Hitler, Madonna, and the Super Self

One of the biggest threats to both our culture and the church is what I call the ‘super self’. That is the belief that we as individuals are the ultimate sources of authority in the universe and that the entire purpose of life is to make us subjectively happy.

This concept has deep roots. Friedrich Nietzsche the German philosopher, sensing that religion was exiting European culture, proposed a radical solution. The vacuum of belief would be filled by what Nietzsche labelled the Ubermensch (meaning over man or super man). An individual who by sheer personal will, will triumph in a godless world.

This belief can be seen in its most chilling incarnation in the person of Adolf Hitler. Hitler commissioned filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl turn his rally at Nuremberg into a movie. The title that Hitler used for the film was ‘Triumph of the Will’, a direct nod to Nietzsche and his theory of the Ubermensch.

However as humanity saw the full horror of the effects of Hitlers will, a reaction occurred. A new type of self emerged, it was more sensitive, more cuddly, it was the chilled out version of the Ubermensch. It did not wear uniforms, it did not shout and rant. It was not racist or violent. It did not attempt by the power of its will to take over Poland, rather it attempted to carve out a small empire of personal pleasure. An empire in which the happiness of the individual would be placed above anything else of matter or meaning in the cosmos. This was the emergence of the ‘super self’, the groovier, more laid back child of the Ubermensch.

And so we move from a ranting, sweating fascist, to a fifty year old woman gyrating in a music video. She dances a sad dance, attempting to project a sexuality that seems forced and fading. Her sinewy limbs betray a woman fighting with all of her will to defeat the reality of her own decaying body. Madonna’s lyrics seem to be an attempt to convince her self rather than her audience that she is immortal. That the truimph of her own will can still occur against all the prevailing evidence to the contrary.

Give in to Me: Maddonna

What are you waiting for?
Nobody’s gonna show you how
Why work for someone else
To do what you can do right now?

Got no boundaries and no limits
If there’s excitement, put me in it
If it’s against the law, arrest me
If you can handle it, undress me

Don’t stop me now, don’t need to catch my breath
I can go on and on and on
When the lights go down and there’s no one left
I can go on and on and on

Give it to me, yeah
No one’s gonna show me how
Give it to me, yeah
No one’s gonna stop me now

They say that a good thing never lasts
And then it has to fall
Those are the the people that did not
Amount to much at all

Give me the bassline and I’ll shake it
Give me a record and I’ll break it
There’s no beginning and no ending
Give me a chance to go and I’ll take it

Don’t stop me now, don’t need to catch my breath
I can go on and on and on
When the lights go down and there’s no one left
I can go on and on and on

Give it to me, yeah
No one’s gonna show me how
Give it to me, yeah
No one’s gonna stop me now 

This is the super self writ large. In the quiet moments we all know that it is a fallacy, yet we still play the game, we partake in a consensual hallucination. There seems nothing that anyone can do, the ‘super self’ seems to subvert everything. Yet into this space a voice ancient yet fresh speaks, with one breath, this voice demolishes the power of the ‘super self’.

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. Mark 8:34-35”

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