Jesus, Nietzsche, and Cartman walk into a bar…

Mel Gibson as William Wallace wearing woad.
Mel Gibson as William Wallace wearing woad. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Blogger JT asked a great question.  He tried to piece together my random meanderings and wondered if there is a connection between following Christ and being massochistic.  The question brings to mind a statement that was by some 1800’s thinker.  It might have been Nietzsche.  It also brought to mind the image of underwear-clad Mel Gibson leaping around and begging everyone to punish him in the name of Christ.

South Park Nativity
South Park Nativity (Photo credit: gemsling)

There are people who would tell me that we should pay attention to the thinking of Nietzsche.  There are people who would tell me that I ought to steer clear of South Park.  The truth is that I don’t read much of the former these days.  And as for the latter… I’m not going to deny that 90% of my reason for watching South Park is the sheer amusement of the often cutting insights of Matt and Trey Parker.

But the other 10%?  The reason I think it’s worthwhile to pay attention to cultural “events” that are hostile to Christianity is that I think we get really interesting insight into how the world sees us.  The bible is pretty clear around the idea that we ought to be aware of the impression we have on non-believers.

JT got to this question in a more wholesome manner.  Yet I would have gotten there faster if I’d paid more attention to Nietzsche… or South Park.

I want to state clearly that we can over-do it, paying attention to the world’s opinion of us.  I think institutional Christianity– I think that the global church collectively– has gone too far in the opposite direction.  We have paid too little attention to culture.

We ought to pay attention to culture because we ought to be aware of potential obstacles to our testimony.  If people think Christians are massochistic, this should impact how we share the good news of God’s grace.  But tuning into culture is also important because it just might turn out that there is something valid running underneath the criticisms.  I think we underestimate a real challenge: our world view carries an Ethical code quite intimately with it.   When a non-Christian fails to take the moral high ground, he is not open to charges of hipocrisy.  But as Christians, if we don’t maturely and realistically assess challenges, this act actually implies that there is, in fact, something wrong with our world view itself.

Friedrich Nietzsche - found in the Cool Kids N...
Friedrich Nietzsche - found in the Cool Kids Never Die blog (Photo credit: Cea.)

After all these words I haven’t even got to the actual question: Are Christians massochistic?  I think I’ll save that for next post.  If you’ve got an answer to the question, I’d love to read it in the comments below before I share my thoughts on the topic.




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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

4 thoughts on “Jesus, Nietzsche, and Cartman walk into a bar…”

    1. Yes! In some ways, I think following Jesus ought to count as an anti-club. We’re called to do better than business-as-usual “I’m on the inside, you’re on the inside.”; Jesus drew these people to him who had been excluded from clubs of his time, and he called on them to not define based on who’s on the inside, and who’s on the outside. This reality often gets lost.


  1. Yeah–I wonder about the masochism thing, too–sometimes what the surrounding culture thinks about it, and other times if it’s true. I liked the “undercoming” idea, and I think Jesus was about turning the world on its head, but sometimes I’m not sure whether, in our interpretations and out-living of Scripture, we don’t get a little actually-crazy. As opposed to Jesus-crazy. (I’ll probably rethink that term later, but for now, it’s what I’ve got.


  2. Wow! The Grammar guru ended with an open parenthesis and didn’t close it. I think this means that everything you’ve written since still counts as part of the parenthetical comment you left here. 😉 In truth, I’m not quite sure I understand your last couple sentences. I’d love to hear more.


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