If you want a personification of trending, Ed Sheeran is old school. Jordan Peterson is hot at the moment.
And isn’t he causing a stir?
He’s either the Messiah or the Monster, depending on which side of the political and cultural fence you sit on.
And depending on which side of the Christian political and cultural fence you sit on. Which is kinda sad.
So the more progressive, slightly left Christian response is that he’s a woman hater, a champion of patriarchy, and “the intellectual that we deserve”. He’s the living embodiment of all that is wrong with the West. He’s the third person of the unholy Trinity: Brexit, Trump and Peterson.
Proof of this is an out of context meme that is then reduced on Facebook by the suitably horrified to a single non sequitur (“So what your saying is..” anyone?), followed by an ever increasing level of vitriol in the comments.
Phew, the monster has been outed and slain by a few quick social media sound bites – all in the name of Christian concern.
But if you’re more on the conservative end of the spectrum, despite the desire to like him, you have to show that you don’t like him too much, because your much more “thought out” than he is. That’s despite many political conservatives, both secular and Christian, considering him the best things since gluten free brownies.
For other Christians, however, especially among those more aligned with my theological frame, he is being posited as a “false teacher”, and someone who “doesn’t put Jesus at the centre of his Biblical narrative.”
It seems that his crime is to take the Old Testament narrative seriously, and to see it as foundational to Western culture. So here we are, moaning about how secular intellectuals don’t take the Bible seriously, then when one does, we moan about the fact he’s not using it to proclaim the gospel. Last time I looked, that was our job.
If Peterson were presenting himself as a gospel preacher doing the conference round, then well and good, call him out on it. But he’s not. He’s a clinical psychologist with a strong academic background who is well read, well connected, and who has long and strong conversations with people across the political spectrum, including Camille la Paglia who doesn’t exactly tick all of his political and cultural boxes to say the least.
Peterson is not the Messiah and he’s not the Monster that people wish him to be.
Here’s what he is doing, well at least this is what he says he is doing: speaking into a lot of young men’s lives who have no strong moral framework and no desire to be involved in religion. Now he may be doing that well. He may be doing it poorly. But doing it he is.
I’ve just spent the last two decades living in an area in which hard young men, with fast cars, lots of tattoos, a drinking culture, and very little money to show for their years of grind in a unskilled factory job, live.
And without doubt they are the hardest people to reach with the gospel. There is a glowering hostility to them that Christian progressives and Christian conservatives alike, never seem to reach, nor seem to care to reach. Conservatives fear them, and progressives despise them.
If Peterson is reaching them and we’re not, maybe we need to ask ourselves some hard questions.