Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Just When Were Western Lives And Societies Governed By The Gospel?

RMJ has a really interesting post up based on an interview at VOX.  His post is very worth reading and goes into a lot more of the issues than I will here.   I just want to ask a few questions and make a few observations about this part of the exchange.

Sean Illing
One of the things I hear most from people about Nietzsche is that he was a “nihilist” or an advocate of nihilism. But the reverse is true. Nietzsche diagnosed nihilism; he didn’t celebrate it. He saw a crisis of culture brewing and tried to point the way forward.

Why was he so worried about nihilism?

Hugo Drochon
I completely share your point about Nietzsche not being a nihilist. He was responding to the specter of nihilism that was haunting Europe at the time. First, we have to remember that Nietzsche was the theorist of the "death of God." He said we used to live our lives according to a transcendent morality that everybody could agree on, but if nobody agrees on that anymore, then we have to confront, really confront, the challenge of relativism.

My first question is at what time did people or even Europeans "live our lives according to a transcendent morality that everyone could agree on"?   Since the article goes on to say that the God that "no one believed in" anymore is the "Christian God" and its focus is politics, when did European rulers and governments ever practice the morality that Jesus taught?

The idea that The Gospel, the Law and the Prophets provided the rules of Western politics in the period before Nietzsche is absurd on its face.  The idea that Christianity played more of a political role other than, at times, mitigating the typical brutality of the classical empires or barbarian kingdoms and fiefdoms - when clerics as politicians weren't engaged in obvious and brutal violations of the commandments of Jesus, themselves - argued by people who are supposed to have a knowledge of history and, what they're talking about, really, is insane.

In the interview it is asserted that Nietzsche was worried about the consequences of the rise of democracy in Europe and the potential for ideological wars that would come about in consequence of the abandonment of the an alleged Christian consensus assumes another widespread and ahistorical absurdity, even the wars allegedly motivated by Christianity - such as the Crusades, various suppressions of heresies and alleged heresies and among conflicting sects - are more plausibly explained by the political and, more so, economic interests in those who could wage wars.   Those wars, themselves, are a massive violation of the teachings of Jesus and not infrequently waged in ways that violated the earlier scriptures.

The horrific modern wars were waged over quite similar issues, though as economics had been biologized by the Malthusian-Darwinist theories, they were waged more brutally, in the absence of any possibly mitigating effects of Christian morality but with the products of scientifically designed and invented arms and strategies.  The horrors of the death camps under the Nazis are, I am ever more convinced, are more related to the economic, Malthusian death camps under the New Poor Law than they were to even the degraded Christianity of the "cruel and merciless Parson Malthus" as William Cobbett rightly called him.

I would agree that what mitigation an assertion of The Gospel of Jesus, the social justice of the Hebrew Prophets, the egalitarianism of the earliest movement of the followers of Jesus was has a real and important role in diminishing the near constant depravity of Western history - a depravity that is pretty much the common history of humanity.   The diminution and corruption of that under the reign of TV and radio political preacher men and their collaboration with Republican and other fascists has had a decisive, though secondary, role in the destruction of American democracy.  But it has a minor role as compared to the indoctrination into vulgar materialism through advertising and degraded entertainment and the more pretentious materialism and scientism of the educated population.

At the end of RMJ's post he advocates studying the plays attributed to Shakespeare (I can't bring myself to imply that guy wrote them) which I think is an excellent idea.  Though a deep reading of the Hebrew scriptures and the study of it by profound thinkers like Niebuhr, Brueggemann, Heschel, the various liberation theologians has meant even more to me.  We like to think we have made a decisive break with the past, that we are the beneficiaries of the latest revolution in human history but that's pretty much all a PR gimmick, sold by academics, journalists and other scribblers trying to get notice and attention and to have influence.  The big news is that once problems of translation are put behind you, what we're doing these days isn't that much different from what they were doing back when it was the kings of Israel and Judea, their elites, their priest class  who were violating The Law and provoking the outbreak of prophesy.   That has been the greatest shock of my life as a reader indoctrinated in modern thinking and as someone who started to try to figure out why liberalism has declined in the United States.

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