Revisionist History- “Generous Orthodoxy”

To start off the podcast, Malcom Gladwell starts explaining where he grew up and that it was highly populated with a group called the Mennonites. Then Malcom Gladwell starts to explain how there was this letter to the Mennonite church Chester Wenger used to be the pastor of.

As the podcast goes on, Gladwell explains the oxymoron ‘generous orthodoxy’ by saying orthodox means committed to tradition and generous means to be open to change. Gladwell says, “balancing loyalty and conscious is just about the hardest thing to do.”

Next, in the podcast, Gladwell starts to explain the appearance of Chester Wenger and what happened when Gladwell met him. But before Gladwell goes on with explaining what happened in the interview, he describes the Mennonites and says how highly they believe in the importance of Jesus, community, and reconciliation.

Gladwell used two stories to explain the concept of ‘generous orthodoxy’. The first example was a story that Chester Wenger told Gladwell during the interview. It’s a story about Wenger’s son, Phil, and how he openly told his father that he was gay. Soon the church found out about Phil’s homosexuality and they removed him of his position at the church. Later on, Phil was going to be married and he asked his dad to officiate the wedding, Wenger agreed to ordain his son’s wedding. After the wedding, the Mennonite church stripped Chester of his title as the pastor because he defied the church’s belief of marriage being only between a man and woman. This story provides a good explanation of the phrase ‘generous orthodoxy’. Wenger showed his generosity by officiating his son’s gay wedding and therefore going against tradition, he showed orthodox by being the minister at his son’s wedding. The second example Gladwell explained is about Woodrow Wilson. Woodrow Wilson was seen as prejudice and racist; therefore, there was controversy over wether or not a Princeton graduate school should remain named after him. Protestors scheduled a lock in where they would hide out in the president’s office and not leave until changes were made. The protestors were saying that the school owed them something…they demanded that Princeton’s board members took Wilson’s name off the graduate school more than just talking about what they were willing to give up if the name was not changed. Woodrow Wilson’s name remained on the graduate school.

At the end of the podcast, Malcom Gladwell goes back to talking about the letter Chester Wenger wrote to his ex-church. Then Gladwell explains how Wenger is the best example one can have of generous orthodoxy. “You have to respect the body you’re trying to heal.” -Malcom Gladwell

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