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Body worlds objectifies humanity Christoph Reiners

This artcle appeared in the Abbotsford News.

Abbostfords is in British Columbia, Canada 

Body worlds objectifies humanity

By Christoph Reiners
Sep 19 2006

Remember when in 1993 warlords in Mogadishu, Somalia dragged the body of an American marine behind a jeep through the streets of Mogadishu?

We were outraged and could not believe our eyes. The hair on our necks was standing because just about everything we believed in had been violated.

Now schools are organizing field trips to see skinned human beings skateboarding, wearing silly hats, arranged in grotesque poses.

To some it is art, to some it is science.

It is true that the human anatomy can be observed well when a person’s skin is pulled back. But should it be just because it can

And should we go just because we can?

To some this is reminiscent of skinned baby seals, to the chairperson of the synagogue in Berlin, Germany it is reminiscent of the lampshades the Nazis fabricated from the skin of their victims.

The people whose bodies are on display supposedly gave their permission, although no one really knows (as National Public Radio in the US has reported).

And even if they did, does that make the objectification of human beings right?

We may say that it is “only the body.” But in the mystery of life have we ever encountered a human being without body?

And doesn’t every society and culture treat the body of the deceased with respect to honour the person and in reverence of life?

So when we turn human bodies into objects, don’t we justify the objectification of human beings, the exploitation of any kind?

Think about why we were outraged when the body of the Marine was dragged through Mogadishu. After all, he was already dead.

Why do we think it is OK for school classes to visit such an exhibit? In our death-denying culture we would probably object to a field trip to the local morgue or funeral home where the dead are treated with respect).

Doesn’t anyone fear that our children learn more about life than about death, namely, that the body is only a machine, that when it’s over it’s over, and that therefore the values we all hold (as different as they may be) are all relative?

If our values are all relative perhaps this means that we don’t only show too much respect for the dead but also for the living. Such seems the logical outcome (at least in the long run) of such misunderstood education.

Field trips of this nature are the result of an educational approach that confuses education with the infusion of information, and that strives to be value-neutral to the point that one wonders whether it stands for anything.

Don’t we fear for the result of such an approach?


Christoph Reiners is a pastor at Peace Lutheran Church.
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