Tradition is what is handed over from the older to the younger generation, some practices with explanations and some without. Generally they seem nice, sound right and have an appeal. Let me give you an example…

When it comes to food, tradition has taught us that there are hot foods and cold foods. These have nothing to do with temperature, but foods like banana, curd, pork…that cool the body and foods like chappathi, papaya, chicken…that heat up the body. Then comes this concept of ‘chubby child is a healthy child’, and we do our best at getting children fat and predisposed to diabetes.

Even our study of science as part of our school curriculum or available research has not prevented us from relying on dubious medications and therapies just because the advice was handed over to us as part of tradition. The risk is advancement of disease and reaching an irreversible stage.

When it comes to people and their dignity, tradition has been very cruel to women. There is a proverb in Tamil ‘jaan pillaiyaanaalum aan pillai’ which means ‘it doesn’t matter even if the child is not grown to full stature, as long as he is a male’. Such proverbs make their way into our hearts so subtly that we happen to hail the birth of a boy and likely mourn the birth of a girl. Now, most of those foolish parents are either abandoned by their sons or taken care of by their daughters whom they despised when they were born. This is no exaggeration. If a man loses his wife, he loses only his wife, but when a woman loses her husband she loses a big deal including her honour and a respectable place in society.

Even in the spiritual realm, tradition wreaks havoc by replacing moral laws. Being exposed to the church, I can quote some of my observations from there: Some churches, wanting to stress the importance of church going, would even go as far as saying, “Going to church every Sunday is God’s law” or “be on time to church for God is waiting for you there”. They stress so much on man-made laws (however good they are),  that they replace core values such as mercy, grace, helping the poor, etc. which are topmost on the  list of God’s priority.

Some of these traditions were put to test during the Corona lockdown for nearly two years when our churches were closed. 

Then by tradition we have a scale for grades of holiness. It generally goes as – Sunday school teacher, then youth leader, then right hand to the pastor, then involved in missionary organization, etc. This is one of the ways we measure a person’s spiritual growth or spiritual health. Rather, the qualities of mercy, humility, being just, not polluting the mind, not conforming to the world etc. often don’t appear in our scale anywhere. 

In the same way we have a scale for grades of sins. Smokers and alcoholics are considered big sinners while smooth talking liars, enviers, gluttons, and lecherous people go unnoticed.

It is also noteworthy to mention that not all traditions handed over from elders are evil either. They have given us many good teachings. The crux of this write up is the necessity to run these traditions through the filters of reason, common sense,  scientific knowledge and Scriptures and then to accept or deny them. To reject traditions where they don’t make sense takes guts and courage.


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