As one week gives way to another, I attempt to provide a roundup of the themes that were prominent among Christian readers and writers in the week that was. This week people were discussing Cathy Newman’s embarrassingly terrible interview of Jordan Peterson, the #MeToo movement inside and outside of Christian circles, and the supposedly “sickening danger” of homeschooling.
Jordan Peterson: Hero?
The internet was buzzing after Jordan Peterson’s interview with Cathy Newman. The interview (which includes a handful of “damns” and “hells”) is well worth watching in its entirety. Peterson is not a Christian (in an interview linked below he was asked, “Are you a Christian? Do you believe in God?” to which he replied, “I think the proper response to that is No, but I’m afraid He might exist.”). However, he has clearly been deeply shaped by Christianity and, for that reason among others, has been able to stick his head up above so much of the fray today, and speak with remarkable clarity. In a strange way, many Christians find that he speaks for them. Here’s the infamous interview:
Newman has clearly misunderstood Peterson’s position, his intellect, and his ability to respond to her ideological attacks. Rod Dreher said, “The interview ought to be shown in journalism classes as an example of what happens when a journalist believes that ideological ardor substitutes for reason, and that contempt for her interview subject should rightly override professionalism.” In Jordan Peterson and Powerful Men, Alastair Roberts offered some very insightful analysis. “Within society today, men are increasingly taught that their power is toxic and problematic, that they need to step back to let women advance. The sort of male spaces in which men develop and play to their strengths are closed down and the sexes integrated. The suggestion that the male sex rather needs to step up and play to its strengths, and not just function as meek, compliant, and deferential allies to women, is one that instinctively appalls many. ‘Powerful man’ is seldom heard as anything but a pejorative expression.” And again, “Newman seems to be expecting to deal with another man-child who is acting out against the matriarchal forces in society, some puerile provocateur like Milo Yiannopoulos, perhaps. Encountering a manly adult male instead, she seems to be wrong-footed. By the end, she appears to be charmed by Peterson, despite herself.” It’s hard to overstate how important and insightful Roberts’ article is.
Writing for The Spectator, Douglas Murray said, “Whatever else anybody might think of him, Professor Peterson is a man of remarkable learning and experience, and does not appear to have arrived at any of his views by the now common means of ‘I reckon’. Yet Newman, who approaches the interview with the trademark sourness she employs for everyone she expects to disagree with, treats this is just another chance to burnish her own social justice credentials and expose her guest as a bigot. Big mistake.” Stephen Kneale quoted some of it and pointed out, like Rod Dreher, that this interview is a “clear example of how much modern discourse tends to run” and, in that way, and important bit of viewing for Christians. Be sure to also watch and read this interview with Christie Blatchford of the National Post and this article that discussed some of the ideology Peterson is battling against. This one from The Spectator grapples with Peterson’s unexpected star power and what makes him such a popular figure, especially among young men.
Peterson’s new book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos releases next week and is sure to generate a lot more discussion and controversy.
Christians continue to discuss the #MeToo phenomenon that has swept the world over the past couple of months. The recent (sexually explicit) exposé of Aziz Ansari may have proven one step too far for the movement and has generated a strong backlash from many varied quarters, from liberal feminists to conservative Christians. Writing for First Things, Samuel James wrote about what the sexual revolution has actually accomplished. “The sexual revolution has a well-known masculine bias. Though feminists have won real battles, the outcome of the war has never been in doubt. Unmooring sexuality from the home, from marriage, and from religion has benefitted nobody more than lecherous, grasping men.” Specifically about Ansari he said, “At the heart of the #MeToo moment in American culture is the dawning awareness of just how unfair revolutionary sex can be. This isn’t only about raising awareness of violent acts of rape or assault, though it certainly is about that. The architects of #MeToo see the movement as a referendum on something much bigger. This is why, for example, Aziz Ansari has been publicly humiliated amidst allegations that read a lot like sour grapes.”
In last week’s wrap-up I highlighted the recent news about pastor Andy Savage and his admission that he had been involved in a “sexual incident” with a girl when he was a youth pastor. Abby Perry compared this situation to one in the world of entertainment and said, “The Church Needs a Masterclass in How to Apologize for Sexual Assault.” While I affirm what she says about Christians and churches apologizing for sexual assault, I do think we can add this: Whether in churches or Hollywood, many people craft only and exactly the apology they need to maintain their position. I do not mean to pass judgment on the sincerity of either of the apologies she describes, but it’s beyond dispute that many people apologize with the help of PR specialists. This may be especially prevalent in the world of politics and entertainment, but it’s well-established that many people within Christian circles now also turn to PR help when they’ve been caught or exposed.
The “Sickening Danger” of Homeschooling
This week brought the horrifying news of David and Louisa Turpin who had kept their 13 children captive in chains within their home. It soon became known that the family had registered a home school and, in that way, kept their tortured and malnourished children out of the public eye. This prompted Damon Linker to write in The Week of The Sickening Danger of Home-schooling. He said there must be increased government oversight of homeschools, including “annual checks by a state government employee, empowered to look for signs of abuse and evidence that kids are actually being educated, would seem to be a minimum required by a commonsense concern for the well-being of the children involved. Sure, the home-school lobbyists will object. But then they will find themselves in the awkward position of defending the right of the Turpins to torture their kids undetected.”
Alan Jacobs responded with a tongue-in-cheek rejoinder: “Excellent idea! But why stop there? Spousal abuse is surely a greater blight on our society than child abuse by homeschoolers, so I make this proposal: In households of married people, annual checks by a state government employee, empowered to look for signs of abuse by one spouse of another, would seem to be a minimum required by a commonsense concern for the well-being of the adults involved. Sure, some pro-marriage lobbyists will object. But then they will find themselves in the awkward position of defending the right of men to beat their wives undetected.” He went on to tell why he and his wife chose to homeschool their son. Rod Dreher (who, though Orthodox, has a strong voice among evangelicals) also told why he and his wife homeschool. “In my family’s case, we did it not because we wanted to shield our precious babies from the Heathenous Public Schools™, but because we really did (and do) believe that we can do a better job teaching them what we believe they need to know. We have never lived in a state that doesn’t care what you teach kids. Our kids have had to take state assessment tests every year, and they’ve always done very, very well. I think that’s a reasonable expectation from the state, frankly.” He also poignantly described some of his negative experiences with public schools as a child.
Though my family does not homeschool, I agree entirely with Jacobs’ conclusion: “Recommendations like Damon’s exemplify plain, straightforward bigotry against religious conservatives.” Speaking personally, I find it difficult to see given the current cultural climate (especially in Canada) how homeschooling will continue to remain legal in 10 or 20 years.