Generous Orthodoxy

In the Revisionist History podcast, “Generous Orthodoxy”, Malcolm Gladwell states how a retired ninety eight year old mennonite minister, Chester Wenger lost his pastoral credentials due to officiating his gay son and his partner. Moreover, Gladwell discusses how Princeton University activist students want Woodrow Wilson’s name off the graduate school. “To be orthodox is to be committed to tradition, and to be generous is to be open to change.” is Gladwell’s definition of generous orthodoxy. Throughout the podcast Malcolm Gladwell tells his audience how generous orthodoxy relates to these situations.

Chester Wegner was the definition of generous orthodoxy. Wegner was completely committed to the mennonite church. He traveled to another continent to help build the largest mennonite church in the world. This man was so open to change that he even let women speak at the head of the church because he wanted time to rest. Chester was a selfless man for his community and family’s sake. One day Philip, Chester Wegner’s son came to him and told him he was attracted to males instead of females and Wegener says “maybe you can outgrow this”; but Phillip came back home a year later and told his father nothing has changed and he is going to tell other people. One sunday morning without approaching anyone in the family, their mennonite church pastor announced that Phil was no longer apart of the church. In shock, that Chester Wegener’s own church would not accept his son. The wegner family was so generous they never gave up on jesus and his faith. Just because Chester was so committed to his mennonite church he was still open to officiating his son and his sons partner. After the officiate happened Chester Wegner lost it all, but for his son. This story shows how difficult it is to balance both generosity and orthodoxy.

Continuing on, Malcolm Gladwell brings another generous orthodoxy story about Princeton University. Princeton names one of the graduate schools after Woodrow Wilson who was sadly a racist. The students did not want to receive education from a school with a racial background. So on, students point out that rich white men are named throughout every single building on their campus. Activists at the school did a sit in to get his name off the building. Princeton alumni, from many years ago, disagreed on what these students want changed. Gladwell thought that the princeton students could have done things differently to get what they wanted. It would have cost a greater sacrifice for Princeton University Students to be considered generous or even orthodox.

Finally, Malcolm Gladwell demonstrates generous orthodoxy very well with these two very different stories. Chester Wegener’s story ends beautifully. A father is so happy with his decision of sacrificing doing what he loves, and does heart wrenching things for his son and his family. Chester was open to the world. The Princeton University students, well not so much. They were demanding on what they wanted and didn’t sacrifice much for what they wanted like Chester Wegner. The Princeton story didn’t end as heartwarming as Chester Wegener’s story due to the rout they had taken. Gladwell gave us two different versions of generous orthodoxy within these stories.

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