Should Labor Day Be a Day of Prayer for the U.S.?

Odd questions, right?  Assuming Wikipedia has this one right, here is what Labor Day’s original intent was all about:

The first big Labor Day in the United States was observed on September 5, 1882, by the Central Labor Union of New York.[1] It was first proposed by Peter J. McGuire of the American Federation of Labor in May 1882 [2]

Oregon was the first state to make it a holiday in 1887. By the time it became a federal holiday in 1894, thirty states officially celebrated Labor Day.[2]. Following the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of the U.S. military and U.S. Marshals during the Pullman Strike, President Grover Cleveland reconciled with the labor movement. Fearing further conflict, legislation making Labor Day a national holiday was rushed through Congress unanimously and signed into law a mere six days after the end of the strike.[3] The September date originally chosen by the CLU of New York and observed by many of the nation’s trade unions for the past several years was selected rather than the more widespread International Workers’ Day because Cleveland was concerned that observance of the latter would stir up negative emotions linked to the Haymarket Affair, which it had been observed to commemorate.[4] All U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the territories have made it a statutory holiday.

Pattern of celebration

The form for the celebration of Labor Day was outlined in the first proposal of the holiday: A street parade to exhibit to the public “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations”,[1] followed by a festival for the workers and their families. This became the pattern for Labor Day celebrations. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civil significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.[1]

Something to think about:

If the original intent of Labor Day was to celebrate the strength of the economy, specifically trade and labor, should we be celebrating right now or praying?  A few things go through my mind.  Yes, I am thankful for what we have.  Comparatively speaking(with other countries), we have a ton to celebrate.  However, are we today, ironically, demonstrating our ignorance to the reality of our present status as a country?  On a greater level, are our spending habits a mere reflection of our countries moral condition, thus exhibiting the status of our countries present foundation?   On a day when unemployment is high, we are celebrating?   On a day when our nation’s dept is astronomical and accelerating, we celebrate?  On a day when markets are struggling, we are celebrating?

Do I like Labor Day?  Totally.  I usually spend it with family and extended family enjoying one another, eating great grilled out food, playing games, being outside, and maybe getting a home project done (yes, thankful for a house too).

Why did I write this post?  I wanted to help point our thoughts toward thanking God today for what we have while also recognizing a bit of the irony of the day.  My prayers go out to those today that do not have a job, as well as our country as a whole regarding our overall condition.

Andy Woodall
Andy Woodall served as the Pastor of Student Ministries at Faith from 1999-2012.