Jordan and Tammy Peterson Sheila Nonato

Wrestling with their faith

By  Sheila Nonato, Catholic Register Special
  • November 15, 2023

As today’s “cancel culture” mightily attempts to push God out of the public sphere, Tammy and Dr. Jordan Peterson are weighing in on religion’s place in our increasingly secular world.

Both have wrestled with questions of faith and are carving out their own paths to truth and understanding. Tammy has talked publicly, including in an exclusive interview published in the Oct. 29 issue of The Catholic Register, about her journey towards becoming a Catholic. Jordan, the renowned psychologist and thorn in the side of so-called “woke culture,” is writing a book delving into Biblical stories. It’s set to be published in 2024, and may give a glimpse into his own journey of faith.

“It’s about 90-per-cent finished. It’s called, We Who Wrestle with God. Some people will be familiar with the lectures I did on Genesis and also with the most recent Exodus seminar, and this is an extension of that work,” Jordan told The Register.

“I walk through a number of the main Biblical stories, Old and New Testament alike, and a commentary on their psychological, practical, social and possibly philosophical and theological significance. So (it’s) an explanation of, for example, what it means to live in a covenantal relationship,” he said.

“It’s not something people understand, why the foundation of the well-integrated psyche and a stable society is sacrifice … I’m attempting to answer questions like that.” 

Asked about progress in his own faith journey, Jordan was not ready to divulge details.

“People have to figure that out for themselves,” he answered. “What do they say, ‘By your fruits you will know them.’ ”

One of those fruits has been their 35-year marriage which weathered the storms of health struggles and the media spotlight, particularly since Jordan rose to prominence when he fought back against gender ideology as a professor at the University of Toronto.

“You enter into marriage as an act of faith. You fall in love with someone which is a grace, a gift from God in some real sense,” Jordan said in a DailyWire+ video.

In response to Tammy’s newfound faith, Jordan said he is ready to support her and stand with his wife when she becomes Catholic this Easter.

“Yes, it’s been very good for her. I’m happy to see things that are good for her unfolding. It’s also helped her have a very positive effect on all sorts of other people so that’s also extremely good. There’s nothing in it that isn’t good, as far as I can tell, and there isn’t anything you can say that about,” he said.

Tammy credits  the Rosary for the growth in her own faith,

“My faith, with the Rosary, has been strengthened,” she recently told a group of about 70 people at Kintore College, a cultural centre and private residence for female post-secondary students in downtown Toronto.

“Sometimes, I call my daughter and I tell her what happened that day. (I say) ‘God was sending this challenge’ and I see what I can do to respond properly,” she said.

The Petersons were invited by their friend, Queenie Yu, a Numerary member of the personal prelature of Opus Dei and Hawthorn School for Girls’ director of Character Education, to speak at a Nov. 7 event at Toronto’s Kintore College with Hawthorn students, parents and friends. Hawthorn is an independent, Catholic-inspired all-girls school in north Toronto. Tammy has been involved with female leadership and mentorship programs at Kintore College, and was keynote speaker at Hawthorn’s graduation last year.

News of Tammy’s Catholic conversion has gone viral since she first told The Catholic Register in late September that she started Catechism classes through the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults, previously known as the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (R.C.I.A.).

During their marriage, the Petersons have faced Herculean health challenges: their daughter’s debilitating childhood arthritis, Tammy’s cancer and health battles and Jordan’s own health crisis when he battled severe benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome that saw him placed in a medically induced coma. These could have proved insurmountable had it not been for their steadfast commitment to each other, to the truth and their unwavering support for each other’s quest to be the best version of themselves.

What’s been the secret to their lasting marriage? Tammy said it’s following through with the public commitment.

“When I got married, I decided I was going to stay no matter what. I took my vows seriously. I wanted to make sure that I was committed 100 per cent and that’s partly what marriage is. When you marry one another and you do that in front of the priest in the church, with all of your friends and your family around, you’re saying, ‘I’m going to
do this and I have witnesses,’ ” she said.

“Our daughter was very, very sick as a child and we had differing ideas of what was good for her. We still held together. And we’ve had our own health issues that could’ve easily pulled us apart, but they didn’t,” Tammy said. “We decided that we would stay together and support one another through thick and thin, and I would say that our relationship since all of those things that we’ve been through is better, deeper and stronger and more of an adventure than it’s ever been.”

From the first date to the altar, the Petersons have set their sites upon building a relationship rooted in truth. Transparency is key, Jordan emphasized.

“Don’t lie to your partner. What are you going to do? Are you going to blind them to the reality of your shared life?”

Alluding to Scripture, he said, “You’re supposed to build your life on a rock, not on sand.”

Jordan and Tammy met in the small northern Alberta town of Fairview, with a population of fewer than 3,000.

Jordan was eight when he met Tammy. His family lived across the street from her house. They were childhood friends and played croquet together.

“We would sit outside Fairview on a hill where you could see right across the Peace River to the next 40 or 50 miles away. You could see strings of lights and it was beautiful,” Tammy recalled.

In senior year, Jordan was Tammy’s grad date. After high school, they went their separate ways — Jordan to Montreal and Tammy to pursue a kinesiology degree in Ottawa — but kept in touch. They reconnected in Montreal and after committing to tell the truth, they were married. They have two children, Mikhaila and Julian, three grandchildren and more on the way. Mikhaila recently announced on social media that she and her husband, Jordan Fuller, are expecting a baby.

Jordan previously described the goal of marriage as being “the perfect date that repeats itself endlessly.”

A winning formula for the Petersons has also been the tradition of the “Date Night” which they adopted after they welcomed their first baby, and it continues today.

“We get dressed in something nice,” Tammy explained. “Jordan comes down and makes sure the room is tidy and the pillows are fluffed up, the candles are lit and the music is on.”

“I turn the lasers on,” Jordan added, referring to their laser lights from the 1970s.

They turn up the volume to their romance Spotify playlist featuring songs from “The Great American Songbook,” jazz classics and Billie Holiday, and they dance.

From the dance floor to the public arena, speaking one’s truth can come at a cost. How does one find the courage to speak up?

“They say the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. No one would be afraid to tell the truth if they were sufficiently afraid of the alternative,” Jordan said.

“People have commented on my bravery to me before. They don’t have it right,” he said, adding that the idea of being silenced by the government was “more terrifying.”  

“Totalitarian states emerge,” he said, “when people lose control of their tongues.”

For Tammy, speaking up is connected to her newfound faith.

“I really want to do my part so if it helps anyone to have a better understanding or clear understanding of who they might be and how they might give their heart to Jesus, that would be a good thing,” she said.

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