Merica’s gods: Religious Tradition and Dissidence

I’ve spent the last several months thinking about the utter waste in our nation. We waste resources, education, and effort on a wealth of idolatrous pursuits that are at the epicenter of American culture. It makes me sad. It is deeply sinful. And one of the saddest parts about it is that the American church has done or is doing very little to call it’s people to repentance. Shame on us.

My family has some great traditions, especially around holiday time–traditions that I enjoy being a part of and look forward to every year. Chances are that your family has traditions of your own. It doesn’t end there. Ultimately we are creatures of habit and comfort, and will almost inevitably create a tradition out of anything that gives us comfort or a feeling of success.

Politically our nation is experiencing this right now as the party convention season kicks into full swing. Relationally we probably experience tradition of another kind in the ways we enjoy spending time with our friends, family, and significant other. Religiously, well religiously is where tradition can really begin to be disastrous in our lives. I will go on record again to say that I don’t think religion is a bad thing. Today its a dirty word in most conversations, but my personal belief is that it has been misused.

For the Christian we use religious activity to connect with God, which is a good thing; but sometimes we become more occupied with the idea of the religious activity and it’s importance than we do with the God we should be trying to connect to, which is not a good thing. Jesus frequently butted heads with people who had engorged perspectives on the importance of religious tradition, but Jesus also did many religious things.

To finish this thought before moving on: the tradition must never trump the Trinity in our hearts and actions. We must never let our ideas about how we connect with God become more important than God or helping others connect to Him. The moment this happens we have created an idol.

And then there is the other side of this coin, dissidents. The dissidents among us, and many of us fall into this category at one time or another, are so fixated on the notion of abandoning tradition that we make a tradition of not being traditional. See how silly that sounds? And like the traditionalist who replaces God with his/her ritualistic thing, the dissident replaces God with his/her compulsion to ignore and abandon anything meaningful to be gleaned from tradition.

In my life the key to truly enjoying my relationship with the Father has been to embrace objectivity in my approach to the Christian religion. It’s not always easy, and I don’t always succeed in being objective, but I frequently find myself asking these questions: Why do I believe this way? Why do I do that? How does this help others see God? How would Jesus respond to this situation? Again, let me point out that I’m not always successful in my approach. Sometimes I become impassioned and rush into something without proper contemplation or prayerful discernment. Even so, it is my deepest belief that we can find the heart of God somewhere between the idolatrous extremes of religious tradition or dissidence. He is calling the Church to meet Him there.

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More posts in this series:

Etiquette, Etican, Etican’t

Football, Athletes, and Idolatry

Mirrors, Models, and Muscles

Education

Sex

Culture Wars

Religious Tradition and Dissidence

Intolerance

Greed & Consumerism

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