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Jordan Peterson's Message to the Christian Churches
Little did I know when I posted my very positive look back at Jordan Peterson’s 2018 appearance on the UK’s Channel 4 that this was going to be Jordan Peterson week.
In response, somebody sent me an in-depth post from a few days prior by a documentary film maker who made multiple positive films about Jordan Peterson and actually used to contract for Channel 4. He was a Peterson fan and yet can’t help but ask, what happened to Jordan Peterson? I had noted I saw some unfortunate shifts in Peterson’s behavior and message. This does a good job of covering some of that territory.
Then, literally the same day I published my piece, Peterson put up a 10 minute video called a “Message to the Christians Churches.”
A number of people were critical of Peterson here in defining the church’s mission in temporal terms - reminding men of an ark to build, a land to conquer, etc. But I think this is unfair. Yes, there’s no gospel in this. But his take is mostly a restatement of the creation mandate. I find these complaints somewhat amusing given how loudly so many temporal social justice matters are said to be “gospel issues” in the church today.
Nevertheless, there are some problems here.
It’s very instructive to watch this video back to back with his Channel 4 appearance.
Whereas in his Channel 4 appearance he was calm in the face of a hostile interviewer, demonstrated mastery of his material, strong frame control, constructive engagement, etc., his demeanor here is very different.
Some adjectives I wrote down while watching his new video to describe what I was seeing: seems to have an edge, ideological, angry, scolding, apocalyptic, even contemptuous at times.
Not a good look and I can see why so many people on twitter had a negative reaction to this. This is very different to the way he attracted his audience of young men in the first place. In fact, this reminded me of nothing so much as the kind of “Man up!” lectures evangelical pastors like to give to the men in their pews. So if you are a pastor, watching this will give you a sense of how those kinds of sermons can come across to their recipients at times. (Some people do respond well to them, just as some will no doubt respond well to Peterson here).
Should Jordan Peterson read this article, my question would be: Mr. Peterson, is this the person you hoped to become? Remember who you once were and could be again.
But at the end of day the joke is on us. Peterson (and other secular influencers) have attracted big audiences of mostly young men where the church failed to do so. While popularity is no guarantee of truth, I’m sad to report that Peterson has often given men more accurate factual information than the church. As just one example, the church has deeply flawed teachings on attraction.
At the end of the day there’s only one valid reason to become a Christian: because it’s true. At the level of basic metaphysical truth, Peterson is wrong and the church is right. That’s a great starting point for us to work from. But we need to be willing to discover where we have gone wrong - in terms of facts, wisdom for living, and engagement with men - and get in the game to outcompete the likes of Peterson in the marketplace for the hearts and minds of young men.
Ultimately, criticisms from outside the house, particularly when delivered in this hectoring manner, are rarely accepted. But perhaps we can choose to take this as a challenge.
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