Foundational Necessity of Law and Tradition
I've been hearing a lot about anarchy and such of late. I'm not totally sure what this means. But, I do know that when everything and anything goes there is chaos, and chaos may have its place, but not as the foundation for our existence. Remember that in Genesis 1, God takes chaos and orders it.
I am reading an advanced proof of Richard Rohr's latest book Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (Jossey Bass -- out in May 2011). In it he talks about the foundations that are built in the first half of life (unfortunately we tend to stay put in this half of life and don't move on to the 2nd half). In this period of life we develop our sense of identity and security, to name a couple of key elements. As he develops his understanding of the first half of life he speaks of tradition and law as the foundation, the starting point of our journey. He notes that "we cannot each start at zero, entirely on our own." The traditions that we inherit not only help keep us from falling, but they help us understand how to fall and how to learn from our falls. We don't truly help our children if we prevent them from falling and failing. They have to learn how to recover from falling, but falling.
This leads me to the piece I'd like to quote at length, for it underlines the value of law and tradition to the spiritual journey. I should note that when we read Paul, we need to remember that Paul didn't reject Law, he didn't want us to remain so tied to Law that we couldn't move on into God's future. But consider this:
Law and tradition seem to be necessary in any spiritual system both to reveal and to limit our basic egocentricity, and to make at least some community, family, and marriage possible. When you watch ten-year-olds intensely defend the rules of their games, you see what a deep need this is early in life. It structures children's universe and gives them foundational meaning and safety. We cannot flourish early in life inside a totally open field. Children need a good degree of order, predictability, and coherence to grow up well, as Maria Montessori, Rudolph Steiner, and many others have taught. Chaos and chaotic parents will rightly make children cry, withdraw, and rage -- both inside and outside. (Rohr, pp. 28-29).
Thus, the Ten Commandments aren't the end of the journey, they're the beginning, the foundation. Without law and tradition, we experience shapelessness, and that, as Rohr suggests, could lead to the "death of any civilization or any kind of trustworthy or happy world" (p. 30).
I'll just add something into the mix -- to parents who believe that you shouldn't give your children a foundation in a particular faith, but that you'll just let them choose when the time comes -- you're taking away the foundation upon which they can make that choice when the time comes.
Law and Tradition -- they are essential foundations. They cannot, however, be the end of the journey! As Rohr notes, the second half of the journey involves much greater freedom, but you have to have the security of the first half foundations under your belt so you can take the step of faith to take this journey.