On Thursday and Friday, we took Grant to Texas A&M in College Station to explore the campus. he is two years away from high school graduation, but is getting a head start to begin making decisions about his future. While the tour was wonderful, I felt like I was selling my soul--betraying my Longhorn history.
One of the things I appreciated about the A&M environment was its strong commitment to tradition--from the 12th Man story, to the game time yells to the beautiful "century tree." There is a statue on the main mall of A&M founder with a stack of pennies at his feet. Lore has it that if a student "pays" homage to the man, they will do better on their exams. As our tour guide explained the pastime, I could see Grant doing the math, wondering how much money he would be leaving if he got his degree there.
There is a difference between tradition and traditionalism. The former is a perpetuated pattern of behavior or belief that maintains a respect for the past. Tradition roots us in memories and meaning. Tradition is what families and communities carry forward in a new generation. In contrast, traditionalism doesn't encourage the present with the past; It traps it. Traditionalism forces itself on the present and refuses to budge.
In Matthew 15:2, the Pharisees wondered why Jesus' disciples broke with "the tradition of the elders." In Colossians 2:8, Paul warned about the "traditions of men." In these cases, the problem wasn't tradition per se, but traditionalism. The religious elite couldn't break with the basic principles of the past in order to embrace what God was doing in the present. They were driving forward looking in their rear view mirror.
As a pastor and father, I want my church and immediate family to cherish tradition. I long for a continuity between what God is doing today and what we will remember tomorrow. But, I am on guard against traditionalism. In this case, I'd rather be an Aggie than a Pharisee.