The reason for my leeriness is simple: I no longer trust in the slightest the judgment of conservative Catholics on almost any issue or figure since they have been so wrong about so much so many times for so long and the closer their judgment approaches unanimity, the more certain it is to be visible-from-space wrong. The passionate enthusiasm about Peterson therefore fills me with foreboding, especially because he is, in fact, not a believer, but a Jungian who has a certain cultural empathy for the Faith, but not the Faith itself. In the words of Bp. Barron:
I have shared just a handful of wise insights from a book that is positively chockablock with them. So do I thoroughly support Jordan Peterson’s approach? Well, no, though a full explication of my objection would take us far beyond the confines of this brief article. In a word, I have the same concern about Peterson that I have about both Campbell and Jung, namely, the Gnosticizing tendency to read Biblical religion purely psychologically and philosophically and not at all historically. No Christian should be surprised that the Scriptures can be profitably read through psychological and philosophical lenses, but at the same time, every Christian has to accept the fact that the God of the Bible is not simply a principle or an abstraction, but rather a living God who acts in history. As I say, to lay this out thoroughly would require at least another article or two or twelve.
On balance, I like this book and warmly recommend it. I think it’s especially valuable for the beleaguered young men in our society, who need a mentor to tell them to stand up straight and act like heroes.
Understand: I have no particular animus against Peterson himself. He strikes me as somebody who is on a search and I pray that his search leads him to Jesus and his Holy Church. Using Intentional Discipleship lingo, he seems to me to be somebody who is somewhere between Curiosity and Seeking in his approach to Jesus and the Christian tradition. Should he choose to seek entry into the Church, I will gladly welcome him to the altar and I pray God send him wise catechists who instruct him in the Faith and that he receive the sort of space and peace to truly internalize the Church’s teaching. He may, for all I know, be another Apollos and God knoweth we need committed, loving, orthodox lay evangelists.
No. What troubles me is not Peterson, but the Catholics who a) cannot tell the difference anymore between Right Wing Culture War blather and the Magisterium, who b) often elevate Right Wing Culture War blather above the Magisterium, and who c) therefore clutch Right Wing Culture War celebrities to their breasts as prophets sent by God whose musings and opinions are held to be of greater worth than the actual Magisterium. Indeed, I actually witnessed one well-known Catholic suggesting that it might be best for Peterson to become Orthodox rather than enter the Church of the horrible Pope Francis. That kind of diseased culture warrior approach to the Faith is poison. But this sort of stuff appears to me to be what is happening with Peterson’s odd Catholic cultus with some frequency and I think it is as bad for both his fanboi as it will be for him if he winds up getting fed their bushwah.
I have other reservations about him as well, particularly the warm relations he appears to have with the Alt-Right…
but I cut slack to those who stand outside the Christian tradition and who are still seeking and sorting things out that I do not cut to people who claim to be Real Catholics[TM]. Other interviews I have seen with him suggest that he may be fairly oblivious to the Alt Right, so I’ll withhold judgment on that one. But I do suggest Catholics assume Bp. Barron’s sensible stand and take what may be useful from Peterson without turning him into the next Celebrity Culture War Folk Hero Prophet. That didn’t go well even with the baptized Maciel, Euteneuer, or Corapi. It is less likely to go well with the non-Christian Peterson.One final note: Bp. Barron’s last line evokes a poignant grief with me in the wake of Parkland: “I think it’s especially valuable for the beleaguered young men in our society, who need a mentor to tell them to stand up straight and act like heroes.”
It is the conservative Catholic subculture that is forever mocking Millennial “snowflakes”, complaining that These Kids Today don’t stand up straight and act like heroes. I hear this constantly from conservatives. The younger generation is self-absorbed and (a favorite word over at CRISIS!!!!!!!!!) “effeminate”.
And yet, here are the Parkland kids, courageously bouncing back from witnessing the bodies and brains of their friends and teachers torn to hamburger and splattered on the walls in gruesome horrors to equal anything witnessed on Omaha Beach–and instantly choosing to turn that trauma into action for the sake of others. I can think of few greater examples of heroism and selflessness and standing up straight and acting like heroes in recent years. And they are being joined by thousands and thousand of other young people who are saying, not just for themselves alone but for the sake of all their neighbors, “Enough!”
And who are their most steadfast opponents, willing even to slander them as liars and “crisis actors”? Working passionately to defeat everything they seek to do? Mocking their tears as Dinesh D’Souza did? Waving them away as “just stupid kids”. Conservative Christianists who (I witnessed it with my own eyes from *priests*) bent over backwards to slander them and any who defend them.
Millennials and Gen Z get a terrible rap from my own Generation Narcissus. We’ve been given a gift in them we do not deserve. Our prayers are being answered and it pains me that so often we do not see it. More than this: it is *non*-Christians or “damn liberals” who are on the obvious right side of this question more often than not. My friend Andrew March remarked in our conversation the other day that one of the Righteous thought it would be a great idea to accuse Emma Gonzalez…
…of being a lesbian. Because, you know, hair. Andrew’s sensible response was “What does that have to do with anything? She’s right about this.”
This stunning contrast between “prolife” Christianist eagerness to saying anything, no matter how stupid, in order to land punches on brave kids who were, barely a fortnight ago, watching the massacre of their friends only makes me ponder the baffled puzzlement of Augustine, who shared my incomprehension of the mystery of God’s choices when he said, “So many sheep without, so many wolves within.”
“What do you think? A man had two sons; and he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he repented and went. And he went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. ¶ For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the harlots believed him; and even when you saw it, you did not afterward repent and believe him. (Mt 21:28–32).