CC Issue 03 / Theology / Faith

Gandhi vs Jesus

Warning. This note grapples with big ideas. Rambling ensues.

ATTENTION: I hope you haven’t come here to witness an imagined ultra-violent cage match between Jesus and Gandhi. If so I apologize. Jesus probably would have won anyway because he wins everything.

I’ve spent the last six weeks studying the life of Gandhi. I’m not going to give you his bio or anything like that, you can Wiki it, or Google it, or whatever the kids do these days… or you can read “Hind Swaraj” – his manifesto of sorts on Indian home rule.

What I found most fascinating about Gandhi, as both a student and a Christian, was his passion for the truth. Throughout his entire life Gandhi was in a pursuit of the truth. He was constantly absorbing statements of “truth” and putting them into practical use in his real life to test their merits. His whole life was basically a series of truth experiments. “Taste and See”  ironically, considering his constant use of fasting as a catalyst, seemed to be Gandhi’s main philosophy.

Gandhi, while a devout and practicing Hindu, was fascinated with Christianity and gave great consideration to the teachings of Jesus and the Bible. The Sermon on the Mount in particular became one of the cornerstones of Gandhi’s nonviolence movement. But while he saw wisdom in Christ’s words and example he rejected many aspects of the Christian religion.

His problem with Christians? Exclusivity. Conversion. Jesus’ claim to be the way, the truth, and the life. The ONLY way to the father.

Gandhi could not get past the idea that Christians (like Muslims and Jews) considered their religion to be the ONLY true religion. Gandhi didn’t like the idea that in order to know the truth, and to follow the truth, one had to cease being a Hindu, and in many cases at that time, cease even to be an Indian. To convert to Christianity meant to become Westernized.

This started me thinking. If I had been born in India I might be a Hindu. If I was born in China I might be a Buddhist.

I was born in North America. My father was a Christian minister. My grandfather is a Christian minister. I’m a christian because of my geography and family heritage far more than because of my theology. I’ve never studied Christianity the way my father/grandfather did. And yet in my 11th grade Philosophy class I had so much Christian conviction that I told another student in a public debate that, yes, I thought Gandhi had gone to hell when he died. I shudder just thinking about that statement. Not only was I publicly exposing my ignorance of Gandhi, but I was also exposing my ignorance of Christ.

Quick recap:

Gandhi was a really smart guy: He was internationally educated. He spent his whole life in the pursuit of truth. He was  disciplined in mind and body. He was a servant. He was a world changer. He was wise. He was determined. He was full of conviction. And yet, after considering the religion I’ve spent my whole life clinging to as the one REAL truth, Gandhi wasn’t convinced.

To make matters worse, his criticism seemed valid. Christian missionaries were bastardizing India. Colonialism marched a disastrous path across Asia and Africa for centuries in the name of Christ. Surely if there was a good and a just God he could be found no matter how one chose to look for him!

(Are we sensing that this topic is a TAD too much for a blog? I am.)

I’m not going to answer the big questions… I can’t.

But something inside me believes that Jesus was who he said he was.

I don’t know if it’s true but I believe it is. I can’t stand behind everything Christianity has done throughout history. I can’t even stand behind my own ideas of Christianity. I can only stand behind Christ.

Christ doesn’t call me to convert or to convince others He just calls me to love them. He doesn’t command me to punish nonbelievers he commands me to serve them. He commands me never to judge. He tells me to pray for my enemies and to give to those who take from me. He reminds me that I must always do what’s right even if the path becomes narrow and dangerous, or even if everyone I love deserts me. Like he did.

So does it make me a heretic to think that God may rescue us in more ways than we can understand? Does it make me a universalist to think that God can meet people on their own paths, and in ways I could never imagine? Maybe.

I believe that Jesus matters. I believe He is central to salvation. I believe that somehow his death has saved me and that without him there is no hope and no life. I believe that this is good news.

But do I think a few Calormens might make it into Aslan’s country?

Yeah.

I do.

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