I continue to be fascinated, inspired and amused by the “Jordon Peterson Phenomena.” Most interesting has been the reaction from social critics who have had some of their cherished assumptions about men and women challenged. A quote from David French described well what is happening in the social media regarding Peterson. French observed, “Peterson stands out because he is playing in the Left’s cultural sandbox. He’s disrupting an emerging secular cultural monopoly with arguments about history, tradition, and the deep truths about human nature that the cultural radicals had long thought they’d banished to the fringe.”
While Peterson’s orthodoxy is less than an evangelical guy like myself would hope for, he definitely has beliefs that favor a Christian worldview. He gives clear guidance on morals and manners, he takes evil seriously and he values the church and traditional family values. Peterson in his writings, videos and public interviews is not attempting to reach a Christian audience. What has been called “the Peterson Effect” describes Peterson’s effort to bring the findings of social science to bear on the cultural issues surrounding men and women. His findings counter the progressive attempt of eliminating male-female differences. “One ingredient in the astounding fame of Jordon Peterson,” writes Mark Bauerlein, “is his capacity to show just how lazy, obtuse, unprepared, smug, knee-jerk and prejudiced are many journalists at leading publications.”
Shame Morris in an article at Break Point reflects on Peterson’s earnestness. This is in evident when he speaks about young men. He speaks with solemnity and gravity, being persuasive because he speaks with deep passion. Without irony, mockery or pretense of superiority, Morris imagines Peterson saying to young men, “You know what? You’re not a monster, and you’re not an idiot, and you’re not what’s wrong with the world, and I understand you’re feeling lost and don’t know what to do with you life. But resentment and blaming other people is not going to get you anywhere. I’m here to help you find your way out of this black hole of impotence, and I want you to start by cleaning your room.”
The idea of earnestness in Peterson’s message has struck a cord with me. I concur with Bauerlein when he speaks of his influence. “To watch someone stand up to it [cultural smugness], to hear him cite clinical data and hold firmly against the party line they know is dishonest and coercive – that goes a long way to explaining the Peterson phenomenon.” Peterson is willing to go public with his deeply held convictions, knowing that he will not be accepted. Three characteristics in Peterson’s demeanor are convicting to me. First, his willingness to suffer. He believes that life contains unavoidable suffering, that needs to be embraced. Redemptive suffering, the call to carry the cross, and the need to sacrifice are in short supply in today’s church. Jesus tells us, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” ( Matt 16:24).
Secondly, Peterson speaks with passion. He speaks with deep passion about his ideas, communicating with a sense of honesty and sincerity. Paul reminds us, “The Message that points to Christ on the cross seems like sheer silliness to those hellbent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense” (I Cor. 1: 18 – Message).
Thirdly, Peterson can be confrontational not willing to accommodate the culture, while remaining respectful and level headed. Young men are drawn to Peterson because he is a rock in the cultural swamp in which many men are sinking. Jesus tells us, “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” ( John 6:63).