There is a difference between prominence and idolization. One can be prominent in a given market or movement without becoming idolized. Men like Rush Limbaugh were distinguished and influential without developing a cult of personality. Modern figures as Tucker Carlson or Joe Rogan are influential and are within the routine of regular viewers, but they achieved their reputations because they were willing to go places and break new ground on particular subjects. It can be reasoned that if Rogan continues bending the knee to the woke or Carlson’s content becomes restricted to the flavors of the other Fox News hosts, then their respective prominence would likely suffer.
Jordan Peterson is not another Tucker, Limbaugh, or Rogan. While many might recant what Tucker says on his nightly broadcast, Peterson is employed as an appeal to authority fallacy. Many content creators will appeal to Peterson, as if that is necessary for their argument or somehow gives it validity.
Frequently, his ancillary comments become click bait articles for his employer, Daily Wire, or other content creators hoping to cash in on the views he brings. His recent Twitter suspension was attributed to his tweet on 6/22 stating, “Remember when pride was a sin? And Ellen Page just had her breasts removed by a criminal physician.” For those that do not recall, the Ellen Page story was late May of 2021, which we and a host of others covered at the time. There is nothing in his tweet which is unique that was not stated a year ago by numerous figures. His suspension created an opportune moment to promote his recent content deal with Daily Wire.
Yet this pattern of controversy surrounding Peterson provides evidence of idolization. He states something benign and there is subsequent backlash and his fans flood to his defense. The recent Daily Wire clickbait article also cites his December 2021 tweet stating, “Transgender activism has made a mockery of women’s sports,” which was a prominent issue in the 2021 spring legislative sessions, and his public disdain over the obese Sports Illustrated model. On the former issue, he is several months behind as the transgender sports issue was a heated issue in the 2021 legislative sessions while the Sports Illustrated comments were shared by many. His delayed commentary is not going to controversial places but merely stating obvious realities and receiving the vilification of the left and praise of the right well after these ideological fault lines were drawn.
The perception for many on the right is that Jordan Peterson is a man of truth who is a brilliant voice of reason. His intellect is lauded, and his psychological background is the basis for most of his commentary. The reality is that he often preaches in platitudes employing sophisticated language to state obvious truths. Politically, he operates as a pragmatist, neither data driven nor truth seeking in his approach. In an unchurched society, his self-help materials find an audience and perhaps provides help to biblically illiterate. If they had the bible, they would not need his musings, and that is without getting into his rules for life (yet).
Fame Through Grandstanding
The rise of Jordan Peterson is broadly misunderstood. In 2016, Peterson garnered attention for stating his opposition to Canadian bill C-16 which would have legally compelled the use of preferred pronouns. Peterson claimed it was an assault on free speech. Yet Peterson himself would have acquiesced to any student’s preferred pronouns upon request. To him, the free speech should not be compelled, but his capitulation is why compulsion becomes inevitable. Look no further than the Covid jabs, where voluntary submission inevitably led to forced compliance.
People often misattribute Peterson for standing up for truth, including Doug Wilson during his reaction video to Peterson’s sitdown with Dave Rubin. This is despite the fact that Peterson has stated on numerous occasions that he would have used the preferred pronouns. He also is affirming gay marriage and parenting in this video. Doug Wilson does an excellent job identifying how Peterson conflates not living up to the ideal of marriage and family with intentionally not striving for the ideal.
For someone whose 8th rule for life centers around being truthful, he is content lying to someone by affirming their delusions of identity. A lie will always seek to be recognized as truth.
On the issue of transgenderism, he does articulate the gender spectrum during one of his first “casual coffee shop” conversations with Ben Shapiro, in which he defines certain traits as masculine and feminine. It should be noted that this is a precursor to much of modern gender ideology, so he is practically accepting the underlying premises. He also would claim that 99% of gender dysphoric people do not require medical intervention. This is a logical escape hatch in which one can allow an exception where none should be allotted. Intelligent men like Tim Keller craft these rhetorical escape hatches.
Self-Help for Men
In 2018, Peterson published his 12 Rules for Life to which elevated his prominence into the self-help sphere, mainly targeting a young adult male demographic. Naturally, when one publishes, they go on the circuit to promote their book to which gained him much exposure and added fame. In reality, the core elements of this book are typical to the self-improvement genre, just with better packaging and elaborate illustrations from his clinical experience.
Rules 1, 4, 7, 11, and 12 are all typical of self-improvement: improve posture and self-image, seek to better oneself, accept that inequalities/disparities exist, and appreciate the little things. Rules 11 and 12 in particular are categorized in an amusing fashion so as to use something seemingly farcical to declare something “profound.” Rules 9 and 10 are basic advice on communication but is made ironic in that Peterson often tosses word salads and lengthy explanations on basic concepts.
Rule 2 is an inferior version of the Second Greatest Commandment and is otherwise unoriginal. Rule 5 is rudimentary parenting advice superficially reminiscent to Proverbs 22:6. At best, rule 8 is the 9th commandment.
Rule number 6 might sound like Jesus’ command to “Judge Not” in Matthew 7 but is a more legalistic form of introspection than that Christ demands. First and foremost, our debt of sin is too great for us to bear, and thus, we require a savior. Only on His foundation can our house ever be in order. It should be noted that God calls upon men whose houses are not in order: Gideon’s house had idols, Moses’s house was uncircumcised, Samson’s house was never in order, and Abraham was asked to abandon his house for a tent. Second, Jesus’ teachings on introspection deal with confronting personal sin, that we should look inwardly and analyze ourselves before confronting others. However, the logic of Rule 6 would dictate that because a church has problems, they should not be active in the culture wars. This is often a logic employed by apostates who bash the church while feigning orthodoxy. Perhaps this is the motivation behind the SBC’s seemingly sadomasochistic obsession on sex abuse. By focusing on trivial or nonexistent cases, they can obfuscate from the issues they should be addressing as they make their bed.
As with self-help, it is inwardly focused, which is juxtaposed to Christianity where He must increase, but I must decrease (John 3:30).
This continues in his sequel where trite advice is interwoven with self-help platitudes. Rules 2, 4, 5, and 7 center around self-improvement in finding opportunities. This is like Jim Carrey in Yes Man where he says yes to life and opportunity follows, only that it is Peterson’s version. Rule 9 is psychological counseling advice, like a therapist instructing their client to keep a journal. This is not new advice and is useful for trauma patients. Rule 8 is inwardly focused and flirts with narcissism and materialism. Proper care of one’s household is part of responsible home ownership, but this is the self-help version of War Room, without the prayer. One does not need a special room, and if one has kids, animals, or is poor, that likelihood is out the window. Anyone who offers romance advice advocates Rule 10.
Any who partake in a “Creative Achievement” or are members to an institution take any attack against as careless. While this might be a rebuke against those who denigrated marriage, it could also be levied against those who do so to academia. Rule 6 targets those in the woke crowd who are overly obsessive on ideology pertaining to sex or race, though it could be fitted to attack those “Bible thumping” Christians. The reason they obsess over their sexual preference or race is because that is their idol. They make their idol their identity. It is a spiritual problem, not a logical one.
Rule 11 is basic advice for when one is on the mountain top. Pride comes before the fall, though it is likewise advice Peterson might not be living as his controversial tweets appear more spiteful and he has taken to trolling on Twitter. His tweets are a matter of indifference to me, but I have seen that sentiment levied against him in comment sections.
For rule 12, the Apostle Paul wrote several divinely inspired epistles pertaining to being grateful in face of suffering that are far more profound. Better to read about suffering from one who gave up a cushy lifestyle to suffer immensely in this world than a millionaire who lives comfortably.
In a materialistic world, self-help sells. It fills the God-sized hole in the hearts of those who are downtrodden. Whereas the Joel Osteen’s of the world primarily market to women, Peterson advocates your best life now to men.
Peterson Teaches the Bible
On a Christian website, it would be remiss if Peterson’s spiritual views were not taken under consideration. Given that he has performed lecture series on biblical stories to mass audiences, this places him within the bounds of discernment bloggers. Unsurprisingly, Christian Post wrote a fluff piece on his recent speech at Hillsdale College where he invoked several passages.
Peterson’s religious views are intentionally ambiguous. He does not confess to know Christ but gives the impression that he is soul-searching. Given that he has an audience that includes many Christians, this is a clever approach to retain his audience. By not publicly denouncing Christ, his Christian followers will not reject him, but also his nonbelieving followers will not write him off as another Christian. The Pharisees utilize the same fence-straddling tactic in Matthew 21 out of fear of losing their status and following. By refusing to answer the source of John the Baptist’s authority, in which Jesus infers through His query that His and John’s authority are of the same source, they revealed their rejection.
In his teachings on Genesis, Peterson dwells on the archetypes of the characters in these stories as having foundational truth. Given that the passage of Cain and Abel is short and has been analyzed by innumerable readers over millennia, it would be nearly impossible for one to discern new meaning from the text that would not be outright foreign to its original context. With Cain, pastors will generally emphasize the nature of the sacrifice being insufficient, and thus rejected, or dwell on the heart of Cain as being the reason his offering was rejected. Peterson shoots down the middle. Christian Post wrote this in their summary of his lecture on Cain and Abel:
Peterson referenced the biblical account of Cain and Abel as an example of “the spirit of temptation,” illustrating how God punished Cain for making “improper sacrifices” that were not “in the service of the highest good.” Instead, his choices were “deceptive and arrogant simultaneously.”
“Because when we make improper sacrifices, we believe in the deepest part of ourselves that we’ve pulled one over God,” Peterson said. “And I suggest that’s a temptation you might want to avoid, that presumption.”
Since he is not a Christian, Peterson is not going to teach on the spiritual implications of the passage. Instead, God is just another character in the story. Cain was rejected because his offering was not “in service to the highest good.” This is a collectivist slant in the interpretation of the passage as “highest good” generally denotes society as a whole. It implies that Cain was holding back from God, who is representative of the collective and “greater good.” The sacrifice of Cain was equivalent to one holding back on their taxes or hording their wealth.
Peterson’s biblical interpretations possess an anti-Christological nature. Whereas 777 would represent the perfection of God, 666 is the symbolic counterfeit of perfection. Peterson will expound upon biblical truths and even label the Bible as the “bedrock of civilization,” but ultimately, his teachings inherently omit the ultimate need for Man’s redemption from his sin by Christ’s perfect offering. To him, it is just mythos. God is just a character architype within the context of the story. Even Satan would be content allowing one to believe that the bible contains foundational truths so long as one remains trapped in their sins.
Some hearts might be transformed upon hearing Peterson’s teachings, in that they begin exploring Christianity and receive salvation, but God can do the saving through imperfect means and unsaved men because God does the saving, not man.
On the issue of Covid, he fell for the narrative. During his 2021 interview with Steven Crowder (my first exposure to Peterson), he describes how he went along with the lockdowns and mandates only to realize months later that the measures were not about public health. Moreover, when the jabs rolled out in 2021, he himself got vaccinated despite having natural immunity, thinking the mandates would go away with the jabs. As history has proven, this did not happen. The professor that lectures on the psychology of Nazi Germany and authoritarianism fell for the Mass Formation during his own lifetime. The man ascribed as the wisest in our lifetimes could not read the signs of the times.
Peterson is a globalist and has been critical on the rise of Trump and other anti-globalist “fascist” movements as being reactionary to society’s attempt to effeminize men. Resurrection Europe did a deep dive of Peterson teaching against what he describes as “ethnonationalism” which is really Europeans who do not want to be diluted by immigration (Replacement Theory) or disparaged by multiculturalism. They also attempted to quantify his wealth.
In 2018, Peterson tweeted that Kavanaugh should step down if he were confirmed to the Supreme Court. After being ratioed, he proceeded to write a lengthy blog post defending his stance, arguing that he believed Kavanaugh stepping down would “reduce alienation from the left, and make things less polarizing moving forward” and that his withdrawal would deprive the left of their “self-righteous moralism.” Basically, his stance is that Kavanaugh rocks the boat and that would be negative for society. Through vaguer, Peterson accused Kavanaugh of wrongdoing in handling the situation and otherwise expressed doubt to his counterclaims against Ford’s story before claiming that he was glad not to be in the position to have to make those decisions. In this situation, his attempt to play the pragmatic “adult in the room” ultimately backfired, revealing foolishness instead of wisdom.
Peterson is a climate skeptic as revealed on Joe Rogan in 2022. Not all his takes are bad.
These are four of the biggest socio-political issues in the past several years, that being Covid, global populism (including Trump), #MeToo, and Global Warming.
Worship of IQ
The idolization of Peterson is resultant from three primary causes: one, conservative media’s desire to platform liberals; two, self-help fandom and celebrity worship; and three, the worship of High IQ.
The golden calf did not create itself, but was molded and elevated at the behest of Aaron for the masses to worship. Much of conservative media is managed by pagans who reject Christianity. As such, they often seek to platform liberals and non-Christians as they check boxes to form a big tent movement that is just 10 years behind the left. The algorithm conservative outlets fawn over Dave Rubin, Douglas Murray, and even Spencer Klavan because they check a certain sexuality box. This is the same drive which promulgates reactive content to The View and Bill Maher. Peterson is the intellectual who (occasionally) spouts conservative talking points. Too many on the right want their political soap opera content to which Peterson, being a centrist liberal professor, fits comfortably into the mold. The soap opera makes him a character for those on the right to root for as he makes a statement denouncing something pertaining to woke culture. The professor standing up to the politically correct academia. The narrative sells. The soap opera is designed to entertain, not transform. It is the bread and circus while America burns.
The second being that of self-help and celebrity worship. It is no hidden secret that our society worships celebrities. In a matter of weeks, Anthony Fauci went from caporegime operating within the government swamp to Pope of Branch Covidianism. Likewise, in fighting back against false teachers in the church, there is often a cultish devotion to these motivational speakers who operate as pastors that oversee some of the largest “churches” in America. Think Osteen, Furtick, Johnson, and even Keller—each have followings who defend their guy against attacks. One cannot criticize their preferred guru.
Peterson is just another guru. He has sold millions of books, amassed a following, and many credit him with improving their lives. This debt his fans have will drive them to defend Peterson against criticism, just as followers of false preachers do.
The third reason being that of his high IQ drives many to idolize him. This contention undergirds the former two. Being a man of high intelligence, Conservative Media wants to platform him when he validates their talking points. Others feel validation when the genius agrees with them. While academic achievement is laudable, society places extreme emphasis on identifiers like GPA, SAT scores, or Intelligence Quotient. Though this perception has recently suffered some erosion, society still largely believes those in academia to be inherently more intelligent than those in blue collar work. People perceive a piece of paper as qualifications for certain employment and as a marker of intelligence.
Because he is smart, people perceive him to be wise, yet intelligence itself is not correlated with wisdom as evidenced by his Covid positions. But when men see the high IQ, their brains turn off. When confronted by the “experts,” rational thought process is defenestrated. With Peterson, his sophistry is mistaken for philosophy.
Overall, it is more a condemnation on the idolaters than the idol itself that they fail to perceive beyond the gilded wisdom. That if more in society were biblically literate and classically educated then they would realize the counterfeit being presented so eloquently before them.