I’ve thought a lot about tradition in the last week or so as I watched the Queen’s body lying in state in Westminster Hall.
Watching those hundreds of thousands of people waiting in line for 8 hours or more to pay their respects to the Queen from Wednesday until Monday has been an extraordinary sight, at least for me.
In totalitarian countries such as North Korea or China, such outpouring might be more usual, but I suspect there is an element of coercion – a fear of not showing respect.
In England, there is no such compunction. Each individual person did so out of their perceived relationship with Queen Elizabeth. They were there not only to show their respect to the Queen, but I believe they were there to show their solidarity with their fellow citizens.
I think traditions are important. Families have traditions. Lots of organizations such as schools, clubs, sports teams, military services, even corporations have traditions. We often call this their culture, but it includes traditions.
Traditions tie people together. They give a purpose for sharing lives together even when there are differences among the people.
Traditions help people through difficult times. The obvious example is England during World War II when Germany was bombing London on a regular basis, killing thousands. I believe the traditions that bound the English together helped them to not only persevere, but to overcome. When Winston Churchill spoke his encouraging words to never ever give up, I believe he was appealing to that tradition in the English people, and they responded.
While in the Navy, whenever we entered Pearl Harbor, we always paid respect to the Arizona Memorial by manning the rails with sailors who saluted as we passed.
There can be bad traditions, but those usually have an element of coercion to compel people to do what they normally would not do.
I’m concerned that our nation, our culture, is losing a lot of traditions. The Pledge of Allegiance is no longer allowed in many situations. Singing the National Anthem is being discarded. Communal prayer is forbidden in many situations. And so forth, and so forth.
I’m concerned our country is dividing for many reasons, one of which is the loss of traditions that used to bind us together, regardless of our differences. In the past, we might have had political, religious, and ethnic differences, but for most, we considered ourselves Americans above our differences.
Betty and I still believe in these ‘old’ traditions. We still proudly say the Pledge of Allegiance and sing the National Anthem whenever we have the opportunity to do so.
The most important tradition we believe in is what Jesus did on the cross for us and what God shares in his Word. So, prayer is a very important part of our lives.
We can only look to God for his guidance through this time of change.