It shouldn’t have taken me this long to figure out.
While reading an article earlier today, a single line jumped out at me which made everything click:
Trump’s strength-worship and contempt for “losers” smack more of Nietzsche than of Christ.
To expound on this irony, let me rewind a few years. Without ever having taken a philosophy course or having any real understanding of history, philosophy, et al., I stumbled across a shirt like this:
In case you can’t read it, the shirt says:
“God is dead.” -Nietzsche, 1883
“Nietzsche is dead.” -God, 1900
The triumphant young evangelical in me cheered. Yah, that’ll teach him!
I applauded the simplistic victory Christianity had won over those stuuupid atheists like Nietzsche, and wondered why statements like this hadn’t converted every non-believer since the invention of the bumper sticker. It goes without saying that this shirt (not to mention the multiple God’s Not Dead films…did we really need more than one? Or one at all?) simply demonstrates the wearer’s ignorance of anything someone like Nietzsche was trying to capture.
The first time I began to think more logically was in 2012, when I was in Boston listening to a theological lecture. Someone asked the speaker what God would have said to Nietzsche when he was alive. The speaker paused and said, “I think God would have smiled at him. Would have told him he is so close, but because of Nietzsche’s abandonment as a child and the brilliance of his mind, he missed it by that much.”
I was confused. Why wouldn’t God just damn all theses dumb atheist philosophers to hell and laugh while doing so? Why would God have mercy for someone who declared Him dead and coerced many of his followers to do the same??
The thing I came to learn later is that Nietzsche was not announcing that he alone had triumphantly killed God; rather he was commenting on what had already happened by that time in history as a result of things like the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and the Scientific and Industrial Revolutions. He was less instituting the secular age as much as commenting on something that had already been set in motion.
The quote actually concludes “God is dead…and we killed him.”
Thus, Nietzsche would argue, in the absence of a god to hand out ethical codes, we must construct our own society. No longer can the afterlife be used as an “otherworldly” excuse for doling out justice or seeking euphoria, so we must create a new system. And in his system, there were essentially two types of people: Übermensches and Untermensches. Or, Overmen and Undermen (über could mean super, over, or beyond).
Nietzsche frowned on Christianity as the religion of the weak. Why would Jesus urge His followers to be poor in spirit? Meek? Humble? Why would He die for His enemies?
Nietzsche’s ideal of the Übermensch stands in stark contrast to, and in the absence of, everything taught by Christ. For this reason, Nietzsche should not be seen as the enemy of the faith by today’s Christians, but an aid in understanding our faith better, as well as the ‘faith’ of the secular age in which we live. Nietzsche successfully employed a hermeneutic of suspicion as a lens of looking at the Christian church throughout history and asking questions like, “Was there a motive for the church to teach this specific doctrine?” The most obvious would be the church’s doctrine of indulgences, which were purchased to shorten one’s stay in purgatory. Would the church’s motives be pretty evident in this scenario? Yes. Was there actual theology to back up the sale of these pieces of paper? Absolutely not.
The rest of Christian theology is a little harder to decipher, but try applying that hermeneutic to the entire catechism as well as 2k years of the church’s life, and you can see why an outsider like Nietzsche may become disenfranchised.
The point is, when you remove God and the afterlife from the social fabric of the world, Nietzschian ethics reign, and who sits atop this new structure?
Someone who clawed his way to the top of every aspect of society, from wealth, fame and sexual dominance to political and military power. This idea would later spin off into Nazism (the powerful stomping out the weak) and other fascist regimes.
Move to today’s American political landscape. Does it more closely reflect the attitude of Nietzsche or Christ?
Are the last first, or are the first first?
Have the wealthy, powerful Übermensches stomped out anyone weaker than them? More frightening — have they done it to the deafening applause of…
Perhaps the biggest mistake the American church has made is seeking political power in lieu of spiritual power — the kind Jesus said comes from prayer and fasting, from being meek and poor. The tragic irony of the world in which we find ourselves is that those gobbling up the God’s Not Dead films are the same ones employing Nietzschian methods of making sure Christians win. If you get spooked about the increasing secular nature of America, what better way to combat the secular Übermensch with your own who just happens to claim that he’s a Christian?
If they have a Goliath, why entrust victory to a small, God-fearing boy? Just get a Goliath of your own. Trump is that Goliath. He may not represent your values and ethics, but at least he fights for your side.
We’ve employed Philistine tactics to defeat the Philistines, rather than trusting that what Jesus says about being weak and trusting Him will actually work.
When Christians full-throatedly support Trump, they reveal the very human tendency to side with strength rather than humility; with power rather than honesty; with Nietzsche more than with Christ.
Is God dead?
How you answer this question should reveal how you live, what ethical codes you follow, and whom you support.
If God is dead, then by all means, side with power. Get a bigger stick than your enemies and wield it brutally. Stomp on your competition to get on top.
But if He is not, then let us live as Christ taught:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.