How Inhuman

Recently, an Italian artist, Maurizio Cattelan, put up a statue in the Warsaw ghetto that caused a bit of a stir. Titled only “HIM”, it shows a young Adolf Hitler kneeling in prayer.

Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, was consulted on the proposed placement of the art and said he saw value in the artist’s attempt to try to increase moral awareness in the viewers.

Many people who saw it were moved by it, some calling it provocative. Of course, there were detractors as is usually the case. The Jewish advocacy group, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, called it “a senseless provocation which insults the memory of the Nazis’ Jewish victims.”

Cattelan’s series of works called “Amen”, of which this piece is but a part, explores our understanding of life and death, good and evil.

What this seems to be touching on is forgiveness.

It seems we normally isolate things that we conceive as “very bad” and term it evil. This has been done traditionally with Hitler and practically everywhere you see mention of him, it is as evil incarnate.

And we do this, quite naturally, to distance ourselves from him, and the evil. Well, we remark, he was not really human so we cannot be related to that sort of thing. He was evil, a devil, not a man.

Unfortunately, he was all too human, as are we, and that should be remembered. Otherwise the same trap may find another victim. All that was evil in Hitler can be found in each of us as well, that darker side, the demons within, that most of us can keep control over and keep from slipping into that “madness”.

If we can re-humanize the man, we might actually learn to forgive him – a lesson repeated quite often in that tome used by Jews and Christians alike – and move beyond the pain.

And perhaps we can all learn a lesson from that exercise.

There are parts good and evil in all people. Jesus, a very good person, some say “the son of God”, others call him God in the flesh.

Believe it or not, that is the same thing people have done with Hitler: dehumanization. Hitler was so bad that he could not have been human… and we do not take ownership, or responsibility. But we claim Jesus was so perfect that he could not have been human… and we do not take ownership, or responsibility.

We can never be as bad as Hitler because we are human, nor can we ever aspire to be as good as Jesus because we have made him more than we can ever attain.

How different it would be if we remembered Hitler was just a man – and guard ourselves by that example – and that Jesus was just a man, and realize that we can be everything that he was.

Yes, just as the Master said we could.

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