I am responding to George Shulman’s letters on Nietzsche and on prophecy. I do so by offering some thoughts on Nietzsche’s prophet, Zarathustra. In addition to considering Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra in light of Shulman’s “Political Theology” seminar, I also take illumination from Shulman’s American Prophecy: Race and Redemption in American Political Culture (2008).
For the left to prevail in the war between old and new gods, we need not only prophetic discourse, but forms of mass organization capable of cohering a social bloc. In this work, religion, understood not as prophecy but as missionary work, remains a crucial resource.
The God we meet in Amos and John demands righteousness, solidarity and justice as the foundations of faithful living. Neutrality scuppers justice. When we drift away from God, our fellow human beings and the life-giving environment, prophetic truth-telling tempered with an imagination for a different world becomes a necessity.
Could prophetic politics, with its unique emphases, allow us to envision another, possibly less dogmatic and more differentiated form of political theology? Could focusing on the schism between prophetic voice and political institutions reveal a different understanding of political theological concepts, beyond the realm of power and sovereignty?
Matthew’s careful quotation of Isaiah 60 urges us to perceive that the birth of the poor, brown boy in a back corner of the Roman empire was the dawning of God’s glory upon humanity. Let us, then, celebrate—not with fear and self-preservation, but with confident investment in human flourishing.
Christian political witness must be built around and declare Christ as the great eschatological stone laid by God. He must either be approached as the stubborn obstacle, arresting the development of all idolatrous political visions, or as the chief cornerstone, the sure and solid basis from all else can take its bearings.
The interconnected identities of Jesus and John the Baptist are a matter of speculation in the Gospel of Matthew. The truth is revealed through the fulfilment Old Testament prophecy and against the foil of the brutal rule of Herod.