Nietzsche as interpreted in the play, St. Thérèse: Nietzsche is my Brother.
In his poignant criticism of Christians, Nietzsche makes a stunning point, one that we Christians often prefer to minimize as we point our fingers at others, pronouncing the nearness of their doom should they not also follow the Creed.
The playwright places this dialogue upfront and, I believe, for a specific reason. It bashes the approach of contrast upon which we so often rely, “Here is why we are right, and you are wrong.” The stage (literally, in this case) is being set for a complementary approach which no doubt will be embodied in St. Thérèse, that of comparison. “Here is what we share, let us explore our approaches together.” This is eerily close to the “pastoral” approach of Vatican II and the “accompaniment” model of the modern Church, so distrusted by traditionalists (like me, for example). However, it is worth contemplating. Is the approach of “comparison” and accompaniment simply a complement to evangelization or a wholesale substitution for it that waters down the Church’s mission to save souls? Could comparison as merely a complementary approach be the real objective of Vatican II, usurped as it was with evil designs seeking to destroy the missionary effectiveness of the Church?
On any account, Nietzsche, who admired Christ but not Christians (sounds familiar!) allows us no quarter. He takes no prisoners. He says what every non-believer retorts when we “contrast” ourselves as the bearers of Truth rather than “comparing” our Truth to theirs for the sake of opening their hearts. God’s grace requires good will, “Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will.” Perhaps comparison first opens hearts in good will, thus rendering them receptive to considering the contrasts.
To this point, Nietzsche, lacking good will, will have none of our contrasting! Perhaps Thérèse can change that.
“There has been one real Christian, one who was not a hypocrite, and he died on a cross. He had to die on a cross because he was not a hypocrite. He may have been a mad fanatic, but he had the courage of his conviction. He was a noble man, so he had to die, and his teaching died with him. He has followers, alas! who hail him as king and leader, but do they die on a cross? Not they, they make quite sure of that. Slaves, slaves they are and slaves they make. And they are cowards too. When last did you see a courageous Christian? – If I had been a Christian, but I am not!, I would have died on a cross.”