Jordan Peterson has been called “the most influential public intellectual in the Western world right now” by the New York Times, “the world’s most sought after psychologist” by Psychology Today, and “rock star” by most every other pundit—admiringly by fans, sarcastically by critics.
Whatever he is, Jordan Bernd Peterson is crushing it. As of this writing, his YouTube channel has close to 800,000 subscribers; his videoed lectures on the interface between psychology and the biblical narrative are virally shared; his Patreon account snags over $70,000 per month; and his live lectures and debates sell out everywhere.
But what recently supercharged his notoriety (?) was his patient take-down of England’s Channel 4 presenter Cathy Newman during a contentious interview about the so-called gender pay gap. If you missed that slow-motion car wreck, it’s here. As of this writing, it generated over six million views and pushed a worldwide audience in his direction very quickly—and providentially, just in time for the release of his new book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.
In this interview (my fourth with him, the first in person), I get into some of the questions I many of my listeners have had about his worldview. Is he a Christian? Agnostic seeker? Lapsed Catholic academic trying to climb back home? We go there.
Peterson’s Bible exegesis approaches the sacred text from surprising angles, mainly drawn from Jungian insights into archetypes and mythopoetic interpretations of the events and players of salvation history. He is a gifted storyteller with an intense way of getting to the inner truths of the outer stories.
If you’re looking for black and white answers that bear the whiff of complete certainty, try a dogmatic theologian. Peterson is acutely allergic to tossing out glib answers to questions he believes need to be deeply pondered before wading into premature answers. In sense, many of his lectures seem to be orally delivered first drafts of something he might write down later and polish. He clarifies his own thinking as he goes.
For people (especially mothers and fathers) who are concerned about the aggressive neo-Marxist social engineering on college campuses and about the rise of the dictatorship of relativism, Peterson’s courage and perseverance in the face of intense pushback from defenders of the academic status quo is downright inspiring.
12 Rules for Life is not short, and is not for everyone. His eponymous rules embody the kind of tough love messaging that was common in say, pre-1960s America. In a post-modern era of politically correct bromides beloved by feminists and their beta male cheerleader, Peterson offers strong lye, albeit peppered with an offbeat sense of humor. He knows that some medicine now and again needs a spoonful of sugar to go down.
How his role in the battle for free speech in Canada with the passage of Bill C-16, which criminalized “misgendering” someone, ended up launching his new career as a social critic and surrogate father to millions of millennials.
Why PTSD is as much about the realization of the evils of which one is capable as about life-threatening experiences one has had.
His thought process in analyzing the foundational miracle of Christianity, the Resurrection of Christ.
The ways in which the West is still in something of a hangover from Soviet Communism.
How suffering can be an introduction to experiences of profound meaning and sensitivity to the pain of others.
The enduring influence of his father (and former teacher) Walter Peterson.
Why failing to speak up against evil is far more costly than actually doing so.
12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, by Dr. Jordan Peterson.
He Leadeth Me, by Walter Ciszek, SJ.
With God In Russia, by Father Walter Ciszek, SJ.
Holy Bible, Ignatius Study Bible, Second Catholic Edition.
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