The suggestion that conservatives, and even religious conservatives, might find something of value in the writings of that prophet of the death of God, Nietzsche, seems to have been poorly received. It may not be possible to help this, but it might be of some value to explain why one conservative, even reactionary, soul found some berries amidst the briers of Nietzsche.
If I had to offer a one-sentence explanation of why I ever bothered to read Nietzsche, it would be the following: I read Nietzsche because I was raised as a low-church evangelical Protestant.
This statement might seem enigmatic or perverse, but there is a logic to it, a logic born of the fact that some quarters - apparently, those quarters in which I learned of Christianity as a child - of evangelicalism are resolutely plebeian; a spirit of egalitarianism suffuses them, and often suffocates and stifles those who cannot abide those things which, while not necessarily base, are... other than they ought to be. For the evangelicalism in which I was raised was a Christianity only then entering upon the long, downward slide of "relevance", then "seeker sensitivity", then megachurches and multimedia entertainment as "worship", until the nadir is reached in the emergent church movement. And with each development along this trajectory - which in my case was limited to the period of "relevance" - the banalization of worship, and the substitution of happy-clappy sing-along choruses for grand, old hymns, with their profound theological and devotional content, was justified by that egalitarianism: those who complained were dismissed as stick-in-the-mud, stuck-in-the-past elitists who couldn't grasp that all aesthetic taste is subjective. And so there was no difference between "A Mighty Fortress" and "Shine, Jesus, Shine", no difference between mediocre jingles and Bach chorales.
It did not help matters that I was a student of classical piano in my youth, and to overhear these arguments among the adults, and to hear equivalences drawn that implied that some musical abortion was "spiritually equal" to Bach, or even to the better output of Wesley - well, this was too much to bear. If I said "Marty Haugen" (I believe that is the name.), some Catholics might understand my disquietude. Which is why, upon reading words such as these:
... All the sciences have from now on to prepare the way for the future task of the philosophers: this task understood as the solution of the problem of value, the determination of the order of rank among values. (Genealogy of Morals, Essay 1, Section 17)
I experienced this as the very dawn: Whatever else might be contained in the depths of Nietzsche's thought - and there is much - this much is certain, that there is a rank-ordering of aesthetic values, because there is nobility and commonality, the beautiful and the ugly. To absorb these thoughts as expressed by a contemner of Christianity - this seemed preferable than reading the diffident expressions of Christian critics of the newer fashions, who never seemed able to escape the egalitarianism and subjectivity of the levelers, who never mustered the strength to say that because there is an order of rank, some expressions do not belong in the Church.
Then there were the eschatological enthusiasts, those who immersed themselves in popular prophetic texts and evinced an odd enthusiasm for what they believed would be an outpouring of wrath so implacable that billions would perish. I will tread gently and state that it is not so much the fact of belief in these interpretations - though I find them other than plausible - as the earnest desire on the part of some I knew that all of these horrors come to pass: a reveling in a dream of divine vengeance:
--"I understand; I'll open my ears again (oh! oh! oh! and close my nose). Now I can really hear what they have been saying all along: 'We good men - we are the just - what they desire they call, not retaliation, but 'the triumph of justice; what they hate is not their enemy, no! they hate 'injustice', they hate 'godlessness'; what they believe in and hope for is not the hope of revenge, the intoxication of sweet revenge (--'sweeter than honey' Homer called it), but the victory of God, of the just God, over the godless; what is there left for them to love on the earth is not their brothers in hatred but their 'brothers in love', as they put it, all the good and just on earth." (From Genealogy of Morals, Essay 1, Section 14)
Now, I understand even more now what I knew then, that even amongst the better sort of Christian writers there could be found admonitions against this desire to call down and revel in wrath and judgment; but to find in the writings of an arch-calumniator of the Faith a confirmation of just how loathsome in the eyes of the unbelieving we can be made to appear by the wrath-desiring among us - this, paradoxically, was something to be savoured, for it confirmed the ruination that certain vices could bring into the world.
Nevertheless, reading Nietzsche was not only salubrious insofar as he could be enlisted against those who dragged down the Faith by their lack of wisdom, but because he is so honest:
Against Christianity -- What is now decisive against Christianity is our taste, no longer our reason. (Gay Science 132)
Christianity is not rejected among moderns because they have reasoned out a proof that it is untrue, but because it is distasteful to them, chiefly on moral grounds. Though the excesses of the eschatology enthusiasts might be loathsome, and might prompt sensitive souls to recoil in horror on moral grounds, this is, in fact, no disproof of Christianity, or even of the theories against which it is a reaction. It is merely disgust - and disgust, as we are reminded whenever we turn to the subject of our culture's valorization of deviant sexualities, is ostensibly no reason to proscribe them or stigmatize them.
In other words, Nietzsche is saying, we reject Christianity not because we find it repugnant to reason, but because we simply dislike it. After all,
Compared to them (the common natures), the higher type is more unreasonable, for those who are noble, magnanimous, and self-sacrificial do succumb to their instincts, and when they are at their best, their reason pauses. (snip) They have some feelings of pleasure and displeasure that are so strong that they reduce the intellect to silence or to servitude: at that point their heart displaces the head, and one speaks of "passion". (From The Gay Science, 3)
We subordinate reason to passion, and this is why we reject Christianity - Christianity bids us reverse this relation, and we will have none of that.
There is also this:
On the critique of saints -- To have a virtue, must one really wish to have it in its most brutal form - as the Christian saints wished - and needed - it? They could endure life only by thinking that the sight of their virtue would engender self-contempt in anyone who saw them. But a virtue with that effect I call brutal. (Gay Science 150)
The deepest truth in this is not the risible misunderstanding of asceticism and virtue - to be certain, any would-be saint who craved the inducement of self-contempt in those who beheld his virtue would have been felled by luciferic pride and knocked from ladder of ascent long before such virtue sprouted within him - but the horror modernity has of the saint, of the deepest virtue. For moderns, real virtue is often a threat, a reproach, a form of violence insofar as the experience of virtue in another exposes the conscience which has tried to lacerate itself into unknowing. And so modernity must corrupt virtue, must debauch the minds of the innocent: it must counter the "violence" of virtue with its own violence.
Nietzsche admits this all for us, and admission eases diagnosis.
Alas, Nietzsche is also worth reading on account of the demonstration of where the privileging of passions takes us:
Holy cruelty -- A man who held a newborn child in his hands approached a holy man. "What shall I do with this child?" he asked; "It is wretched, misshapen, and does not have life enough to die," "Kill it!" shouted the holy man with a terrible voice; "and then hold it in your arms for three days and three nights to create a memory for yourself: never again will you beget a child this way when it is not time for you to beget." -- When the man had heard this, he walked away, disappointed, and many people reproached the holy man because he had counseled cruelty; for he had counseled the man to kill the child. "But is it not crueler to let it live?" asked the holy man. (Gay Science 73)
Look beyond the surface of the text, the vileness of the "counsel". Three days and three nights: not resurrection, but the dealing of death - a satanic parody of the holiest mystery, revealing that the life of the passions mandates death-dealing, and embraces it as holiness, as sacramental.
Sometimes, in order to know one's adversaries, one must gaze into their eyes, so to speak, and peer into the depths of their souls, to see the very void of hell consuming them. There is wisdom - profound wisdom - in horror.