Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Connecting With Jordan Peterson As A Fellow Sufferer

Written by: on February 14, 2020

Jordan Bernt Peterson (born June 12, 1962) is a Canadian clinical psychologist and a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. His main areas of study are abnormalsocial, and personality psychology. Peterson’s first book, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief (1999), examined several academic fields to describe the structure of systems of beliefs and myths, their role in the regulation of emotion, creation of meaning, and several other topics such as motivation for genocide.[1]

In Paul Thagard’s opinion, his examination of Peterson’s Maps of Meaning reveals a defective work of anthropology, psychology, philosophy, and politics. Its emphasis on religious myth and heroic individuals provides a poor construct for understanding the origins of totalitarianism, and an even poorer guide to advise the way forward to overcoming its evils. Peterson’s ideas are a mishmash of self-help, amateur philosophy, Christian mythology, evidence-free Jungian psychology, and individualistic politics. While Peterson’s book is murky, it is less meandering and disjointed than his videotaped lectures. [2]

I reviewed three of his taped interactions and came away, wondering if I am only striving to connect with his arguments in reaction to the dominant arguments for postmodernism. Perhaps this is what academics do; they toil to argue against other academics. Perhaps like politicians, they focus on rhetoric and debate as most trial lawyers seem to do, where language becomes but an indispensable lever to win an advantageous position or counter-position, rather than share new understanding to move society forward. I am unsure if what I just illustrated is a modern or postmodern approach. Peterson’s argument against the ruinous influence of postmodernism in politics and universities was probably the most cogent I came across.[3] His main points seem to indicate postmodernism’s view of “there are infinite ways to examine infinite phenomena” falls apart upon closer examination because in reality (e.g., cosmos and biology), infinite ways must be limited to viable ways. Secondly, he equates postmodernism’s political expression as Marxism which historically has proven to be “murderous and tyrannical beyond belief” (e.g., the post-Stalin Soviet Union and Mao China). Thirdly, postmodernism is being propagated by intellectuals in the academy who simply are trying to tear down the hierarchies of power of others out of petty professional jealousy and resentment. Knowing the fallenness of my humanity, his third point, especially, made the most sense to me.

I found Maps of Meaning difficult to access, either in composition or content. His background and journey to understanding were probably the most compelling, including how his study of “comparative mythological material” dispelled his painful demons of religious-based depression and anxiety.[4] Most recently, I came across his health struggles related to several failed attempts to overcome his dependence on an addictive anti-anxiety medication. His family has reported, “The uncertainty around his recovery has been one of the most difficult and scary experiences we’ve ever had.” Peterson has been taking medication for years to alleviate protracted anxiety following a severe autoimmune reaction to food. His dependence reportedly started last spring after doctors increased his dosage to help him deal with stress as his wife battled kidney cancer.[5] Peterson and his family are suffering and merit our prayers and grace. As a fellow spouse of a person living with cancer, this insight into his humanity is perhaps the only connection I can ascertain to him and his work. These insights into his family’s health struggles, in turn, make me wonder how much of his longsuffering bouts with depression and anxiety have informed his perception of his scholarship?

[1]Wikipedia, accessed 02/08/2020,  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jordan_Peterson

[2] Paul Thagard, “Jordan Peterson’s Murky Maps of Meaning: Peterson’s Book Is Weak As Anthropology, Psychology, Philosophy, and Politics.”, Psychology Today, March 12, 2018, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hot-thought/201803/jordan-petersons-murky-maps-meaning

[3] Jordan Peterson, “Political Correctness & Postmodernism” recorded 09/12/2017, accessed 02/14/2020 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5rUPatnXSE

[4] Jordan Peterson, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief (New York, NY: Routledge, 1999) XX.

[5]Jonathon Gatehouse , “Jordan Peterson seeks ’emergency’ drug detox treatment in Russia”, CBC News · Posted: Feb 07, 2020 9:38 PM ET | Last Updated: February 7


About the Author

Harry Fritzenschaft

Harry is the Coordinator of Coaching for Multiply Vineyard (the church planting resource arm for Vineyard USA) and part-time pastor of business administration for the Vineyard Church of Houston. He is a certified coach with the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and is pursuing a DMin in Leadership and Global Perspective with a focus on internal coaching networks. Harry has been married to Gloria for almost forty-two years and has two grown children; Michelle, who is married to Brandon and has two sons (Caleb and Judah), and Mark, who is engaged to Cannus. He loves making new friends (living and dead) from different perspectives, watching college football with Mark, and helping global ministry leaders (especially church planters and pastors) accomplish their goals in fulfilling their call. He especially loves learning about and nurturing internal coaching networks.

6 responses to “Connecting With Jordan Peterson As A Fellow Sufferer”

  1. Mary Mims says:

    Harry, great post! I came away with mostly the same opinion as you concerning Peterson. From his video presentations, I wondered if he was on drugs and later found out that he was. I do feel sorry for him in this respect and pray for his healing. However, I feel there are some aspects of postmodernism that are legit; especially when it comes to race and equity in education. Thank you for demonstrating another way to look at things, from a heart of compassion. Blessings to you.

  2. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Thanks for your kind words of encouragement. When you have time, I would love to hear more of your views on how postmodernism aids race and equity in education. Thanks again, I appreciate your perspective and your passion.

  3. Mario Hood says:

    Thanks for the great and honest post Harry. As I have and will be praying for you and yours, I’m adding Peterson family as well.

  4. Jenn Burnett says:

    I think it is so interesting how many of us connected with him because of our access to his humanity rather than just the access to his thought. While I’m sure he wouldn’t see the alignment at all, it seems to have a postmodern flair. Taking the time to explain one’s context and experience is truly to own the subjective perspective that one is presenting. Any time we are willing to say ‘I see it this way because…’ we are granting that there are different ways that it can be seen which to me suggests that their must be reasons why some of these subjective views become dominant narratives and others do not. Thank you for your humble and generous voice Harry. In truth, I think regardless of which ideologies we find useful, listening with humility as you do is a gift to all people.

  5. Rhonda Davis says:

    Thank you for your post, Harry. This was definitely a dense read. I appreciate the perspective from your current realities. I am praying for you and Glo!

  6. Andrea Lathrop says:

    Harry – this is excellent and helped me learn more from this book. Like Jenn, I am noticing how many of us mentioned his personal struggles, both at the beginning of his career and more recently. I cannot imagine reading this without his “backstory”.
    Suffering does certainly shape us and your question at the end is poignant. I think of you and Glo and pray for you all.

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