Nietzsche, Paul, Me and Other Fakes
Friedrich Nietzsche. Remember that name. He’s a philosopher which means that almost no one will know much about him. Friedrich sported one of the coolest mustaches in the history of philosophy; the man grew a national forest on his upper lip. He also was a pain to be around – ego on steroids. On one occasion at dinner, an argument erupted and soon Nietzsche stood up bellowing and ranting. Waving his arms wildly, he abruptly left the table and stalked out of the room slamming a door behind him. After a brief silence, someone said, “At least he’s gone.” The host replied with a little grin, “No, he’s not. That’s a closet.” The great philosopher had to reopen the door with everyone knowing he was a doofus…and a fake.
Now Nietzsche can help us. All we have to do is drop his name in the middle of a conversation and, since nobody else will know much about him, we’ll impress a lot of people. For example, just say,” You know, Friedrich Nietzsche said the best way to get on top of a cold is to put a teaspoon of guacamole up each nostril and eat a live bat.” Nietzsche did not say this. It would probably take our mind off our cold for a while (I am not a medical professional of any kind. Children, do not try this at home.) but that’s beside the point. Put Nietzsche’s name in front of anything and many will say, “Whooooaaa!” But…we will be fakes.
I recently spoke at one major campus ministry currently looking at the theme “Faking It.” I asked them, “Are we really our Facebook profile?” I’m not, at least not completely. My cousin wanted me to change my picture saying I looked like Grizzly Adams. I’m sixty-two and I have a Teddy Bear named Spurgeon; I’m fine with that. I put up Spurgeon’s picture. Seeing the picture change, another cousin remarked, “We went from old guy to full body hair. Improvement?” But the rest of my profile is dead on. If we don’t have a Teddy Bear, we can put down all the cool bands, edgy films, noir websites and obscure quotes (The sparrow who oinks in one’s face can be trusted more than the pie of the cow.) to impress people. Or we can say “Nietzsche” a lot. In marketing, we can this branding. The old school word for it is lying about ourselves, even to ourselves.
Here’s one guy’s old Facebook profile. “…circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.” (Phil. 3:5,6 NASV) Saul was credentialed and carefully networked. Inside, he seethed hated (breathing out threats and slaughter…) against the Christians, not because they were wrong but because they had everything that he’d ever hoped for from God and it was free in Jesus Christ. The recipe for being fake any time includes things like insecurity. I can’t risk you seeing who I really am so until I can trust you more, I’ll show you someone else. Remember the freshmen orientation thing the summer before we started where we came to campus to do those tests and psychological profiles? Mine was 200 strangers thrown together for three days all trying to show how together and hip we were in the midst of 199 other turnip heads. Great advice abounded. “Say f*** a lot.” The rest wasn’t as good as that.
Immaturity goes into the pot as well. This should evaporate as we grow up and through it. But it can hang on long enough to harden into a lifestyle. Esteem issues where people for all kinds of reasons (many involving pain from their past) have no sense of personal worth or value may be the biggest push to hide who we are by putting on someone else. As long as we don’t grow a center outside the gravitational pull of our own self-centeredness, we’ll be “quoting Nietzsche” in some destructive ways the rest of our lives.
Jesus Christ gave Paul a new center about as fast as anybody can get one. Then the info on His Facebook profile changed. “…whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. what is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ…” (Phil 3:7,8) Paul’s new center meant that he was loved by the Mind and Heart of the One Who created the cosmos. He was forgiven for every wound inflicted in the hearts of God and other people. Paul was transformed, “repurposed” like junk off the curb into the person only Jesus Christ could make him.
I remember when it happened to me. When I first decided to embrace Jesus, I wasn’t sure it was real. The next morning after my decision, I came downstairs in my dorm and passed a guy coming up a the stairs named Gary. I didn’t like or respect Gary in any way; Gary was a thief and more than one guy had pounded him catching him in their room. As we passed on the stairs, I looked at him and said, “Hi, Gary, how’re you doin’?” I hit the bottom of the stairs, stopped in my tracks and thought, “Where did that come from?” Gary still standing halfway up the stairs was in as much shock as I was. Later, staring out a classroom window, I saw Gary crossing campus. I sat there and tried to hate the guy…and started to cry. For reasons I couldn’t explain, I saw him differently – as someone empty and unloved desperately filling his life with all kinds of garbage. I started crying harder; if we’d had hoodies, I’d have put one on backwards and pulled the hood over my face. SOMEONE was now inside me who wasn’t me. I really like the person Jesus has been building inside my skin for the last forty years or so. The more I’m him, the more I sense Jesus and the Spirit moving in me.
This means that authenticity and transparency aren’t goals but by-products. They grow in the process of being who Jesus is making us. A certain pressured “hipness” among us today leverages people to open up even if they’re hesitant to do so to show they’re cool and together enough to do it. A number of places in the Bible respect people’s privacy in things nobody’s business. And being authentic is no excuse for “over-the-top” rudeness with no restraint or filter.
The fakeness dries up because we’re not feeding it; we have no need to. But it can still ambush us. One Sunday many moons ago, our senator in Iowa swung through town on the campaign trail. He walked into our church unannounced along with his pilot. The senator was a sincere Christian and all he wanted was to worship on Sunday. I introduced myself and before I even knew what was coming out of my mouth, I said, “Afterward, you might want to hang around and talk to people.” I had politicized a situation where he just wanted to worship. A cloud passed over his face. I really failed that guy. I acted like a political shill. Although it was twenty years ago, it still hurts to type it out. All I missed was a good Nietzsche quote to throw on him. Being fake can still pop out of us.
But as Nietzsche said, “My genius is in my nostrils.”He did say this.
As Paul said, “…if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. the old has passed away. Behold, the new has come.” (II Cor 5:17) He really did say this. And it’s true.
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Nietzsche says “Please return your seat to the upright position and give your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as you exit to the rear. See you next post at geezeronthequad.com.”