There has long been an inevitability about North Dakota abolishing the blue or Sunday closing laws. We are the last state to have had a comparatively broad prohibition of business on Sunday. A Forum editorial last January pointed out the helter-skelter inconsistency of what could be sold on Sundays and when. For example, one could rent a video but not buy one, and now online services have largely marginalized both anyway. A North Dakota with strict blue laws would be a no-man's land on Sundays for travelers, transporters and others. A technologically dependent society could hardly afford that.

Others have argued that the state has no business telling us when we can and can't shop. In our modern prosperity Sunday is a day of recreation, to do things like camping, swimming and going to movies, not a day to merely relax from hard labor. In the distant past there wouldn't have been much money left for fun spending anyway. These are enticing arguments, but as the Ghost of Christmas Past said to Scrooge: We see what you gained by your life's course, now let's see what you gave up. To be blunt, we are turning away from our Christian roots to an insatiable materialism. We put convenience and financial gain ahead of even a few hours of cultural or moral respite. “Getting and spending,” Wordsworth wrote, “we lay waste our powers.”


Attendance at Christian churches has been dropping for years and it follows that adherence to blue laws would fade as well. Yet, as Thomas Cooley maintained, America was founded as a nation of Christians whose “moral sense is largely regulated by the religious belief” they held. He further remarked that the best parts of the common law are founded in or inspired by Christian tenets. This doesn't mean that America is an official Christian nation, such as England whose monarch is also the Defender of the Faith. America's founders deliberately avoided that fate.

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We'll see how post-Christian America turns out eventually, probably something like stultified, imploding western Europe. Perhaps we'll sense what French scholar Ernest Renan, who turned from a religious upbringing to skepticism, felt about an old French myth of a town named Is that was swallowed by the sea (Brand Blanshard translation):

On stormy days , they say, one may see in the trough of the waves the steeple tops of its churches; on days of calm one hears the sound of bells rising from the abyss and caroling the hymn of the day. It often comes over me that I have at the bottom of my heart a town of Is, which goes on ringing its insistent bells and summoning to the sacred offices the faithful who no longer hear them. Sometimes I stop and cup my ear for these tremulous tones which seem to reach me from infinite depths like voices from another world. Especially with the coming of old age, it has been a pleasure in the repose of summer to recall these far-off echoes of an Atlantis that has vanished.