Sabbath: Restoring The Sacred Rhythm Of Rest, by Wayne Muller
This book was disappointing. On the positive side, it is to the author’s credit that he views the Sabbath as a liberating practice rather than something that impoverishes and diminishes life. The author has some insights to make on the need for people to rest and the way that the rise of consumerist culture has led to a decline in the practice of Sabbath observance. Likewise, the author speaks fondly of Henri Nouwen, and that is not a bad thing either. On the other hand, though, this book has a lot more to say about the author’s attempts to justify his religious practices without being too keen on following the Bible’s commandments than it does about how to actually follow God. The author makes plenty of leftist political talking points and tries to hype Hindu and Buddhist religious practices while avoiding the biblical command to fellowship on the Sabbath, praising instead the enjoyment of creation without necessarily seeking to obey and follow the Creator and His commandments. Even so, the appreciation the author has for the Sabbath is well worth celebrating even if it comes with a lot of less enjoyable elements.
This book is between 200 and 250 pages. It has a lot of short chapters and a fair amount of repetition, and discusses the need for rest as well as some ideas from the author’s experience about how one can keep the Sabbath. The author appears to think highly of Buddhist and Hindu spirituality and also has at least some interest in Jewish traditions even if he quite to be expected has some negative things to say about legalism. After chapters there are some ideas of various practices that one can adopt, ranging from prayer to nature walks to following Catholic ideas about the hours. Included in the discussion of the Sabbath is a lot of discussion about cultural shifts in attitudes about rest that went from a desire for more rest to a desire for more money. The author also seems to think that civic engagement of a leftist variety is a way of showing that one is following the biblical principles of the Sabbath, which is in general an example of how out of touch leftists are when they equate political engagement with obedience to God, a lamentably frequent occurrence when one reads social gospel texts like this one.
As is frequently the case when reading a book, the reader will gain a greater understanding of what the author thinks than what the Bible itself says. Sometimes what the author has to say is interesting but seldom is it nearly as interesting as it would be for someone to actually take the Bible seriously and follow what it has to say. As might be imagined, when the author talks about the Sabbath observance of the early church he is mistaken, seeking to magically transfer the divine obligation to remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy for a day that God never commanded to be observed but whose observance avoids the ridiculous claims that one is Jewish simply for obeying the biblical Sabbath commands. At any rate, it is striking that this book has so little to say about the Bible and so much to say about the author’s health, his move from New Mexico to California after some health difficulties. If you care about what the author has to think you will find much to enjoy here. If not, the reading could be a bit more tedious, but thankfully it’s not a long book anyway, even if it could have been a lot better.