Sunday, January 12, 2014

Gladwell's Faith

My love-hate attitude toward Malcolm Gladwell is multilayered.

Okay, that statement is probably true about my attitude toward everyone, including myself, but it is so strong as to be worthy of mention with Gladwell.

He points out the obvious, and at first it annoys me that he gets credit for it, until I remember that 'most everyone else doesn't get the obvious, which moves me back into the Gladwell camp.

Then he points out the counterintuitive - his other strength - even when the evidence is spotty, which makes him a media darling and annoys me further.  Until, again, I realise that there are few voices even risking some unpopular stances, even if he gets them 1/3 wrong. Which brings me back to pat-Gladwell-on-the-back mode again.

Had you told me that he was writing on a faith topic, I would have been extremely wary, and, as in waiting at least four years before seeing any of The Hobbit, have given it a pass until others had walked over the territory.  I am happy to be the first evaluator in some circumstances, but in the case of Gladwell, the wisdom of crowds is preferable.

But a FB friend linked to the article in Relevant,* and I was well into it before I realised it was MG.  It's good.  It doesn't stress what I consider an important point, but it's good.

The important point is: it is not a strategy that works in the world, and should not be adopted in hopes of victory. Le Chambon did not go on to prosper more than its neighbors.  There is no evidence that we won the war because of Le Chambon.  The world did not beat a path to the Derkson's door, asking "what must I do to be saved?" Mennonites did not experience 200% growth worldwide because of this single family's obedience.  This seems obvious to my readers, but consider how often we read stories that tell us the opposite. I followed God's Word and my business grew, my church was able to pay of its mortgage, and all my aunts were cured of cancer.The Lord blesses us when we trust in his Holy Name. I can't tell you how much I hate that attitude. The testimony of the Huguenots is that they persevered even though the persecution continued.

Take this course if you believe Christ leads you to it, but do it because it is right, not because it will succeed.  The fundamentalist side of the heresy is the Health and Wealth, name-it-and-claim-it "gospel." The social justice side of the same heresy is that "God will preserve us from war if we will but beat our swords into ploughshares."  Both are emphatically not true.Gladwell gets to the heart of this in interviewing those French citizens.
They saw just about the worst kind of persecution that anyone can see. And what did they discover? That the strength granted to them by their faith in God gave them the power to stand up to the soldiers and guns and laws of the state. In one of the many books written about Le Chambon, there is an extraordinary line from André Trocmé’s wife, Magda. When the first refugee appeared at her door, in the bleakest part of the war during the long winter of 1941, Magda Trocmé said it never occurred to her to say no: “I did not know that it would be dangerous. Nobody thought of that.”

Nobody thought of that. It never occurred to her or anyone else in Le Chambon that they were at any disadvantage in a battle with the Nazi Army.
* I have linked to this magazine before.  The more I see the better I like it.

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