Daily Archives: June 26, 2011

“Man and the Sabbath”

Footage of Toronto in the 1950s, a city Frye called “a good place to mind your own damn business”

We’ll be continuing with our Frye on God series next week. But Sunday’s a good day to take a look at his attitude toward the Sabbath, which we’ll do over the next few weeks.

In late 1949, the city of Toronto held a plebiscite on allowing Sunday sports. Frye in a February 1950 editorial in the Canadian Forum rather sardonically assesses the widely peddled conventional wisdom of the self-interested push for a no vote; noting, for example, that the Toronto Star “remained firm in its conviction that the Toronto Sunday should never be profaned by anything more secular than the Toronto Weekly Star.”

He concludes with this observation regarding the role of the churches:

Toronto municipal voters are largely a middle-class tax-paying group, and it is extremely unlikely that all or even the great majority of “yes” voters were entirely outside all Christian communions. If the vote means anything, it surely means something like this: people are increasingly unable to believe in the disinterestedness of the churches, or in their ability to distinguish a moral issue from one that merely appears to threaten their social and economic position. That the churches are spending far too much of their energies in an inglorious rearguard action against the incidental vices of society; that they cannot distinguish from cause and effect in social evil; that they have not only tended to retreat into the propertied middle class, but are no longer coming to grips with the real needs even of that class. This is clearly the attitude, or something like the attitude, implied in the Toronto vote. It may be utterly wrong; but an institution committed to humility and self-examination cannot afford to underestimate or disregard the good faith of its critics. (CW 4, 269)