Date of Award

Fall 2018

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Department

History

First Advisor

Nicole Maskiell

Abstract

In the first half of the 1800s, American Christians posed fundamental questions about the role of faith in daily life by debating blue laws, which restricted Sunday travel, mail delivery, and recreational activities on the basis of the Fourth Commandment. Historians have largely focused on how pro-blue law Christians, or Sabbatarians, answered these questions. They also present anti-Sabbatarian concerns as socially, economically, or politically motivated, largely ignoring religion. However, an examination of religious periodicals, convention reports, correspondence, and petitions shows that many anti-Sabbatarians did indeed frame their arguments in theological terms. Case studies from various faith traditions over four decades demonstrate that anti- Sabbatarian theology commonly transcended denominations, geographical areas, and time, indicating a certain degree of stability and consistency in nineteenth-century American religious life. Understanding how theology can motivate people to act in other realms of life is not only useful when studying the past; it is also a tool that can be used to thoughtfully and effectively engage in dialogue with others today.

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