June 11, 2017
Not everyone will be as pleased as I with the formula I am because of you. To them, I smacks of childishness and dependence and domination and lost autonomy and identity. The ‘marlboro man’ and the ‘misunderstood genius’ and the romantic hero who saves the world all by himself from plague and alien invader, the Confederate hero whose statue faces north … all have too firm a hold on their imaginations; for them you are because of me would be more apposite, or even I am because I am – (something close to Popeye’s I yam what I yam).
Let me share with you, without critiquing anyone else’s theory of human dignity, this longish quote:
A few people are capable of being independent. It is a privilege of the strong. Whoever tries it, however justified, without having to, proves that he is probably, not only strong, but bold to the point of recklessness. For he walks into a labyrinth; he increases a thousand-fold the dangers which are inherent in life anyway. And not the smallest of his dangers is that no one can witness how and where he loses his way, falls into solitude or is torn to pieces by some troglodytic Minotaur of conscience. When such a man perishes, it happens so far from human understanding that other men have no feeling for it, no fellow feeling. -- Nietzsche
When you realize that Nietzsche is one of the seminal influences in modern superman and superrace thinking, such a caution is almost unimaginable. And yet, for the supermen of his and every time this is exactly what Jesus Christ represents: one who lost his way, perished at the hands of the Minotaur and was alone in doing so, no fellow feeling for him.
This, of course, is quite the opposite of the way Christ comes into the world. Not as its sole Ruler in competition with High Priest and Emperor, but actively seeking to join himself to humanity in the one place where all human companionship is gone – in death. There amongst those who have nothing and have lost all he builds a new community of solidarity and companionship that none has the power to refuse of gainsay, since each is utterly powerless.
This will in Christ is the active reason that he can say of himself that he gives his life for the life of the world, that without me you can do nothing, that I am the vine, the good shepherd, the light, the bread of life, the gate and the judge. The Greeks recognized the need for such a savior in the myth of Orpheus’ descent into Hades to rescue Eurydice. But that same myth enshrines the forever impossibility of human escape from death. But Jesus is not a human who has something to lose; he is the Son of God whose personal existence is one with the author of all life. His humanity is real, but it is his because he takes it for us and for our salvation. He is because we are. We are because he is.
Really and truly and still yours,