Dear Dr. Peterson
Please forgive the gimmicky aspect of this letter. Your immense popularity or repulsiveness (depending on whom you’re talking to) renders you unreachable by normal means. I’m under no illusion that you will see this letter. However, I sincerely hope this reaches you at some point. Allow me to begin by expressing my sincere earnestness in praying for your health and for the health and safety of your family, whom you seem to love dearly. Also, I’d like to thank you for your thoughtful, meaningful, and life-impacting contributions to national conversations. 12 Rules for Life has roused many forgotten young men to rally to the challenges of existence with courage, integrity, and goodness.
Along with millions, I’ve enjoyed listening to your podcast and following your lectures. I’ve cheered in admiration as you’ve resolutely refused to be cowed by woke media personalities or bullied into submission by cultural fads. You are a voice of reason, logic, and morality. That’s beyond refreshing in this post-postmodern or metamodernist culture (I’d love to hear your thoughts on post versus post-post versus metamodernism). It must be strange navigating the complexities of fame on a worldwide platform. I, for one, am appreciative that you do so with grace and kindness even when in strong disagreement.
Your Popularity Among Christians
I’ve heard you ponder the question of why you are so popular among Christians several times. And why your lectures on Genesis garnered overwhelming positive attention. Even though you are not a theologian, I thoroughly enjoy your religious conversations. Your influence has impacted me to take a renewed interest in Jungian psychology. I’m indebted to you for that as I quote Jung several times in a soon-to-be-released book that takes a biblical look at alcohol. Anyway, most people you speak with lean more philosophical than evangelical. Although you remain cautiously critical of “orthodox” Christianity, the liturgical influence on your religious (or philosophical) thinking is obvious.
A Brief Context
For the sake of transparency, I am a minister within a marginalized segment of Christianity. Interestingly, postmodernism helped and hurt us at the same time. It hurt in the sense that culture moved away from seeking or even believing in absolutes or Truth. Yet, it helped because we are less ostracized due to our beliefs (we were severely persecuted at the turn of the twentieth century). These words might sound a little foreign; I am a Oneness Apostolic Pentecostal Christian. We’re the fastest-growing religious movement in the world, even as liturgical churches are shrinking. In the past one hundred-plus years, we have exploded to the tune of approximately fifty million worldwide. Even though we are technically evangelical by definition, historically, our evangelical brethren have been loath to allow us that title.
Answering the Question
I mention my beliefs not because I expect you to find my theology particularly interesting (although you might). But because I believe my perspective allows a unique insight into your immense popularity among Christians of all stripes. You are tremendously popular in my circles and the converging circles of Christianity. And here’s why: You intellectually articulate the defense of our existence. That’s the nutshell version. Beyond that, you are the most intelligent person using your influence to help us maintain space and have a voice in the public space. Even when you don’t agree with everything we say or believe, you brilliantly defend our right to hold those thoughts and speak them out loud, whether in our churches, public forums, or the universities. Your unique one-foot in Christianity and one-foot outside Christianity stance gives you gravitas blatantly religious leaders can’t wield.
The Woke Wave
Sincere Christians saw the woke wave coming decades before it hit culture full force. We were silenced and demonized in the public schools. Our children were bullied into submission by Stalin-like totalitarian tactics. The universities turned Christian shaming into an art form. I’ve been forbidden to open up city council meetings by praying in the name of Jesus. And that’s in the Bible Belt of the United States. That’s only one small aspect of the anti-free speech overreach directed at Christians in public forums. We’ve watched our cities covered in graffiti while the Ten Commandments were removed from our courtrooms. We’ve had to fight like mad to keep the government from forcing us to fund abortions for people on our payrolls. Same-sex couples who’ve never darkened the doors of our churches routinely try to force us to marry them in our buildings, hanging legal action over our heads if we don’t comply. If we dare try to help children suffering from gender dysphoria overcome their confusion lovingly, we’re called hate-mongers and worse. I could go on and on.
You’re the Voice We Could Not Use
We’re subjugated to name-calling constantly while being told to keep our mouths shut. Free speech is only allowed for certain woke groups these days. All this seemed to go from a simmer to a boil when the transgender movement began doing its best to force us into ignoring science and radically changing definitions. Then you stepped onto the scene and became the voice we could not use in that arena. Your brilliance, coupled with genuine humility, captured our consciousness. As we got to know you, we realized you were a true friend and a sincere moralist. And while we may approach morality from divergent directions, we hold it dear nonetheless.
You’re Much Like Aaron
In some ways, your notoriety reminds me of Aaron (greatly anticipating your book and lectures on Exodus). As you know, much has been assumed about the Bible’s description of Moses as being “slow of speech and slow of tongue (Exodus 4:10).” Was Moses simply inarticulate? Did he have a stutter? I’ve always leaned towards the theory that Moses had a speech impediment of some kind. Whatever it was, God wanted Moses to overcome it and speak. But Moses resisted God and failed to use his voice. God relented and sent Aaron to be Moses’ spokesman before Pharaoh and often before the people. Moses’ failure to speak up created a vacuum (particularly in the political and secular realm) that Aaron naturally filled. God even acknowledged that Aaron was intelligent and eloquent compared to Moses (Exodus 4:14-16). It seems you have become the confident voice the Church was too afraid or perhaps unable to use. You’re the unofficial spokesperson, if you will.
The Overlooked Experience of Glossolalia
Admittedly, my primary motivation for writing is a burning desire to humbly add something to an ongoing thread that permeates your conversations. First, you have mentioned a particular mystical religious encounter that was personal to you. Also, the question of transcendent, mysterious occurrences, their origins, and repeatability comes up periodically. Lately, I’ve been noticing more and more scientific questions involving the use of psychedelics to replicate (or achieve) a spiritually transformative experience. I find myself talking to your podcast through my air pods when these topics arise. Mainly because the transformative encounter described in these conversations, although rare in liturgical circles, are frequent experiences for Pentecostals. We experience many types of transcendent encounters with God, but most notable is what the book of Acts refers to as speaking in other tongues. Which can be a known language (although previously unlearned) or a heavenly language, but it produces an ecstasy and clarity like nothing in this world can offer. This biblical phenomenon is commonly referred to as glossolalia in academic circles. Apostolics consider it to be a necessary element in the process of redemption.
Glossolalia’s Transformative Narrative
Regardless, I’ve witnessed countless individuals give up smoking, various drugs, and alcohol without any withdrawal symptoms after experiencing glossolalia (we would refer to it as receiving the Holy Spirit). It’s that well-documented transformative religious experience you’ve mentioned at various times. I know how strange this can sound to a person unfamiliar with it. However, is it stranger than looking for answers in psychedelics? Having witnessed your intellectual curiosity at play, I’m reasonably confident you would find the data interesting at the very least. Hundreds of millions have experienced glossolalia. Many of those millions have been permanently changed for the good. If this sounds overly preachy, I apologize. I am a preacher, and there’s nothing I can do to change that reality. Believe it or not, I’ve tried very hard to avoid inserting gobs of theology, dogma, and personal opinions into this letter. My only hope is that perhaps you will use a measure of your vast intellect to investigate glossolalia with a level of openness. Whatever else, it can’t just be discarded outright or ignored with any genuine intellectual honesty. Just the plethora of historical biblical accounts (Isaiah 28:11-12, Mark 16:17, Acts 2:1-47, Acts 10:46, Acts 19:6) set a narrative that’s difficult to reject off-hand.
Encouragement in Exodus
Please continue to speak against impending malevolence courageously. May you and your family be blessed. I pray your body remains as strong as your mind. I’ll bid farewell with one of my favorite passages from the book of Exodus:
8 Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph. 9 And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we: 10 Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land. 11 Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses. 12 But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel (Exodus 1:8-12).
This passage encourages me when I’m feeling weak and insignificant, and adversaries seem intensely overwhelming. It’s a reminder that even enemies perceive the strengths that I can’t see. Furthermore, affliction placed upon righteous people is a precursor to growth and eventual deliverance.