In his Genealogy of Morals, Friedrich Nietzsche asserts that “all great things bring about their own destruction through an act of self-overcoming.” In other words, all values, as they undergo the inevitable process of intensification and radicalization, eventually begin to call into question the very movement that gave birth to them. Movements often cannot survive the radicalization of their own values, as these values stand in judgment over the movement as it has come to exist in reality. The proper response to such a situation, Nietzsche says, is to transcend the movement in the name of its values.
Is this idea not demonstrated perfectly in the case of Christianity today? The Christian values of justice, love, reconciliation and peace stand in stark contrast to Christianity’s complicity in systems of domination and oppression. Indeed, in the American context Christianity, rather than embodying the values that lie at its core, serves as an ideological justification for American imperialism, the expansion of free market Capitalism and the destruction of the natural environment.
Applying Nietzsche’s idea to such a situation, are we not led to reject Christianity in the name of fidelity to it’s foundational values? Rather than an abandonment of the tradition, such a rejection would serve as an ironic affirmation of the deep truths of Christianity. Clayton Crockett, in his book Radical Political Theology, puts it this way: “The more we pursue God, the more we are forced to recognize God’s complicity in the human projects of economic moneymaking and political domination and that these projects often produce immoral and brutal results. Another way to express this is to recognize that the death of God is the result of a genuine theological yearning for God, not simply a cynical and self-serving pronouncement” (14).
The radial values of Christianity stand in judgment against Christianity as a historical movement, especially as it exists today in the American context. Thus, in order to remain faithful to these values we are compelled to reject the movement itself. In short, we are called to renounce God in the name of God.