Religious Conversations in a Non-Religious World

I’ve gone through a process of second-guessing my latest criticism of Jordan Peterson, but I’ve decided it was not out of line after all. I objected when he talked about motherhood being a great adventure. Motherhood really is an adventure, but you have to consider his comments in context. There was his interview with GQ feminist, Helen Lewis. In addition to his shameless bullying, I think that was the interview in which he said with a little tight smile that one woman was enough trouble. I’ve noticed that some men feel safe with this kind of remark maybe because they pretend it’s a sex game. But it’s an insult that the entire world has come to accept as manly humor. The feminist either didn’t recognize this, or she refused to take the bait. Probably the latter–I noticed she ignored other zingers and I admired her for that.

The thing that inspired my criticism of Peterson was his interview with Bishop Barron. Referring to Peterson’s approach to the conversation, the bishop mentioned that young ladies don’t respond to it, to which Peterson insisted that there is a serious conversation to be had with women. Then he said they must be taught that the great adventure for women is to bring a child into the world in spite of problems with the world.

This is none of his business. He’s a psychologist and a public celebrity. He’s not a religious leader and he’s not related to the women he was addressing. Combined with his general failure to address women as a group and the superior attitude that he has displayed in various interviews, this ‘fatherly’ advice couldn’t help but sound condescending.

Earlier in the interview he said that he has been criticized for speaking only to young men. He countered this accusation by saying that he’s trying to ennoble heroism about the Christian vision and teach men to accept with gratitude their privileges and limitations–to make the most of their privileges and be grateful for their limitations.  This sounds like an admirable goal, but he didn’t really answer the criticism did he?

I hid this site for a few days partly because of a video by a progressive commentator arguing that it’s Bernie’s way to to accept all faiths. I didn’t know if he was responding to me but if he was I didn’t deserve it. I wasn’t criticizing Christianity. I was criticizing Peterson, but Peterson’s assumption of the mantle of Christianity has fooled many progressives. I would like to point out the irony of this situation.

I think it all started when Bernie spoke at Liberty University and cited Amos 5:24:

“But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.” He added that justice is treating others the way we want to be treated, treating all people, no matter their race, their color, their stature in life, with respect and with dignity.

I thought the speech was inspiring, however Jerry Falwell Jr., the head of Liberty University, soon endorsed Donald Trump. This was followed closely by our dear Democratic Party’s efforts to frame Sanders as an atheist. Then it turned out that a substantial number of Bernie’s supporters liked him better that way and were prepared to fight anyone who dared call him religious. Meanwhile progressives on YouTube were fawning over Jill Stein and anyone else who sounded vaguely progressive-ish, never mind that Stein was working to take as many votes as she could from Bernie in the primary. (This is still happening by the way.) Then after the 2016 election there were rumors of a general exodus from the Democratic Party in favor of the Libertarians…Libertarians! Forget the alt-right!  I’m having enough trouble keeping up with progressives. Since I published this article the first time I think I detected a snarl from another progressive pundit over the question of whether progressives should support other progressives besides Bernie. She insists that we should. I’d like to know where this strategy came from, because it makes no sense whatsoever. And it is being implemented without discussion.  But I know from experience that she probably won’t change it. This thing where every YouTube authority charges off in his or her own direction is not at all what I had in mind when I argued that the people could solve the problems of this country better than the ruling class.

On the other hand, I’m not surprised that atheists and other non-religious people would be attracted to Peterson. That is his stated goal after all. However from what I’ve observed, people who have grown up believing in the irrelevance of religion have few defenses against these crying virtuosos. I just hope they won’t be fooled into thinking he represents a coherent religious tradition.

I’m glad I listened to the whole interview because I was encouraged by many of Bishop Barron’s responses. He didn’t disagree with anything Peterson said but it seemed to me his responses often conveyed a subtle difference. The non-religious think we must accept everyone’s beliefs without question but that has never been my approach.  It really makes a difference what believers say about their religion.  Here are some of the topics I saw as important exchanges.

To Peterson’s use of Noah to represent the family properly ordered and the importance of the orderly care and progression of the soul–something he attributed to Jung and Bishop Barron–the Bishop said that the biblical key is right praise. Right praise ‘creates peace around me’.

I actually agreed with Peterson when he said the the biblical Exodus does not represent the domain of freedom. (However, when the bishop lamented that we valorize the many and denigrate the one, I wondered if he was talking about the progressive movement. I think there is a subterranean tug-of-war in these exchanges between progressive politics and traditional Church culture.)

Peterson’s use of the Logos, a la Jung is worrisome, as well as his focus on conciliation with the non-religious. The obvious question would be, if the non-religious are converted by Peterson what exactly will they be converted to?

The time period which the bishop uses to describe the Church’s process of disintegration–the last 250 years–is very curious. It seems to me he could just as easily blame the writings of Joachim of Fiore (1135-1202) for the beginning of the disintegration.
But I appreciated his answer when Peterson shared his goal of ennobling heroism in young men. “What’s interesting is that God has gone on a hero’s journey…Our heroism is dependent on this grace.”

I think it was Peterson who claimed that the burning bush (Exodus 3: 1-6) is analogous to the Glory of God in a ‘human being truly alive’.  I wonder if Peterson’s Hermetic leanings led him to this belief. For what it’s worth I disagree that the burning bush is an analogy.