Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Strong are the Weak Struggling

Friedrich Nietzsche – The Genealogy of Morals

Throughout most of the readings I have tried to defend / synthesize my version of Christianity with the views espoused.  I suppose I have done this as part of my liberal tendency to give merit to other opinions.  My goal has always been to show that Christianity (in my interpretation of it) isn’t antithetical to what seems to be good to most people who aren’t Christians, and that the values of our society are not that far off from Christian values.  This goal of synthesis of culture and faith is probably not looked on favourably by “fundamentalist” Christians, amongst whom I do have friends.  

I have not been able to do this with Nietzsche because I do not believe his view of what is good.  However, his view of what is bad I cannot defend either, except to say that it is not the way he presented it.  

First off, what is his view of what is good?  Strength, “To expect that strength will not manifest itself as strength, as the desire to overcome, to appropriate, to have enemies, obstacles, and triumphs, is every bit as absurd as to expect that weakness will manifest itself as strength.”  To be fair I will also present his version of strength that most appealed to me: “The noble person will respect his enemy, and respect is already a bridge to love…Indeed he requires his enemy for himself, as his mark of distinction, nor could he tolerate any other enemy than one in whom he finds nothing to despise and much to esteem.”  I could respect strength that struggles against its equal or even its better, but strength that oppresses those weaker than itself, I think that is the weakest weakness.  It is being nothing more than a bully.  It isn’t challenging yourself, it is taking your natural advantage and using it to feel strong, it is not actually being strong because there is no struggle if there is no chance of failure.  

Perhaps I am misreading Nietzsche in his advocacy for bullies.  If I am than my problem with his ideal is that it is based on competition, not cooperation.  I believe there is enough in the world to struggle against and for without having to struggle against each other to secure our place in the world.  

So, what is the good, to struggle and succeed or to work together and live in peace?  Maybe there is a season for both.  The former reflects the value of the individual and the ability to test oneself and know what one is capable of.  The latter is the support of community and the sense of community that provides a place to belong.  I think both are important.  But are both Christian?  Certainly the sense of community is, but what about the individual struggle.  Self-control is the answer to this, what is a more formidable opponent than myself?  

Last night I had coffee with a close friend and one thing we discussed was the transcendence of God as opposed to the social gospel.  The transcendence of God is exactly what Nietzsche disliked so much, “They call it Judgment Day, the coming of their kingdom, the ‘Kingdom of God.’ Meanwhile they live in ‘faith,’ in ‘love,’ in ‘hope.”  He disliked this so much because, first of all, weakness has been made a virtue.  Not fighting has been made an effect of choice not weakness.  I think that the social gospel is something that he ignored.  He did not touch on what Jesus said so many times, that the kingdom of God is at hand.  It is here now in part.  This means that evil is to be struggled against, not apathetically accepted.  It is however, as I mentioned before, only here in part.  This means that there will still be oppressors, and the struggle will not always be successful, but this is not an excuse to struggle against the oppressors of people, it provides a motivation that they will eventually get what they deserve (I personally believe this not in the cliché sense, but that everyone will go to heaven and God will give them over to the kind of people they have chosen to be, the kind of person he or she created, I borrow this idea from CS. Lewis’ book The Great Divorce).  

I actually think that Nietzsche might like this version of the gospel (minus the transcendence of God part, and the bad guys getting what they deserve), but in my defence, I think it is much like how Thoreau writes.  Start off with a bit of idealism, then spend the majority on dealing with reality, and end off with a bit of idealism again.  

So in conclusion, I have found that maybe I am not so far away from Nietzsche, unlike my initial analysis.  I also think that he brings an important critique to dispensationalist thought (the idea that the world has gone ‘bad’ and the ‘good’ Christians should go down to their bunkers to wait until Jesus returns to clean up the mess).  

1 comment:

malachijones said...

Ahh...Nietzche's strongman. Despising the weak and lesser and exalting the strong and capable.

Yet, one of the most often written aspects of Nietzche's life was his bedridden insanity and the loving care he received from his mother and sister. So lowly?

As Nietzche's insanity increased he became a wandering vagabond, hugging horses and uttering gibberish all the while unaware that his philosophy was leaving a sizable footprint on the world.

He so often minimized compassion and Christian love yet it was only through these virtues that he remained able to write and able to live. And still...the compassionate are the weak ones?

I love thinking about Nietzche because in him we get the complete juxtaposition of his life and his philosophy painfully revealed to us.