Your Liberation Library
Title: Sabbath as Resistance: Saying NO to the Culture of Now
Author: Walter Brueggemann, ThD; PhD
Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014, 2017
Liberation Library One Sentence Summary:
Brueggemann outlines how the “Sabbath represents a radical disengagement from the producer-consumer rat race of the empire” and “an embrace of good fruits of life and joy, of praise and shalom” (p. 54-55 & 57).
What are the main concerns being addressed?
Brueggemann shows how the Sabbath helps us resist breaking the first and last commandments against idolatry and covetousness, respectively. The idols represent “the gods of market ideology that summon to endless desires and needs that are never met but that always require yet greater effort” (p. 13). Worshiping these gods leads us to see each other merely as commodities. People become merely the means of accumulating and consuming our endless and fleeting desires. “In our own contemporary context of the rat race of anxiety, the celebration of Sabbath is an act of both resistance and alternative” (p. xiii). This alternative exalts our view of God and our value of humanity.
Were these concerns clearly stated?
Yes, Brueggemann sandwiches his chapters between “Sabbath and the First Commandment,” and “Sabbath and the Tenth Commandment.” The chapters in between challenge cultural values, encourage resistance to them, and lead us to imagine alternative ways of living.
What are the book’s strengths and contributions?
It gives us a fuller picture of how the Sabbath is beneficial to us individually and socially. Brueggemann doesn’t abandon personal piety in favor of addressing social concerns, nor does he preach piety to the neglect of systemic sins. He insists on the interconnection of the two spheres. Therefore, far from the Sabbath being an obsolete, legalistic burden, it is one of the most relevant and emancipating principles in the Bible.
What do you wish the author would have added?
Clarity on which day the Sabbath is and what difference it makes. He states that Christians need to learn many things from Judaism about the Sabbath, but doesn’t bring home one of the obvious ways that Christians have sought to distance themselves from Judaism. Saturday is the seventh-day Sabbath of the Bible, spoken about in both Old and New Testaments. So, if embracing the Sabbath is to lead us to the individual and social transformation the author persuasively argues, then we should all be clear about which day it is so we can collectively fulfill its potential.
Conscience quickening quotes for your Liberation Library
“Sabbath is not only resistance. It is alternative… The alternative on offer is the awareness and practice of the claim that we are situated on the receiving end of the gifts of God” (p. xiv).
“Sabbath is not simply a pause. It is an occasion for reimagining all social life away from coercion and competition to compassionate solidarity” (p. 45).
“Those who refuse Sabbath produce only sour grapes, the grapes of wrath and violence and envy and, finally, death. Sabbath is a refusal of the grapes of wrath, an embrace of good fruits of life and joy, of praise and shalom,” (p. 57).
“Worship that does not lead to neighborly compassion and justice cannot be faithful worship of YHWH. The offer is a phony Sabbath!” (p. 64).
“Multitasking is the drive to be more than we are, to control more than we do, to extend our power and our effectiveness. Such practice yields a divided self, with full attention given to nothing… The Sabbath commandment is an urgent summons to break the pattern of the divided heart… before it is too late,” (p. 67, 68).
What was so liberating about the book?
Brueggemann challenges us to examine if we’re guilty of worshiping false gods that lead us to unintentionally dehumanize each other. The Sabbath reminds us that our worth comes from being created in the image of a generous God, not because of how much we can produce, consume, and show off.