One of the things I loved most about life in Germany was experiencing the country’s observance of the Sunday Law.
The German Constitutional Court decreed that Sunday is to be “a day of rest from work and [one] of spiritual improvement”. With the exception of public transportation, a few restaurants, ice cream shops and a few gas stations, life slows down. Germans use Sunday to spend time with their families, many of which can be seen taking walks together.
When I moved away from Utah for the first time (to Kansas in 1999), I remember someone saying they didn’t care for my home state because, among other complaints, “everything” was closed on Sundays. More business establishments are open in Utah on Sundays now than there were in 1999, but there is still enough of a contrast between here and other states that outsiders notice the lighter traffic and closed stores.
But after living in Germany, even my small Utah city seems noisy on Sundays.
For many people in my Utah neighborhood, Sunday is a day for mowing their lawn, cutting down trees, running their skill saws with open garage doors, washing their cars to the sound of blaring and thumping music, or any number of tasks that they didn’t find time for during the rest of the week.
In Germany, if you attempt any of the above chores on a Sunday (or even between the Quiet Hours, 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m.–give or take a few hours depending on where you live), you will at least get stern looks or reprimands from your neighbors, or worse find the Polizei on your doorstep.
There’s nothing like living in another country or state to open your eyes to the irony of your own home town. And vice versa. I find it ironic that there are numerous churches in America, a steeple or two on every other square mile in Utah, and a great many Americans who attend church on their Sabbath, while in Germany very few people practice their religion or attend church and their church houses are more for the tourists*. Yet, in general, the Germans are more strict with their day of rest than the Americans are.
Personally, I’m a fan of the Sabbath day commandment and have experienced enough to know it is of more benefit to man than to God. Besides that, I’m very fond of the Sunday nap. While I agree that a government should not tell me how and when and where to practice my religion or when to take my naps–and believe there is great concern for the future of religious freedom in America–I would not be opposed to having every Sunday as peaceful as the ones I experienced in Germany.
While I’m dreaming, as part of my peaceful German Sunday day of rest observed by all without a government enacted law, I would also like to request the church bell tower from the village where we lived be moved to my neighborhood corner. The bells rang for fifteen minutes every Sunday morning at 8 a.m. announcing the call to worship.
I wonder though… if we had those same bells ringing in my Utah neighborhood, how many of us would tune them out?
*Check out this interesting chart comparing the Religion and Morality in Germany and the U.S.