Thoughts on JP

JP… Jordan Peterson. Thoughts on a genius by me!!! Stop laughing. He was described in 2018 by the New York Times as, ‘the most influential public intellectual in the Western world’; in the same newspaper I was described as – Oh no, I am still looking for what they said about me, google clearly is not what it used to be.

In the run up I did a ‘what level is my English test’ (Macmillan Readers Level Test) and came out at B2, with the comment, ‘With an upper intermediate level (B2), you could potentially work in an English-speaking environment, so this practice is very concrete. … It includes tasks that measure your listening and reading skills, as well as your range of English grammar and vocabulary skills.’ Did not surprise me… I can read something if I have listened first to the author, but struggle to read something that is new.

Nice to know I could do something potentially, but I preface this with the knowledge that the comments below are not exactly going to mean he will quickly need to revise what he has written! I watched the now-famous interview by Cathy Newman of Jordan P and realised that there was only one winner. Imagine me interviewing him and catching him out. In my dreams, but in reality might be a bit of a nightmare.

Peterson seems to have a right wing, neo-liberal stance that defends hierarchy (after all lobsters are hierarchical and we are evolved from them…), and refuses to bow at the feet of political correctness, thus insisting that (e.g.) any pay gap between male and female is due to a number of factors, and so will not engage with the ‘we need to correct this with a feminising of the context’ kind of approach.

Anyway what follows will be a few comments that might be way off the mark but what the heck here goes!

Like all (self included) who are committed to, or influenced by, a level of ideology, ideology can determine our response, and we tend to see those who adopt the opposing ideology as wrong, attributing to them aspects that they probably do not fully (or at all) endorse. This was the blatant issue in Cathy Newman’s interview or, if not the issue, it was that he is so incredibly intelligent and good with words that he avoided every trap she set for him. I come at the whole thing from quite a different ideology – his is thought through, mine…????

I am not a Marxist (who knows what I would be if I were able to read intelligently) so do not write to defend ‘Karl’. Peterson states that particularly after the horrors of Stalinism that ‘no thinking person could be a Marxist’. With this as a foundation he goes on to talk about the unreachable ‘equality of outcome’ in all spheres for all people. Something of a straw target, methinks here. Most Marxists (and neo-Marixsts) are opposed to the communism that was exhibited in most communistic states, viewing them as nothing less than state-capitalism, rather than some form of democratic socialism. To propose that there are injustices in the system, that oppressive hierarchies exist does not make someone a Marxist, and certainly not an advocate for Stalinism. I do not see how the French revolution, the American revolution, not to mention the Protestant reformation, could escape his (to me) seeming critique of reacting to the oppressions present within the Western world. Those responses were not motivated by a Marxist ideology!

Peterson suggests he believes in an ‘equality of opportunity’ but not that of ‘equality of outcome’. The latter he says is the drum beat of the left, and into that he (rightly) says that gender is one factor among a number that means the outcome is one of consistent pay differentials and opportunities between males and females in the working world. It seems that one suggestion he makes is that females should be less agreeable(!!) and then there would be more females in the positions where they are not currently present. He also claims that there is no, or insufficient, empirical evidence to suggest where there is a feminisation of the environment there is any shift.

He is right to oppose a solution if it were based on a simplistic analysis such as he seems to suggest is made by feminists. He is right to oppose an imposition from (the left) on the rest, thus insisting on pc speech while silencing freedom of speech. However… oh the word ‘however’. By responding as he does one of those factors (gender) that is an acknowledged factor (even by him) that affects pay differentials is effectively silenced. When I read Scripture God responds to the voice from the oppressed, the marginalised, the ones who are resisting the voice of those who are in a hierarchical position and are holding that position to perpetuate keeping others in their subjected position. If gender is one of the factors then that has to be addressed, and the critique from those who are on the ‘underside’ needs to direct the dialogue not those who are in the power position.

It brings me to his justification of hierarchy. In reality all people believe in ‘hierarchy’ in the sense that no-one suggests that children are ‘equal’ to parents, to teachers. Most also believe in some authorities that need be submitted to (it is not police that is objected to, for example, but any police abuse of power). To suggest that we should expect – from the lobster and up – hierarchies but not critique the kind / the effect of current hierarchies, nor consider that the healthy changes that have taken place in history with shifts in hierarchies (slavery, for example) seems to me lacking in real openness. From my little world, the challenge currently is that of the nature of power and how it is exercised, the kind of power that is rooted in Imperialism seems to be in total conflict with the Jesus-model of ‘not so among you’.

He is both helpful and unhelpful when he critiques the scapegoating of a system. He is helpful in that if we live with a blaming culture there is no progress, so we are to take responsibility for ourselves. However, it remains that opportunities are not equal, the system is biased in favour of some. The level of education that can be accessed, the level of finances inherited, the context one lives within all present us with boundaries. There are always wonderful stories of people who made it out of a difficult situation, who rose to the ‘top’ (what kind of word is that?) in spite of their background. Yet the majority with those challenges do not, and more importantly, cannot follow suit. (This has always been the case in the imperial system, there are enough testimonies to the freedom the empire offers to perpetuate the myth.)

I have no doubt that a number of people (young men in particular) have found his ’12 rules’ incredibly life changing. However (however, again?), however to consider that what is present in our society, in the light of the Gospel vision, is defensible I do not consider that we should think of the book nor his contributions as giving us much sight into what we should be pushing into.

I rest my case… all written at a B2 level, so cannot be opposed!


Humanisation a trend?

Just finished a zoom last night – finishing at 11.00pm here in Spain. On chapter 1 of Humanising the Divine. For me it was great, particularly as there was some healthy pushback on my ideas. It is wonderful to write something that could be well off, or at least wonderful if it helps others to push back against it and come to a far better position.

Anyway… I find it interesting that (and here I am being ever so positive about what I have written) in seeking to put humanity much more central to theology, there is either the possibility of just following a trend that has nothing to do with theology, or there is something very deep going on at this time concerning humanisation.

In recent work on women in politics – in some places there are (at last) record numbers of women entering the political realm that has been dominated not simply by men but by masculinity – there has been a shift with how violence is understood. Violence has often been equated with physical injury, but in policy and academic research the term is now being defined more broadly to mean a violation of integrity. Violence being any act that harms a person’s autonomy, dignity, self-determination, and value as a human being.

Humanisation… and for me theologically the work of demons is to dehumanise; sin is when we no longer act as ‘true’ humanity.

Then jumping forward some volumes (#3) of what I am writing I push into the necessity for the feminisation of humanity, with Jesus being (of necessity) 1st Century Jewish and male not because they are superior, but they (as defined above) have been the major perpetrators of violence. The male being universal, and the first Century Jewish context being that of isolation, separation and superiority. (Chosen, yes… but chosen for who?)

Back in the day I remember so much being unveiled concerning the imperial spirit, and the ‘rolling up of the Roman way’. It seemed at the time that those same themes were being unfolded outside the holy confines of church life also.

So maybe the humanising theme is coming through in theology because this is the time for a major push on this globally, and if so then there has to be a new breath expected in and through women. I like to think that.

If my thinking is in the right direction of course there will be an unholy push back against such a direction, the expression of that push back will be violence, as defined above and as classically thought of.

And of course I could well be wrong.

Watch this space

Guard the space

No not an ad for the most amazing life-changing product that you cannot afford to miss! That product comes later when I reach a level of maturity that… OK maybe a piece of good advise is don’t wait around for that to happen as a lot of life will pass you by in the meantime.

Two spaces that I think we have to watch.

My take on COVID-19

Not going away any time soon. But it is a warning to signal that we are to prepare for what is beyond it. So right through this year and into the early stages of next we will be reading the daily statistics of the virus, then…. SPACE.

2021 will be a year when there is a relief. Welcomed by the ‘back to normal’ approach as a ‘glad that is behind us now we are back where we were’. But I see it as a space opening up to breathe and get set with resources for the challenge of what is beyond. I do not see God as a destroyer who deliberately pulls things down – sometimes God does that when we stick God’s name on it and insist that it is here forever (see the Temple discourses in Jeremiah and Matthew 24). If God is not an automatic destroyer and also relates to us with a huge capacity to compromise then I see the relief as space to gather the resources for the post-COVID (not suggesting that is the right term) period. 2022 will have somewhere in it ta level of crisis that means 2021 will have been essential to give us what we need, or show that we missed it by thinking the crisis was over.

So watch the space of 2021.

Sidenote on not allowed to sing!

I heard yesterday that churches (UK and I think Spain and probably elsewhere) can meet but not SING. In the light of the dream I had from 2010 for the decade up to 2020 concerning how Christian singing shut back down the façades ( I find this very interesting. If we simply complain about not being able to sing (persecution???? I don’t remember the last time I went to Tescos and only being able to buy meat offered to a variety of gods… we have it easy… or of course we can see it as all foods and goods have been offered to the god of consumerism and we have been duped all those years – take our pick but not persecution, and if it was rejoice as ‘all who seek to live a godly life will suffer persecution’). If we focus on a so-called persecution and fail to lay hold of our responsibility to be agents that should hold open what the Lord has opened to expose we will so miss it. So I see the grace of heaven coming through the legislation. Nice one.

End of sidenote!

The feminisation of the future

I am writing (I think 6 booklets) and at the moment the fourth is on the egalitarian nature of the Pauline Gospel. (One of the first revelations I ever had of the land of Spain was that there was a hidden deposit of the Pauline Gospel in the land, as no other land on the basis of biblical authority can claim to have first century apostolic prayers deposited in the land.) Anyway not suggesting I am uncovering the Pauline Gospel – if I was step aside NT, Douglas, John and a whole bunch of others that I am not on first name terms with! But I am being impacted by the Pauline Gospel, and in particular I have been knocked sideways by the terse letter to the Galatians. Some crazy stuff in there, but the absolute centralising of Jesus so that everything and anything else is blasted out of the picture. In the letter of course it is Jewishness that gets the main treatment but also in the very careful change of language of Gal. 3:28 when it comes to gender difference is so noticeable.

So the space here I suggest we have to watch is that there is coming a feminisation into society. Back in the 90s I wrote a book I was very happy with back then ‘For Such a Time as This‘ where it proposed that there were no barriers to the full participation of women at any level, including female apostles in Scripture and hence today. Happy with it (then) as any book written is a snapshot in time of where the writer was at that time. The book was saying women can and are encouraged to enter the space (and my focus back then was on ‘church space’… but back then majority space was shaped by a masculinity). Now…

There is space opening, which will affect economics, politics, commerce etc., that is feminised – i.e. a different way of operating that (excuse my ignorance) will be much more collaborative than competitive. That space will be entered more easily by women but is open to men as in Christ there is no ‘male and female’.

Maybe in all the above there are connections. If the façades coming up expose a ‘masculinity in Adam’ form of the institutions that have shaped the public square, then the ‘feminisation in Christ’ can follow. As there is neither male and female in Christ of course the language is struggling to gain any real traction. Meanwhile let’s not complain about not singing. Surely we can answer the question of ‘where then do you worship’ by normally before I get out of bed, while making breakfast my heart rises to heaven, and when I come to eat I do find a real thanksgiving rise up and…