only have the one, but it really is all we need. ‘The force’, you might call it.
It is our privilege to pray for those who will not pray for themselves. We pray that their eyes will be opened to the folly of what they’re doing; we pray that they will get a heart of wisdom.
Closed minds and deaf ears will not hear our protests; but God is waiting for our petitions. Not – lest they wilfully misunderstand and take offence – petitions that He should smite them, nor anything of that nature. This isn’t Star Wars, you know.
No. Prayers that they will see Him as He really is. And that they will take hold of that for themselves. This is not about power, or imposing a Sabbatarian lifestyle on others.
For the Christian, this is much more important than lifestyle – it is about life. We would have everyone choose that themselves.