James Kalb on Tradition
"We follow the tradition of our community because tradition and community are basic to being human," says the traditionalist conservative thinker — What is it to Accept Tradition? An excerpt:
- People who live by a tradition normally respond to imperfections and changes that become troublesome by trying to maintain the tradition's substance. They focus on the understandings and practices that seem most important, and change less important ones that seem at odds with the basic goods the tradition points toward. A tradition is not at bottom a collection of rules, all equal to each other, but an understanding of the world and how to live in it. Some parts are more important than others, the tradition is always directed to goods that trump particular practices, and there's always some flexibility in how to reconcile practice and goal.
Religious reformers provide an example. They may complain about popular traditions but do so in the name of older and more authoritative traditions. They appeal from the practices of the Pharisees to the law of Moses and the prophets. Even evangelists appeal to the traditions of those they are addressing. Justin Martyr saw the seeds of the Logos in Greek tradition. Paul didn't tell the Athenians to give up Athenian culture, he quoted their poets and said he was there to tell them about the God their altars pointed toward. And in our own time Benedict annoyed some people by saying that "Christ was the savior for whom [the American Indians] were silently longing."