We experienced the musical “Fidler on the Roof” at the University of Missouri this week. We were transported to a Jewish Russian village in 1905 when the Tsar used “Pogroms” to bury any dissent—even against those who weren’t part of the first revolution. “Pogram” is a Russian word meaning “to wreak havoc, to demolish violently.” 

As a familiar Bible story gives new meaning in various contexts of our experience, Kyiv’s place in that story had a new place in my heart. I felt for those who experienced unwarranted abuse in a play, an invasive war, and the senate that day.

The opening song “Tradition” transported me to a different place—my high school German class. Our teacher used the German version of “Fiddler on the Roof” as one way to learn German. While I remember the love and drinking songs better, I can still belt out some tradition in German—especially the fiddler intro that we heard a hundred times. 

Maybe that’s why I remember this quote from my 20s: “TRADITION IS THE LIVING FAITH OF DEAD PEOPLE; TRADITIONALISM IS THE DEAD FAITH OF LIVING PEOPLE.” I have sought to live out the traditions that bring us life, while questioning the traditionalisms that kill our spirit. 

Tevye wrestles with traditionalism views of marriage that threaten to destroy his family, while holding onto the life-giving traditions of his community. Each “on the other hand” spoken to God echoes the battle between traditionalism and tradition in equality, justice, marriage, politics, and the church.

When have the arts (a song, movie, play, painting….) given you new insights to your journey? How have traditionalisms drained you of the abundant life? How do traditions of the dead help you live more fully today?

7 thoughts on “Tradition

      1. Thanks, Wally. I would love to hear your thoughts after you chew on this question.

      2. From my experience holding onto deadly traditions always drain me of life. There are some I am called to release; I’m still on that path.

        I wrestled with the traditions I began to doubt as I grew. It’s hard for anyone to deal with doubting their grounding faith, but pastors get status and paychecks not to doubt. I honestly grew closer to God through questioning some traditions.

        Book that did help me: “Faith After Doubt” by Brian McLaren. Book I’m reading now “The Sin of Certainty: Why God desires our trust more than our correct beliefs” by Peter Enns (check out some of the quotes on Good Reads).

        You can Contact me (contact on this site) for your specifics about “traditions that drain you of abundant life” to continue the conversation, to encourage me to write on a topic, and/or to let me know if I’m hearing you.

      3. Thanks, Wally. Now I have some thoughts to chew on. I’ll be in touch. I really appreciate the book suggestions and your wisdom.

  1. What a thoughtful post. As a global community, we just cannot figure out the lessons, can we …

  2. With two grandkids living in Wiesbaden they have picked up a few words by I wish they hadn’t. Thanks for the thoughts. Stay well. Bruce

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