Thursday, September 04, 2003

From Blue Laws to the Law of Green-I’ve got some misgivings about this story on Family Christian Store's decision to open from 12-5 on Sundays, starting first in Dallas and rolling out the policy nationwide. That link will require registration, you can pass on reading it if you like. Jason Steffans pointed out this interesting post from Jared Bridges-
...the CEO of Family Christian Stores, Dave Browne, said:
"This was a decision that we took very seriously," Mr. Browne said. "But after prayer, study and seeking the counsel of others, it became clear to us that the ministry opportunity of opening on Sundays vastly outweighed the operational preference of the status quo." He considers his decision to open on Sunday different from Chick-fil-A's because Family Christian sells "ministry products." "No one is going to go to hell if they don't eat a chicken sandwich on a Sunday," he said.
Does this mean that someone is going to hell if they don't buy an It's All About Jesus Candy Tin, a Fruits of the Spirit canister set, and a Praying Puppy stuffed animal? I think not.
This is a business decision. Family Christian is a major bookstore chain and is run as a business. In the article, Browne mentions that competition from church bookstores is driving the decision. Maybe things are a bit different in other places, but the $40-$50 of sales from the Lakeland Vineyard’s resource room isn’t going do much to help the bottom line. Some churches, like the big Victory Church in Lakeland, have a large, well-stocked bookstore that would likely drain some business, but not that much. I don’t think too many people will say “Let’s skip the church bookstore, we can pick it up at Family Christian next to Wal-Mart on our way home.” There are sales that Rupert Murdock isn't getting and they want to claim that market share. What's Murdock got to do with this? Yes, News Corp. owns Harper Collins, which bought Zondervan, Family Christian’s parent company, back in the late 80s. This is big business, with $4 billion in sales last year. While the people working at the local Family Christian may be good and faithful folks, the business is run as a business first and foremost. Corporate decisions will be based with the bottom line in mind. I don't to get too puritanical, but Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest. We'll go out to McDonalds after church for a cheap $1.19 All-American Meal with some of our Lake Wales friends and occasionally hit the grocery store on the way home, but Sunday shouldn't be the day to do all the errands you couldn't get to on Saturday. "Customers tell us that they work Monday through Friday, are occupied with soccer and the kids' activities on Saturday[.]" Might that be a sign that you're over-scheduling yourself and need to build in some more down time during the rest of the week. If you need to run lots of errands on Sunday, you're too busy. Being open on Sunday isn't evil in and of itself. It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath, and the stores that do stay open do serve the public. However, stores that supply non-necessities, such as CDs and books, should be able to afford to close on Sunday, especially for a clientele that understands the need to have Sunday off. Having Family Christian open will make it harder for workers to take Sundays off and for Christian-owned businesses to stay closed on Sunday. "Hey, even the Christian bookstore's open on Sunday, you can skip church this week." Chick-fil-a can't get into many malls, for they don't want that vacant spot on Sunday; this will give secular mall owners more ammunition to force them to open on Sundays. Also, a lot of stuff happens between 12 and 5. Church lunches, meetings, youth activities will often go on in those hours. Plus, not every church gets done at noon. People going to big churches might have the option to go to an early service, but a worker whose single-service church starts at 10 and ends about 12:30 will be under some pressure to skip church. This might be counter-productive to Family Christian. Our household will now be more likely to shop at alternative Christian stores, like Lighthouse Christian in Winter Haven or Pathway in Midland, MI. I still have a $25 gift certificate to Family Christian left over from my birthday, but the trip to spend that will likely be the last time I’ll be there for a while.

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