ReCAST Church

The Truth and Tradition and the ‘Fiddler’

I climbed out of my cave a couple weeks ago and watched “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Barn Theater in Augusta, Michigan with my wife and kids. Having set my eyes on it for the first time I was completely intrigued and torn over the theme of tradition.

I grew up in a household completely devoid of tradition. We went on one family vacation that I can remember as a child. Christmas was something different almost every year. I imagine that my upbringing has had a dramatic impact on my love of the new and novel. I actually have found my heart more and more convicted by my passion for the novel. I believe the love of the novel leads to a low-grade shallowness, pettiness, and lack of commitment.

And so it seemed quite natural as a church planter, to start a church that would be committed to the truth of Scripture, while harboring a disdain for tradition.

And let me clarify what I mean by tradition. Church traditions tend to focus on the externals: dress, musical forms, programs, liturgy, architecture, and decor.

So, you can imagine the surprise that I felt when I found myself strongly on the side of “tradition” while watching ‘Fiddler’. I must confess that having seen this musical for the first time in 2014, it was interesting how difficult is was to discern the author’s intent. I could not at all be moved to defend what I saw as the “tradition” of racism that moved Tevya to deny his daughter’s marriage to a Gentile. (I found it disturbing that this was where he drew the line!)

I actually perceived undercurrents of mockery of faith throughout the musical, and am curious as to whether or not I just twisted this, or if others also see this. “Tradition” as I understood it in the musical, was what was holding this community together. As tradition broke down, it was rocking everyone’s world. But the arguments that were employed against tradition in favor of progress in the musical, are many of the same arguments being used in 2014 against faith in general. And so this juxtaposing of tradition and faith in the musical put me on the side of tradition against progress.

The bottom line, is that I fear that many have a faith based on tradition, and in this, they really have little faith at all. We can so quickly find comfort in the common forms. Many attend church in comfort with little to no impact from the truth.

So I will continue to war against tradition wherever tradition wars against truth and faith. Tradition is certainly not synonymous with truth. Tradition should not be synonymous with faith. And at ReCAST church, we seek to be a church of faith and truth without so much focus on tradition.

About Don Filcek

Don Filcek

I like mountain biking even where there are no mountains. I like to jog and call it running. I read books to learn stuff. My family is pretty much awesome. ReCAST is the church where I belong. Jesus is my Lord and Savior. I like the color yellow.

7 Responses

  1. alanroot says:

    I enjoyed reading your thoughts, as always. Tevye’s tradition was not the point of Fiddler for me. It was instead an incredibly powerful tale of a man’s very real relationship with God. Tradition was nothing more than a plot device (I thought), but Tevye repeatedly chose his daughters’ happiness (again, relationship) over his own community standing of positional dominance.

    Is that different from what you thought?

  2. Don Filcek Don Filcek says:

    I took some of the discussion Tevye had as indicators that his was a faith with little knowledge. He didn’t know Scripture and at times the humor of what he didn’t know of God made me feel like his prayers were intended by the author as mockery. The theme of tradition seemed central to me. I need to watch it again and see what I missed or misunderstood.

    • alanroot says:

      You’re right. Tevye is no scholar, just a working stiff. But surely that makes his constant prayer to and reliance upon God a more remarkable and real thing? You could very well have the right view, yet after every time I watch this richly satisfying work, I find myself impressed by the depth of the portrayals of God’s chosen people and their struggles (both unique and universal), in which Tevye stands out as a pillar of faith like the Hebrews 11 guys. I am challenged to turn as often to my relationship with Yeshua as he does with Yahweh.

      I absolutely love your posts and look forward to each installment. Keep up the good work!

  3. Mike Nelson says:

    don, I have always considered his final response as not racist but rather religeous conviction

  4. alanroot says:

    Mike I agree. Wow Pastor Don, the racist accusation in the post didn’t register the first time I read it! Aren’t Jews and Gentiles both considered white? Then maybe racist isn’t the right word. It’s pretty clear in the movie that Tevye drew the line at marrying outside the faith, and just as clear that he relented at the very end of the movie. For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t be thrilled if either one of my daughters had married outside our faith either.

    Don, you may have moved on, but I was intrigued by your statement that “the arguments that were employed against tradition in favor of progress in the musical are many of the same arguments being used in 2014 against faith in general.” I’d love to hear you unpack that. :=]

  5. Don Don says:

    The purpose of my blog was to address tradition and Fiddler was a tool to that discussion, but I was right in my assumption that there are strong opinions about the musical. As I think about social issues like “homosexual marriage,” I believe that the church is on the side of tradition. And that tradition is perceived to be held by backward, simple-minded individuals. The side of “progress” is the anti-tradition. And so the point of my blog, was how surprised I found myself relating to the side of tradition. A word that I have never considered applying myself. I was hoping to show people who have been familiar with the story line, how that story line strikes someone for the first time in 2014, but it seems like I got it wrong. I am going to be watching a movie version of it to see what I missed. But as it stands now, my perspective is that this musical could easily be used to promote the denigration of tradition for the cause of progress. And that assessment is primarily fueled by the sense that Tevye is the stereotypical bumbling man of faith, who is torn between progress and tradition. At the end of the day, progress is “inevitable”, making his faith all the more precarious . . . Like a Fiddler on a Roof.

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