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

Zero to Hero

Written by: on November 18, 2022

The existential problem of evil has been a wrestling match humanity has participated in since the dawn of time.  It is this very existential question Jordan B. Peterson attempts to tackle in his book Maps of Meaning : The Architecture of Belief. Relying heavily on the principles of the hero’s journey outlined in Joseph Campbells Hero with 1000 Faces, Peterson thesis works to unpack the how and why humans’ maps of meaning have come to be.  For Peterson, the myth of the hero’s journey in the wrestling with good and evil frame our map of meaning, and sciences of psychology, neuroscience, anthropology, politics, philosophy and religion make up the contours.

Maps of Meaning is a dense read.  Reading summaries found on Quickread.com, Deployyourself.com and Docroid.com helped pinpoint Peterson’s salient points that include the dynamics of known and fear of the unknown, power of myths in understanding our identity, humans’ capacity for evil.  However, it was Peterson’s interview with Ben Shapiro[1] that set me down a trail of thoughts and research.  Peterson begins to deconstruct his thesis on hierarchy and myth around the conversation of identity politics and the value of enlightenment ideals.  He shares his understanding of axiomatic ethics as shaped by Jean Piaget’s argument that we must “play it out in the world”; “If the axiomatic system satisfies the motivations and emotions of the people who are engaged in that system then the system is justified.[2] Peterson continues with this concept by using the analogy of how children play games and figure out the rules when he says, “it shows you is that how an ethical system is tested and justified…so we play it out to see if everyone wants to keep playing.[3] Although this concept has merit in how our ethical maps are shaped I struggled with the part of reality that not everyone is included in the game so the ethics that lead to the satisfaction of needs of one group doesn’t include those outside of the group.  This has implications pastorally for how we lead our congregations.  The notion of the self out of the enlightenment period that Peterson embraces seems to negate the broader and deeper understanding of the Trinity; the perichoresis of the Trinity includes invitation to all of humanity, not the select we decide.  When researching identity politics, I came across Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University, Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò, who adds another dimension to game playing.  He applies the concept of elite capture as contextualized as “Value Capture” seen in the gaming industry to understand the complications of identity politics in the hands of those who are not ethical.[4]  The existential problem of evil pervades even issues of identity.

Myth, the hero’s journey, and identity led me to contemplate one of Disney’s great renditions of a hero’s story: Hercules.  Does Hercules archetype have confluence with the Christian wrestling with the existential problem of evil?  Philosopher Prodicus wrote an essay with Hercules as the main character who was faced with the decision to choose between virtue and pleasure, the hard road vs easy road, the good path or evil path.  In a blog on Christian Platonism scriptural echoes of Matthew 7:13-14 in Hesiod quote,

“Wickedness (κακότητα; kakotes) can be had in abundance easily: smooth is the road and very nigh she dwells. But in front of virtue (ἀρετῆς; arete) the gods immortal have put sweat: long and steep is the path to her and rough at first; but when you reach the top, then at length the road is easy, hard though it was.”[5]

The myth of Hercules speaks into our human struggle to choose virtue or that which is good.  As Christian’s we must recognize that the hero story of Hercules is not to be embodied just on an individual level but as a community sphere as well.  Peterson says in his interview, “The hero comes out of finding a way to master the hierarchy.”[6] As Christian’s we have to be ever mindful that our call is not to master the hierarchy but to subvert it, to open the games to include those whose identities are different than ours, to choose good in the face of evil.  Only then do we go from zero to hero in no time flat.


[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WT0mbNvaT6Y

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] https://www.bostonreview.net/articles/olufemi-o-taiwo-identity-politics-and-elite-capture/

[5] https://catholicgnosis.wordpress.com/2020/03/02/crossroads-archetype/

[6] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WT0mbNvaT6Y


About the Author


Nicole Richardson

PC(USA) pastor serving a church in Kansas City. In my spare time I teach yoga and scuba diving

14 responses to “Zero to Hero”

  1. mm Roy Gruber says:

    Nicole, I really enjoyed reading your post. Your paragraph on identity politics and enlightenment ideals was especially meaningful to me. I’m intrigued about your connection to the Trinity and the invitation to all. You wrote: “the perichoresis of the Trinity includes invitation to all of humanity, not the select we decide.” This is not the first time you’ve referenced the nature the Trinitarian God to our spiritual practice and church leadership – I love it. Can you say more about that connection? How does the “dance” (perichoresis) within the Trinity relate to God’s pursuit of all people?

    • mm Nicole Richardson says:

      Roy thank you for your kind words.
      As I understand the “holy dance”, Father, Son and Holy Spirit participate in the dance as a beautiful relationship of love and equality. As people created in the image of the Triune God, we are therefore invited into the dance as partners for the work of the kingdom. It is a divine dance of dignity, mercy, justice, grace, love, and creativity.

      Let me know if I missed answering what you were really asking.

      • mm Roy Gruber says:

        Nicole, you answered my question. I love that perichoresis is where we get our word, choreography. In my old age, God is more dynamic than I knew Him in my younger days of faith. Everyone is invited to the “dance!”

  2. Kayli Hillebrand says:

    Nicole: I love how you always gravitate towards the notion and importance of play. You embrace that and I see you utilize it in so many ways, especially in leading your congregation. In relation to this reading and your NPO, does Peterson’s discussion of how kids play impact how you view the play within your NPO?

    • mm Nicole Richardson says:

      Thank you Kayli. It does…it reminds me of the importance of being cognizant of including those on the margins…which is what I hope I am doing with my NPO

  3. mm Eric Basye says:

    Hey there, Nicole. Excellent post. Wow, I would say this was as deep as Peterson‘s book! I like the comment, regarding the pathway to sin, and the pathway to virtuous living. In my contacts of a low income community, we talk about how quick it is to unravel your life. To rebuild it through the gospel takes time. Can you tell me more about your second to last sentence? I was left hanging wondering where you were going with that!

    • mm Nicole Richardson says:

      Eric thank you for your generous words.

      Where I was going was referencing the Magnificat…Luke 1:46-55
      English Standard Version
      Mary’s Song of Praise: The Magnificat
      46 And Mary said,

      “My soul magnifies the Lord,
      47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
      48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
      For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
      49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
      and holy is his name.
      50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
      from generation to generation.
      51 He has shown strength with his arm;
      he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
      52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
      and exalted those of humble estate;
      53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
      and the rich he has sent away empty.
      54 He has helped his servant Israel,
      in remembrance of his mercy,
      55 as he spoke to our fathers,
      to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

  4. mm Andy Hale says:

    That was a wonderful connection to Campbell’s work.

    As you consider your heroes journey and are trying to make meaning of the map you are currently on, what the bubbles to the surface?

    • mm Nicole Richardson says:

      Andy, I am reminded more and more that my “hero’s journey” is one that doesn’t make me a hero. Picking of the cross means a deconstructed into a reconstructed journey

  5. Elmarie Parker says:

    Nicole, thank you for your thoughtful post and for sharing your thought journey on Peterson’s book. I loved seeing the trail of research it led you down and the connections you made to pastoral work. Could you share an example of how you have worked with your congregation (past or present) to identify ethics that led to the satisfaction of needs of one group, but excluded others and then what the journey has looked like to develop a more inclusive ethic? And how have you included theological reflection on the nature of the Trinity in this work?

    • mm Nicole Richardson says:

      Elmarie, I am currently working with this congregation to grapple with what it looks like to accept the call from God to create worship opportunities for those that have no use for traditional church…the nones and dones. It is a hard conversation because it means they have to stop at least for a moment and consider that it is not about them.
      The Trinity conversation is foundational in understanding the ways what we do are connected

  6. mm Troy Rappold says:

    Nicole: I’ve never seen Disney’s Hercules but I would like to now. Peterson does spend a lot of time with the Hero’s Journey idea and there are many overlaps with Joseph Campbell’s book. Peterson wants to believe and resolve the issues that plague his life, but I get the sense he’s not quite there; he is still searching.

  7. mm Denise Johnson says:

    Nicole, you pulled another interesting take on a difficult read, and managed to find a great cartoon to put a smile on my face. I agree with you that we need to find a way to being includers in our community of faith(s). Yet, I see the struggle is with acquisition of good or virtue. What is it? How is it defined? A community of believers is made up of individuals that determine the degree of virtue that is manifested in the community. Like Troy said, I think this is a struggle we all will be wrestling with for quite some time.

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