by William Power, II

“I’ll go Halloweening [at a University event] as Nietzsche, who’s been trigger-warned out of the curriculum, so no one will get it. What’s yr costume idea?”[1] For this sarcastic tweet and others, NYU professor Michael Rectenwald was outed, declared “guilty [for] the structure of my thinking,” and summoned before both the dean and HR director.[2] The Academy has long been the bastion of free speech and innovative thinking, but instead of upholding his rights as a citizen, to say nothing of praising his catalytic role as an academic, NYU leaned on Rectenwald to take medical leave. Instead of fostering robust problem-solvers who can take the heat of future challenges, the University more resembles a nursery designed to preserve snowflakes. How regressive and upside-down our world has become.

Friedrich Nietzsche envisioned a future in which man would rule a world of his own creation. Obscuring this vision was the world in which he lived, one “completely fabricated by a lie” and full of upside down[3] thinking, values, and truth.[4] It had been so corrupted that he believed it made people sick and drove them mad. It had not always been that way, though. He claimed that from time immemorial, morality was life lived freely, instinctively. Morality was appraised only in positive terms, among which Nietzsche included virtue, danger, insult, and even godliness (of a sort)—every valuation except that of evil.[5]

Judeo-Christianity hijacked this “natural” morality and turned everything on its head. Nietzsche called it “revaluation.”[6] Christianity offered escape from suffering through moral improvement in the guise of redemption. Nietzsche thought self-denial was hypocritical to the gospel of life because it was a form of suffering, and to suffer was life-denying. The Christian worldview was grounded in God,[7] and He guided and guarded life. Nietzsche saw Christianity instead as a manmade lie resting on “malice and revenge.”[8] It created “that decadence morality” which resulted in “the degeneration of the whole of humanity.”[9] “Away with this inverted world,” Nietzsche wrote.[10] “The earth has been a madhouse for too long.”[11]

Nietzsche blamed Paul for this mad, upside-down world. Paul, not Jesus, was the founder of Christianity.[12] Christianity was the apogee of all moralities that insidiously imprisoned man in a “labyrinth of ‘fixed ideas.’”[13] One of its most basic ideas was sinful guilt before God.[14] Through Paul’s masterful use of “that most dangerous and explosive material, ressentiment,[15] his “lust for domination” gave rise to slavery’s overthrow of the Roman world.[16]

Interestingly, both Nietzsche and Paul spoke at length about God, and specifically, an “unknown God.” Paul used it in reference to the Creator God when speaking on the Areopagus in Acts 17:16-34. Previously, Paul had reasoned with the Thessalonians for three weeks and won a large number of converts (Acts 17:1-9). The Jews were incensed at this, no doubt stoked by recent reports from Philippi of Paul’s preaching (16:12-40). They rioted against Paul and his band, exclaiming, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also” (Acts 17:6). The term here, anastatao, literally means “against standing up”; idiomatically, it means to change from up to down. Nietzsche’s use of the “unknown God” came in veiled reference to his own creation, a Dionysian deity.[17] Throughout his life’s work, Nietzsche used biblical information to justify blaming Paul and his gospel for overturning the social order.

Both Nietzsche and Paul campaigned to turn their upside-down worlds right-side up. Nietzsche crusaded to revalue all values in a 19th Century Europe he viewed as already corrupted by Christianity, prophesying of “its redemption from the curse placed on it by the previous ideal (i.e., Christianity).”[18] Paul strove against a world whose values he viewed as antithetical to God’s values (Romans 3:6, 19). Moral disorder came through sin in consequence of the fall. For Nietzsche, moral inversion was a result of ressentiment, a gambit by the oppressed (i.e., Jews and Christians) to throw off their oppressors. Today, many are concerned about the tug-o-war over culture and values in the West because it seems like Nietzsche, not Paul, is winning. Appeals to fairness, tolerance, political correctness, social justice, and the like are becoming vogue these days, and threaten to overturn biblical values. Sadly, Nietzsche’s legacy has not left us supermen, but snowflakes. For, in seeking to “rectify” his mad world, Nietzsche gave us ours.

 

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Subsequent articles will explicate important terms and concepts, for example, ressentiment. This psychological mechanism serves as a lens through which to view contested cultural issues for what they truly are, a ploy for power over people. Another example is self-deception, key to both Nietzschean ressentiment and the Pauline doctrine of sin. It is useful in understanding why those who tout the aforementioned appeals are oblivious to that which seems so obvious to those not in the thrall of them.

 

[1] Rectenwald, Springtime for Snowflakes, 17.

[2] Ibid, 20-22.

[3] The German, die … auf den Kopf gestellt, literally means, ‘put … on its head’ (see The Antichrist 8f).

[4] Nietzsche The Antichrist §10.

[5] Nietzsche Dawn §1.18.

[6] Ibid, §1.14.

[7] Nietzsche On the Genealogy of Morals §3.17.

[8] Nietzsche Ecce Homo “Why I Write Such Good Books” Daybreak §2.

[9] Ibid, §2.

[10] OGM §3.14.

[11] Ibid, §2.22.

[12] Nietzsche The Gay Science §5.353; D §1.68.

[13] OGM §2.22.

[14] D §1.68.

[15] Ibid, §3.15.

[16] D §1.68, 71f.

[17] Nietzsche Birth of Tragedy, “Attempt at a Self-Criticism” §3; see also Thus Spoke Zarathustra §4.5.1. Near the end of his journey, Zarathustra encounters a man acting “like a madman” (§4.5.1). Four times in his lament, the madman speaks of “my unknown secret God.” Given Nietzsche’s Christian upbringing and his proclivity for biblical allusions, it is likely he appropriated it from Paul’s address in Athens. Nietzsche’s extensive analysis of Paul’s Damascus Road experience in D §1.68 makes it impossible to believe that he was not thoroughly familiar with Acts.

[18] OGM §2.24; see also §1.7; A §8.

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