"It's no wonder he turned out this way," they'll say of a boy with a homemade pipe bomb in a school building. "He was treated so terribly there."Read More
I am incredibly far behind in my posting schedule, something which I could promise will be made up to you with bi-weekly posts or a string of witty aphorisms or free ice cream for everybody who didn't complain about it, but I honestly cannot make any guarantees. I graduate from College in a month and it feels as though the entirety of my existence is caught in a whirlwind and I have not even a trace of ruby red slippers with magical heels to tap together. I am not going to chronicle out the happenings of the past three weeks during which I exercised a bit of blog-silence, for such a journal would be incredibly lengthy and speculative and far more narcissistic an endeavour than I care to admit that I am capable of. So let it suffice that there are times, I feel, where it is necessary to take your brain out of the ten-thousand different vats you've placed it in, regroup, and redistribute it in those vats that need the most immediate attention.
I have posted a version of a paper I turned in a week or so ago pertaining to this subject, and though it is far from perfect, I plan on revisiting it, replacing things that I had to cut to fit it within the word restriction, and adding to it to form a more formal critique. You can read a draft of it at this link.
What I want to get out there today is something of a more heavy nature than the quaint little aphorisms I attempted to produce when last we talked. Something of a struggle I am undergoing, for which criticism, advice, and general opinion would be appreciated.
I do not attempt to hide my admiration for Frederich Nietzsche, even though there is a strikingly small area of material on which we agree. On the one hand he is the self-proclaimed champion against the rise of Christianity, a vehement and angry opponent of all things humble or Divine. He roars in defiance of anything which dares threaten a living being's climb to the height of its species potential, mocks the rampant herd mentality of modern religion, and cheers with a fuming pen the constant, infinite re-consideration and questioning and throwing out of value. Indeed, it seems as though the famous nihilist, in his own little ironic way, places extraordinary value on re-valuing everything people hold dear.
But I said before that I admire him, and that hasn't changed. All that he opposes is all that I hold dear, and the monumental force of his unparalleled thinking power and rough polemic stand in gritty contradiction to a Christ-follower's frame of mind, so what is it that I can learn from him? After all, it is a tidal wave like Nietzsche which often causes those on the fence about the Big, Important things to be tossed into the realm of radical skepticism and pure, unabashed nihilism. But for me, he seems to do the complete opposite. Though I am at this point no match for his towering intellect or his hurricane-force rhetoric, he has demonstrated to me a height to aim for - not to rise up beside him, but to rise up in opposition against him. Chesterton I am not. Lewis I am not. I do not presume to be on par with any of these men, nor do I pretend to be capable of their respective feats of enormous intelligent significance, but it fills my heart with the drive to overcome, to firmly establish where I stand and to defend it against those who wish to see it destroyed.
It sometimes takes the heavy fabric of the darkness to understand the beauty of a candle.
Apologetics is a field with a longstanding tradition in any platform of belief. The idea is simple: you believe something, so you must be able to defend your point of view against issues that may prove problematic if you are unable to deal with them. While I am an advocate that a Believer is, necessarily, an Apologist ("provide a defense for the hope that is in you" and whatnot), I think that each person's defense must be suited to that person's field of specialty. The premise is, after all, a simple one: know where you stand and know how to defend it.
And Heaven forbid we should live and not just speak our convictions.
Hence my qualm with the enormous amount of people, especially in this Bible-saturated Southern culture, who claim the same Christ that I do. Because a lot of the time that I spend (as sometimes the only non-professing Atheist in certain situations) defending a Christian worldview is wasted dealing with the mess Christians have made of it, which people like Nietzsche are entirely too giddy to point out. It is time used attempting to override the errant belief that there remain no intellectual Christ-followers, that the only Christian defense to tough questions is "Faith, brother," that the correct response to those struggling with things of the world from one who has been delivered from it is judgment and hatred. It is arguing that the Christ who inhabits me does not encourage cardboard signs outside of music festivals condemning the goers to Hell, but rather the man beside them holding an arrow pointing at their signs saying "Jesus is much more beautiful than this." He would not advocate the bombing of an abortion clinic but rather the holding of a shaking, scared teenage girl and saying "I'll love you no matter what." It is asserting that "standing for God" is not merely posting inflammatory, ill-formed "religious" drivel and retorts on Facebook statuses and YouTube videos that not only prove you an incompetent wielder of rhetorical power but a bumbling imbecile waving a plastic cross around. It is proving that the Prince of Peace cannot reside in a heart of one harboring bitter animosity towards someone who believes differently from them.
I often wonder if we began living as the One who lets us bear His name did how necessary Christian Apologetics would be... but alas, the supposed attempted emulation of perfection is imperfect, so Apologetics unfortunately must exist. A tiring, taxing thing it is, for it finds formidable enemies in those like Nietzsche as well as in prosperity gospels and in portions of the Church itself. But take heart in adversaries such as these! For only through struggle comes strength; sound footing perhaps from the knowledge of where not to stand.
Though I do not believe I am fit to do such a thing (at this point in time, at least), creating a body of work in response to one like Nietzsche's would bring me enormous joy. There is a dialogue that has gone largely untouched between the Nietzschians and who I will call the Chestertonians which would be an honor one day to contribute to, but until then I will hover just behind the line of "publication," whetting my sword for the day I am called into battle. Perhaps I can at least try to rally the troops, no?
What if we could escape the culture of Christianity, embrace the person of Christ, and meet the beast of Doubt, of Apathy, of Lies, on his own ground together? What if we were so rooted as a group that no "Hurricane Nietzsche" stood a chance at dismantling the anchor tethering us to Truth? What if, as the Prince of the Power of the Air rose each morning to breathe the despair of empty, infinite rhetoric into our ears, we were ready to meet him and conquer his darkness with light? What if those who were called by Christ's name realized what sort of responsibility such a claim entails, and began acting like representatives to the King?
What if we rid ourselves of this rampant spiritual apathy, the cuddly images we grew up with plastered on flannel graphs in Sunday School, the nonsense of self-help spirituality and the battle between denominations and instead tuned our wits towards oncoming attacks, loved even those not deserving of love and recognized that we children of imperfection all need complete Perfection equally? Our fight is not of life and death, it is of creeping doubt and insecurity and of that tiny twist of Truth into lies. So anchor yourself to Truth once you find Him, friends, and soon your Nietzsche will fall.
I suppose there comes a point after 150 undergrad credit hours where any new information you take in becomes like dirty laundry piled up in a corner in your room. You know you eventually have to deal with it, but more important things are happening in the rest of the room, in the whole of the house, in the city outside of your house, in the world even larger than that. At some point you are doing it because you know you must, not because you particularly want to. So this week in the midst of travels, wordy inner dialogues, loud midnight shows, and an exhausted brain, I have compiled my own list of 25 of what Nietzsche called "Maxims and Arrows" that have popped up in my thought processes and have been jotted down in my Moleskine. They carry every bit of the weight of a wordy paragraph but only a fraction of the words. They allow for biting sarcasm or pensive tranquility or, at the very least, tweets to make you sound deep and dreamy. If anything, it is an exercise in brevity, which Lord knows I lack immensely, and which will take much more practice in order to reverse what 20 years of schooling have taught me. They are the anti-paper-stretch. Commence brain-dump.
1. A writer is a gilder of borrowed treasure.
2. There are 7 billion people on this planet, but of course yours is the correct view.
3. A man raised in a windowless house believes a ball of fire in the sky to be nonsense. But his reasoning is inferior to those who have felt its warmth.
4. By all means, question vehemently. It will not change the ebbing tide.
5. The Nightingale needs no reason to sing.
6. You can paint a wall to make it pretty. But even then, it is only a pretty wall, and is no good for conversation.
7. Cats are the most devious of domesticated animals. They are surely smarter than those who own them, and I think that they know it.
8. Lady Praying Mantises eat their mates while they are still alive. Females are terrifying across the spectrum of Creation.
9. "I think" often precedes a statement the speaker has thought little about. Think separately from your speech; speak with authority.
10. The more you look at and read aloud and analyze and ponder even your own name written on a page, the more it appears to be nonsense. What then of our analysis of Truth?
11. "Why?" Is the hardest and saddest of all questions.
12. Not because I believe it, but because I have the following words written on a blog: "Mass genocide is acceptable," I will be quoted as a supporter of mass genocide by my opponents. The followers of my opponents would believe it. Ladies and gentlemen, American politics.
13. Why must all be comprehensible? Embrace mystery.
14. Take comfort in being Wrong, for at the end of the day there will always be a Right.
15. Boredom is not about doing nothing - it is about how much you are putting off.
16. It is only when Reason has been exhausted that we may begin to Know.
17. Let me get this straight: we have emerged as the victors of hundreds of millions of years of physical, societal, and intellectual evolution, yet Jersey Shore is a thing? No sir.
18. Before a storm, there is a noticeable chill and rising tension that foretells the intensity of it. So it is, it seems, with women.
19. It is after the beauty of a moment that it strikes us as beautiful.
20. There is a buzzing in your ears after being enveloped by the sound from an appropriately-volumed show. Ear experts will tell you this is bad for you, but I will tell you that it is the remains of the Spirit.
21. Is it telling about us that our language has no future tense?
22. Beauty will soothe even the grumpiest of moods. God whispers sweetest when we yell loudest.
23. How much would this world improve if we focused on just one other person as much as we focus on ourselves?
24. This is a generation of vanity. If we smashed every mirror, would we have things left to say?
25. Some people are simply bent on being difficult. An argument with them is a waste of your energy.
If you are doing this post a week thing with me, I would love to read your tries at these. They are surprisingly challenging to get done! Try keeping it to two sentences (I think I only broke that rule once). Try making the thing that you are trying to get across the thing that you don't say.
Have a wonderful Monday, my friends.