Jesus's Words

The Instant, No. 5, July 27

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When all are Christians, Christianity eo ipso does not exist

When once it is pointed out, this is very easily seen, and once seen it can never be forgotten.

Any determinant which applies to all cannot enter into existence but must either underlie existence or lie outside as meaningless.

Take the determinant man. We are all men. This determinant therefore does not enter into human existence, for the human race as a whole is subsumed under the generic term "man." This determinant lies before the beginning, in the sense of underlying. We are all men — and then it begins.

This is an example of a determinant which applies to all and is underlying. The other alternative was that a determinant which applies to all, or by the fact that it applies to all, is meaningless.

Assume (and let us not haggle over the fact that it is a strange assumption, we shall have the explanation), assume that we are all thieves, what the police call suspicious characters — if that's what we all are, this determinant will eo ipso have no effect upon the situation as a whole, we shall be living just as we are living, each will then count for what he now counts, some (suspicious characters) will be branded as thieves and robbers, i.e. within the definition that we are all suspicious characters; others (suspicious characters) will be highly esteemed, etc.; in short, everything even to the least detail will be as it is, for we are all suspicious characters, and so the concept is annulled (Hegel's aufgehoben); when all are that, then to be that == o; this is not to say that it does not mean anything much; no, it means nothing at all.

It is exactly the same with the definition that we are all Christians. If we are all Christians, the concept is annulled, being a Christian is something which lies before the beginning, outside — and then it begins, we live then the merely human life, exactly as in paganism; the determinant Christian cannot in any way manage to enter in, for by the fact that we all are this it is precisely put outside.

God's thought in introducing Christianity was, if I may venture to say so, to pound the table hard in front of us men. To that end He set "individual" and "race," the single person and the many, at odds, set them against one another, applied the determinant of dissension; for to be a Christian was, according to His thought, precisely the definition of dissension, that of the "individual" with the "race," with the millions, with family, with father and mother, etc.

God did it that way, partly out of love; for He, the God of love, wanted to be loved but is too great a connoisseur of what love is to want to have to order men to love Him by battalions or whole nations, as the command, "One, two, three," is given at the church parade. No, the formula constantly is: the individual in opposition to the others. And partly He did it as the ruler, in order to keep men in check and educate them. This was His thought, even though we men might say, if we dared, that it was the most annoying caprice on the part of God to put us together in this way, or cut us off in this way from what we animals regard as the true well-being, from coalescing with the herd, everyone just like the others.

God succeeded in this, he really overawed men.

But gradually the human race came to itself, and, shrewd as it is, it saw that to do away with Christianity by force was not practicable — "So let us do it by cunning," they said. "We are all Christians, and so Christianity is eo ipso abolished."

And that is what we now are. The whole thing is a knavish trick; these 2000 churches, or however many there are, are, Christianly considered, a knavish trick; these 1000 priests in velvet,32 silk, broadcloth, or bombazine, are a knavish trick — for the whole thing rests upon the assumption that we are all Christians, which is precisely the knavish way of doing away with Christianity. Therefore it is a very peculiar sort of euphemism too when we reassure ourselves with the thought that, we all will attain blessedness, or say, "I shall become blessed, just like all the others"; for when forwarded to heaven with this address, one is not received there, does no more go to heaven than one reaches New Holland by land.

Translator's Footnote

32I remark tardily that a velvet facing on the gown was a distinction of bishops and deans — also of doctors of theology.

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