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R.I.P GEORGE H.W. BUSH

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President George Herbert Walker Bush died in his home on November 30th following a long battle with Vascular Parkinson’s disease. Below is a brief overview of his life:

  • Born June 12th, 1924 to Prescott Sheldon Bush (1895 – 1972) and Dorothy Bush (1901 – 1992).
  • Attended Greenwich Country Day School
  • Attended Phillips Academy in Andover Massachusetts from 1938
  • Held numerous leadership positions including President of the senior class, secretary of the student council, president of the community fund-raising group, member of the editorial board of the school newspaper, and captain of the varsity baseball and soccer teams
  • Served in the US Navy as a naval aviator from 1942 until 1945
  • Attained the rank of junior-grade Lieutenant
  • Earnt the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, and President Unit Citation
  • Married Barbara Bush (1925 – 2018) in January 1945
  • Fathered six children: President George W. Bush (1946 – ), Robin Bush (1949 – 1953), Jeb Bush (1953 – ), Neil Bush (1955 – ), Marvin Bush (1956 – ), and Doro Bush (1959 – ).
  • Enrolled at Yale University where he earnt an undergraduate degree in economics on an accelerated program which allowed him to complete his studies in two years.
  • Elected President of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity
  • Captain of the Yale Baseball Team with whom he played two college world series as a left-handed batsman
  • Became a member of the secret Skull and Bones Society
  • Elected Phi Beta Kappa, America’s oldest academic honour society, upon graduating Yale in 1948.
  • Worked as an oil field equipment salesman for Dressler Industries
  • Established Bush-Overby Oil Development Company in 1951
  • Co-founded Zapata Petroleum Corporation, which drilled in Texas’ Permian Basin, in 1953
  • Became President of Zapata Offshore Company
  • After Zapata Offshore Company became independent in 1959, Bush served as its President until 1964 and then Chairman until 1966
  • Elected Chairman of the Harris County, Texas Republican Party
  • Ran against Democrat incumbent Ralph W. Yarborough for the US Senate in 1964, but lost
  • Elected to the House of Representatives in 1966
  • Appointed to the Ways and Means Committee
  • Ran against Democrat Lloyd Bentsen for a seat in the Senate in 1970, but lost
  • Served as the US Ambassador the United Nations from 1971 to 1973.
  • Served as Chairman of the Republican Nation Committee from 1973 to 1974.
  • Appointed Chief of the US Liason Office in the People’s Republic of China from 1974 to 1975.
  • Director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 1976 to 1977.
  • Chairman of the Executive Committee of the First International Bank in 1977
  • Part-time Professor of Administrative Science at Rice University’s Jones School of Businesses in 1978
  • Director of the Council On Foreign Relations between 1977 and 1979.
  • Sought the Republican nomination for President in 1980 but lost to Ronald Reagan.
  • Served as Vice President from 1981 to 1989.
  • Elected President of the United States in 1988.
  • President of the United States from 1989 to 1993.
  • Defeated by Bill Clinton in the 1992 Presidential election
  • Awarded an honourary knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II.
  • Chairman of the board of trustee for Eisenhower Fellowships from 1993 to 1999
  • Chairman of the National Constitution Centre from 2007 to 2009.
  • Became a widower after seventy-three-years of marriage.
  • Died November 30th, 2018 at the age of 94.

 

THE DEATH OF GOD

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This week for our theological article, we will be examining Friedrich Nietzsche’s (1844 – 1900) infamous statement, “God is dead.”

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (pronounced ‘knee-cha’) was born in Röcken, near Leipzig, on October 15th, 1944. His father, Karl Ludwig Nietzsche (1813 – 1849), was a Lutheran pastor and former teacher, and his mother was Franziska Oehler (1826 – 1897). The Nietzsche family quickly grew to include a daughter, Elisabeth (1846 – 1935), and another son, Ludwig Joseph (1848 – 1850). Unfortunately, the family would be beset by tragedy. In 1849, when Nietzsche was five-years-old, Karl Nietzsche would suffer a devastating brain haemorrhage and die. Then, as if to rub in salt in their wounds, the infant Ludwig Joseph, would die unexpectedly shortly after.

Nietzsche was educated at the prestigious Schulpforta school near Naumburg. There he received an education in theology, classical languages, and the humanities. After graduating, young Nietzsche attended the University of Bonn before moving to the University of Leipzig. During his time there, Nietzsche became acquainted with the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 – 1860) whose work, the World as Will and Representation (1818), would have a tremendous influence. Then, aged only twenty-four, Nietzsche was awarded the position of professor of Greek language and Literature at the University of Basel in Switzerland. He had never written a doctoral dissertation.

Nietzsche left academia briefly to serve as a medical orderly in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871). He was discharged due to poor health. Nietzsche returned to Basel where he came acquainted with the cultural historian, Jacob Burckhardt (1818 – 1897), and the composer, Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883). Wagner’s influence on Nietzsche can most readily be seen in the Birth of Tragedy.

During the late 1870s, Nietzsche became increasingly beset with debilitating health problems: digestive problems, poor eyesight, and migraines. He was forced to spend months off work, and eventually agreed to retire with a modest pension. Nietzsche was only thirty-four years old.

From there, Nietzsche devoted the rest of his life to the study and writing of philosophy. Between 1870 and 1889, Nietzsche wrote nineteen books, including: The Birth of Tragedy (1872), Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks (1873), Human, All Too Human (1878), the Gay Science (1882), Thus Spake Zarathustra (1883), Beyond Good and Evil (1886), On the Genealogy of Morals (1887), Twilight of the Idols (1888), Ecce Homo (1888), and the Will to Power (1901, technically unpublished manuscripts published by his sister, Elisabeth).

In 1889, in Turin Italy, Nietzsche suffered a mental breakdown after seeing a horse being flogged in the Piazza Carlo Alberto. In the following days, Nietzsche sent a series of ‘madness letters’ to Cosimo Wagner (1837 – 1930) and Jacob Burckhardt in which he signed his name ‘Dionysos’, claimed to be ‘the crucified one’, and asserted that he was the creator of the world. It was quickly agreed that Nietzsche should be brought back to Basel. There he was incarcerated in a clinic in Jena.

In 1890, Nietzsche’s mother, Franziska, brought him home to Naumburg where she looked after him until her death in 1897. From there, Nietzsche was cared for by his sister, Elisabeth, in Weimar. He died on August 25th, 1900 at the age of fifty-five.

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The statement, “God is dead” is Nietzsche’s most memorable and provocative statement. (Of course, he wasn’t the first one to coin the term. That was Heinrich Heine (1797 – 1856). Nietzsche merely philosophised it). It first appeared in the Gay Science in a fable entitled, the Parable of the Madman. In the parable, the madman asks, ‘where is God?’, only to be informed that God had been killed by man:

“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we, murderer of all murderers, console ourselves? That which was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet possessed has bled to death under our knives. Who will wipe the blood off us? With what water could we purify ourselves?”

Of course, Nietzsche wasn’t talking about the literal death of God (he was, after all, an atheist). Instead, he was referring to the death of the concept or idea of God. The statement was meant as a reference to the decline of traditional and metaphysical doctrines that had dominated European thought and culture for centuries.

Nietzsche observed, correctly, that western morality was predicated on the presumption of the truth of Judeo-Christian values. Christianity had become infused in European culture and thought. Philosophers and scientists like Copernicus (1473 – 1543), René Descartes (1596 – 1650), Isaac Newton (1643 – 1727), Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274), George Berkeley (1685 – 1753), Saint Augustine (354-430AD), Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716), and more were all deeply influenced by their belief in God. Culturally, Handel’s (1685 – 1759) Messiah, Da Vinci’s (1452 – 1519) the Last Supper, and Michelangelo’s (1475 – 1564) Statue of David are all infused with religious themes.

The decline of Christianity’s supremacy in society began with the Enlightenment. Science replaced scripture. During this time, the belief in a universe governed by God was replaced by governance through the laws of physics, the divine right to rule was replaced with rule by consent, and morality no longer had to emanate from a loving and omniscient God.

The legacy of the Enlightenment, Nietzsche rightly observed, was that Christianity lost its central place in Western culture. (Of course, it can also be argued that Christianity’s central doctrines and tenets have been so absorbed by society people no longer recognise their influence). Science, replete with its elaborate depictions of physical reality, ultimately replaced religious truth.

Hitler at Dortmund Rally

Nietzsche’s assertion is often seen as a triumphal or victorious statement. However, analysis reveals that Nietzsche did not necessarily see the death of God as a good thing. He recognised that as society moved closer to secularisation, the order and meaning religion gave to society would fall by the wayside. People would no longer base their lives on their religious beliefs, but on other factors. Their lives would not be grounded in anything. As Nietzsche wrote in the Twilight of the Idols:

“When one gives up the Christian faith, one pulls the right to Christian morality out from under one’s feet. This morality is by no means self-evident… Christianity is a system, a whole view of things thought out together. By breaking one main concept out of it, the faith in God, one breaks the whole.”

Nietzsche believed the solution to the problem would be to create our own, individual values. Christian morality (derided by Nietzsche as ‘slave morality’) would be replaced by ‘master morality.’ Human beings would strive to become Übermensches or overmen.

The problem with Nietzsche’s suggestion is that it is virtually impossible to keep society ordered when everyone’s values are different. Furthermore, as Carl Jung (1875 – 1961) points out, it is impossible for us to create our own values. Most of us can’t keep our new year’s resolutions, let alone create a value system that will bring order to society.

Nietzsche, along with Russian novelist, Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821 – 1881), predicted that the 20th Century would be characterised either by apocalyptic nihilism or equally apocalyptic ideological totalitarianism. In the end, the world experienced both. The wake of the Great War (1914 – 1918) saw Europe plagued by communism, fascism, Nazism, and quasi-religious nationalism. In Russia, communism, through which a person’s value was derived from his labour, arose under the Bolsheviks. In Italy, fascism, through which a person’s value was derived from his nationality, arose under Benito Mussolini (1883 – 1945). In Germany, Nazism, through which a person’s value was derived from his race, arose under Adolf Hitler (1889 – 1945). All of these systems attempted to give people’s lives meaning by replacing the state with God.

In the end, the 20th Century would be the deadliest and most destructive in human history. The legacy of two world wars, nuclear weapons, communism, and fascism has been millions of painful and unnecessary deaths. This is what we get when we remove God from society: needless pain and suffering.