Will Nietzsche Win?

  Last month was a milestone of sorts for me and my oldest grandson when I spoke at his high school baccalaureate service. Mingling with students and parents afterwards, I found only one subject on their minds: Littleton. Months after the tragedy, Littleton dominates our thoughts and our fears for our kids. I predict Littleton will be remembered as a cultural watershed--the event that signaled the crack-up of postmodernism. Postmodernism draws inspiration from the 19th-century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who argued that "languages of good and evil" are rooted in neither truth nor reason, but in the will to power. Fifty years ago, the Nazis fleshed out Nietzsche's ideas, and a few months ago, two teenagers displaying Nazi symbols mowed down their classmates in cold blood. Yet the wrenching irony is that these boys were merely pushing to its logical conclusion the postmodernism of the surrounding adult culture. Political scientist Francis Fukuyama says the decline in traditional morality can be traced most directly to Nietzsche's view that morality is not objective--that it is culturally invented as a smokescreen for power struggles. And since morality is "socially constructed," it must be "deconstructed" to unmask the underlying power grab. Thus subverting authority becomes a good thing; breaking rules, an act of liberation. As another commentator writes, postmodernists have "transform[ed] sin and evil into a positive term." In short, evil is "cool." The late postmodernist Michel Foucault even praised irrational violence as a way to be liberated from rules imposed in the name of reason. As these ideas filter down to popular culture, movies and rap music begin depicting murderers as confident, efficient, unflappable. Cool. And eventually kids shoot down their classmates while joking and laughing. An historic parallel to Littleton took place seventy-five years ago, when two college students, Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, murdered a 14-year-old boy. Their defense lawyer, the infamous Clarence Darrow, made a dramatic appeal, saying Leopold had absorbed Nietzsche's ideas at school. "Your Honor," he said, "it is hardly fair to hang a nineteen-year-old boy for the philosophy that was taught him at the university." A startling thought, but a relevant one today. Of course, teen murderers must be held accountable for their actions. Yet it's true the Littleton killers were only acting out the logical consequences of the postmodernism taught today from university to grade school. They were acting out concretely what adults advocate in abstract concepts. Christian apologist Francis Schaeffer urged Christians to press people to the logical consequences of their own beliefs. Littleton illustrates what postmodernism leads to when lived out in the real world. It's one thing to debate the topic in a rarefied academic setting, it's quite another when a Nazi-quoting teenager sticks a gun in your face. Suddenly, you realize that worldviews do matter. As I told my grandson's graduating class, Littleton brought us face to face with two major worldviews competing for our allegiance--the destructive power of postmodernism contrasted with the transforming power of Christianity. Which one will America choose?


Chuck Colson


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