Jul 2, 2011



The Problem

So far removed, so distant is Christendom (Protestantism, especially in Denmark) from the Christianity of the New Testament that I continually must emphasise that I do not call myself a Christian and that my task is to articulate the issue, the first condition for any possibility of Christianity again.

It was incendiarism (this is how Christ himself describes his commission), it was incendiarism, setting fire to men by evocatively introducing a passion which made them heterogeneous with what is naturally understood to be man, heterogeneous with the whole of existence, an incendiarism which must necessarily cause discord between father and son, daughter and mother — in short, in the most intimate, the most precious relationships, an incendiarism with the intention of tearing apart "the generation" in order to reach "the individual", which is what God wants and therefore the passion introduced was: to love God, and its negative expression: to hate oneself.

It was incendiarism. But it is not always water that is used to put out a fire — however, to keep the metaphor, I could certainly say that Christendom is the water that has put out the fire. But, as mentioned, one does not always use water; sometimes one uses, for example, featherbeds, blankets, mattresses, and the like to smother a fire. And so I say that if Christendom is the bulk that has smothered that fire once lighted, it now has such an enormous layer of the numerical beneath it that Christianity may serenely and safely be made into just the opposite of what it is in the New Testament.

Whoever you are, if it is your purpose, your idea to do your bit to help smother the fire still more, then get busily involved in this massive popularisation, doing it under the name of spreading Christianity, and you will do as much harm as you can possibly do. But if you want Christianity again, fire again, then do all you can to get rid of the featherbeds, blankets, and mattresses, the grossly bulky stuff — and there will be fire.

The orders for busyness of that kind are: Away, away with abstractions: the state church, the folk church, Christian countries — for any effort of that kind is treason against the fire; they are the featherbeds and blankets that help smother the fire still more. But efforts of the kind that aims at dispersing, aims at "the individual," are the solution.

It was incendiarism. For the time being forget that, forget that this is Christ's own view of Christianity. From what you see to be Christianity here, would it ever even remotely occur to you that it was to set fire that the founder of this religion came to earth, would you not get the overall impression that it must have been to put out fire that he came to the world.

It was incendiarism — and nowadays Christianity is reassurance, reassurance about eternity in order that we may all the better be able to rejoice and enjoy this life.

As we all know, a person can get sick from a fetid stench; there are various other disgusting smells which a man cannot bear, from which he gets sick — but one can also get sick from stupid nonsense. And just as during plague or cholera the surgeon walks about and chews on something to prevent inhaling, so also one may well have a spiritual need for something in the mouth when one has to work incessantly against stupid nonsense. But there is the difference that for the surgeon inhaling may actually be dangerous, and for the other practitioner it is not harmful, may even be beneficial. For while man by nature wishes for what can give him pleasure in life, the religious person on active duty needs a proper dose of disgust with life in order to be fit for his task; disgust with life, taken properly (for the way it is used is crucial), is the best safeguard against getting involved in stupid nonsense.

— Kierkegaard, year of his death

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