Jordan B. Peterson has become quite the lightning rod. Why is this? His main message is one of personal responsibility. Take control of your life. Confront and overcome the darkness and evil in your own soul. That is summed up, for Peterson, in what your mother always made you do before you played outside… CLEAN YOUR ROOM! Your room is a microcosm for your soul. The rest of the house is by contrast the public part, the part that everyone else sees. When we have guests over we’ll often (hopefully) clean up the house, put things away (not necessarily in their place, but out of sight), and, at last, shut our bedroom doors so no one notices what our most personal and revealing space looks like.
(Those of you who always keep their room clean will not be able to identify with this. Be grateful. But this is still worth reading, especially if you do not know much about Peterson and the nerves he is striking with a wide variety of people.)
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” -Jesus
Jordan has taken a lot of flak for his apparently simplistic “clean your room” rule for life. Earlier this year, while in Australia, an SJW confronted him about this simple rule of life. The exchange is instructive.
- Peterson and SJW
Followed by a brief cut from an interview with a funny-guy about the same topic.
- Peterson and Funny-Guy
What I have continually noticed is the inability of many of Dr. Peterson’s critics to think below the surface of what Jordan is saying, or at least appearing as if they are not in order to score easy political points with the woke, SJW crowd. “Are you saying I can’t worry about global climate change or starving African children, or the sex slave trade if my room is not clean all the time? That’s stupid!” Jordan always responds (my paraphrase): “If you can’t even clean up your own life, where do you come off thinking you have the moral authority to fix everyone else’s lives? Who or what do you think you are?” But they cannot or will not understand.
The Tragedy of Existence
“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within…” -Jesus
“Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun? One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose. The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits. All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again. All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us. There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after. […] So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter. […] The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh. Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit. Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun.” -Solomon
“And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth […] and the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth.” -Moses
Peterson returns to this theme often enough.
- Jordan on the suffering of existence
I must say that I have reacted in the past to this theme of evil, pain, pointlessness, and mindless suffering quite negatively. “God saw that it was good.” And then there’s the philosophical maxim that to be is better than not to be. I believe in the intrinsic goodness of reality, and evil is in some sense a privation of the good. It is an enemy of the goodness intrinsic in God’s good creation. So I bristled at the characterization of the world as very bad and evil, that “life is a fatal disease.” Not that I was a fool on the level of Rousseau, denying original sin, or blaming society for all the moral failings of the world. I’m very aware of sin. Like Lewis, I could write about the inner workings of a demon tempting the Christian precisely because I know how the game goes… it lives in me everyday. But quite recently it suddenly dawned on me what Peterson was saying… and more importantly, I realized was Jordan Peterson is in our age.
The Prophetic Nature of Peterson’s Mission
And why seest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye; and seest not the beam that is in thy own eye? Or how sayest thou to thy brother: Let me cast the mote out of thy eye; and behold a beam is in thy own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thy own eye, and then shalt thou see to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. -Jesus
And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. –Jesus
If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother and wife and children and brethren and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. -Jesus
The prophet often comes with a message of condemnation. He fills the air with a wave of painful and often very upsetting truths that threaten to upend the way of life and even the very worldview of his audience. “Woe to you” and “Unless you do this very difficult thing…” Yet the prophet often finds a small following, dedicated to reforming there own lives and thus the community and larger society around them.
I have come to see Jordan Peterson as a kind of secular prophet. He comes forth with fiery rhetoric. Life is a damn hard struggle. Life is a series of failures. Life is constantly letting you know you’re not good enough, and if you don’t recognize that on your own, something happens to knock you on your butt and make you confront your inadequacies.
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered. –Joel
Jordan is good at proclaiming the failures which ail our culture. But he is not only a prophet of doom. He offers a way out.
- A way out
Now, I am not saying Jordan Peterson is a religious prophet on the level of Moses, Solomon, Joel or Jesus Christ Himself. I am not even saying he is a prophet of God in the proper sense. But I see him, as I have said, as a secular prophet… a pre-evangelist. He is doing God’s work, to be sure. He is clearing away the weeds that can and do choke away the hope the Gospel of Jesus offers. He even helps those of us who have already accepted that message of love and reconciliation, the message that embraces suffering as redemptive, the message that proclaims that it is precisely through confronting the evil in your own heart, and wrestling with God, as Jacob wrestled with God, that you will be saved… and not only you, but the whole world as Jesus brings all Creation to Him in a renewed Heaven and Earth.
One last word, I had to smile when Jordan had this to say about the Catholic Church…
- Catholicism is sanest
Of course, he is absolutely right. Catholicism is the sanest game in town.