Ascension Day and Evangelical Anti-Traditionalism

Happy Ascension Day! Jesus' Ascension

“Um, what?” you might ask. Ascension day, of course, is the celebration of Jesus’ ascension into heaven forty days after his resurrection (cf. Luke 24.50-53 and Acts 1.6-11). I wonder how many Evangelicals celebrated this great event today? I wonder, in all honesty, how many of us have ever heard of it beyond some obscure reference on our calendars? It’s another indicator of the sad state of Evangelicalism and our utter disdain for much of anything traditional and/or historical within our worship and praxis.

Here’s the irony…among contemporary American Christians, Evangelicals have led the crusade for retaining traditional ‘American values’ and traditional ‘family values’ (ala Boy Scouts, the Book of Virtues, etc.). We have rallied together, seen each other at the pole, and lobbied strongly to hold tightly to many precious values and traditions esteemed through over 225 years of American history. None of this is necessarily wrong or bad in itself, but…

At the same time, these same Evangelicals have also led the way in the wholesale jettisoning  of traditions held for over 2000 years in the historic Christian church. More than that, we have done so proudly…to our shame.  (In all fairness, much of this disdain for tradition is inherited from our Puritan forefathers; however, in recent years, the pace at which we have moved further away from tradition has increased along with our arrogance.)

Can you for one second imagine the response to a serious suggestion that we do away with Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, or Thanksgiving? These institutions have had a much shorter history than traditional Christian festivals and feasts and are, honestly, much less significant.  How much sense does it make to jettison smugly so much of our Christian past when we would not dare yield an inch on so many less important secular traditions?  Our silliness is appalling.  Our increasing irreverence, shocking.  Our inevitable irrelevance, unavoidable.

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