In Act 1 of The Crucible, why are some people, including Proctor, inclined to stay away from the sabbath meeting?
John Proctor presents two reasons that people in Salem sometimes choose not to attend church on the sabbath.
The first reason relates to Proctor's feelings toward Reverend Parris. Proctor does not like Parris and feels that Parris makes demands on the town that are unfair. Parris is taking advantage of his position as a leader in the church.
This aspect of his personality is evident in his dispute about whether the provision of his firewood should be taken out of his salary or is extra to it.
The two men have had public arguments on this point before the action of the play begins, as we discover in the early scenes of the play. Proctor also chooses not to baptise his youngest children because he does not want Reverend Parris to touch them.
Proctor feels that there is nothing holy or sanctified about Parris. With this Reverend, going to church is not a holy communal experience, but instead ends up being a lecture on what the town owes its church leaders.
The second reason Proctor presents for not attending church relates to work. The land in Salem has not been easy to work for the people there. Attention and diligence must be paid to ensure a crop.
When opportunity arises for a better crop, some farmers feel that they should tend the fields and seize the opportunity, even if that means missing church.
Proctor in particular feels that Parris is insulting and rude. Look at churches today! What makes people not go? The idea that someone is going to tell them that something is wrong with them and they are not doing a good job at living life. What's worse is when the guy talking does a pretty bad job at living life too. This was the case with Parris:
I have trouble enough without I come five miles to hear him preach only hellfire and bloody damnation. Take it to heart, Mr. Parris. There are many others who stay away from church these days because you hardly ever mention God anymore.
Proctor said this of Parris to articulate his feeling about the worth or value of going to church during Act I. Proctor notes that Parris only speaks of the sin that people commit and the consequence that sin will cost them. Unfortunately, the great struggle for Puritans was their failure to notice that grace existed in the very bibles they read. I think this is what Proctor meant when he mentioned God. Church had turned into man's efforts as opposed to God's divine intervention. This is backwards to the Christian faith. God's intervention should inspire human effort. Proctor, a laymen, knew this while Parris seemed to struggle with it.