Earlier this week Columbus Day was observed. I did not notice until I saw we got no mail. Once I confirmed that the post office was still in business, I remembered it was early October so it must be Columbus Day.
Then yesterday I was reading Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. It is a prayer book, in the tradition of The Book of Common Prayer, but with an eye to the diversity of the historic church. Often it contains brief summaries on aspects of the New Monasticism and other things. For Columbus Day there was an entry titled “We Need New Heroes”:
Part of what we hope to do in this book, rather than read the Bible with imperial eyes, is to read the empire with biblical eyes. In the church, we celebrate martyrs and saints, not warriors and conquistadors. The church has a rich history of celebrating particular people. While the United States might celebrate Christopher Columbus, the church celebrates the lives of the saints on feast days. We need to be about discovering lost relatives and forgotten ancestors.
I was reading Eric Metaxas’ biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the same thing struck me. He was writing about Bonhoeffer’s invitation to preach on Reformation Day, October 31, in the biggest church in Berlin. This was a day heavy with German Patriotism, and in 1932 the darkness of the Nazis that would soon engulf Germany was growing. Bonhoeffer had already noticed this and called out the church that day for being more German than Christian.
Are we more American than Christian? Do our churches have patriotic services, celebrating Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, remembering American heroes while forgetting the heroes of the Christian faith?
I hope we take time to learn about, and learn from, the many Christian heroes. Maybe we need to resurrect holidays that we Protestants think are too Catholic, like All Saints Day.
In the words of Jaroslav Pelikan: “Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. And, I suppose I should add, it is traditionalism that gives tradition such a bad name.”