Jordan B Peterson debates with University of Toronto students at 2016 rally. Screen capture/Youtube

Herman Goodden: Outspoken prof is Church’s ally

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  • March 27, 2018

Canadian Catholics and Christians generally are not paranoid if they harbour suspicions that their governmental overlords are unsubtly trying to control their rights of free speech, religion and assembly. 

Consider the case of the Hamilton Children’s Aid Society which was legally reprimanded recently for removing foster children from a Christian couple’s care because the couple refused to play along with the fantasy of the Easter Bunny in their household celebrations because it interfered with what they knew to be the central point of the Holy Day.

Then cast a glance at the need to re-route the 21st March for Life in Ottawa this May because of a bumped-up bubble zone law that now forbids this annual assembly of silent pro-life marchers to even walk down the block of Bank Street where a Morgentaler abortuary is located. 

And then call to mind the two campaigns being waged in most churches: 1) to retain the right of Christian doctors to not have to refer their patients to “euthanasia-friendly” doctors, and 2) to not compel Christian charities and community groups to tick a box asserting that they’re cool with abortion and the entire LGBTQ agenda (in other words, to deny their beliefs or to lie) if they want to continue to receive funding from the Canada Summer Jobs program.

Christians have sensed for some time that they are barely tolerated in this country but have taken reassurance that at least freedom of religion and speech are enshrined as rights in the Canadian Charter. But the animosity, particularly towards Christians of pro-life convictions, has been dangerously ramped up since Justin Trudeau became leader of the Liberal Party and then prime minister. Early on he announced that no pro-lifer would be allowed to stand as a Liberal MP or Liberal candidate, and in his speeches he’s forever banging on about abortion as an enshrined Charter right — which it is not.

It would seem we are approaching — if we haven’t already passed — a tipping point here. I think Christians would be well advised to look beyond the walls of our churches for allies to assist us in our battle to reassert our rights. One such warrior is University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson.

Peterson made international headlines in September of 2016 by refusing to comply with the dictates of Bill C-16, which amended the criminal code to include gender expression and identity as a protected ground to the Canadian Human Rights Act. He objected that, in conjunction with Ontario Human Rights laws, C-16 was an attempt to compel citizens’ speech. 

Peterson drew his line there because of his conviction that it is only through unfettered and uncompelled speech that we are able to properly think a thing through. A refusal to address “trans” or “non-binary” individuals by their preferred pronoun (zhe and zhir were just the beginning; there are now more than 50 of these clunky terms to choose from) could result in being charged with hate speech, a crime that could carry jail time if a convicted person refuses to pay the fine which Peterson has vowed he never will. If imprisoned, he also vows to go on hunger strike.

In the 18 months since taking that stand, Peterson’s new book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote for Chaos, has topped bestseller lists throughout the English-speaking world. And his YouTube videos — including a 15-part series of two-and-a-half-hour lectures on the Book of Genesis in which he expounds on what these archetypal narratives can teach us about how best to organize our understanding and behaviour so as to bring a modicum of stability and purpose to our personal, social and cultural lives — have racked up millions and millions of views.

His popularity is particularly pronounced with young men. Small wonder. After decades of being routinely denounced as toxic and violent and oppressive, young men are starved for an encouraging voice that tells them the world could become a better place if they got their act together and picked up the heaviest burden they can find and tried to make things better for themselves and the people around them.

Peterson may not be a card-carrying member of any church (yet), but the campaign he is waging for free speech rights is central to the Church’s well-being. 

The fire he is lighting in the hearts of young men as he draws out the eternal wisdom of Bible stories presents the Church in a bold and attractive light that many have never had cause to consider before. 

This courageous man is on our side and it’s time we acknowledged that.

(Herman Goodden is a writer in London, Ont. His latest book is No Continuing City.)

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