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Book of Sports, Work Life Balance

June 15, 2015 , , , ,

Book of Sports

Book of Sports

When James I of England published the Book of Sports in 1617 it caused an uproar from the Puritans.  The belief that no work or pleasure should take place on the sabbath was much debated at that time in Britain.  The book was published after King James had his very own translation of the Bible released.  Trouble was brewing in the British Isles that would eventually lead to the settlement of Plymouth Colony.  The Puritans believed that all citizens must be required to attend religious services on Sunday, and they wanted them mandatory morning and evening on that day.  Many of my own ancestors left England to live in Holland for a decade about that time, before sailing on the Mayflower to America.  All the countries in Europe posed problems to their ideals except the Netherlands.  There they could practice their severe brand of religion.  There they built up strength to go to the new world.

The concept is taught to American children that these people came to America for religious freedom. That is only partially the case.  They wanted to be free to dominate others and force them to follow Puritan rules. The freedom was just for their own religious beliefs, but did not apply to the beliefs of others.  They were convinced of the righteousness of their logic.  This made life in the new colony very contentious. It was easy to run afoul of the Pilgrim fathers who were all about sabbath and strict adherence.

Charles I reissued the Declaration of Sports in 1633, continuing the tradition of requiring attendance to religious services (in the Church of England) to qualify to dance, leap, or play sports on Sunday.  There were a few sports not permitted on the sabbath such as bear and bull baiting and bowling.  Charles I expanded the merriment to include local fairs and festivals on the list of sanctioned Sunday activities.  England was trending Puritan in the 1630’s. In 1643 the book was publicly burned.  When Charles II was restored to the throne after the English Civil War in 1660 the country was liberated from the strict sabbath rules and could once again party on Sunday afternoons.

When we think about sports and religion in America today we observe a very different story.  Church attendance and membership are dropping off dramatically, but sports dominate the public attention.  It is ironic to think that our initial colony was founded to make sure that Sunday would be sport free for everyone.  I wonder what the Pilgrim fathers would think of the NFL and the NBA.

What do you think?

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