Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

God is Re-membered

Written by: on October 5, 2022

Friedrich Nietzsche, one of the greatest thinkers in modern history, will always be remembered simply for this statement: “God is dead.” The current geopolitical nationalistic fundamentalism, or “New Faith” could be seen as a response to the statement. In the United States far-right politicians are Christianizing their platforms and deifying their agenda. Regardless of motive, it seems their mission is to combat the statement “God is dead” with its opposite statement, God is alive. However, in its attempt to vanquish secularism and any existential anxiety, it is becoming the very evil it seeks to destroy.

Jordan B. Peterson speaks on this in his podcast which highlights Aleksander Solzhenitsyn. Peterson states, when one structure fails, one possibility that results is nihilism, that is the belief that nothing has any final meaning. Another possibility, Peterson explains, is that one simply adopts the next structure that gives life meaning and that is often a nationalistic separatist perspective.[1]

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, in his 1983 speak “Men Have Forgotten God” states, “All attempts to find a way out of the plight of today’s world are fruitless unless we redirect our consciousness, in repentance, to the Creator of all: without this, no exit will be illumined, and we shall seek it in vain […] We must first recognize the horror perpetrated not by some outside force, not by class or national enemies, but within each of us individually, and within every society.”[2]

In a culture revenged by communist ideology and its systemic implementation which sought to annihilate Christianity, I fully agree. The state should not, and more importantly cannot, extinguish the fire of the Divine Presences from the human soul. However, at least in the United States, and possibly many Western European nations today, this statement may well be something you’d hear from the podium of a Trump rally, a MAGA Republican gubernatorial candidate, or a far-right city council member. The men have forgotten God mantra is being used to implement sweeping legislation to control women’s bodies, to dictate marriage equality, to limit freedoms of all kinds including voting rights, access the healthcare, and public education. Just today I heard a Tennessee lawmaker say, in effect, that God had given Parkinson’s disease to one of her political opponents and cancer to another. In her framework, those men had forgotten God, so they got what they deserved.

So, is our greatest existential threat in the West, Marxism? Is it postmodernism, atheism, or nihilism? Is it “Wokeness” as N.S. Lyons suggests?[3] I humbly suggest it is Christian Nationalism, or more broadly theocratic totalitarianism that, in its existential anxiety, fears “God is dead” and forcibly and brutally fashions a new god in its own image.

So, how then shall we live? Of course, I look to my own “desert fathers” Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung. Campbell writes, “[…]half the people in the world think that the metaphors of their religious traditions, for example, are facts. And the other half contends that they are not facts at all. As a result, we have people who consider themselves believers because they accept metaphors as facts, and we have others who classify themselves as atheists because they think religious metaphors are lies.”[4] Certainly one could argue this quote is reductive poetry, but I see it offering a lens to our current plight. What atheists and dogmatic believers may have in common is their theological certitude, and such certitude leads to extremist ideologies, and exclusionary theologies.

Carl Jung, in Psychology of Religion writes, “A creed is always the result and fruit of many minds and many centuries, purified from all oddities, shortcomings and flaws of individual experience.” This brings us back to Solzhenitsyn’s quote, “We must first recognize the horror perpetrated not by some outside force, not by class or national enemies, but within each of us individually, and within every society.” The Jungian and Solzhenitsynian perspectives draw us inward, not in a reductive sense, but so that we may rediscover the imago Dei, the Self, the Divine Light. This inward movement necessarily moves outward, but it does not coerce conformity, legislate morality, or dogmatize theology-instead it creates space for Christ in the other, and the other’s experience. It is here that God is re-membered.

On a final note, I realize I do not have a true geopolitical perspective, bias or unbiased. I used to be an avid reader of BBC News, but it tends to elevate Western concerns, though certainly not more than American news outlets. I frequent the TN Holler for local news in my home state of Tennessee. Tennessee has swung far right, so this outlet tends to seek accountability for ultra conservative legislators. To be honest, I am not sure what an unbiased perspective should look like in the face of fascism and the surge of Christian nationalism. Thoughts?

[1] Dr Jordan Peterson, “S3 E29: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (Existentialism),” Jordan Peterson, October 26, 2020, https://www.jordanbpeterson.com/podcast/aleksandr-solzhenitsyn-existentialism/.

[2] “Remembering Solzhenitsyn’s ‘Men Have Forgotten God’ Speech,” National Review (blog), December 11, 2018, https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/12/aleksandr-solzhenitsyn-men-have-forgotten-god-speech/.

[3] N. S. Lyons, “The Upheaval,” Substack newsletter, The Upheaval (blog), April 7, 2021, https://theupheaval.substack.com/p/the-upheaval.

[4] Joseph Campbell, Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor, ed. Eugene Kennedy (New World Library, 2013). 2.

About the Author

Michael Simmons

- Tennessee --> Oregon - Father to David and Bina, Partner to Liz - Portland Seminary Admissions Counselor - Spiritual Director - Companioning Center Leadership Team - Deep Water Board Member - Ordained Elder, FMC - Aspiring Jungian Theologian

14 responses to “God is Re-membered”

  1. Michael, thank you for writing this, it is very inspiring. I got caught up in the Christian Nationalism movement and ended up repenting, coming back to spiritual basics, being a follower and disciple of Jesus Christ.

    I lost a tremendous amount of support in my church by making this move. I had many people leave the church, tithe’s and offerings have fallen away. But I am called to represent Jesus and His Word, not what is popular at the time. Often we sell out for the applause of men, rather than standing with Jesus, even if it means standing alone like the Desert Fathers.

    Thank you for your blog, it really blessed me.

    • Thanks for your words Greg. I’d love to hear more. Jesus demonstrates a number of times that “what we do to the least of these, we do to him.” Who are the least among you? What do you do when “standing with Jesus” seemingly contradicts Jesus’ very words to stand with the least?

  2. mm Andy Hale says:

    Your life and worldviews are a fascinating study of excavating our implicit and explicit bias. You have done a complete 180 of the worldview you were reared.

    What were the most influential individuals and ideas that caused you to broaden your perspective and take in other truths?

    • Man great question. Categorically I think it comes down to experiences that caused dissonance with my beliefs. But then I had to reflect on those experiences in community. That is what Deep Water has been for me – a space to sit with that sort of tension, integrate, and form a new path forward.

      What about you? Same question!

  3. mm Roy Gruber says:

    Michael, I appreciate your concern about how someone can use the “headlines” and interpret them to fit their own agenda. It seems we have become a culture of sound bites that get applied in all sorts of ways. I’ve received a good deal of criticism in my role after general statements like “church needs to be deep” or the like. No definition no vision of what that might be. I also share your concern about Christian Nationalism, but I also believe we face multiple threats in this day. Is there a current pastor or spiritual leader that has most influenced your thinking in recent times?

    • Great reflections and questions. I think my spiritual director, Abbot Peter McCarthy has been very influential for me. More than his words, it has been his presence, which resembles what we heard about Desmond Tutu – so much weightiness, yet so much playfulness.

      What about you?

  4. mm David Beavis says:

    Hey Michael,

    Your post, like any good blog, has brought up more questions for me than answers. I wonder if it is even possible to have an unbiased perspective – whether a Christian nationalist perspective or other. For we all bring our personal history and prior knowledge to new information we learn. No matter how objective we attempt to be. This causes me to wonder, with Pontius Pilate, “What is truth?”

    Your invitation to journey inward, recognize the Christ in us, and then journey outward to recognize the Christ in others was deeply compelling. In your experience, what are some of the practices you have implemented to do this?

    • Thank you for your reflection David. I think the biggest practice has been believing my own experience and believing other people’s experience. This goes against the Protestant value (or at least its modern form) of sola scriptura. Wesleyans theoretically value experience along side scripture, tradition and reason, and I fancy myself an above average Wesleyan lol

      What about you?!

  5. Kayli Hillebrand says:

    Michael: In light of this post and this weeks’ readings, I’m interested to know your take and interpretation on Matthew 7:13-14. Is this metaphor? Is there any application to today?

    The Narrow and Wide Gates
    “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

    • Oh yes! Ya know the probably arrises when everyone things their way is the “narrow way”. I’m sure Pharisees saw their way as such. However, I think the narrow way is defined by love, a radically inclusive love, that seeks to invite the other out there, and invite the other within ourselves. I think we run into issues when we conflate “narrow” with “exclusivity”. In fact, I think it is the broad way that excludes others, rejects ones shadow, and boxes people out based on dogmatic perspectives. The narrow way of inclusivity is calling us as leaders.

  6. mm Nicole Richardson says:

    Michael, is metaphor just metaphor? Can metaphor be contextualized to be embodied reality?

    • Well I think metaphor by definition is not just metaphor. Campbell writes, “The symbol, energized by the metaphor, conveys, not just an idea of the infinite but some realization of the infinite.” Metaphors point beyond themselves, but we miss out on the “realization of the infinite” when we concretize our symbols/metaphors as facts. I would argue we’ve done this with some of Christianity’s core doctrines: the Trinity, the incarnation, the resurrection etc. We’ve turned them into facts to be disputed rather than realities by which we can be transformed.


  7. mm Eric Basye says:

    Great blog, per usual, Michael. This is a bold and thought-provoking statement:

    “I humbly suggest it is Christian Nationalism, or more broadly theocratic totalitarianism that, in its existential anxiety, fears “God is dead” and forcibly and brutally fashions a new god in its own image.”

    In light of these changes we are experiencing and seeing in the West, what is the pathway forward for navigating these matters in a way that honors people made in His image and glorifies God? More or less, for you, how do you navigate these murky waters of Christian nationalism?

    • Yes great question. To continue with the Sinai metaphor, I think it was existential anxiety, which I can’t blame the Israelites for experiencing, which urged them to fashion the golden calf. Put in Jungian terms, they were not prepared to sit in the tension as a renewed God-image emerged. I think we get in trouble when we fashion or try to hold up a God-image that is not true to the human experience. TBH I think when we cling to scripture above reason and experience, in particular, we verge on fashioning God in our image because we will inevitably read the text as facts suspended above reality.

      I don’t know how to navigate Christian Nationalism, other than to continue speaking out in a way that honors people’s humanity, since CN inherently violates it.

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