Recap of Revisionist History
Generous Orthodoxy together can easily be construed as confusing. When you are generous, you are open to change. As when you are orthodox, you are submitted to tradition. Malcolm Gladwell believes that in order to be “equal” there needs to be a middle ground within the two. In episode 9 of Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast Revisionist History, Malcolm Gladwell introduces us to a short story in which the two different ideas come together as a whole. As Chester Wenger writes in “Open Letter to my Church” Malcolm breaks down the story and where to different ideas clash, but at the same time need to work together to make it accomplishable.
Chester Wegener is a pastor at his church, he is a Mennonite and is strongly associated with his religion. Mennonites hold their religious values very close to them, with ideas of reconciliation, the belief in Jesus Christ, and being part of the community. With that said, Mennonites are orthodox and to not stray from tradition. Malcolm Gladwell expresses an example of how close Mennonites are within their community with the burning of a barn. One day in the town, a tractor fire burns down the barn it is held in. Throughout the community the bad new spreads very quickly, and the very next day a whole force of fellow Mennonites show up and build a new barn. The next day they come back, and put the barn up completing the unexpected project. The orthodoxy of those men were taught to drop everything that they were doing out of goodwill. Helping a fellow Mennonite shows how strongly their community is to them.
Mennonites do not stray from their beliefs and tradition. But Chester has always been a generous guy. Chester strays from tradition in a meaningful way and nobody has ever questioned it. He has allowed women to come speak in front during mass, with not one deceiving look from other members. But then there came a difficult time in Chester’s life, when he came in between a rock and a hard place. Chester’s son Phillip, came up to him out of the blue one day and told his father that he did have an attraction to women, but he had an undesirable attraction for men. Chester responded rather generously, and told Philip to wait a year and see if the attraction for men is still there. Phillip returned one year later and responded the same as before, he was gay. Phillip did not hid his morals either, he expressed his beloved feeling of men throughout the town and did not care what others thought.
The results of Phillip coming out of the closet was not taken well in the Mennonite community. He lost his job at the church, and was begged to confess his sins in front of the holy spirit. Philip refused to change, thus ending with him getting kicked out of his own church. Throughout these tough times, his parents did not care about his sexuality, they cared about him to not give up on Jesus. At the age of 29 Philip fell in love with a man named Steve. The second homosexuality marriage was legal in 2014, they rushed in front of a judge being second in line, and they got married. Even with all of the scrutiny and orthodoxy of the church, Chester officiated the wedding due to his generosity. Not surprisingly the church took away his credentials as a pastor, and terminated him from their church.
Malcolm Gladwell challenges our thinking by showing us how two very opposite meanings can come together and work as a whole, but also fight against each other in a demeaning ways. Thought this story Chester exemplifies the perfect way of how two opposing forces can work together as one. The church will never stray from orthodoxy, but without generosity from other members there is nothing more. Orthodox without generosity equals blindness, and generosity without change equals shallowness. To be whole and adaptable one must come to the sense of generous orthodoxy.