There was a madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly, "I seek God! I seek God!" As many of those who do not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Why, did he get lost? said one. Did he lose his way like a child? said another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? Or emigrated? Thus they yelled and laughed.
The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his glances.
"Whither is God" he cried. "I shall tell you. We have killed him—you and I. All of us are his murderers.
—Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Aphorism 125, 1886 (Tr. Walter Kaufmann)
"But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What did we do when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving now? Away from all the suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, foreward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as though an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breadth of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night and more night coming on all the while? Must not lanterns be lit in the morning? Do we not hear anything yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? ....
"God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.
"How shall we, the murderers of all murderers, comfort ourselves? What was holiest and most powerful of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives. Who will wipe this blood off us? What water is-there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed not too great for us? Must not we ourselves become gods simply to seem worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed...."
Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; and they too were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, and it broke and went out.
"I come too early," he said then; "my time has not come yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering—it has not yet reached the ears of man. Lightning and thunder require time, the light of the stars require time, deeds require time even after they are done, before they can be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than the most distant stars—and yet they have done it themselves."
It has been related further that on that same day the madman entered divers churches, and sang his requiem aeternam deo. Led out and called to account, he is said to have replied each time, "What are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?"
This Twentieth Century, now ended, has been called the age of miracle and wonder. Yet, the written history of the twentieth century has been a catalogue of crime. No excess, no act of cruelty or hate, has been foregone. We have seen foul deeds on such a scale that words had to be invented to describe them: need we be reminded that the word "genocide" was not even found in the dictionary sixty years ago?
The seeds of all the atrocities of this twentieth century are seen in this parable which we have just read. The Death of God, which Nietzsche saw most clearly over a century ago, was indeed not the actual death of God Himself, for God is, of course, eternal, and cannot die. But it is clear that the death of God that he saw was the death of God in the hearts of the people and in the culture of what was once called Christendom. And all the horrors that have occurred in this accursed century, all the vile acts and cruel deeds, all the madness, have at their core the very cause that Nietzsche identified: the death of God, not in Heaven, but in our hearts and in our cultures. The death of God is truly the ejection of God from our lives.
God's Death left a cultural hole, a space, which longed to be filled, but was not. And the Evil One rode on a pale horse into the vacuum left by God's ejection, his name was Death, and Hell followed with him, a hell that has a name: Hemoclasm, the Flood of Blood.
We first saw the madness of the death of God here in the West in the mass hunger for colonies and conquest, which ended in waves of young men marching into bullets and shells and poison gas during the First World War: what was then called in Germany, das Kindermord, or "The Massacre of the Innocents." Children with rifles marched obediently to deaths of fire, steel and cannonry, leaving the civilized world for the seas of bloody mud that were the vasty fields of France, Russia, Italy and the Balkans.
The world gasped with relief at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day, thinking the blood-flood was over: but it was not so.
In Russia, the new darkness took the name of Bolshevism, and later, Soviet Socialism. The crimes of that regime rang like a clarion through the world. They started with the brutal and vile killing of the Tsar's family, and carried over into waves of purges, civil war, and chaos. Then followed the idolatry of Lenin and then Stalin and his successors. The secret police. The show trials and purges. The destruction of the Church. The poverty. The informers. The Gulag.
In China, the madness took the name of Maoism. First came the Civil War that followed the Japanese occupation; then, The Great Leap Forward. The Cultural Revolution and the rampage of the Red Guards. The one-child policy. The murder of orphans and the mass abortion of girl-children, leaving generations of men without wives. The tanks of Tienamen Square. And the lao-gai slave camps where toys are made for American children.
In Nazi Germany, the madness wore the face of Adolf Hitler. From him sprang fountains of unholiness: a war of conquest and aggression, barbarism, the bombing of cities, the burning of nations, the massacre of the weak and sick, and, at last, the eternal stench of Holocaust.
Lesser countries saw evils according to their stature. Mussolini. Tojo. Pol Pot. Kim Il Sung. Death. Oppression. Torture. Desolation.
We in America thought ourselves free of the darkness that fell. We never knew the cold hand of a midnight arrest. We never stared out our doors at howling mobs screaming for blood or chanting Seig Heil. We never knew the tanks of an enemy power outside our cities, nor did we ever see bombers vomit fire and death onto our streets. When the atom split and cities melted beneath its angry heat, it was by our hand that it was done. We never knew ourselves the hot breath of the firestorm.
We knew not the terror seen by other nations, and we thought ourselves virtuous.
We defeated the Nazis and Communists, and thought ourselves powerful.
We abolished Jim Crow, and thought ourselves just.
We went to church and thought ourselves pious.
America! In the words of the poet, "Were that all thy children were kind and natural!" But America, "thy gilt hath thee found out—ah! Guilt indeed!" In our love of money, of toys, of comfort, of fun, we have sold ourselves into something akin to slavery. We have betrayed ourselves for a foreign purse, and sold our sovereign wills to death and treachery—the death and treachery of the Culture of Death. Despite our outward appearance of justice, ours are revealed to be nests of hollow bosoms, as empty of the light of God as are those of our late opponents.
We looked upon the tyrannies of foreign governments and the atrocities they caused their people, and smugly gave ourselves the right to oppress and destroy those closest and most dependent on ourselves: the old, who now feel the cold wind of Dr. Kevorkian blowing through their hearts; the handicapped, who, though Not Dead Yet, are deemed worthy of precisely the same treatment given them by Hitler, and most profoundly, the unborn, the child, helpless and passive, awaiting birth.
Rome made a desert of Carthage, and called it peace. We have made a charnel house of the womb, and called it "choice."
Our Supreme Court, acting as a committee of prophets, decreed more than thirty-five years ago, in Roe v. Wade--without basis in law, justice, or morality--that there was no need to determine if the unborn were human—even at the very instant that they decreed that they were to be treated as if they were not. They committed what Justice White called an act of "pure judicial power"--the filthiest words in any judicial vocabulary--and rendered a decree, an ukaze, that stripped away the protection of the abortion laws.
And when finally called to account in the famous Casey decision, they could find no basis to continue than the refusal to change. We decreed it so in 1973, we decree it again in 1992, they said, preserving the violent and foul heart of Roe while eliminating all the excuses and legal reasonong that justified it. Roe has become, indeed, a "Potemkin village" of a ruling that cannot justify itself except by its own inertia.
And now, America has reached a nadir beyond compare in its history: a President of the United States has solemnly declared that the butchery of a child even as it is being born is a necessity, a right, a just thing. Imagine! A president who says that the act of infanticide in the birthing process is a good that must be preserved at any cost. Even a living child newly born can be killed, if aborted: so decrees our President.
President Obama's abandonment of the helpless will be remembered: a "compassionate" indifference in the face of an obscene violence. God shall hold you to account, Mr. President. He is steadfast to the truth in a way you do not see. Please, in the name of the Almighty, repent! And save the children.
What has happened to this, the land of the free and the home of the brave? Such a thing--abortion unto the 40th week, or even later!--is legal nowhere else in the world, not even in the Netherlands, or even China. What has become of our nation?
Abortion has replaced slavery as America's peculiar institution. Like slavery, it only continues through the use of euphemism and cant. Like slavery, it has become engrained into our economy and our attitudes. Like slavery, it unjustly garners and preserves wealth on behalf of those who avail themselves of it. Like slavery, the alternative terrifies, and a conspiracy of silence envelops its enemies.
And like slavery, it is doomed to extinction. But at what price? At what price?
We would like to be optimistic of the future, as faithful as Ronald Reagan in the essential goodness of the American people. But as Daniel Webster learned from the Devil, America has always had a dark lining to her silver cloud, and the Devil no foreign prince to our nation. Abraham Lincoln knew this: in perhaps the darkest and most portentous words ever spoken by an American president, he spoke of the consequences of slavery at the close of his second inaugural address:
Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, is to be paid by one drawn with the sword, as was said more than 3000 years ago so it still must be said: 'The judgments of the Lord are good and righteous altogether.'In light of that, let us also remember another American president, Thomas Jefferson: "I tremble for my nation when I reflect that God is just."
There are those who would call this warning a form of social terrorism. I say, nay: to warn a man that he is to walk into a minefield is not the same as placing the mines. To warn a man that he is driving toward the edge of a chasm is not to dig it. The minefield, or the chasm, are there, willy-nilly.
Nor do I say that one should take up arms or willingly participate in the sad and dark events to come: indeed, violence must be shunned by all people of good will. Nevertheless, given the astoundingly wide reach of the evil upon us -- fifty million dead unborn Americans, and another milliion or more per year, one baby in four -- it is inevitable that the God of History will one day sweep this wrongdoing from our culture.
But that sweep shall not be kindly, any more than the World Wars or the Civil War were kindly to those who saw them. Grand violence begets grand violence, and the clean sweep to come shall engulf the righteous and the unrighteous alike. History teaches that He is kindly, but He is just, and the grapes of His wrath are a bitter draft to the good and evil alike, the innocent and the guilty, the cynical aged and the bewildered young.
Let us take these as great and mighty warnings of the coming "grievous inquest of history." Let us repent and reform ourselves before it is too late. Let us reflect on these words—and tremble.
May the God who Lives bless—and save—America.
—Richard L. Kent
Founding Editor, Eutopia: A Lay Journal of Catholic Thought (1997-1998)
Former Deputy Political Advisor to the Commanding General, Multinational Division North, Tuzla, Bosnia (2000-2002)
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This editorial was first published in 1998. It has been very lightly updated, as, alas, President Obama and President Clinton's stances on the subject vary almost not at all.