Dalai Banana offers a wonderful reflection on tradition.

Genuinely traditional cultures offer some extreme advantages — and disadvantages — over the largely traditionless cultures of the industrialized West. People in traditional cultures may feel rooted in a social fabric that possesses origin, connectedness, and direction. For better or worse, they also contend with conformity as well as the unhealthful risks of some traditions. In the West, “freedom” and “liberty” mean an individual can believe or do whatever one wants — but such unrestrained individuality unravels tradition. Tradition and personal freedom are not opposites — but they do not mix well, either.

I think Dalai overgeneralizes just a bit about “Christianity”:

A core religion of white western society, Christianity, is exclusive. It does not welcome all people. Oh, it welcomes people who are willing to strip away every aspect of themselves, look good, contribute money, and agree to follow a given set of behaviours that have little to do with the Bible, and a lot to do with industrialised economics.

That describes some branches of Christianity — the Focus on the Family branch, for example — but not others.

I have spent time with Christian (Catholic) communes in Latin America, for example, that possessed a strong sense of peasant tradition — a rootedness in daily and annual religious rituals, community values, equitable distribution of wealth, and Biblical parables. These communities endure despite the efforts of reactionary U.S. evangelicals and Latin governments in the 1980s (and since) to suppress these people, convert their children, seize their properties, and replace their neighborhoods and vocations with industrial complexes, mass-produced stadium-style “religion,” and television programming that promotes individualism and commerce, not tradition or community.

I don’t know about Australia or Europe, but there are Christian faith communities in the United States that preserve a similar sense of tradition rooted in community and social justice. The Catholic Workers and Amish are just examples. I have no doubt that traditional communities also exist among Western non-Christians — Native Americans, Pagans, Buddhists and others — as well.

Unfortunately, since these small communities lack the hundreds of millions of dollars that Focus on the Family has to invest in advertising and political blackmail, few people will ever hear about these communities and their traditions, unless they look hard or start their own.

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