I recently found myself staring at one of those baby Jesus statues that are frequently displayed in Catholic churches (see above)...
You know when you're looking at something that's commonplace in your life and suddenly you realize what you're actually staring at? If you stare at it long enough you start to see it from a different point of view. It's like when you realize how odd certain words sound when you say them over and over again. Like "shirt". Say "shirt" enough and it'll eventually start to sound weird.
I grew up in the Catholic church, so this little guy was everywhere and he's familiar to me. My first memory of him was in the "crying room" (the room for loud and/or crying children) at the church I went to when I was little. We go way back.
Alright, so I'm staring at this little guy and suddenly I realize that this baby in ornate clothing looks kind of ridiculous (a toddler in a heavy crown, cape, and jewels, holding a septre??) and THEN it occurs to me that the real Jesus would probably be all, "WTF?!" if he saw this. I mean, the man grew up to allegedly say, "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." (Mark 10:21) AND "Sell your possessions and give to the poor." (Luke 12:33)
I don't think he meant "And when I'm gone, please adorn child statues of me with unnecessary symbols of material wealth, mmkay?"
I think there are a good many Christians that would readily admit that this representation of Christ misses the mark and is admittedly kind of silly. It's accepted as a remaining relic from the old days. The issue is that even with this acceptance, it remains and becomes commonplace, so common in fact that even critical li'l me is just now taking note of it.
At what point does "tradition" act as a hindrance? It seems to me that it's too often right from the start. This is a clear example of how human perception can effect the greater belief, in any religion, culture or political arena. If a man who's greatest emphasis was on feeding the poor and living a humble life is honored through the generations in a way that completely negates his point, then that most certainly gives cause to question organized religion.
I think this speaks to the abundance of other issues and perceptions that are, in my opinion, stagnating real progress. I think we all need to call into question what we're absorbing- the ultimate truth, or someone else's perception of the truth, even if that perception is tradition. So much of what we think to be true, fail to question and blindly accept, are the exact kinds of things that beg our minds to open and question.