If you want to change a corrupt world Print E-mail
Word on Fire
Thursday, Mar. 22, 2018 -- 12:00 AM

This article is the second in a two-part series on Jordan Peterson’s new book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.

This archetype of the hero also allows us to read the story of Adam and Eve with fresh eyes. In paradise (the word itself denotes “ walled garden” ), our first parents were secure and innocent, but in the manner of inexperienced children.

Leaving paradise was, in one sense, a positive move, for it permitted them to grow up, to engage the chaos of the unknown creatively and intelligently.

The far side of the cross

This reading of Genesis, which has roots in Tillich, Hegel, and others, permits us to see that the goal of the spiritual life is not a simple return to the garden of dreaming innocence, but rather an inhabiting of the garden on the far side of the cross, that place where the tomb of Jesus was situated and in which the risen Christ appeared precisely as a “ gardener.”

Jordan Peterson’ s investigation of the psyche of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was, for me, one of the most illuminating sections of the book.

Solzhenitsyn, of course, was a victim of both Hitler and Stalin, a terrorized and dehumanized inmate in the Gulag Archipelago, and one of the most tortured of souls in the terrible 20th century.

It would have been surpassingly easy for him simply to curse his fate, to lash out in anger at God, to become a sullen figure scurrying about the margins of life.

Today is the day to begin

Instead, he endeavored to change his own life, to turn the light of his moral consciousness on himself, to get his psychological house in order.

This initial move enabled him to see the world around him with extraordinary clarity and, eventually, to tell the story of Soviet depravity with such devastating moral authority.

The lesson that Peterson draws from this example is this: if you want to change the corrupt world, “ start to stop doing what you know to be wrong. Start stopping today.”

Carefully apply wise insights

I have shared just a handful of wise insights from a book that is positively chockablock with them. So do I thoroughly support Jordan Peterson’ s approach?

Well, no, though a full explication of my objection would take us far beyond the confines of this brief article.

In a word, I have the same concern about Peterson that I have about both Campbell and Jung, namely, the Gnosticizing tendency to read biblical religion purely psychologically and philosophically and not at all historically.

Our God is a living God

No Christian should be surprised that the Scriptures can be profitably read through psychological and philosophical lenses, but at the same time, every Christian has to accept the fact that the God of the Bible is not simply a principle or an abstraction, but rather a living God who acts in history.

As I say, to lay this out thoroughly would require at least another article, or two, or 12.

Stand up and be heroes!

On balance, I like this book and warmly recommend it. I think it’ s especially valuable for the beleaguered young men in our society, who need a mentor to tell them to stand up straight and act like heroes.


Bishop Robert Barron is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries. Learn more at www.WordOnFire.org