Hitler and Gandhi

            This one is difficult.

            Love is a terrible thing.

            In the ancient texts God can be awful, terrible. In the gospels, we interpret God as love. They are the same God.

            Years ago, Mary and I attended a church retreat outside of Nashville. As one of the activities around a campfire, we each wrote privately the name of a person from history that we would choose to be for a day. We then went around the circle, and each of us showed the name on our paper and explained why.

            Mary and I independently chose Hitler: Mary, because she hoped that in that one day, she could save at least a few lives, maybe more. I chose Hitler because I wanted to experience that part of myself that is capable of what he did. The most difficult thing for us to realize about who Hitler was, is that he was not a devil, he was human. And anything that any human has ever done or ever will do, every human is capable of doing in some way. Including you and me.

            We are bound together, all of us, both individually, making each one of us a whole person, and collectively, making the human race one family, one heart, one soul. Love does the binding.

            Gandhi was a person of peace, strength, and love. In Christian terms, he embodied the spirit of Christ. The boundaries between religions are murky at that level. To a Christian, you can be a Christian by professing Christ, or you can be a Christian by emulating Christ. If as Christians we cannot recognize that, we are like the Pharisees blinded by rules. NOTE – this is in Christian terms. Other religions would see and explain it differently. The important thing is to see and recognize love wherever it manifests.

            Gandhi was not an angel, he was human. Anything that any human has ever done or ever will do, every human is capable of doing.

            Hitler and Gandhi were both human. Love binds us all together. God is love.

            I don’t say this lightly. It’s a terrible thing. Hitler personifies evil. There were others who caused more death and suffering—King Leopold of Belgium comes to mind, or Chairman Mao—but for pure cold calculated murder and the bending of ordinary people to the task, Hitler rules.

            On school playgrounds there are bullies who exhibit cold cruelty. Few adults, thankfully, are often as casually cruel as children can be regularly. As parents most of us teach, separate, confine, punish, in order to prevent or alter this behavior. We do whatever is necessary, whatever we can think of, however imperfect we are. But we always love the child.

            We are all children in God’s eyes. And God is love.

            When we invoke the love of God to comfort us or help the deserving or honor the good, we invoke the same love that loves Hitler.

            Love is a terrible thing.


Hugh Moffatt
Waltham, Massachusetts
April 16, 2019