5 Lessons Jordan Peterson Has Taught the Church

5 Lessons Jordan Peterson Has Taught the Church February 4, 2019
Image credit: Jonathan Castellino. Used by permission.

A year ago, I had no idea who Jordan Peterson was. Like many people, I got my first inkling after That Debate went viral. I was entertained, but I didn’t understand what I was watching. If you had told me then that this Canadian psychology professor was embarked on nothing less than a decades-long quest to rescue Western Civilization from the pit of nihilistic despair, I would have assumed you were joking. But Jordan Peterson, it seems, was not.

As I watched Peterson’s status rocket rise, it became a social experiment in itself to watch how Christians reacted to it all. It seemed that they either really, really liked Peterson or really, really did not like him. There were some enthusiastically confused Christians who tried to “claim” Peterson as One of Us. There were other Christians who made it their job to write ponderous blogs and articles on why Peterson was definitely NOT one of us and in fact was A Threat to the Church. There were still other Christians who sniffed at Peterson’s “tone” and made it clear they were far too cool for school to bother digging deeper than the occasional New York Times op-ed. (On Twitter, I saw one such young pastor-in-training groaning that he might have to read or listen to Peterson in order to relate to the college students he was ministering to. A fate worse than death, apparently.)

Fortunately, some Christian engagements were balanced and thoughtful. A few I especially enjoyed included Andrew Wilson’s clever early review of 12 Rules here, Owen Strachan’s late review here, Bishop Barron’s Catholic perspective here, Neil Shenvi’s blog series here, David George Moore’s thoughts at Mere Orthodoxy here, and Alastair Roberts’s always insightful and cutting-edge blogs (gateway here). Wyatt Graham from The Gospel Coalition in Canada also guided Christianity Today towards a better than average pop-level radio discussion of Peterson’s work here. Meanwhile, the US Gospel Coalition put up this thoughtful but suspicious review by Joe Carter, warning people that Peterson could be “dangerous,” a humanist pied piper leading people astray. At the time I thought Carter was misreading the tea leaves as far as which direction the traffic was actually going in Peterson’s wake, and I think the year has borne me out.

Most of these takes were necessarily limited in scope. People have generally had only enough bandwidth to form at best a low-resolution picture of the Peterson phenomenon, even when it’s a positive one. It’s only thanks to the luxury of free time that I’ve been able to join the conversation myself in the depth that I have. (You can read some of my thoughts here or here, the former an analysis of his debate with Sam Harris that people seemed to find helpful, the latter a reflection on his views of the Resurrection that closes with a takeaway from my own brief personal encounter with the man. I will also insert a plug for a forthcoming essay collection from Lexham Press tentatively titled Understanding Jordan Peterson: A Critical Analysis, which will feature contributions from me, Alastair Roberts, Bruce Ashford and Hunter Baker inter alia.)

A key exception is YouTube pastor (and IRL pastor) Paul VanderKlay, who’s been providing his own California brand of freewheeling in-depth commentary on All Things Peterson, Intellectual Dark Web, and more since 2017. While I don’t always agree with Paul, he’s attained a level of understanding that the bite-sized book reviews and quick takes I’ve seen can’t touch. His channel is valuable not only for his own commentary, but as a repository of conversations with Peterson fans from all nationalities and walks of life who are wrestling with life’s biggest questions. It would behoove pastors to set aside some time and just listen to a few of these conversations (here’s my favorite, with a young volunteer fireman in the Netherlands who’s been binge-reading C. S. Lewis). As a pastoral discussion prompt, I recommend this conversation with UK evangelist Glen Scrivener, where the two pastors compare notes about the phenomenon on each side of the Atlantic. Both Paul and Glen are among the few people I know who have recognized this cultural moment for what it is: the kind of opportunity the Church gets handed once in a blue moon.

It is a myth that all of Peterson’s fans are young men, angry or otherwise. (In fact, young couples are frequently seen at his lectures. One among many overlooked aspects of Peterson’s work is his desire to encourage and strengthen marriages.) However, young men—particularly quirky, introverted, intellectually curious young men—do form a large percentage of his base. It hasn’t escaped people’s notice that this is precisely the demographic the Church has not been reaching, or worse, has been losing. Yet VanderKlay has said in interviews that he “could not have asked for a better men’s ministry” than the influx of men he has been regularly meeting to discuss Peterson’s work and its religious connotations. Men who would never attend a Bible study are suddenly beating down Paul’s virtual and real-life door to have conversations about God, Jesus and the Bible. Some of them are recovering New Atheists. Some of them grew up in the Church, drifted away, and are now wandering back across the Petersonian bridge, looking for conversation partners on the way. A few have confided to me that they have converted, or are in the process of weighing conversion very seriously.

On the one hand, this is tremendously encouraging. To use a bit of old-timey language, it would seem that the Spirit is “doing a work” through Jordan Peterson, whether Jordan Peterson realizes it or not (he seems only vaguely aware that this particular development is happening around him and reacts bemusedly when people mention it to him). So why has the Church been slow to recognize it? Many factors are at work, but VanderKlay suggests that there is a hesitance to confront the weaknesses Peterson might have exposed within the Church itself. To welcome the people who are only now walking through the door is to ask potentially difficult questions about why they weren’t coming before—or, more painful, why they left. Is Peterson getting something right that the Church has been getting wrong? It’s easy to run down a list of things Jordan Peterson could learn from the Church. But could the Church learn something from Jordan Peterson?

Bearing in mind that The Church is not a monolith, and thus any attempt to answer these questions will over-simplify, I think the answer is yes. I didn’t come up with twelve rules, but here are five.

1. The Church must authentically meet men’s emotional needs.

It is well known that church attendance is increasingly skewing feminine. One factor in play is that many churches place a premium on emotional displays and language—from the worship style, to the small groups, to the in-house jargon. This creates an awkward atmosphere for men who are uncomfortable whipping themselves up into an emotional state or oversharing private thoughts. Meanwhile, to borrow a quote from Will Willimon, too many of our pastors and priests are “quivering masses of availability,” wearing bleeding hearts on their sleeve but unable to speak into men’s lives with a strong and authoritative masculine voice.

Into this vacuum, Peterson speaks with a voice that is at once authoritative and encouraging to men. He offers tough love that tells men they aren’t living up to their potential, without swinging to the other extreme and shaming them for it. He praises and exemplifies distinctively masculine virtues. And crucially, these virtues do not exclude emotion. Indeed, Peterson himself frequently bursts into tears on camera (those are three separate links—watch the first if you just watch one). So wherein lies the difference? One word: authenticity. Where churches manufacture emotion, Peterson allows it to take him by surprise. He teaches men how to weep, without telling them when to weep.

Men are not unemotional creatures. They have deep feelings and deep emotional needs. Churches that traffic in shallow emotionalism as a substitute for authentic emotion will not meet this need.

2. The Church must satisfy the intellectually curious.

Pastors are teachers. As a teacher myself, I understand the delicate balancing act of trying to keep as many of your students engaged as possible. To this end, sermons and Bible studies tend to cast a wide net. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this. But the trade-off is that you will lose some of your students. In their concern to make sure everyone can keep up, churches need to not lose sight of those who are, to be blunt, bored to tears. Not bored because the music isn’t loud enough, or the pastor isn’t dropping enough pop-culture references, but bored because they are not being given an intellectual challenge.

As a lover of what the academy used to be who laments what it has become, Peterson brings a fire in his belly for educating young minds. He displays a dizzying breadth of knowledge in his lectures, darting from Dostoeyvsky to Milton to Solzhenitsyn to the Bible in the space of minutes. Of course, he’s also steeped in deeply flawed thinkers like Darwin and Jung, but this isn’t the space to go into a critique. The point is that one lecture series by Peterson is liable to give a young person more bona fide humanities education than four years of college. And while some pastors are rolling out Marvel-themed sermon series, Peterson is deeply pondering the stories of the Fall, Cain and Abel, Moses and the Law, Jacob wrestling with God.

The Bible says we are to love God not only with our hearts but with our minds. Church should equip us to do both. The intellectually hungry should not go away unfed. Bible studies should not offer milk when people are silently begging for meat. Pastors should be well-read, not only in theology but in great literature, in poetry, in history. Highly educated church members with the gift of teaching should be connected with young people craving what their anemic public educations are not giving them. Knowledge should be valued not only as a means to an end, but as an end in itself.

Lest anyone think I’m implying only men can be intellectually bored, I assure you I am not. I have female friends who would much rather attend a Jordan Peterson lecture than attend a Women’s Conference. In fact, they would probably rather stay home and watch paint dry than attend a Women’s Conference. Such women exist. They walk among you. And they are bored.

3. The Church must not be afraid of questions.

Some of my critiques so far have been leveled at shallow church culture. But other churches take their faith very seriously indeed, meditating deeply on the Word and working hard to instill biblical principles in their youth. This is a welcome counter-balance to churches that ceased being serious houses on serious earth long ago. Yet church communities like this have their own potential pitfall: distrust of questions. Children are raised to affirm highly specific doctrinal package deals that go well beyond “mere Christianity,” every tenet of which is assigned the exact same weighting in the grand scheme. It’s not always well received when those children get into their teens and begin to have another look at the package. When someone I know approached a prominent evangelical figurehead whom I won’t name with a textual question (“asking for a friend”), the response was “Well, your friend must just be looking for an excuse to lose his faith.”

I consider myself very conservative. But exchanges like the one I just quoted are not unique, and they are a big reason why young people are walking away from our churches and never coming back. Can young people use intellectual doubts as an excuse for simple rebellion? Yes. But sometimes they genuinely want answers. If our first reaction when people ask honest questions is to attack their motives, it’s no wonder that they will look for those answers elsewhere.

One frequent refrain I hear from Peterson fans is that he is helping them to put “science and religion” together, in a way they believe Christians are incapable of doing. Again, this isn’t the place to discuss whether his Jungian brand of evolutionary psychology actually coheres (though, spoilers, it doesn’t). But what I’ve increasingly realized is that to the extent evangelical churches address creation versus evolution at all, they largely do so from a Young Earth Creationist perspective. This is by far the most common alternative to the complete acceptance of evolutionary theory that one will find in mainline churches. Very few Christian young people are raised with a savvy, philosophically tough-minded view of the debate that will actually equip them to push back on the evolutionary paradigm without clinging to a Young Earth paradigm. When their church leaders teach them this is all or nothing, they will believe them. And when their college professors also tell them this is all or nothing, they will believe them, too.

4. The Church must not be afraid of the dark.

Peterson doesn’t like to claim certainty about much of anything, but if he has an axiom, it would be his oft-repeated mantra that “Life is suffering.” (William Goldman, is that you?) He tells his listeners that no matter who they encounter, it’s a good bet that person is working through his own tragedy. His lectures are peppered with harrowing tales from his clinical experience of shattered, damaged people, some of whom he could help and some of whom he couldn’t. He writes and speaks often about walking his own daughter through the agonies of rheumatoid arthritis (here he is, crying again). He talks openly about his family’s history with clinical depression (here he is, using his own experience to advise a depressed follower ).

When it comes to papering over the tragedy of life, the Joel Osteens of the Church are low-hanging fruit. And yet, even when churches don’t blatantly preach a prosperity gospel, there can still be an unspoken expectation that even if things get this bad, they probably won’t get that bad, or at least not bad in that way. Maybe we’ll allow that church people can die of cancer, or something. But church families struggling with dysfunction and estrangement? Church couples having sexual frustration? Pastors being depressed? We don’t like to talk about these things. They’re hard, and they’re messy, and they’re not just going to be magically fixed by so many hours of prayer and Bible reading.

Christians need space to be honest. They need space to say it out loud when everything is falling apart, and their prayers are not being answered. They need pastors and other church members who will go through the darkness with them, instead of shying away from it. They need to be shown, by example, that to name the dark is not to surrender to the dark. If a pagan Stoic can confront it and emerge with his spirit intact, how much less do we have to fear, as those who do not walk without hope?

5. The Church must be willing to stand up.

Long before the Cathy Newman interview, Peterson caught people’s attention for saying he wouldn’t use “alternate pronouns” in the wake of new Canadian legislation that made transgenders a protected class. It was a gutsy move that put him in a risky position relative to his job at University of Toronto. And people respected him for it. People are looking for that person who won’t salute the flag, who won’t make the gesture, who won’t tell the little lie to stay out of big trouble. They are looking because they suspect that the person who says “I will not do this” usually has very good reasons for not doing this, whatever “this” is. Reasons developed over a lifetime, integrated into a worldview built by hand.

The fact that Peterson wouldn’t in fact sign on to a holistic conservative Christian worldview is not the point here. The point is that increasingly few Christians are willing to stand for anything. They think they are earning credit with people by capitulating to every new demand of the broader culture, when all they are earning is contempt and empty pews.

The Church must be willing to say “I will not.” The Church must be willing to stand up and be counted. If she loses her soul now, she will never find it again.

In conclusion, there is no silver bullet that will solve the mystery of why people don’t like church but love Jordan Peterson. While I’m handing out unsolicited advice, let me also offer some equally unsolicited encouragement: For many of you, there is a large extent to which you couldn’t help this. Faithful pastors who look on self-consciously at Peterson’s charisma, knowledge base and speaking skills: You couldn’t help this. Christian parents whose son never listened to you but will listen to Jordan Peterson: You couldn’t help this. Persevere. Till the field you’ve been given. Let the Spirit work through whom He will work. And if you should open your office door of a Sunday to find an awkward young man full of awkward questions, invite him in and tell him to take a seat. You will know what to do.


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  • Thingamabob

    Great article! Don’t agree with your take on Jung, but that’s ok!

  • Basilone1

    Finally, I told Patheos all these points over a year ago after the first onslaught of hit pieces.

  • Bill Pavuk

    Jordan Peterson has a lot of brilliant insights to offer. But exalting him as if some sort of guru or leader for faith communities is no better than when denominations have done similarly with Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Rick Easum and Tom Bandy, and others over the years. There are aspects of Peterson’s teachings that I applaud and appreciate. There are also aspects (especially his messages on gender and social issues) that make me cringe. For example, his insinuation that sexual harassment in the workplace isn’t a thing because women there are always showing up with make-up on and that sends a mixed message because the origins of women wearing make-up goes back to the animal kingdom inviting sexual contact. In other words, these women are wearing make-up which means they are “asking for it” and then they are furious when men seek to have sex with them. This opinion and some others are positively abhorrent and difficult for me to get past. I think it’s unfair to say that all of his audience are angry young men. That’s very unfair. That said, my awareness of Peterson began when friends of mine began talking about their admiration for him. These are men who have been in my life since I was a teenager and who regularly make sexist/misogynist jokes about women and have an understanding of God and humanity that leaves no room for the theology of the cross.

  • PhillipWynn

    “Deeply flawed thinker like Darwin.” Whut?

  • Randy Fleming

    Hmmm, thinking about what God has to say on this subject. Wondering if all this is about God or man. All scripture is inspired of God, not man. Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman needed not to be ashamed of the Gospel, rightly dividing the word of truth. Genesis thru Revelation is the word of God, 66 books. Jesus says, “I am the truth and the light”. But even the very words of Jesus are denied by most to claim to be followers of Christ because what the bible says, does not match what they are taught by teachers and false prophets that change the word of God for their profit. Zechariah 7: 2 Now the people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-melech and their men to entreat the favor of the Lord, 3 saying to the priests of the house of the Lord of hosts and the prophets, “Should I weep and abstain in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?” 4 Then the word of the Lord of hosts came to me: 5 “Say to all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted? 6 And when you eat and when you drink, do you not eat for yourselves and drink for yourselves?

    7 Were not these the words that the Lord proclaimed by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and prosperous, with her cities around her, and the South and the lowland were inhabited?’” 8 And the word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying, 9 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, 10 do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” 11 But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear.[a] 12 They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great anger came from the Lord of hosts. 13 “As I[b] called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear,” says the Lord of hosts, 14 “and I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations that they had not known. Thus the land they left was desolate, so that no one went to and fro, and the pleasant land was made desolate.”

    God’s word needs to be read and understood to be blessed, read:. Rev. 1:1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants[a] the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.

  • patrick wagner

    “In vain do we try to change people’s hearts or character by moving them to do things in ways that bypass their understanding”. [Dallas Willard]

  • nhtr86

    First, no one should form an opinion on Peterson without watching him in his own words on his own youtube channel at length. Every critique of him that I have seen has been done with an obvious agenda.

    Second, Peterson is making Christian or traditional values more popular because he has been able to give people an actual rational reasoning why those values are worth having. That’s something religion has never been able to do because it rests on faith or dogma. I suppose the religious can be happy that his work is leading more people back to the “right” side of things, but what they haven’t noticed is that buried in his thoughts is the reasoning for how we can finally let go of literal belief in religion while still maintaining the values that everyone with any sense knows are needed for a healthy functional society. If you believe that what is important is consideration for “traditional” values, then you should be supporting him fully. If you believe that what is important is the dogmatic belief in literalist religion, you should be fighting him as hard as you can.

  • @EstherOReilly

    Thanks for reading. I think this is a false dichotomy. I personally am a very intellectually fulfilled orthodox Christian, in that I believe there is plenty of good reason to hold to Christian faith literally understood. However, I’m not threatened at all by Peterson. I simply see him as someone on a journey who’s coming out of a radically different paradigm, and may hopefully change his mind some day the more he studies my faith. The way I see it, his audience is primarily composed of people who were never Christians in an orthodox sense to begin with, therefore the Church has little to lose by seeing him as an ally. I recommend C. S. Lewis’s book The Abolition of Man, which some Peterson fans have found helpful, because it discusses the “Tao” or “way” that Peterson is highlighting in his work. It’s not equivalent to a creedal affirmation of Christian faith, but for those of us who believe in the importance of natural law, it’s complementary.

  • joel

    It’s difficult for you to get past because unfortunately you thoroughly miss the point of what Peterson asserts, and have couched it in your own bias. His approach to sexual harassment is the same as many other issues he tackles – “it’s complicated”. Look at how dogmatically your assertions are.

  • joel

    Lesson #5 is what I’ve been asserting since I began following Peterson’s videos a year or so ago. The church is missing in action on “standing up” and young people are gravitating towards the likes of Peterson, Ben Shapiro and others from various faiths and philosophies precisely because they ARE standing against the absurdities and dogmatism of their leftist-dominated world. Thank you for this article.

  • @EstherOReilly

    You’re welcome. For the record, others within the Church are also not happy about this. In particular, on the issue of being vocal about abortion, Christians feel much more solidly backed up by Ben Shapiro than Tim Keller.

  • Bill Pavuk

    Sorry if I offended your sensibilities. What I shared above was literally “couched” in his own words. He said that harassment is complicated (true) because women send mixed signals by wearing make-up and doing other things with the primary intention of being alluring to men and then get upset when men take action. As for the rest, I did say that his appeal is much more than frustrated males. I can’t help that in my life experience, that happens to be those whom he has reached.

  • joel

    Exactly! What a good point.

  • That’s lazy. Plenty of folks have offered deep critiques of Jordan Peterson based upon research. But this idea persists that they simply don’t “get him.” Jordan Peterson is like a Rosharch test for conservative minds. He has emotional appeal. And he’s a somewhat inconsistent thinker who draws folks largely around his diagnosis of what’s wrong with society.

    Those who disagree with his diagnosis are almost always dismissed at somehow not doing enough reading. Or lacking some core instinct.

  • It irritates me how much you assume that giving Jordan Peterson a long, thoughtful, respectful hearing is the respectable path forward. as though those who reject him are idiots or childish. Meanwhile, you dismiss Jung and Darwin. I’m going to venture a guess that you haven’t given Darwin and Jung as much energy as you’ve given Peterson but understand the gist of their work to know you don’t approve.

    And you know what? That’s fine. You should simply recognize that others can make a similar assessment of Jordan Peterson.

    I think it is noteworthy that Jordan Peterson is reaching young white men who aren’t really finding a place in the church and also aren’t finding a place among progressive movements. Why that is seems way more complicated than you, the author, recognize. You seem to think Jordan Peterson is being used by God and we, the church, should listen.

    I think it is more accurate to say Peterson is tapping into young white men’s sense of shame and anxiety and giving them a way to deal with them, but the way he’s doing that is to tell them they’ve been tricked by progressivism or radicalism or the dreaded “Postmodern Neo-Marxism” and that they should reclaim their authority. This is why Peterson is so wildly popular among conservatives.

    So, yes. Peterson is encouraging young white men. But to use Christian language: he’s encouraging the Rich Young Ruler by affirming that he can receive the kingdom just as he is, without having to sell everything and giving it to the poor. He’s preaching a Gospel of reclamation, not renunciation. And to those who honestly see misogyny and white supremacy as intrinsically woven into the fabric of our society, and who want white men to confessionally engage in solving these problems, Peterson is hugely problematic.

    Now is a time where white dudes need to hear the Gospel. But Peterson isn’t pitching the Gospel. To be fair, I feel like the Church’s “gospel” is too spiritualized. And the Gospel of the Left is usually to offer white men a path of self-anihilation or social justice performance, rather than deep transformation that shows them that working for liberation is good for them too.

    For what it’s worthy: I’ve spent a lot of time reading Jordan Peterson. I’ve got two theological degrees. I’ve studied Jung in-depth. And I lecture regularly on politics. That isn’t me somehow claiming to be an expert. But it is my way of saying “be careful before you jump in with the assumption that I’m arguing from a place of ignorance or simplistic reading of Peterson.”

  • Brianna LaPoint

    The real leaders dont fawn after people, or Jesus.

  • Illithid

    The blog author doesn’t accept evolution. We’ve had some discussions.

  • Frederick William Schmidt

    Esther, I addressed an article on Peterson’s work to the Mainline/Progressive page that I drafted, but had not published sometime ago. I resisted reading your article until I published mine, for fear of drawing on your by accident and in an effort to avoid making it harder to complete my own article. Now I have read yours. Thank you! I’ve been reading Peterson for sometime now. Here is a link to my thoughts: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/whatgodwantsforyourlife/2019/02/7-reasons-jordan-peterson-is-more-popular-than-most-churches/?fbclid=IwAR0XWlqqyRMG5XjOuf6NqVo9lkLLkFUQsXLT0WkjrYa-b5sLwLCY7lXaUAkhttps://www.patheos.com/blogs/whatgodwantsforyourlife/2019/02/7-reasons-jordan-peterson-is-more-popular-than-most-churches/?fbclid=IwAR0XWlqqyRMG5XjOuf6NqVo9lkLLkFUQsXLT0WkjrYa-b5sLwLCY7lXaUAk

  • Alexandra

    What a curiously narrow perspective of gender behavior and views — especially for such a young person! I am old, though not a “fogey”, according to the traditional definition. I probably wandered here by mistake…..

  • Julian W

    For what it’s worth, Jordan Peterson has helped me to understand how white supremacy, mysogeny ect. are woven into society. I’ve been attracted to him because of his insights on philosophy, theology, phenomenology and he has helped me to see the world in a new way. I’ve come to appreciate that, to put it in his terms, there are two ways of looking at the world: “the world as a forum for action” and “the world as a place of things.” This distinction is at the heart of his approach and it is what has led many young men to take an interest in the bible and the philosophical schools Peterson is thinking within (existentialism, phenomenology, Jung, ect.) Thats why I’m interested in Peterson, but for some reason, many of his critics, don’t seem to be aware that Peterson is helping move people in a much more interesting direction: beyond fundamentalism and new atheism. This should be something that Progressives especially would applaud, but unfortunately, many can’t seem to see past Peterson’s politics.

    I think your critique of Peterson though, is spot on. It seems to me that Peterson is interested in defending Christendom, not Christianity. The challenge for Christians, and especially Anabaptist Christians is to point out that there is a big difference between the two.

    I think the question Esther wants to ask is this: given that Peterson is getting a lot of young men interested in the bible and Christianity, how can we as Christians reach out to these people?

  • @EstherOReilly

    Hey, enjoyed your piece. Thanks for sharing. Would you mind giving me a pingback in what you wrote? Might be helpful for folks to compare.

  • Frederick William Schmidt

    Happy to, Esther!

  • Frederick William Schmidt

    And done, in the comments section!

  • Kathleen Wasik

    I am a 67 year old female, with three degrees (Psychology, Sociology, Theology) and have extensive experience and research in all three fields. I too have been researching Mr. Peterson for years and discussing him in a myriad of settings and with all different types of people. He, himself, does not understand his ‘attraction’, but even if he did, it would not change a thing. He reaches people because they are starved for data, for insights, to be freed to think for themselves and not to be told what to do or think. Yes, many of his ‘followers’ are young men, but he reaches people from every walk of life. I have spoken to a vast amount of people of every race, every socioeconomic group, both genders, various sexual orientations, various political persuasions, etc. – and these hundreds of people all receive something from this man. Even if they discount his conclusions and disagree, they still receive the gift of thinking deeper than they were before listening to him. I do not agree with him on all topics, but then again I have never met anyone with whom I am in full agreement. I can say that with the exception of three other people in my long life, Mr. Peterson makes me delve deeper into my own grey matter and contemplate just why I believe some of the things I believe – this is his gift to me and many others.

  • @EstherOReilly

    Thanks much! Maybe you could add it in the reference in the post too, assuming that’s my post you’re referring to there. 😀

  • Frederick William Schmidt

    I did. I find that it takes time for changes to migrate through. I hope it doesn’t take too long to surface. Best…

  • @EstherOReilly

    Again, thanks! I’m glad you’re generating good discussion with your piece. I’ve seen it shared in a Peterson fan group already.

  • Frederick William Schmidt

    Happy to do it, Esther. I wish that there were more occasions for work across platforms at Patheos. Perhaps we should plan some kind of cooperative effort on an occasional topic.

  • Mitchel Miller

    In #3 you said “this isn’t the place to discuss whether his Jungian brand of evolutionary psychology actually coheres”. I’d love to hear more about this. Are there articles or podcasts discussing this topic that you would recommend?

  • Pamela Johnson

    I’m 73 and seven of my female friends recently attended one of his lectures. I email regularly with three or four other female friends, so we’re out there but not as many, obviously as the younger male crowd. When we had our tickets to his lecture, three of the women said their sons, grandsons and a son-in-law all wished they had tickets. Dr. P is a phenom, an antidote to the years of my being bored in Bible studies, church and in other sterile intellectual church events and conversations.

  • Pamela Johnson

    I think brevity was Ester’s concern.

  • Waverly

    Peterson is our Martin Luther.

  • Aajaxx

    Peterson is not stupid enough to make something like abortion a black and white issue, or allow people to use an opinion as evidence of their moral superiority.

  • agkcrbs

    Occasionally he gets things wrong, as he freely admits, one of his mantras being to listen to what your enemies tell you, because you may learn about your blind spots from them. Peterson is probably right that self-beautification practices originated in direct relationship to mate-attraction. But many women obviously make themselves attractive for the sake of their own gender hierarchy more than for male attention, which seems to honestly surprise and frequently traumatize them. His point remains forceful: not only does male attention annoy women, but female beauty affects and attracts males, and this effect is unwisely ignored in considerations of optimal gender interactions, swept aside by female-centric ideology and habituated offense like you, Bill, just demonstrated. Well, there’s your blind spot; do with it what you will.

  • Orlando Guimarães

    This was a Very good article

  • Dan

    This is the first time I’ve read anything of yours O’REILLY, but I’m glad to say this will not be the last.

  • Claire

    Young people are walking away from your churches because you peddle bigoted nonsense, and your affinity for Dr. Bigot Peterson is telling on you.

  • Claire

    Peterson is literally telling them what to think lol

  • Claire

    So he’s helping you to embrace your white supremacy and misogyny?

    I can’t imagine why folks in progressive circles would be bothered by that. eyeroll.gif

  • Claire

    Thank you for admitting that christianity is just a front for oppressive hierarchy. I couldn’t agree more.

  • Claire

    It’s really not complicated, Joel. Don’t sexually harass people.

  • Claire

    Martin Luther was a racist misogynist too, so this tracks.

  • Jesse H

    What’s really going on with you? You keep twisting what people are saying. How can I help you or dialogue with you?

  • Claire

    I twisted nothing. Peterson is a flagrant bigot and you admire him. I don’t know why you’re getting so emotional about me pointing that out.

  • Jesse H

    I’m wishing to engage you in dialogue. I haven’t expressed emotion except interest in engaging you. So what’s your story?

  • Claire

    Your entire post was gushing with emotion. You just don’t see it.

  • patrick wagner

    Kathleen, do you really think in this day and age of information overload that Peterson, as you say,”reaches people because they are starved for data” ?
    Would you not agree that today more people are ignorant because of –
    IGNORANCE – from Latin “ignorare” to not know even though necessary information has been willfully refused or disregarded
    rather than from –
    NESCIENCE – from Latin “nesciere” to not know because knowledge is absent or unattainable ?

    Jordan Peterson says – “God is that collective unconscious that is “supra-natural”, beyond the conscious control product of the collective consciousness that transforms the material world into productive space.”
    Carl Jung says – “the sub-conscious sub-personalities, by watching the behavior of other beings for millions of years develop consciousness and through that consciousness change the chaos of the material layer into productive, ordered space in which those beings may inhabit and thrive.”
    … both of them discuss and define what may be the same “Logos” as contemporary philosophers describe, but is it the “One” who they must still “personally” get to know?

    Then you have Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who, in his poems – “expresses the intuition that the world in which we find ourselves, and all its contents – its lakes, its mountains, the shining stars – are themselves words, within an “eternal language which God utters” .

    “And what is taught in this language? It is not the accumulation of observations and statistics which passes for science, but rather the language of the cosmos which, rightly heard, teaches, or perhaps reaches towards, the hidden Speaker of the language: the One who from eternity doth teach, Himself in all, and all in Himself.” [Malcolm Guite]

    … and all of them, whether they are aware of it or not, are merely confirming – Romans 1:20 “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:”

  • Julian W

    Hmm. I wasn’t saying that Claire. I guess we see what we know eh? 🙂 I often find myself doing the same thing. I have a low resolution view of who someone is or how they think and then I find myself seeing everything they say through my low resolution lens. Its a tricky habit to get rid of, in a way you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. If we have no “lenses” to bring, its impossible to understand others. If we let our lenses dominate, they distort what others are saying.

    So I think lenses of “white supremacy and misogyny” are helpful lenses to have, but we can’t let them lead to distortions.

  • Claire

    What distortions are you referring to? I’m not sure what you’re accusing me of here.

    I think just think it’s weird that you claimed you learned more about racism and misogyny from a racist misogynist like Peterson. I can only assume you meant he helped you embrace those bigotries, since that’s what he promotes.

    I’m not sure how you can claim he’s moving angry young men away from fundamentalism. He’s doing nothing but confirming their beliefs that they are owed privileges that nobody else has. He’s affirming their fundie beliefs.

  • Julian W

    Claire, I guess the distortion would be that your interpretation of my comment is the opposite of what I was trying to say. 🙂

    Well, the point I made in the comment certainly is counter intuitive, when I’ve told Jordan Peterson fans about this, they too were surprised. I didn’t lay it out very thoroughly in my comment, so let me say a bit more, I think it will speak to your second concern as well.

    So near the heart of what Peterson is talking about is the distinction between the world as a forum for action, and the world as a place of things. The world as a place of things is the world described by science, the world as a forum for action is the world of phenomenology, the world of experience.

    With this in mind, lets move to Peterson’s biblical series, where he explores the psychological significance of the biblical stories. In these series Peterson argues that the psychological truths within these stories have profoundly shaped the western subconscious. To such a degree that People in the west essentially act as if they are Christians, the stories, the Christian mode of being has just penetrated so deep into our subconscious, our institutions, our laws ect. ect. Christianity is part of our EXPERIANCE, part of “the world as forum for action.”

    Its this claim which makes me see how racism can be systemic. Just like Christianity has become built into the west, so too, white supremacy, misogamy, have become built into our subconscious, our institutions, our laws ect.

    Here is a question for you, since the rise of Peterson, have you seen a change in how people influenced by Peterson think or act? Have you seen people emboldened in their misogyny or racism for example?

  • Claire

    This is precisely why people say that Peterson is what a uneducated man thinks a philosopher sounds like. Biblical stories aren’t unique. The same themes can be found in stories from all over the world. We can just as easily point to Greek and Roman myths and show how much they have influenced modern psychology. In fact, many motifs in christian mythology can also be found in greek/roman mythology. Christianity isn’t special.

    And I have no idea what you mean by asserting that we all act as if we are christians even though we are not. For example, I’ve never covered up for a kid toucher or told an abused wife to stay married to her abuser, so how can you say I act like a christian? You will have to give me some example.

    I’m glad you can understand that racism and sexism are systemic. Do you think that is a good thing or a bad thing? Peterson thinks sexism is fine and good and that women like being abused.

    As for change in his followers, I wouldn’t know. I don’t associate with people who think I deserve to be abused & oppressed. But it’s pretty clear bigots throughout society are being emboldened by some influence.. so perhaps?

  • B.W. MaGurk

    I’m not sure just why Peterson interests me, I’m rather averse to dogma of all stripes, and I do not believe in the supernatural, but the brouhaha surrounding him peaks my curiosity. That is the reason your article drew my attention, but Esther, you lost me completely when you dismissed Darwin and Jung as deeply flawed thinkers.