A narcissistic Nietzscheanism has pervaded and perverted the national political landscape.
For over a decade, our now 45th President of the United States seems to have used Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy, On Genealogy of Morals, and The Will to Power as his social ethics guidebooks as he has engaged in the public square. At almost every turn, Donald Trump exalts and celebrates as goodness everything that heightens the feeling of personal power, the will to power, and power itself while disdaining any and everything that appears to be born of fragility or should call for empathy and compassion.
Take, for instance, the time Trump said, “He’s not a war hero,” at the Iowa Family Leadership Summit when moderator Frank Luntz brought up John McCain, who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Immediately modifying his original remarks, Trump said, “He’s a war hero ’cause he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, OK?”
According to Nietzsche, in the works cited above, Christianity, with its vigorous sympathy for all the failures and all the weak, is more harmful than any vice since it makes an ideal of anything, according to Nietzsche, that contradicts the instinct of the strong for self-preservation.
Jesus extolls love and compassion for the poor, the powerless, the suffering, the sick, and the least of these. For Nietzsche, and I believe for Donald Trump as well, strength is the essence of life. That belief fosters contempt for the oppressed, the discontented, the diseased, the differently abled, and ordinary people.
For Trump, the epitome of power is the while male Christian American body. White male body supremacy empowers Trump to consistently insult, belittle, sexualize and stereotype women calling some “fat pigs,” “dogs,” “slobs,” and “disgusting animals.”
With regard to African Americans and Jews, Trump has said, “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.” We could go on to list myriads of examples of how Trump has demeaned those who do not fit his particular profile of power and supremacy.
One of the lectionary texts for November 1, 2020. the Sunday preceding the end of the 2020 election season is Mathew, Chapter 23 the 11th and 12th verses read:
“Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.’”
We do well to remember that for Jesus, legitimate leadership exhibits humility and a willingness to become a servant. Genuine leaders imitate Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve. I like in particular what the former Mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, had to say about public service and humility:
“You know, public service is serious enough on its own, and what I’ve found is if you take yourself too seriously in this business, you’ll lose sight of what it is that you’re trying to get done. So, I mean I’ve tried to have the proper mix of being a serious public servant, but also still being a regular guy.”
America itself needs to make sure that we do not lose sight of what needs to get done. I think that involves perfecting our everyday life and extending and exhibiting liberty and justice for all. From the Statehouse to the White House, I pray that we elect leaders with this aim. American has no place for “BIG Is” and “little yous.” We are all in this together, and as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Everyone can be great because everyone can serve.”
The Job of US Christians in an Election Year – Amanda Tyler, Executive Director BJC
Perils of Christian Nationalism – The Rev. Jamie P. Washam, pastor of First Baptist Church in America, and Board President, ABHMS
Acting Executive Director