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The Annual Excuse for Being Late for Church

“My times are in thy [God’s] hands,” the Psalmist wrote. But the Psalmist had not heard about Daylight Saving Time.

Beginning Sunday we will have more hours in which to work or play. (This does not pertain to those who work or play all night.) From the first Sunday in April until the last Sunday of October we once again will be in the world of Daylight Saving Time.

Some citizens see turning the clocks back and forth as messing with God’s law. Congress, well known for tampering with everything, enacted a time law in 1918. Nearly 50 years later Congress established Daylight Saving Time as the law of the land.

Why it must begin at 2 a.m. in April, yet begin at 1 a.m. in October is beyond my understanding. Pity the pure literalist who gets up at that hour to change the clocks.

The early American humorist, inventor and statesman Ben Franklin, is often cited as “inventing” the Daylight Saving Time idea. This bit of faux trivia began when he wrote a piece for a Paris newspaper stressing the economic advantages of setting the hands of the clock back in the summertime.

In a typical self-parody, Franklin wrote that he came to this idea when he was accidentally awakened one morning at six. He was shocked to see so much sunlight so early. He liked to play chess and enjoyed conversation far into the night and early morning. As a result he normally slept until noon. (When he was younger, Franklin wrote in Poor Richard’s Almanac “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Apparently as he advanced in years he ignored this bit of wisdom.)

In the humorous piece, Franklin wrote that the economical advantage of turning the clock back in summer would be seen in using fewer candles “if the light of the sun was used from the moment it rises each day.”

He proposed various ways to get sleeping citizens out of their beds at the crack of dawn. He urged everything from ringing of church bells and firing of cannons to levying a tax on the number of windowpanes in each house. He concluded his fun piece saying he freely gave this idea to the public and did not want a reward. “Just the honor of it” was all he requested.

Franklin wrote this humorous piece 221 years ago. While he was having a little fun others took him seriously. Numerous Daylight Saving Time histories continue to give Franklin credit for the idea.

If you think turning the clock hands fore and aft twice a year is a burden, consider William Willett’s plan. In 1907 this London builder came up with the brilliant idea of advancing clocks 20 minutes on each of four Sundays in April, and then reversing the action on four Sundays in September.

There was a lot of opposition in Europe, mainly from farmers, and summer time did not become law in England until 1925. American farmers also opposed the law when passed in the United States in 1966.

Every year on the April Sunday the clocks hands are pushed forward an hour, folks forget to change their clocks and arrive at church as the service ends. That excuse is good only once a year.

Britt Towery is a retired missionary-educator whose opinions appear every Friday in the Bulletin in Brownwood, Texas,.