Famed author Dr. Jordan Peterson had been speaking to the crowd for about 20 minutes when something entirely unexpected happened: a young man rushed onto the stage and cried out for help.
That was the scene at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, on Friday.
Peterson was mid-sentence when a young man plowed his way onto the stage and almost immediately crumbled to the ground, sobbing. He wailed, “I’m not well” and “I need help.”
“I just wanted to meet you,” the man cried, presumably speaking to Peterson. “I’m unwell. I called 911. I want to be well. My God, I want to know him better.”
David Nasser, senior vice president of spiritual development for Liberty, immediately told the young man, who identified himself as David, he was “in the right place.”
Though the video feed was cut, the audio continued to record the incident. After a prompting from Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr., Nasser sternly asked the security guards to “stop pulling him,” and began to pray for the man’s “salvation” and “restoration.”
Nasser, after the student was escorted off the stage, then shared a brief but powerful Gospel message.
“Let me tell you something,” he said. “I think what you just saw is where a lot of you are, but David’s just honest enough to cry for help.”
The campus pastor then turned toward Peterson, who is not a Christian but authored the best-selling book “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos,” and praised him for writing a text that “has connected with people” in such a profound way.
None of the principles in the book work, though, without faith, Nasser explained.
“I’ll be the first to tell you in front of our distinguished guest that these rules work, but all of them stop short without the Ruler, without Christ in your life,” Nasser said. “And we are here for that. We are here for you.”
Throughout the conversation, there was a palpable dissonance between Peterson and Nasser — a clinical psychologist who relies on reason alone and an evangelical minister anchored by faith — yet the two men developed an obvious camaraderie despite their differences.
Peterson was out of his element during the entire convocation event, but he seemed genuinely moved by the evangelical aspects of the service, clearly even becoming emotional during the hour-long conversation with Nasser, Falwell and apologetics professor Gary Habermas.
At the onset of the question-and-answer session, Peterson praised the student body for its “warmth,” even describing the introductory worship time as “beautiful.” The author, a professor at the University of Toronto, said he was encouraged to see a student body not jaded by a “toxic understructure” of cynicism, something he suggested is all too common on university campuses.
During the closing minutes of the event, Nasser asked how he could pray for Peterson. In response, the psychologist said that he wouldn’t pay an undue price for mistakes he will inevitably make as he continues in his career. Nasser then prayed Peterson would eventually come to see Jesus as more than a model for good behavior, but also as a personal savior.