In a recent video, renowned psychologist and thinker Jordan B. Peterson made a scathing critique of the Church. He challenged churches to invite young men back — to make church a place where they are welcome. Here are my thoughts on several of Peterson’s points.
Yesterday, Jordan B Peterson, a now-famous psychologist and philosopher, published a video on his YouTube channel: “Message to the Christian Churches”. At the time of writing, the video had received almost half a million views. In it, Peterson criticises the Church — particularly Western churches — for their adherence to Woke ideology and their treatment of young men.
Four points — critiques of either the Church as a whole or Christian people — stand out to me. They certainly ring true.
- The Church has Gone Woke
Maybe this is too broad of a generalisation. Nonetheless, it is sadly true for many churches and Christian organisations in Australia and the West.
Peterson rightly points this out in his video.
He argues that Western culture, in general, has embraced a deviant version of Original Sin that imputes responsibility for any number of social ills (from systemic patriarchy to environmental abuse) to masculine tendencies — what he sarcastically calls “damnable male ambition”.
In response, according to Peterson, our culture attempts to inculcate men with an “extremely damaging ideology” that disillusions them and saps them of a healthy, adventurous spirit.
“… young men… have come to believe, in pain, that every deep impulse that moves them out into the world for the adventure of their life — even that impulse drawing them to women — is nothing but the manifestation of a spirit that is essentially satanic in nature.” (Peterson)
Peterson argues that this inculcation is undertaken from childhood when boys are “hectored” for their toy preferences, through to grade school, where they are trained to conform to “a docile, harmless obedience”.
“… our young people face a demoralisation that is perhaps unparalleled.” (Peterson)
In my opinion, the issue here is not the adherence to and support of a particular ideological framework (i.e., what is sometimes called “Woke” ideology), per se. Rather, it is the fact that the church is not ascribing to God the fundamental place that He deserves.
The Christian Church is now often answering to a “higher” authority than God and His Word. That authority is our culture — one dominated by neo-paganism and the institutions and structures that enforce it.
Christian faith demands so much more than secondary adherence to certain Biblical principles. As Paul points out, Christians’ whole lives are living sacrifices — totally committed to the worship and service of Christ (Romans 12:1).
We are called to be transformed by the renovation of our minds. Instead, Christians so often fall into conformity to the pattern of this world (Romans 12:2).
Nevertheless, we should not dismiss the concerns raised by those who hold to Woke ideology. Often, they are tapping into a genuine concern — one that Scripture has an answer for.
John Calvin writes,
“All truth is from God; and consequently, if wicked men have said anything that is true and just, we ought not to reject it; for it has come from God.”
The Church is not obliged to reject outright all of the ideas the world presents.
Nevertheless, our authority is God. We should interpret all worldly ideas through the paradigm of a Scriptural worldview and reject anything that conflicts with His Word.
- Low Expectations for Christian Young People
Towards the end of his video, Peterson implores Churches to welcome young people — young men in particular — back to church. He urges them: “Put up a billboard. Say, ‘Young men are welcome here’.”
“The Christian Church is there to remind people — young men included, and perhaps even first and foremost — that they have a woman to find, a garden to walk in, a family to nurture, an ark to build, a land to conquer, a ladder to heaven to build and the utter terrible catastrophe of life to face stalwartly — in truth, devoted to love, and without fear.” (Peterson)
Importantly, however, Peterson exhorts churches to explain to young men what they can do. “Ask more, not less, of those you are inviting,” he says. “Ask more of them than anyone ever has.”
This is significant.