I believe in Tradition. On the surface, this has meant respecting my elders, learning to be considerate of others, and striving to make the world a better place. I believe in following the Golden Rule: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” But it goes much deeper.
I’m a Gen X-er and part of that generational reaction against the ‘iconoclasm’ of the Baby-Boomers. Even so, my belief in Tradition hasn’t always been popular with my peers. Respect for Tradition often gets put in the category of those things that are, well, archaic. But Tradition at its best is living and applicable to every generation. That’s why it’s able to transcend culture and time, to help guide each generation toward the objective Good. For this reason, my appreciation for Tradition has grown with my experiences; it goes far beyond manners: It’s carried with it more serious implications for my life and for others.
For me, Tradition has been a solid foundation, an anchor in difficult times. When I was in seminary at Yale, there were a number of people in authority pressuring me to betray my conscience and align myself with their beliefs, even though they knew those beliefs conflicted with my own. Tradition helped me to see the dangerous implications of what it would mean for me to go against my conscience. It was Tradition that helped me keep my integrity and avoid several moral and ethical pitfalls. My integrity came at a price: my conscience was intact, but I was denied ordination in that community.
That experience proved pivotal in my life: rather than cause me to change my beliefs to conform to the whims of the culture or give in to peer-pressure, it propelled me forward to examine on a deeper level exactly what I did believe and why. In short, it made me a questioning seeker after Truth and, at the same time, made me more understanding of the beliefs of others.
Tradition gives me an objective lens through which I can view every situation: good, bad, and indifferent. It helps me to apply my beliefs to my daily life and to evaluate my own actions according to that Tradition so that I don’t base them primarily on my own feelings or emotions.
Now serving as a college chaplain in the Orthodox Church, this living Tradition enables me to help others in difficult moral and ethical dilemmas. While respecting the beliefs of others (whether or not they agree with the Tradition I hold), I’m able to minister to them from the treasure house of virtues and lessons of the Church that have stood the test of time and that point us to the Truth. This has proved vital to the students I minister to during these formative and often difficult college years. Because of this Tradition, I’m able to strive to love them for who they are. I share not my individual ‘ideas’ with them, but wisdom based on a Tradition that has been tested and lived through the ages. And that, I believe, is Tradition worth keeping.