Saturday, December 4, 2010

Everyone's Entitled to My Opinion: About Tradition

Today I sing in praise of Tradition, and  I’m not even named Tevye.
Tradition provides stability. Tradition liberates us from the spontaneous ideas trying to escape our minds too soon. Tradition connects us to the wisdom of the ages. Tradition saved my kid brother's life.
And, of course, there is no better time to celebrate tradition than Christmastime: the listless person seated, ringing a bell next to the Salvation Army kettle, who has long since given up standing or wearing a Santa outfit; the garish sounds that pass for Christmas music inside of WalMart or BigMart or StuffMart or BuyMore; the outrageous attempts to convince us that a Lexus is the perfect Christmas gift--I love them all. Seriously.
I love the sights and sounds of Christmas among the capitalists because they ring hollow against the traditions of the church universal: the cycle of Advent; the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke; and the glorious constancy of the Word made flesh.
Before you object too strenuously about all the faults of tradition, let me suggest that we’re not as smart as we think we are, and there are plenty of smart people who have come before us. Tradition, in Chesterton’s happy phrase, “is the democracy of the dead.” Why shouldn’t they have a vote?
This is not supposed to be a thoughtful, Monday Meditation-type post. Saturdays are for inflicting my unreasonable opinions on those intrepid enough to happen by. So, everyone’s entitled to my opinion, which in this case agrees with the great religious historian Jaroslav Pelikan: "Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living."


  1. Christmas traditions are the best! I'm working on a post right now about this topic as well. Trying to come up with some unique traditions for me and Josh as our own family unit. :)

  2. Reading the church fathers, and other elements of Church history, redeemed my faith -- after I lost it in a Vineyard Church. I have counseled others to study Church History and the seminal writings as a kind of ballast or sea anchor against the idiocies that get foisted upon one betimes in the modern evangelical world. And I probably have more sympathy for some Orthodox ideas than I do for many Evangelical ones.