Two years ago, a Seattle man became known as “the internet’s dad” for his videos that teach people how to make basic repairs — things that parents would normally teach children, such as changing a tire or using a caulking gun.

Rob Kenney found a void and filled it, realizing that many children growing up with absent fathers could benefit from an encouraging and practical voice. The popularity of his YouTube channel is not unlike that of another man who enjoys even more success on the platform: the Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson.

Peterson, who brings his “Beyond Order” speaking tour to Salt Lake City March 17, has been said to be “the most influential public intellectual in the Western world right now.” But he’s also a societal father figure with a large following of young males.

New York Times columnist David Brooks has described Peterson’s talks as “stern fatherly lectures to young men on how to be honorable, upright and self-disciplined — how to grow up and take responsibility for their own lives.”

In short, Peterson is teaching a generation of young men the sort of values and ideals that are not widely promoted in American culture. And while Peterson’s message is largely secular, it also strikes a spiritual chord for many.

A Boston College senior who recently saw Peterson on tour in Providence, Rhode Island, wrote an essay called “How Jordan Peterson made me a better Christian.” Thomas Sarrouf said that, after his family and teachers, Peterson had been the biggest influence on his formation and had taught him to take religion more seriously.

And Pepperdine University President James A. Gash is among those who have read Peterson’s “12 Rules for Life” twice.

It’s hard to reconcile the admiration that many people feel for Peterson with the vitriol that comes from his critics, but as is often the case, the backlash seems to ferment in politics.

Because Peterson speaks forcefully about the responsibilities and importance of men — another article in the Times dubbed him “custodian of the patriarchy” — his work has been denounced as “intellectual misogyny.” Because his message appeals to conservatives, some suggest that he is dangerous and a darling of “the radical right.” The announcement of the publication of Peterson’s third book, “Beyond Order,” led to protests and tears at Penguin Random House Canada.

Much of the outcry against Peterson is over his statements about gender and political correctness. He gave his critics additional fodder with what he has admitted was an “ethically questionable” addiction to painkillers a few years ago.

But Peterson has owned his drug problem, and been treated for it, and he argues that his purpose is not political: “It’s psychological, and focused on the individual, and it’s working,” he said in an interview published by Politico Magazine. In his public speaking, writing and videos, Peterson has made his private practice public-facing, teaching an international audience what he tells his clients: “grow the hell up, accept some responsibility, live an honorable life.”

“We just haven’t talked about that in any compelling way in three generations,” he told New York Times reporter Nellie Bowles.

Peterson’s first book, “Maps of Meaning,” did not attract much popular attention. It was described by one reviewer as an “academic text.” Another called it “a long and ambitious synthesis of ideas on mythology, morality, and totalitarian atrocities.”

But with a more commercially appealing title, “12 Rules for Life” became a bestseller. In it, Peterson presented “ordering principles” to help people straddle the line between order and chaos. Among them: “Do not let your children do anything that will make you dislike them” and “Assume the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.”

His latest, “Beyond Order,” adds 12 more rules, including “Plan and work diligently to maintain the romance in your relationship” and “Do not carelessly denigrate social institutions or creative achievement.”

While some have denigrated the “Rules” books as self-help, they don’t belong in the genre of, say, Rachel Hollis’ “Girl, Wash Your Face.” At the root of Peterson’s work is meaning, and the lack thereof, in contemporary life.

In “12 Rules for Life,” he wrote, “In the West, we have been withdrawing from our tradition-, religion-, and even nation-centered cultures, partly to reduce the danger of group conflict. But we are increasingly falling prey to the desperation of meaninglessness, and and that is no improvement at all.” He has also given lectures on the enduring importance of the Bible.

While social institutions are important in fostering the relationships that human beings need to thrive, equally important is the role of the individual, who must pursue his or her own heroic path, Peterson says. “We must each adopt as much responsibility as possible for individual life, society and the world.”

And also, stand up straight, be grateful and pet cats.

When Peterson appeared on his HBO talk show a few years ago, Bill Maher said, “Everything this man says, I think, is common sense.”

To be fair, not everyone would agree with that, but for those who take issue with his ideas, Peterson has a sensible solution that doesn’t involve screaming at each other on social media: Accept that, in conversations about difficult issues, you might be offended, and you might even offend, and that’s all right.

“In order to be able to think, you have to risk being offensive,” Peterson has said.

He told Maher that even in families, when people are discussing issues with their spouses, “the probability that you’re not going to offend each other, if you’re actually having the conversation, is zero. ... Are we not going to think? That seems like a bad idea.”