“God is dead,” Nietzsche. “Nietzsche is dead,” God.
It was probably the nearest theology came to amusing graffiti, it certainly had more edge than, “the meek shall inherit the Earth – if that’s alright with everyone else.” It spoke of the resilience of something deeper than the human instincts believed to be important by the German philosopher.
Nietzsche might be dead, but his idea of the will to power lives. Ambition, achievement, attainment of power have become the dominant values in the political and many other spheres. Perhaps it is a vindication of the idea of G.K. Chesterton that when people stop believing in God, they might believe in anything. The dominant belief has become the exaltation of self, as evinced in the leaders of the major world powers. Whether in the United States, or in Russia, or in China, the leader figure draws more and more power to himself. The tone of politics has become the language of aggression, confrontation, anger. The Nietzschean vision expresses the spirit of a world unrestrained by any sense of being accountable for words or actions.
One of the most encouraging things about history is that things change. Steve Wright, the BBC Radio 2 presenter was introducing David Bowie’s song “Young Americans” one afternoon. The lyrics include the line, “do you remember your President Nixon?” and Steve Wright commented that the time would come when a song might ask a similar question about President Trump. It’s the way history goes, bad times always pass.
So, Nietzsche will die again and there will be a rediscovery of the values of kindness and community and fairness. Perhaps the church will rediscover its own roots in the message of Jesus of Nazareth. Instead of being an institution which replicates Nietzschean ways in the clerical seeking of power and influence, perhaps it will look at what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount. Bishops arrayed in silk vestments and living in vast houses cannot begin to feel the pain of those who suffer as a result of a political will to power. Perhaps the church has to die away in order to regrow as something Jesus might have recognised.
Nietzsche and his ideas might finally be buried by a radical commitment to creating a different world, by a determination that the ways of primitive instinct are not the ways that create a sustainable future for humanity. “Nietzsche is dead,” could be the watchword for a new age.