There’s Chutzpah and Then There’s Jordan Peterson

A couple of months ago, Jordan Peterson–a culture warrior deeply beloved by the Francis-hating sect of Reactionaries who have been so wrong about so much so many times for so long that only a fool would trust their judgment about anything in the whole wide world–decided to stoop down from Sinai to instruct the Pope on a matter of faith and morals so elementary that one could hardly believe that even he could get things this wrong:

It is a remark so breathtaking in its hubris and so utterly ignorant of its subject that all I can think of is the First Rule of Dunning-Kruger Club: “You don’t know you are in Dunning-Kruger Club”. It betrays a lack of familiarity with the teaching of the New Testament and of the entire Christian tradition so profound as to beggar the imagination. Gone is the second greatest commandment. Gone is the parable of the sheep and the goats. Gone is the entire doctrine of the Church. Gone is the Sermon on the Mount, the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church, and a century’s worth of social encyclicals from Leo XIII to Francis. Just simple-minded Me n’ Jesus individualism from a guy who has absolutely no idea what he is talking about.

Now, Peterson is not actually a Christian. He just plays one on the internet for the delectation of culture warriors who like to get their scraps of ideas from FOX and Youtube because thinking is hard and they hate the Pope. So I don’t expect him to be anything but ignorant (although I do think we have a right to expect him to be better mannered than he is).

But the same cannot be said of the Greatest Catholics of All Time who keep holding this guy up as some sort of Aquinas instead or realizing he is a remarkably addled crank philosopher who thinks he is a theologian. And when they glom on to this guy’s stunningly ignorant ipsi dixits in order to make war on the Pope and the Tradition, they should be confronted as the enemies of the Church that they are. Happily, Steven Greydanus did just that:

1. The term “social justice” is discussed in the encyclicals of every pope from Pius XI on (with the obvious exception of John Paul I, who died before writing one). Almost all mention it repeatedly (the only exception is Pius XII, who mentions it once). The term is in the Vatican II documents Gaudium et spes and Nostra Aetate. Clearly, the term “social justice” is an established part of current Catholic social thought.

2. To attack a papal tweet that mentions social justice, not by objecting to this or that nuance of meaning or application, but by saying “There is nothing Christian about social justice,” is tantamount to saying “Every pope in the last 100 years is wrong about Christianity and I’m right.” Which is certainly a thing one can say, but not a thing many people would hope to have any shred of credibility saying—least of all, one would think, an agnostic talking head.

3. For a Catholic publication to take the side of the agnostic talking head by conflating “social justice” (advocated by every pope for the last 100 years) with socialism (advocated by zero popes and rejected outright by many of them), and saying in so many words “perhaps a pope [again, every pope for a century!] can be helpfully informed” by the agnostic talking head, is an absolute disgrace.

Jesus remarks on the difference between expecting a non-Christian to know what he is talking about when he yammers ignorantly at the Pope and expecting those who boast themselves the Only True Catholics in the Whole Wide World:

That servant who knew his master’s will, but did not make ready or act according to his will, shall receive a severe beating. But he who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, shall receive a light beating. Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more. (Lk 12:47–48).

Peterson is an ignorant, spouting popinjay saying he knows not what. But at least he has the integrity not to claim to be a Christian while he does it. But the enemies of the Pope who use Peterson as a weapon to attack the gospel do not have the luxury of that excuse. God grant them humility and repentance for their stunning arrogance so that they may find mercy on That Day.


6 Responses

  1. Mark, this is a hit piece. I could see using his tweet as a launching point to instruct the ignorant, but you are mistaken in your quick and uninformed judgment of Jordan. His attraction is his sincerity, his honesty and his transparency. Also his courage. He’s not right, especially in this tweet, obviously, but you know better than to quibble with such low hanging ad hominim fruit. His tweets and his soundbite conservative YouTube stuff sucks, but he excells in long-form discussion and exploration, where his humility has won him ears. I’ve truly heard of not a few souls who’s interest in God and the Catholic church has been kindled by this guy. Now, before you hate on me too badly, I love Pope Francis, I’m not one of the Best Catholics TM, and I like your book on social justice. I just don’t know why you waste your keystrokes on playing internet gotcha games like this.

    1. Well, I think that’s why Mark quoted:

      That servant who knew his master’s will, but did not make ready or act according to his will, shall receive a severe beating. But he who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, shall receive a light beating. Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more. (Lk 12:47–48).

  2. I’ve discussed social justice and socialism a while ago and I came to a conclusion.
    Comparing Marx and Leo XIII, it’s amazing how concise is the encyclical Rerum Novarum managed to lay down the foundations of Catholic social teaching, criticize socialism and predict its outcomes in the real world. All in a much thinner booklet than the three volume “Das Kapital”.

    Marx had some astute observations, but largely incorrect diagnosis of the causes because he was blinded by personal convictions and hence his solutions proved utterly incorrect.

    And yet, Catholic social teaching gets a bad rap by being wrongly associated with socialism.

    Come to think of it, it’s much like how movies managed to convince a lot of people that all Christians are the same, behave the same and believe the same, and thus I’m left explaining that I’m not a Creationist and I don’t consider evolution to be incompatible with faith to the amazement and wonder of non-Christian audience.
    But I’m also horrified that a lot of Catholics believe that Christian movies present a consensus on what all Christians should believe and then defend things which are decidedly not Catholic.

    Come to think of it… much like a lot of Catholics believed the critics that Catholic social teaching is equivalent with socialism and try to defend it.

  3. OMG that is a boneheaded tweet. Mark is right to point out the false prophecy of Jordan Peterson.

    One can’t claim that social justice has no place in Christianity without ignoring significant teachings of the Old Testament prophets, and vast swathes of New Testament teachings and actions.

    One can’t dismiss the common good as something non-Christian as you get stuck with cynical, radical individualism. God loves us as individuals but God also loves other individuals, so we have to respect that as we deal with each other in societies.

    For what it’s worth – one CAN get good therapy that’s not the woo-woo sensationalism of Jordan Peterson.

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