Malcolm Gladwell writes about how he returned to the Mennonite faith of his youth. He was the only member of his family to fall away from the faith, but researching his recent book David and Goliath led him to meet a Mennonite family whose daughter was murdered, but who insisted from the beginning on forgiveness. And he learned the incredible story about the French Protestant town of Le Chambon, which defied Vichy France’s orders to persecute the Jews among them and to collaborate with the Nazi occupiers. These stories helped Gladwell see the nature of his blindness. Excerpt:
What I understand now is that I was one of those people who did not appreciate the weapons of the spirit. I have always been someone attracted to the quantifiable and the physical. I hate to admit it. But I don’t think I would have been able to do what the Huguenots did in Le Chambon. I would have counted up the number of soldiers and guns on each side and concluded it was too dangerous. I have always believed in God. I have grasped the logic of Christian faith. What I have had a hard time seeing is God’s power.
I put that sentence in the past tense because something happened to me when I sat in Wilma Derksen’s garden. It is one thing to read in a history book about people empowered by their faith. But it is quite another to meet an otherwise very ordinary person, in the backyard of a very ordinary house, who has managed to do something utterly extraordinary.
Their daughter was murdered. And the first thing the Derksens did was to stand up at the press conference and talk about the path to forgiveness. “We would like to know who the person or persons are so we could share, hopefully, a love that seems to be missing in these people’s lives.”
Maybe we have difficulty seeing the weapons of the spirit because we don’t know where to look, or because we are distracted by the louder claims of material advantage. But I’ve seen them now, and I will never be