With the cascade of consumable hogwash that fills our newsfeed troughs, it is often a matter of considerable difficulty to know what, if anything, to take seriously. The crisis du jour over the artist formerly known as Kanye West, now known as Ye, is certainly calling for serious consideration—but is it worth it? Ye was interviewed on Infowars by Alex Jones recently and said, “Every human being has something of value that they brought to the table, especially Hitler.”
Can he be serious? Of course, that’s taken out of context, and it was a comment connected to the love and forgiveness that the Gospel commands and Ye’s opinion regarding the hard-heartedness of Jewish people who force their grievances upon all with the pressure of financial power.
Needless to say, Ye is being lambasted from CNN to SNL as an antisemitic lunatic, and his cancelation will, no doubt, proceed apace. All of this may seem like pure tabloid trash, but the attention it’s getting is worth some attention from wary Catholics.
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While Ye’s offhand comment about loving Hitler of all people—and his language in general—is ridiculous in some ways (perhaps reprehensible or lamentable in others) and is certainly hard to get behind, there are uncomfortable truths in what he says. (Whether or not he means them precisely as the truths they are may be another matter.)
Are we not all called to love our enemies, loving the sinner and hating the sin? Is that a selective principle? Adolf Hitler, monster though he was in his actions, was a human being made in the image and likeness of God, with a soul created for salvation, and who was loved by God Himself. Pope St. John Paul II forgave and befriended his would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Ağca. In doing so, he was living out the challenge of Dostoevsky: “to love someone means to see them as God intended them.” And he probably would have visited Hitler in prison, too, if he could have.
Taking the meaning of words seriously, as people of the Word, who are we to hate Hitler? (You probably never thought you’d read that in Crisis Magazine.) We don’t have to like Hitler, fine, but don’t we have to hold out a kind of love for him, as we do for all people? Of course, it’s tricky, and maybe even dangerous, to consider this law of charity in the light of the evils Hitler committed, especially given the provocateurish nature of the man who brought him into the public conversation.
It may be making the news and giving everyone a chance to condemn the Holocaust afresh, but could it be a time for Catholics to take up a theological anthropology just because it was rolled out by the ungoverned speech of a disgraced, far-Right rapper called Ye? Are we supposed to love Hitler in some way? Are we supposed to take any of this seriously?
In navigating the errors of the world, it is important to take seriously in a Catholic sense what the world holds as serious in a secular sense. But, when it comes to Ye, it is hard to take people seriously who take themselves so seriously. To quote the self-proclaimed prophet of destiny himself, “I am so incredible and so influential and so relevant I will change things.” Ye may brand himself a champion of free speech, but some things just ought not to be said. It’s the same problem that many have with Donald Trump.
These are men of ability and talent, but their fame, influence, and wealth have given them a self-importance that is problematic. They have lost the objectivity of self in their aggrandizement. Ye has been successful in identifying some of the flavors of the zeitgeist as an artist, but he is undisciplined, impassioned, vulnerable, and seemingly not intelligent enough to command the attention he has and desires. Ye has also struggled with mental illness and drug use, and he bears the scars of any number of Icarian characters who soared higher than they could manage.
One thing is clear, however, and a point of interest to take seriously. Ye has assumed a very public stance on the vital importance of Christianity and calling out inconvenient truths with a frankness that is unwelcome. He speaks out regularly against abortion, fornication, pornography, and woke corruption. He may not do so eloquently or persuasively, but he is right about some of the things plaguing the soul of America. Ye may be hard to take seriously when he says he loves Hitler, but when the world and its engines turn with ferocity on anyone, that’s not a bandwagon to board blindly. There have been many, beginning with One, that have been hoisted on a cross, accused of nothing more than telling the truth.
Now, I’m not making a suggestive comparison of Ye to Christ (you won’t read that in Crisis Magazine) because I don’t think he is like Him at all. But I believe that Ye has a real love for Our Lord and that he wants to serve Him—though his ideas about how that works are all screwed up. Even given all his eye-rolling faux pas ranging from slavery to antisemitism, it seems a matter of serious note that the minute someone with celebrity status begins talking about religion in a positive way, or the Christian faith, or that Jesus Christ is God, they are thrown to the wolves. That is just not tolerated, even in the age of tolerance.
The same might be said about Mel Gibson back in the day and Shia LeBeouf these days. Both of these celebrities experienced a type of conversion and were outspoken about it, even though, like Ye, they are not the most eloquent or persuasive—and they were duly hung out to dry. Like Ye, they speak about their faith in an associative, nonlinear, imaginative, or emotional way, but they still speak out for salvation in Jesus Christ. That is a serious strike against one who has received the glory of worldly fame—the unpardonable sin being, of course, to say anything against Jewish people. Ye has crossed that line and he’s done, even though he did it in an awkward and perhaps foolish attempt to promote the love of Christ—or boost his profile. Who really knows?
Ye’s so-called antisemitic comments are complicated, though, since he has an ax to grind against the moguls and ADL influencers who dissolved his lucrative contracts with Adidas and Balenciaga and kicked him off Twitter for his alleged antisemitism. The Jewish presence in the power lines of the world is real and not to be trifled with. That is to say, Ye has more reason than his faith to speak negatively about certain groups.
All of that and all of its immense baggage aside, it is a fact to take seriously that faith in Christ is not a welcome position in any popular or powerful industry nowadays. And Ye’s ham-fisted openness about his love for Jesus and his perhaps off-kilter interpretations of the Gospel are almost certainly playing a part in his downfall.
And here is another point to take seriously. What is happening to Ye is a clear instance of the hypocrisy of the media. The world gives incredible attention to celebrities, elevating them to heights that few people can resist the temptations of with regard to money, influence, and self-worth. But, when that status is betrayed by speaking against the message of the day, or by promoting truth when falsehood is preferred, or when narcissist psychoses appear that the culture foments, the media will wield as much vitriol as they accuse a star fallen from grace of.
After the kingmakers of the celebrity universe give a worldwide platform to entertainers like Ye, which most do not have the intellectual wherewithal to occupy with competence, they are just as quick to denounce them in order to extend their own reach and deepen their own footprint within the monetized online ecosystem.
Condemnations like the ones swirling around Ye are political shock-value entertainment. Entertainment is the pseudo-religion of America, and entertainers—actors, musicians, and commentators alike—are the priests and priestesses of an agenda that is anti-religion. Ye is just another business opportunity for “the man behind the curtain,” from his rise to his fall. But, at the same time, in censoring those who step out of the traces by speaking the truth in some fashion, the mouthpieces of our time actually give reverberating attention to the issues they claim must be silenced, showing their dedication to contradiction, like the snake who swallows its tail.
Could it be, in the end, the powers-that-be don’t take anything seriously besides raw power? Hitler may be hard to love in a Christian sense, but his lust for totalitarian power is not hard to share in a worldly sense. Ye may be hard to love in his own way, but let us be cautious in siding with the world in any matter of love and hate.
[Photo Credit: Getty Images]