The trouble with this indifferentism is simple: It does not take ideas seriously. But because the particular issue at stake here (sexuality) is central to human existence, you can’t really afford to pretend the issue isn’t important. Either it is okay to be in a same-sex relationship or it is not. Either way, your answer to that question will have enormous spiritual and existential ramifications. Because it fails to recognize this fact, indifferentism of this sort ends up doing real damage to many people.
A Stance in Service to No One
The first thought I had while reading Peterson’s interview yesterday was not actually disappointment or sadness. His answer didn’t serve anyone on either side of the debate. His answer is shot through with an indifferent tone that seems sincerely baffled by the anger and discord this issue creates in the church and the broader culture.
For both sides, the stakes are high. For both sides, indifference loses key legislative battles. If sexual identity is as central to our being as progressives say it is, then the indifference of Peterson is not something to be celebrated, but something to be condemned as a form of moral cowardice.
For traditionalists, Peterson’s indifference is an even greater threat to the health of our community than the progressivism of a Matthew Vines or David Gushee. It is not progressive argument that will hollow out the Christian teachings on sexuality or the communities that those teachings help to create and preserve. It is indifference that will cause us to neglect the centrality of the natural family and the ways that same-sex marriage undermines these natural relationships.
On matters of sexual ethics, we can say one of two things about the traditional sexual ethic. It is either essential to the flourishing of human communities because it shows us how human society is meant to reproduce itself on the most basic, local level, or it is unimaginably cruel to a considerable minority of the population by denying them something essential to their own individual flourishing. The one thing it can never be is moderately important. The progressives and the traditionalists alike understand this. It is alarming that Peterson doesn’t.
Jake Meador is the editor-in-chief of Mere Orthodoxy and Vice President of the Davenant Institute. He lives in Lincoln NE with his wife Joie, daughter Davy Joy, and son Wendell.