Quick Hits: Jordan Peterson, Museum of the Bible, Way of the Cross for children and adults
If you haven’t yet seen the famous Channel 4 interview of Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson from last month, it’s well worth spending 30 minutes to watch what I imagine will be considered one of the most significant media moments of 2018. The interviewer, Cathy Newman, who espouses generic media feminist values, repeatedly tries to misrepresent Peterson’s views, beginning her sentences with “So you’re saying” too many times to count. But the good professor never once loses his cool; indeed, I’ve never seen someone so disarmingly relaxed in the face of a hostile interviewer. He dismantles her ideas in a way that I would call brutal if he weren’t in fact so gentle and polite about it.
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The result is a massive embarrassment for Newman, her network, and feminism more generally. The interview now has over 6 million views on YouTube, and Cathy Newman will be living out the rest of her career as a meme. Dr. Peterson himself doesn’t consider it a victory worth much celebration—to his credit, he would have preferred a real conversation to “winning”—but his masterful use of his experience as a clinical psychologist to handle Newman’s aggressive ideological tactics is beautiful to behold.
The viral Channel 4 interview and the publication of his new book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, have given Peterson as much publicity as he’s ever had. He is, as Tyler Cowen and David Brooks have written, perhaps the most influential public intellectual in the West right now, and for good reasons. His exhortations to moral responsibility and truth-telling have struck a chord with countless young men, and he has even managed to get atheists interested in reading the Bible.
But as I pointed out last August, this extraordinarily compelling figure offers a take on Christianity that is almost entirely reduced to its moral and psychological content. It’s unclear where his influence, clearly salutary in the short term, will lead in the long run as his disciples decide whether or not to go beyond him into incarnational faith. (It’s also unclear whether Christian leaders in the West will step up to offer a witness remotely as compelling as Peterson’s, so it’s not as if I’m blaming him.) I wrote my article about Peterson at a time when the buzz around him consisted mostly of vicious slander and uncritical hero-worship, and however deficient it may have been, my piece was practically the only “friendly critique” from an orthodox Christian point of view that had been written. Nonetheless I have since hoped that other, more competent writers would venture on some constructive criticism of Dr. Peterson. To my relief, now that his book has been published, intelligent Christian writers who may have been less likely to watch Peterson’s lectures on YouTube have begun to engage with his ideas.
UPDATE: Patrick Coffin has just interviewed Jordan Peterson, getting him to talk explicitly about his relationship with Christian orthodoxy and Catholicism in particular.
A couple weeks ago I posted some brief thoughts on the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. At the Jewish Mosaic Magazine, Diana Muir Appelbaum explores the motivations behind some attempts in media and academia to discredit the new Museum.
For those looking to introduce their children to the Stations of the Cross this Lent, or wishing to deepen their own practice of this ancient devotion, I highly recommend Mark Christopher Brandt’s booklet His Footsteps...Your Calvary: A Heroic but Practical Way of the Cross. The booklet begins with two simple Ways for children and culminates in a series of powerful and challenging meditations for use by adults.
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