The Parable of the Madman
“Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly: “I seek God! I seek God!” — As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Has he got lost? asked one. Did he lose his way like a child? asked another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? emigrated? — Thus they yelled and laughed.
The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. “Whither is God?” he cried; “I will tell you. We have killed him — you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.
“How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever is born after us — for the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history hitherto.”
Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; and they, too, were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, and it broke into pieces and went out. “I have come too early,” he said then; “my time is not yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time; the light of the stars requires time; deeds, though done, still require time to be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than most distant stars — and yet they have done it themselves.
It has been related further that on the same day the madman forced his way into several churches and there struck up his requiem aeternam deo. Led out and called to account, he is said always to have replied nothing but: “What after all are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?”
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science (1882, 1887) para. 125; Walter Kaufmann ed. (New York: Vintage, 1974), pp.181-82.
This parable is extraordinary.
Nietzsche was one of those rare and remarkable people who was able to see into the future, to recognise the consequences of the reality of our beliefs.
Nietzsche, perhaps the fiercest critic of Christianity, recognised what would happen when Christianity was removed from the public space and the impact it would have on every sphere of society.
Western culture is built upon Judeo-Christian foundations, and it is no small thing to remove those foundations. We may or may not like those foundations, but they are there, and the desire to remove them will have consequences regardless.
Something has to fill the vacuum, and in the 20th Century it was filled by slaughter on a scale never seen before,
“. . .by the end of the 20th century, wars had been waged on a scale never before imagined, and a number of Utopian, strictly secularist ideologies – each in its own way the inheritor both of the Enlightenment project to remake society on a more rational model and of the late 19th-century project to ‘correct’ human nature through the mechanisms of a provided state – had together managed to kill perhaps 150 million persons. . .By century’s end, all certainties had been shattered: the power of ‘organized religion’ in the West had been largely subdued, but organised irreligion had proved a far more despotic, capricious and murderous historical force.” David Bentley Hart, The Story of Christianity, p 329-30
As readers of this blog will be well aware of, I am no fan of certain theological traditions within the Christian Church, and believe certain doctrinal positions to not only present a god who is not the Abba of Jesus of Nazareth, but that also lead to very real mental health problems. So I rejoice in the exposure and death of such a god, but I do not believe that the death of that god can then be filled with a Utopian, materialist, nihilistic, atheism. The Utopian, atheistic ideology of those like Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mao Zedong revealed the depths of evil humanity is capable of. In his remarkable The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, we are told of the various types of torture used on prisoners in the Soviet Union, people who were regarded as traitors, who were then brutalised in unimaginable ways, all for the propagation of some kind of Utopianistic ideology.
There is a lot of pain in America as nationalism, racism, religion, and protest collide head on, with black players from the NFL choosing to kneel during the national anthem as a sign of protest to the history of slavery and continued racism that persons of colour continue to endure. The Gospel of Jesus of Nazareth, preached by those such as Martin Luther King Jr, continues to be trampled on by the false gospel of those such as Franklin Graham. Graham and his followers are the gravediggers of whom Nietzsche spoke about, those who bury the Gospel, and whose noise is heard as God is buried. And so what emerges is an allegiance to a murderous state that has for decades bombed innocent civilians, murdered its own black citizens, and propagated the Industrial War Complex on a scale never seen before, with Britain seeking to suckle the money generated from this machine. Poverty and inequality are a reality.
The black players who #TakeaKnee are, in light of American history, like those who refused to step on a fumi-e in Japan during intense persecution.
The Church is not the allegiance to Empire or nation, whether Rome, America, Britain or wherever, rather, it is the commitment to Jesus as Lord, and those who follow Him. And those who follow Him may or may not go to church.
The Early Church were committed to the Way of nonviolence,
‘…the Lord, by taking away Peter’s sword, disarmed every solider thereafter.’ Tertullian, On Idolatry, 19, p. 73
‘We who once killed each other not only do not make war on each other, but in order not to lie or deceive our inquisitors we gladly die for the confession of Christ.’ Justin Martyr, First Apology, 39, p. 176
This commitment was one example among many that to follow Jesus as Lord meant that Caesar was not Lord.
It seems to this Brit that the obsession with the American flag and national anthem has meant that for many there is an inability to see how a culture of violence and injustice has directly harmed others, and how it continues to directly harm others, and how that abuse and pain needs to be addressed and dealt with so that some kind of healing can take place, so that justice can roll like a river.
I know that I would never sing the British national anthem, nor would I bow to the monarchy. Jesus is Lord.
I will say it again,
Jesus is Lord.