This morning while I was stopped at an intersection in the bike lane of a major street, a Gideon stepped into the lane to hand me one of his little bibles. Sensing that he was so preoccupied with saving me–the Gideon website refers to the aim of reaching “a lost world with the saving message”–I decided to point out to him that he was breaking the law by entering the lane as a pedestrian. Assuming the persona of a sergeant in a matter-of-fact tone, I said, “Sir, please remove yourself from the bike lane as it is illegal.” He was undaunted so I repeated myself…again in an official rather than antagonistic tone. Finally he backed up and resumed his sales pitch from the sidewalk.
In assuming that I was “lost” and he had “the saving message,” he was not looking at his own falling-short. He felt himself entitled not only metaphysically, but legally as well–as if to say, “the law doesn’t apply to me because I’m saved.” …but Jesus is said to have said he came to fulfill rather than break the law. I have no problem with Jesus’ teachings…in fact, I value them more than the ways of the world. This does not mean, however, that claim a superior or false entitlement that gives me license to impose my agenda on others…even breaking the law to do it. What is the expression…clean up one’s own house before breaking into another to tell another that his or her house is dirty and needs to be cleaned in a certain way? The irony is that the one doing the p0inting is the lost one….the lapses in his or her imposing being lost to him (or her).
In discussing the ascetic priest figure in Geneology of Morals (section III), Nietzsche characterizes them as being essentially weak yet not letting that get in their desire to dominate others. Imposing one’s presumption that the other is lost and is in need of one’s own “saving message” evinces the sort of weakness that seeks to dominate. When Christianity was the dominant religion in the West, such weakness was not transparent. Now it is…increasingly so. The passive aggressive aspect of the imposing can be recognized and put back in its place. My “official” speak is an example of passive aggression being used to counter the passive aggression. The Gideon probably felt my reaction as passive aggressive (certainly not friendly), though I doubt very much that he recognized his own. The breach of personal boundaries, such as by a stranger assuming that he is welcome to discuss religion with me, is itself a form of passive aggression. I suspect that modern society is blind to many forms of presumption…hence we don’t tend to call the perpetrators on it and return passive aggression in kind. Instead, we feel guilty in not reacting as the Gideons would like. The guilt, or self-shame, is a form of weakness, according to Nietzsche, which the weak have been able to convince the strong to take on. The weak take advantage of the strong’s vulnerability…the weak always have their advantage on their minds, whereas the noble strong do not. I suspect the power of the strong is in recognizing or making transparent the fecklessness and presumptuousness (as well as the passive aggression) of the dominating weak. I think a better way of responding to them than “officialism” would be to simply draw attention to the subterfuge being used to dominate. However, I suspect that like a cat around tuna, such transparency would make little or no difference to one with the imposing agenda. In away, evangelicals are not far removed from merchants. Neither group is likely to be free spirits. Hence my attention is on how we may be freed from them. What is that about knowing or seeing the truth will set you free? Let me see, and therein be free of, the true nature of truth-imposers! We need truth-seekers rather than imposers. I am assuming that we are all human beings…that no one of us has a monopoly on knowing the truth. Save us from the redeemers!
Perhaps the question is: is there any salvation from arrogance? …which is perhaps in the human condition…all of us being innately presumptuous. A “saving message” that is accompanied by this quality belies itself. Invalidating such a message and messenger is not sufficient however, for one to be a free spirit–free of even one’s own internal obstacles. For this, one must face and overcome one’s own arrogance….the presumption in my own “official” warning this morning. This is not something that can be subcontracted in a bike lane. The self-emptying of arrogance is not something that is accomplished merely by having the “correct” cognitive metaphysical belief (unlike in Buddhism and Christianity). Neither can it be done by another who is driving to save others (under the presumption that he or she is already saved).
I believe we would all be doing modern society a huge favor by concentrating on recognize our own arrogance and presumption. I think this can be done on an incident by incident basis, generalizing from them to see how these qualities reside in our own personalities and related world-views. Secondarily, it does not hurt to learn to recognize the sordid qualities in others who profit on them remaining hidden, though “secondarily” because the sliver in another’s eye is difficult to see but for removing the plank in one’s own. Still, the protection of personal boundaries is a matter of social justice, and therefore justified (though here on the world’s terms) in order to restore the natural equilibrium of mutual rights from the encroachments by some.