The War Against Rest

Sabbath piety and sabbath politics

The Christian Century, Nov 17, 2014 by Benjamin J. Dueholm

Maria Fernandes died for the sake of a nap. The 32-year-old held three part-time jobs, and between shifts at two different Dunkin’ Donuts locations she stopped in a parking lot in Elizabeth, New Jersey, to sleep in her car. Fumes from a spilled fuel container that had tipped over—she worried about running out of gas—and exhaust from her vehicle ended her life on August 25. According to her manager, this was the first time Fernandes failed to show up or answer her phone. Her friends remembered a generous, sentimental, spirited young woman.

Fernandes was part of what economist Joe Seneca calls the “real face of the recession”: 7.5 million American workers cobbling together a living from part-time jobs. While the shortage of full-time jobs at adequate wages is a familiar story in America’s lingering downturn, the cruel shortage of sleep is not.

It should be. “A battle against leisure is unfolding,” Ryan Jacob claims in a Pacific Standard article called, provocatively enough, “Are Sundays Dying?” Citing Canadian survey data, Jacob found that even in this last citadel of repose, religious observances, socializing, eating at home, and, yes, sleep had all declined on Sundays between 1981 and 2005. During the same period, time spent working increased dramatically.

Churches have, in a manner of speaking, taken notice. Late rising and the newspaper, once the frequently cited competitors to Sunday worship, have been replaced with youth sports leagues. But sports are only part of the story. Rest is leaking out of the world through work, too. Maria Fernandes died after a Sunday night graveyard shift. An online fund-raiser covered her burial expenses.


To read more see The Christian Century: