.. Peterson, formerly an obscure professor, is now one of the most influential—and polarizing—public intellectuals in the English-speaking world.
.. His central message is a thoroughgoing critique of modern liberal culture, which he views as suicidal in its eagerness to upend age-old verities
.. he has learned to distill his wide-ranging theories into pithy sentences, including one that has become his de facto catchphrase, a possibly spurious quote that nevertheless captures his style and his substance: “Sort yourself out, bucko.”
.. For a few years, in the nineteen-nineties, he taught psychology at Harvard;
.. His fame grew in 2016, during the debate over a Canadian bill known as C-16.
.. Peterson resented the idea that the government might force him to use what he called neologisms of politically correct “authoritarians.”
.. “I am not going to be a mouthpiece for language that I detest.” Then he folded his arms, adding, “And that’s that!”
.. To many people disturbed by reports of intolerant radicals on campus, Peterson was a rallying figure: a fearsomely self-assured debater, unintimidated by liberal condemnation.
.. Last fall, a teaching assistant at Wilfrid Laurier University, in Waterloo, Ontario, was reprimanded by professors for showing her class a clip of one of Peterson’s debates.
.. Cathy Newman, asked what gave him the right to offend transgender people. He asked, cheerfully, what gave her the right to risk offending him.
.. David Brooks, in the Times, said that Peterson reminded him of “a young William F. Buckley.”
.. Peterson’s goal is less to help his readers change the world than to help them find a stable place within it.
.. “You should do what other people do, unless you have a very good reason not to.”
.. he is famous today precisely because he has determined that, in a range of circumstances, there are good reasons to buck the popular tide.
.. He is, by turns, a defender of conformity and a critic of it, and he thinks that if readers pay close attention, they, too, can learn when to be which... “Religion was for the ignorant, weak, and superstitious,”.. To ward off mental breakdown, he resolved not to say anything unless he was sure he believed it; this practice calmed the inner voice, and in time it shaped his rhetorical style, which is forceful but careful... a client diagnosed with paranoia. He says that such patients are “almost uncanny in their ability to detect mixed motives, judgment, and falsehood,”.. “You have to listen very carefully and tell the truth if you are going to get a paranoid person to open up to you,”
.. Peterson sometimes assumes the role of a strident anti-feminist, intent on ending the oppression of males by destroying the myth of male oppression.
.. much of the advice he offers unobjectionable, if old-fashioned: he wants young men to be better fathers, better husbands, better community members.
.. Peterson is an heir, too, to the professional pickup artists who proliferated in the aughts
.. “The highly functional infrastructure that surrounds us, particularly in the West,” he writes, “is a gift from our ancestors: the comparatively uncorrupt political and economic systems, the technology, the wealth, the lifespan, the freedom, the luxury, and the opportunity.”
.. Prime Minister is Justin Trudeau, who seems to strike Peterson as the embodiment of wimpy and fraudulent liberalism.
.. Peterson seems to view Trump, by contrast, as a symptom of modern problems, rather than a cause of them.
.. Peterson seems to view Trump, by contrast, as a symptom of modern problems, rather than a cause of them.
.. Peterson sometimes asks audiences to view him as an alternative to political excesses on both sides.
.. “I’ve had thousands of letters from people who were tempted by the blandishments of the radical right, who’ve moved towards the reasonable center as a consequence of watching my videos.”
.. he typically sees liberals, or leftists, or “postmodernists,” as aggressors—which leads him, rather ironically, to frame some of those on the “radical right” as victims.
.. Postmodernists, he says, are obsessed with the idea of oppression, and, by waging war on oppressors real and imagined, they become oppressors themselves.
.. When he lampoons “made-up pronouns,” he sometimes seems to be lampooning the people who use them, encouraging his fans to view transgender or gender-nonbinary people as confused, or deluded.
Once, after a lecture, he was approached on campus by a critic who wanted to know why he would not use nonbinary pronouns. “I don’t believe that using your pronouns will do you any good, in the long run,” he replied.
.. “If our society comes to some sort of consensus over the next while about how we’ll solve the pronoun problem,” he said, “and that becomes part of popular parlance, and it seems to solve the problem properly, without sacrificing the distinction between singular and plural, and without requiring me to memorize an impossible list of an indefinite number of pronouns, then I would be willing to reconsider my position.”
.. In the case of gender identity, Peterson’s judgment is that “our society” has not yet agreed to adopt nontraditional pronouns, which isn’t quite an argument that we shouldn’t.
.. He reveres the Bible for its stories, reasoning that any stories that we have been telling ourselves for so long must be, in some important sense, true.
.. a conviction that good and evil exist, and that we can discern them without recourse to any particular religious authority
- .. The father was a powerful evangelist who turned evangelicalism into the dominant spiritual impulse in modern America.
- His son is—not to put too fine a point on it—a political hack, one who is rapidly rebranding evangelicalism as a belief system marked not by faith, hope, and love but by fear of Muslims and homophobia.
.. Graham got into bed with the wrong man in Richard Nixon. And while he must be praised for integrating his revivals (which he called crusades) and for inviting the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. to deliver an invocation at his massive New York City crusade in 1957, he was missing in action when it came to civil rights legislation.
.. After King imagined in his 1963 “I Have a Dream Speech” a “beloved community” in which “little black boys and little black girls will join hands with little white boys and white girls,” Graham dismissed that dream as utopian. “Only when Christ comes again will the little white children of Alabama walk hand in hand with little black children,” he said.
.. ultimately chastened by his chumminess with Nixon
.. worked hard to transcend the racism and anti-Semitism that swirled around him as a farm boy in North Carolina
.. understood (at his best) that the Christian message (at its best) is about love rather than fear, inclusion rather than exclusion.
.. When asked to join in common cause with Jerry Falwell after the foundation of the Moral Majority in 1979, Graham refused to yoke his organization to the cultural wars of the Religious Right and the Republican Party.
.. Shortly after 9/11, Franklin Graham provided the sound bite of today’s culture wars when he denounced Islam as “a very wicked and evil religion.” He later became thestandard bearer for the view that Islam is, in his words “a religion of hatred . . . a religion of war.”
.. In addition to purveying the birther nonsense
.. suggested that President Barack Obama was not a Christian and might in fact be a secret Muslim.
.. he demonstrates no awareness of the ways in which his political pronouncements are breaking down the evangelical witness his father devoted so much energy to building up.
.. During World War II era, European churches were hurt badly by the affiliation of Christianity with right-wing political movements
.. Americans witnessed a powerful religious revival after the war, thanks in part to Billy Graham. That revival is over. Religion is now declining in the United States, and evangelicalism with it
.. the portion of white evangelical Protestants in the United States declined from 23 percent to 17 percent.
.. 27 percent of Americans describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious” and another 18 percent as “neither religious nor spiritual.”
.. There are many reasons for this decline in religious believing and belonging. But the most important in my view is the increasing identification of the Christian churches with right-wing politics.
.. Reinhold Niebuhr, who criticized Graham for his “pietistic individualism” and his neglect of social sin.
.. stuck for the most part to his simpler message that the world would be saved only through individual regeneration.
.. mistake the gospel of Christ for the gospel of American civilization.
.. Graham had a humility almost entirely lost among the public preachers of our day, his eldest son included.
The German press nicknamed him “God’s machine gun” for his aggressive, staccato preaching, but the name also fit for deeper reasons. Mr. Graham described these trips as “crusades” and saw West Germany as ground zero in what he called “Battleground Europe,” a Cold War fight to redeem the “land of Luther” from its Nazi past and secure its future as a stronghold for American-style democracy, capitalism and evangelicalism.
.. Billy Graham’s culture wars are inseparable from his role as an international Cold Warrior. He wasn’t just America’s pastor; he was God’s Cold War machine gun.
.. “Berlin is prayed for in the world more than any other city,” he declared, calling the city “a battleground, a continent for conquest” — not for earthly power, as the world wars had been, but a new battle “for the hearts and minds of the people.”
.. he affirmed that West Germans were his “brothers in arms” literally as well as spiritually. To strengthen a Christian democratic West against a godless Soviet East, he cast his weight behind German rearmament.
.. Mr. Graham portended a similar Americanization of German religion with its emphasis on conversion and its use of modern communication technologies for evangelism.
.. Some Germans deemed Mr. Graham a Hollywood huckster who, as the German news media put it, “advertised the Bible like toothpaste and chewing gum.” Others sensed an unnerving parallel between his mass gatherings and Germany’s fascist past.
.. “Religion for Mass-Consumption,”
.. argued that Mr. Graham’s real goal was to steer souls away from Communism more than toward God
.. German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller and the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr .. protested Mr. Graham’s equation of Christianity with America, anti-Communism and free-market capitalism
.. After the Watergate scandal, Mr. Graham withdrew from political debates and returned to his early focus on simply “preaching the gospel.”
The Northern Protestant tradition is, in the most general sense, the institutional and intellectual expression of Puritanism
.. Puritanism for all its emphasis on the individual’s probing, introspective relationship to God never made a fetish of individualism. Rather, Puritanism emphasized the individual in community, in relationship to other believers, and Puritans did not characteristically strike out alone for the frontier but moved as part of believing church communities. Puritans tended to define their individual callings not only as a personal response to God’s plan for them but also saw their calling in terms of the needs of the larger community.
.. the very sense of mission that undergirded the Puritan enterprise in the New World: the mission to create a holy Bible commonwealth in what was called a howling wilderness and the corresponding mission to export that model of the Godly society back to the Old World to complete the Reformation.
.. individual Puritan believers and their individual churches were part of a great Providential plan
.. Puritans thus sought a reformed, educated, moral commnnity, with schools, colleges, printed sermons, and a whole host of institutions and practices oriented toward shaping the community. The faithful were God’s agents primed to communicate and make manifest in the world God’s intentions for the whole society of which they were a part.
.. Throughout the North and Midwest tin’s Northern religious tradition fueled a variety of reform movements: the revivalism of Charles G. Finney, for example, led to attempts at social perfectionism including abolitionism and a wide range- of ameliorative activities. This Northern Protestant tradition valued theology and education, had a strong social conscience, emphasized human agency, and appreciated the prophetic role of religion in the Amos-like tradition of judging society against presumed Biblical standards). Out of this tradition came not only antebellum reform but the later Social Gospel movement and, in the 20th century, efforts to prevent war, end segregation, and generally advance a moderate-to-liberal social agenda.
.. The roots of the Southern Bible Belt lie in the mid-18th-century South, a slaveholding region with a nominal established (state-supported) religious institution, the Anglican Church.
.. Throughout the North and Midwest tin’s Northern religious tradition fueled a variety of reform movements: the revivalism of Charles G. Finney, for example, led to attempts at social perfectionism including abolitionism and a wide range- of ameliorative activities. This Northern Protestant tradition valued theology and education, had a strong social conscience, emphasized human agency, and appreciated the prophetic role of religion in the Amos-like tradition of judging society against presumed Biblical standards).
Out of this tradition came not only antebellum reform but the later Social Gospel movement and, in the 20th century, efforts to prevent war, end segregation, and generally advance a moderate-to-liberal social agenda. For much of the 19th century and at least the-first half of the 20th century, this Northern religious tradition was seen as the national religions mainstream.
.. The roots of the Southern Bible Belt lie in the mid-18th-century South, a slaveholding region with a nominal established (state-supported) religious institution, the Anglican Church.
.. The South in 1740 consisted of but five colonies: Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia. While there was a smattering of other denominations and sects in the region, in all five colonies the official religious body was the Church of England.
.. Southern Anglicanism was mostly a faith adhered to only nominally in the Southern colonies and hardly at all in the backcountry.
.. The Southern common folk felt doubly excluded, unmoved by pedantic, read sermons and restricted to the back pews—the upfront paid pews were reserved for the families of the plantation aristocrats whose patriarchs sat on the vestries.
.. Government-imposed tobacco taxes paid the ministers’ salaries, thus insulating them even further from the necessity of appealing to popular needs or preferences.
.. the majority of whites—and even more so the slaves—often felt alienated from the established church. The absence of a strong and vibrant religious faith and community meant that there was a potential for a religious awakening
.. That change would be the effective introduction into Virginia of three activist denominations in the generation after 1740: in order of appearance, the Presbyterians, the Baptists, and the Methodists.
There are several prerequisites that must be in place before a widespread religious awakening can occur:
- there must be a network of churches and ministers,
- there must be a generally accepted belief system about how God works in history,
- and there must be the perception of a religious crisis so severe that the faithful believe only direct divine intervention can effect a remedy.
.. Within a three-decade period, in unlinked but successive movements, Presbyterian, Baptist, and then Methodist churches and networks of ministers were developed in Virginia and, in rudimentary form, throughout the rest of the Southern colonies.
.. mid-18th-century South as being a part of the First Great Awakening.
.. began meeting together in farm houses seeking the religious fellowship and zeal they had not found in the established Anglican Church, they, absent a minister, began to read to one another from a collection of Martin Luther’s sermons.
.. Presbyterian minister William Robinson
.. In 1748 Samuel Davies, later president of the College of New Jersey (Princeton), became the leader of Virginia Presbyterians
.. the group of Baptists that would eventually prove to be the predecessors of today’s Southern Baptist Convention were led by two Connecticut Yankee ministers, Shubal Stearns and Daniel Marshall, who, enthused by the New England Great Awakening
.. Unlike the Presbyterians who insisted on educated ministers and organized themselves hierarchically in presbyteries and synods, the Baptists utilized spirit-filled, often unpaid ministers who were at best educated only in a rudimentary sense
.. firmly Calvinistic but fiercely evangelical, spread their version of the Baptist faith.
.. These veritable folk ministers were extremely effective salesmen for their faith
.. By the time the American Revolution broke out, there had been established across the South, but especially in Virginia, an impressive network of Baptist churches and preachers and a powerful system of shared beliefs.
.. The Methodists began as a pietistic movement within the Church of England, and Charles and John Wesley, their leaders, never intended to create a new denomination.
.. the movement’s name originated as a slur against the supposedly hyper-methodical nature of their worship and prayer
.. The first Methodist missionary in Virginia was Robert Williams, who arrived in 1773
.. Methodists were, if anything, even more emotionally demonstrative and evangelical than the Separate Baptists, and they pioneered the use of itinerant ministers (often relatively unlettered and willing to serve for almost no salary) who traveled about huge circuits
.. Francis Asbury, who truly is known as the father of American Methodism.
.. In December 1784 the American Methodist ministers .. established the Methodist Episcopal Church, completely independent of the Church of England
.. By the mid-1780’s an enthusiastic Methodist culture reflected the success of the Methodist itinerants at spreading their belief system among pockets of supporters across much of the South.
.. The Presbyterians appealed to those who were more affluent and sometimes better educated; although in their founding decades at least some Presbyterian ministers were antislavery, by the 1760’s they were beginning to make accommodations to the slaveholding society.
.. Presbyterianism soon had the same social cachet as did Anglicanism (after the Revolution, Episcopalianism)
.. The Baptists and Methodists, however, most of whose appeal was to the lower orders (including slaves), were self-consciously and intentionally countercultural.
.. Their sermons were more exclusively calls for conversion, their services were nonliturgical and filled with demonstrable emotion and enthusiasm
.. contrasted with the austere demeanor of the Anglicans.
.. The ruling authorities feared the evangelicals as dangerous disrupters of the social peace. The Baptists were actually persecuted by the ruling civic and church authorities. Both Baptists and Methodists emphasized plain dress and aversion to conspicuous consumption and display, placing them in opposition to the plantation aristocrats
.. the Baptists and Methodists were from the beginning open to black worshippers and were often opponents of slavery
.. their use of lay and itinerant preachers and willingness to take the gospel to the listeners rather than expect the listeners to come to single parish churches, insured the growth of the Baptists and the Methodists.
.. When the British troops left aboard their transport ships, as many as 50,000 slaves (and many Tory planters) left as well.
.. Revolutionary War veterans had land bounties in partial payment for their military service.
.. The spread of the cotton-slave economy created visions of quick profits on the virgin land, and many migrating farmers were almost consumed by thoughts of land, slaves, cotton, and riches.
.. these changes appear the natural and predictable consequences of growth and change, evidence of the dynamic nature of the society of the early national period. For contemporaries, though, the rapid change seemed chaotic and frightening
.. by the mid-1790’s ministers and many lay persons seemed fixated on the presumed crisis in the state of religion.
.. Since God knows and controls everything, he obviously is aware of the decline in religious interest and somehow must be the cause of it. God does not act whimsically, so why would he allow such a thing to occur? It must be for some divine purpose. Yes, God had sent the declension to teach the nation a hard lesson—when people put politics and prosperity ahead of the matters of the spirit, their lives become barren and they suffer a loss of community and religious purpose.
.. How will God indicate that He accepts their penitence? By sending a providential blessing in the form of a great outpouring of religious enthusiasm, a veritable second pentecost.
.. James McGready, a son of North Carolina and a veteran of a localized but intense interdenominational revival in central Virginia in the fall of 1788, moved to Logan County, Kentucky, in 1796
.. stoked by heady expectation fueled by months of organized prayer and fasting, the faithful came ready to experience a miracle— ready to interpret what they experienced as a miraculous intervention by God into space and time. Hundreds were overcome by emotion, falling to the ground; others cried with joy, shouted with excitement, groaned with conviction—the very size of the crowd helping to create a scene that lent itself to being understood as a miracle.
.. Scholars today might employ such concepts as crowd psychology or mass hysteria to explain what happened in August 1800, but the participants were sure they had just experienced a mighty act of God on the Kentucky frontier
.. Soon denominational differences and rivalries reemerged, with the Presbyterians first withdrawing from the camp meeting excitement, then the Baptists (soon instead making use of more church-centered annual revivals or protracted meetings), leaving the camp meeting as the quintessential Methodist institution in the South
.. But even though the Great Revival accord among the denominations did not persist, the practical, results-oriented style of preaching became a Southern staple.
.. What worked were direct, hard-hitting sermons aimed more at the emotional faculties than the reasoning, employing language unencumbered with complex theological ideas
.. It was effective to paint vivid word pictures of the sinful nature of the hearers and the frightening consequences of death and hellfire for the unredeemed versus the palatial pleasures of heaven. The point of the sermon was not to advance a set of doctrinal propositions but to convict and convert.
.. The essence of the religious service was a conversion experience, fixed in time and space so that one could know and describe precisely when it happened, and recognizing that moment came close to being the totality of religion in the American South.
.. The focus on personal conversion was so all-consuming that southern Protestantism was an intensely individualistic, privatistic faith.
.. seldom did Southern white Christians conceive of their religion as having a social or reform dimension other than the reformation of individual sinners (which, it was believed, would translate into a better society).
.. This tendency of ministers and churches not to become engaged with societal institutions was the result of more than just a practical emphasis on seeking converts.
.. The evangelical churches in the first decades of their existence in the South had been critics of slavery, but following the development of the cotton gin in 1793 and the strengthening thereafter of the slave-labor economy, and such slave insurrection scares as that of Gabriel Prosser in 1800, the planter elite, upwardly mobile plain folk, and the governmental authorities acted promptly to suppress all criticism of slavery.
.. should they stick to their antislavery guns and risk ostracism and perhaps a complete prohibition against preaching, or should they soft-pedal their antislavery concerns in order to be allowed to spread their message? From a modern perspective it is easy to say that they were hypocrites and discarded their principles in return for denominational growth.
They saw it differently: what did it prosper the slaves to gain earthly freedom yet lose the chance for eternal life? Better to compromise on political issues if that were the price of being able to preach more freely across the region. The evangelical ministers were less concerned about the institution of slavery than they were the state of the souls of individual blacks... the Southern way of religion that successfully emerged from the maelstrom of the Great Revival was conversion-centered, more concerned to convert individuals than the society.. Old Testament images of divine wrath and punishment were blended with New Testament homilies about the friendly Jesus dying a substitutionary death to purchase their salvation.. All the theology one needed could be summed up in a paragraph. Here was an easily learned, quickly described, and immensely effective religious message.. The evangelicals at first had been despised outsiders, but within three generations .. become culturally dominant.. One of the real attractions of evangelicalism to Southern women was the extent to which it sought to rein in the behavioral excesses of Southern men—notoriously individualistic, hedonistic, and prone to violence... Southern white ministers did not lead attacks against sharecropping, or one-party politics, or segregation, or rampant racism in general. And while the South turned out creative writers and musicians, to date no great theologian has emerged... Since God controls events, little other than the state of one’s soul is subject to personal agency... Southern ministers during the Civil War comforted believers by saying that God controlled the path of every bullet, and He would be sure to protect the faithful even in a hail of rifle fire... agents of the U.S. weather service noticed the statistically higher death rate from tornadoes in the South and concluded that fatalism led Southerners, unlike Midwestern farmers, to neglect building storm cellars. If it was your time to go, a storm cellar would be of no avail; and if it were not your time, then building one would be wasted effort... As in most Christian populations, women made up roughly two-thirds the regular attendance at church services; and they were assumed to be, and in fact were, more actively religious than men... women more frequently made out wills (suggesting that their faith made them more willing to face the prospect of death and plan accordingly) and distributed their estate in a more personalistic manner, rewarding those who had greater need or who had demonstrated more affection or assistance.. the shift of the evangelicals from being countercultural dissenters, despised and even persecuted for their opposition to slavery and the planter lifestyle in the mid-18th century, to fervent defenders of slavery and the idea of a separate Southern nation... As evangelicalism accommodated to Southern society in order to be allowed to preach the gospel in the slave quarters, and as more and more slaves became Christians, Southern white ministers and their flocks came to see slavery as a divine institution—the process God devised to introduce Africans to Christianity.The presence in their midst of devout black Christians, rather than being evidence that slavery was evil, became in the minds of white Christians the clearest justification for bondage. Hence when Northern abolitionists began attacking slavery as a sinful institution and charged the Southern churches with neglecting their spiritual duties, the Southern churches felt rebuttal was necessary... And it followed, in this line of reasoning, that if slavery was a Providential institution, then the South as a region was carrying out God’s plan. White Christians came to argue that the South was the most Christian portion of the nation, that it was the only region that interpreted the Bible literally, and that Christians had an obligation to support secession in part to save the South from the corrupting, even blasphemous influences of the North.Southern churches became primary defenders of the Confederacy, confident of victory.
.. Defeat was a shock to many Southern white Christians, and for some it shook the foundations of their faith. But most worked through the problem, coming ultimately to believe that God was the author of their defeat. By this reasoning they came to believe that, among other things, God was punishing them for not being sufficiently Christian slaveholders
.. molding them on the anvil of sacrifice, for a higher cause: to lead the nation back toward an individualistic, privatistic religion.
.. corporate religion—heavy investment in defending the institution of slavery and the political experiment of the Confederacy—was a mistake, a delusion. The result was a return to the older form of purely personal evangelism with a vengeance. Owning a responsibility for the larger society, they determined, had been a profound error.
.. More than ever before, mainstream Southern evangelical Protestantism emphasized the necessity of converting individuals almost to the complete exclusion of everything else.
Southern religion came to conform to norms of “proper” society—its founding sense of being countercultural abandoned and its words of condemnation aimed at infractions of personal morality. And that has been the basic mode of the Southern way of religion to our own time.
.. In the black community, the church was concerned with more than just the state of one’s soul. The black church ministered to all aspects of its people and eventually gave moral power to the Civil Rights Movement
.. In the last two decades many Southern white evangelicals have gotten involved in politics, but their influence on the whole has been more narrowly moralistic than broadly prophetic.
.. The Southern churches have been more prone to scriptural literalism, more concerned with personal morality in a traditional sense, more evangelical than socially reformist.
.. “these two religions—the Church of Law [i.e., strict moralism], based in the South, and the Church of Love [i.e., relativistic, forgiving, and reformist], based in the North—differ on almost every big theological point.”
.. Hillary Rodham Clinton is a representative of the Northern Methodist Church. Personally devout, her orientation is in the social gospel tradition.
.. Elizabeth Dole is a representative of the Southern Methodist Church. An avowed evangelical, Ms. Dole is more oriented toward conversion, in leading others to being born again. She is not blind to social evils, but her approach is aimed less at structural reform and more toward charity: she advocates feeding the hungry through local church-run agencies but not critiquing the institutional or economic structures that produce or contribute to poverty.
.. One fundamentally wants to remake individuals, the other wants to remake society.