Saturday, May 25, 2019

First Letter - Jordan Peterson and the Problem of Evil

Dear Beatrice,

I've decided to write to you publicly, since you are that strange combination of "anima projection", feminine ideal and intelligent fictional character that would make for an interesting correspondent.  And since you're married to Malcolm, Jack's old buddy, you're "safe".  So am I, sliding into my dotage as I have been for years.  We also tend to see things the same way, and somehow that's part of the mystery of friendship.

And the world is filled with mysteries, as you know.  And, as you also know, I am sick to death of how the Catholic Church emasculates the sense of mystery and turns heaven into a kind of bourgeois suburb.  Well, that's not fair.  Heaven has long since been forgotten in the Catholic Church, at least at the parish level, and at least in the myriad of parishes I visit on my travels.  I am more and more convinced that we have no idea what heaven would look like, and no idea what makes a saint.  Somehow we think of heaven as dull and saints as stuffy and repressed.  We don't have the imagination in today's Catholic Church to desire sanctity or the fruits of sanctity.

And I have been listening to Jordan Peterson lately.  I had rejected him out of hand a few years ago, but there's something really compelling about him, about his passion and how much he cares and how he delivers his off the cuff lectures from the deepest part of his soul.  He says, on several occasions, that we don't make meaning; we discover it.  That alone puts him among the sane ones.  He's sort of like the secular Bishop Barron. 

His journey to what I would call a kind of orthodoxy is similar to Chesterton's.  Chesterton said, "I did try to found a little heresy of my own; and when I had put the last touches to it, I discovered that it was orthodoxy."  Peterson could say the same; though he was not attempting to form a little heresy but a coherent view of life.  And his journey toward orthodoxy came from his encounter with the reality of evil.  He speaks of how naive many people are these days, having no idea how malevolent we humans are capable of being (he likes the word malevolent).  He talks about this in particular in his dialogue with Dennis Prager.

In this talk, Peterson says, "Catholicism - that's as sane as people can get, you know."  He's right - ideally.

And when the conversation shifts toward the Problem of Evil, Prager says, "That is why I truly believe that a 12 year old at a traditional Christian or a Jewish school is wiser and more likely
to be happy than a secular professor of philosophy who is 50 years old ... I went to yeshiva ... and I knew at 6 people were not basically good because God said so in Genesis when he decided to destroy the world because it turned out rotten."

But, Betty, is the typical Catholic at all savvy about evil?  NOT AT ALL!  We deny evil!  Jesus was nice, you be nice too.  Just smile and don't move and everything will be fine!  What's wrong with us?  We are like the sheltered kids Peterson speaks of who think that the world is just a peachy keen place.  We don't recognize evil or sin of any sort.  Catholics are no longer Catholic, and therefore no longer sane.

Well, that's enough for now, Betty.  If I go on, this will be a complete rant.  Feel free to write back.


Confession vs. Therapy

Beatrice, Of course psychotherapy is better than Confession. I know why you say otherwise, and I know therapy cannot offer absolution, w...