Is it crucial for reporters to know basic facts about what Jordan Peterson is saying?

Is it crucial for reporters to know basic facts about what Jordan Peterson is saying?

As I have said many times here at GetReligion, it is helpful if -- every now and then -- journalists listen to the voices of people who have been on the other side of a reporter's notepad.

This also applies, of course, to television cameras and any other form of technology used in modern newsrooms.

Thus, I would like to share a think piece that I planned to run this past weekend, only the tornado of news about Archbishop Theodore "Uncle Ted" McCarrick got in the way and rearranged my writing plans for several days (while I was traveling, once again).

Here is the overture of a recent essay by Mark Bauerlein, published in the conservative interfaith journal First Things, that ran with this headline: "Dr. Peterson and the Reporters." This is, of course, a reference to the now omnipresent author of "12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos." 

The crucial question from the other side of the notepad: Would it be a good thing if journalists actually read what Peterson has written and listened to what he is actually saying?"

 One ingredient in the astounding fame of Jordan Peterson is his capacity to show just how lazy, obtuse, unprepared, smug, knee-jerk, and prejudiced are many journalists at leading publications.

In a tendentious New York Times profile, for example, Peterson is held up for ridicule when he cites “enforced monogamy” as a rational way of fixing wayward, sometimes violent men in our society. If men had wives, they’d behave better, Peterson implied, and they wouldn’t “fail” so much. The reporter, a twenty-something from the Bay Area, has a telling response to Peterson’s position: “I laugh, because it is absurd.”

Her condescension is unearned. With no background in social psychology or cultural anthropology, she doesn’t get the framework in which Peterson speaks. But that doesn’t blunt her confidence in setting Peterson’s remarks into the category of the ridiculous. And the category of the sexist, too, as the subtitle of the profile makes clear: “He says there’s a crisis in masculinity. Why won’t women -- all these wives and witches -- just behave?” 

The problem, of course, is that Peterson is using language from his professional discipline and his own writings.

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Nagging legal question: Will polygamy become the next same-sex marriage?

Nagging legal question: Will polygamy become the next same-sex marriage?

Future-gazingjournalists take note: The question above is the lede of an article in the April edition of First Things magazine.

Author John Witte Jr. devoutly hopes the answer is no.

Witte, the noted director of Emory University’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion, presents that viewpoint at length in “The Western Case for Monogamy over Polygamy” (Cambridge University Press). The issue arises due to the gradual legal toleration of adultery and non-marital partnering that culminated in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell opinion last June that extended such  liberty to same-sex marriage.

The high court’s wording leaves open whether polygamy laws still make sense. This is “becoming the newest front in the culture wars,” Witte writes, and legalization may seem “inevitable” after Obergefell. We've had federal district court rulings supporting religious polygamists that Utah is appealing at the 10th Circuit. The case involves a family from the “Sister Wives” cable TV show that has helped make polygamous families seem less offensive and more mainstream-ish.

Witte writes that aversion to homosexual partners has been based historically on religious teaching, but rejection of polygamy is quite different. Polygamy occurred in the Old Testament (and usually demonstrated resulting ills and family strife). But it was opposed by the non-biblical culture of classical Greece, and in modern times by Enlightenment liberals on wholly secular grounds. (For more on biblical and Mormon history, see this piece by the Religion Guy.)

Witte observes that multiple mates are the pattern among “more than 95 percent of all higher primates,” and yet human beings “have learned by natural inclination and hard experience that monogamy best accords with human needs.”

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