In Jesus’ time the Jewish leaders viewed tradition as something that needed to be observed without fail. Violating tradition was taboo (Mark 7:1-8). The same applies today. But we have to answer the question on whether there is value in keeping traditions or not. This is when considering that the first commandment of the Bible insists that we should have no other gods before our true God.
Any country is known by its own cultural traditions. This is viewed as commendable; as enforcing personal identity. I suppose we have to first attend to the question on the significance of identity. What is the value of my being a Zimbabwean and not an Australian, for instance? Why should I be identified as a Zimbabwean, if permanently resident in Australia, or vice versa?
Jesus Christ came to help us all to refocus our identity towards God rather than anything else. Jesus portrayed that behavior throughout His ministry. At one stage He even behaved in a manner that some people may have adjudged Him as being uncultured. He did the unthinkable; crudely ignoring His family members who may have had urgent business to discuss with Him (Matthew 12:46-49).
I suppose the starting point should be in addressing the cause of traditions, before attending to the merit and value associated with identity. Tradition is normally associated with past attainment of valuable achievement. If some valuable historical development took place, anytime in the past, it would have left an imprint of tradition in that environment.
For instance, I suppose the tradition of wearing dreadlocks came into being, through the Rastafarian music that was appreciated by some sectors of youths in our society. It is known that, traditionally, those attached to the Rastafarian music wear dreadlocks.
They feel good about it, as it also encourages them to behave like the originators of Rastafarianism. However, those attached to that tradition also become susceptible to taking Ganja, just as the original Rastafarians took Ganja.
Those people may claim to be religious, but their commitment to religiosity would be through the lenses of their Rastafarian music heroes. The same applies to causes of adherence to traditions in other areas.
Anything viewed as having been valuable in the past, would have left the imprint of tradition, among the people concerned. What those people fail to appreciate is that the adopted tradition would be their god.
Another problem, associated with tradition is keeping the people concerned in the past. It becomes impossible for the affected people to leave in present time. Whatever their tradition, it keeps them attached to the past events, so that they cannot progressively think of new ideas.
Some traditions can be viewed as valuable, in keeping people focused towards some noble cause. But why would people need probing to be committed to noble achievements of the past, instead of being noble all the time? I suppose this could be one of the reasons why heroes are worshipped.
The problem of identity arises where a person desires belonging somewhere. But, careful observation reveals that desiring identity is always associated with self-centredness. Tradition has got nothing to do with altruism. The altruistic people do not have a problem with identity. I suppose people like Nelson Mandela would not have found personal identity necessary.
People knew who Nelson Mandela was, wherever he went. But, I suppose even the habits that Nelson Mandela may have considered as his personal weaknesses that he needed to overcome; his supporters may have acquired those vices as virtuous.
The same applies with various other achievers, wherever they may be found. True heroes do not need an identity, because they are the identity of who they are. It is the other people who seek to be identified with them, instead.
A story is told of a man who became the only one who acquired a doctorate, in his community, but whose left-hand arm was somehow deformed. People in that area became proud of him, including his deformity.
They considered him as a hero, having been the only one to attain a PhD in that community. Most young people in that area had their left-hand arms adjusted to look like deformed. They all wanted to appear as conforming to their hero.
This is basically what sustains this world. The traditions of those countries that have made gigantic strides in technological achievements and other programs of value are acquired without question. It is very easy to sell any vice, as long as one comes from a country that would be considered advanced.
The term idolatry is often thought of as referring to worshiping carved objects, but it is in the mindset of the general behavior of people who know nothing about the true God. The cause of denominational-ism in Christianity is symptomatic of traditional idolatry. Yet Christians are known to preach against idolatry.
There is only one standard that all humans should aim at, without any need to consider how others worship God. Christians generally attest to the fact that Jesus came to be the only standard to be aimed at, but their behavior reflects otherwise.
Christians are known to idolize those that they consider to be their heroes, helping in modeling them to reach desired perfection. Without those heroes, those Christians feel dead spiritually. There may be nothing wrong with emulating good standards from fellow Christians. What is very wrong is transplanting those standards over Christ’s standards.
Jesus is the only way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). We can learn good behaviors from other people, but only when such behaviors conform to the standards of Jesus Christ. If people face challenges in accessing Jesus Christ, it is all to do with traditions of humanity.
My analytical view is that if traditions were to be removed, among Christians, we would probably remain with less than ten percent of the dedicated Christians, or even less. Most of our brothers and sisters consider themselves as dedicated Christians, only as they meet the standards of their pastors, or some church leader.
But those Church leaders would also be leaders because of their adherence to the traditions of the deceased founders of such denominational groupings. Christ would not be in picture, even though the group would claim to be Christ’s followers.
Even Christian Orthodoxy is founded on the doctrines of the Nicaean Council of AD 325, not on Jesus Christ. Those Christians will tell you that they are associated with the Nicean Council because of that Council’s accuracy in revealing Jesus Christ.
But Jesus Christ never required any human instrument to help true Christians, other than the Holy Spirit, as promised to His disciples (John 14:15-18). [See “True Christianity]. If they are multiple problems that Christians need to address as blocking true Christian principles, I suppose none stands as formidable as human traditions.
The only value that stands out, as derived from tradition, resembles a tranquilizing pill. It gives temporary comfort, causing the individual to assume that there would be benefit associated with cure, when there would be none. The truth that remains is that tradition, just as culture and customs, has got nothing to do with the survival of humanity.
Instead of value that ought to be found in tradition, the opposite is what is deduced, in light of what has been highlighted in this article. Any value that can be associated with tradition may only serve as a tranquilizer, thereby carrying its own negative side effects.
However, when carefully looking at the current civilization, including traditions associated with certification in education, certainly what is said in this article cannot be popular. [What’s in a title, if not to deceive]. This, indeed, remains a weird world. But, unfortunately, it seems only a few have the capacity to see it that way.
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing reliefs to those having witnessed strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long awaited providential oasis of hope.
The Print copy is now available at Amazon.com for $13.99
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