What Jordan Peterson and Alexander Solzhenitsyn have in common
There is an old Russian saying that a lie can get around the world faster than one can get his boots on. The lie, being a half-truth, can travel faster than the truth which is weighed down by its complexity. In addition, the pleasant lie is more appealing than the naked truth. Hence its popularity. “The truth will make you odd,” warned Flannery O’Connor. Nonetheless, she lived by it because she found strength in Christ’s declaration that He is the Truth.
The clash between the popular lie and the burdensome truth is nowhere better found than in the career of Jordan B. Peterson. He is “the most important and influential Canadian thinker since Marshall McLuhan,” writes Camille Paglia. And yet he is the most “despicable” man in the world, say his detractors and pegged a “right-wing extremist.”
Norman Doidge, a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and author of The Brain that Changes Itself and The Brain’s Way of Healing, has said, “With all the moderation that I can summon,” if one is looking for “the kind of person with the comprehension, tools, good will and courage to combat it (left-wing bigotry), Jordan Peterson is that man.”
Early in his career as a clinical psychologist, Peterson came to the realization that “almost everything I said was untrue.” He wanted to win arguments, gain status, and twist the world into what he thought it should be. He was, in his own word, a “fake.” But what was he to do. His personal decision was to “tell the truth.” And so that was the path he would take throughout his career. “Truth,” he would go on to state in his best-selling book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, “is the ultimate, inexhaustible natural resource. It’s the light in the darkness.”
One is not obliged to tell the truth in all circumstance, but enthroning the lie is unconscionable. But there are times when the truth must be told. In an exclusive statement he made for LifeSiteNews, Peterson stated that radical LGBT activists are working to destroy Catholicism. He condemned the “Catholic” school system in Canada for embracing the LGBT agenda and blasted Catholics who succumb to the demands of the LGBT “mob.” “The radical LGBT etc. agenda,” he said, “couldn’t be more antithetical to Catholic doctrine if it had been specifically designed for that purpose.”
“The radicals within the alphabet movement,” he added, “are trying to do to Catholicism more narrowly and Christianity more broadly what they do to all traditions: destroy them. They use guilt, manipulation . . . along with constant claims of victimization and oppression. Catholics too asleep or naive to notice or gulled into cooperating because of appeals to compassion are the ‘useful idiots’ participating in their own demise.”
It us sheer naivete on the part of certain Catholic school board members and even presidents of Catholic colleges to misinterpret the LGBTQ+ message that God embraces everyone. That God embraces everyone is a basic tenet of the Church. It does not need to be reiterated in a fragmentary way focussing exclusively on sexual deviancy. Where are the carpenters, electricians, lawyers, bakers, and postal workers? The rainbow flag is not inclusive; it is exclusive. Peterson is right, though most certainly politically incorrect.
Peterson is not Catholic, though he sounds more Catholic than many Catholics. Nonetheless, he recognizes and values Catholicism and its rich tradition. He calls on Catholics to fight to preserve their faith. In doing so, he is stating that he is more episcopal than many Catholic bishops.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn was also an outspoken champion of the truth. “One word of truth outweighs the world,” he famously stated. In his own country, Russia, the lie was not simply a moral category “but a pillar of the state.” There will be lies, he realized, but he felt the responsibility to prevent the lie from coming through him. In this respect, Solzhenitsyn and Peterson have much in common, doing what one can for a higher purpose. “It is the artist who realizes that there is a supreme force above him and works gladly away as a small apprenticeship under God’s heaven.”
In his book, The New Tower of Babel, Dietrich von Hildebrand has a chapter entitled, “The Dethronement of Truth.” “One of the most ominous features of the present epoch,” he writes, “is undoubtedly the dethronement of truth.” The consequence of this dethronement is not a moral vacuum or a lawless society, but the enthronement of the lie. This ascendancy of the lie is pernicious in the extreme. It aims at depriving people of their right to know the truth and to establish a realistic basis, common to all, in their attempt to establish a just society. Although von Hildebrand focuses on the more drastic dethronements of truth in Nazism and in atheistic communism, he recognizes that this same disregard can occur in democratic countries. Truth, he states, cannot be a mere personal opinion. It is a conformity with reality. Democracy cannot succeed if all opinions are considered equal, while truth remain unacknowledged and unemployed.
Truth is not unattainable nor is foreign to our deepest instincts. “O Truth, Truth,” cried St. Augustine, “how inwardly did the very marrow of my soul pant for You” (The Confessions of St. Augustine). Truth belongs to human beings as much as it belongs to God. The lie is contrary to the dignity of man and is an offense against God. The enthronement of truth should be society’s noblest and most important goal.