Beyond Christianity

Gandhi Loved Jesus – But Often Disliked Christians

What if deep, genuine love and respect for Jesus are actually more holy, more saving, than what most American Christians think and do when they say they “believe in” Jesus?

Gandhi loved Jesus, but often disliked Christians.

Let’s not present him in a way calculated just to make us look better. We don’t actually look better – especially when we do that – so give it up.
These remarks about Gandhi being “Wrong” appeared online (quoted below), attributed to a currently prominent Evangelical writer. I could not find a good source so will not name names. But these ways of thinking and arguing are very common in “evangelical” circles, and I can easily believe he did say it.

I don’t like it.  We don’t have to be like this.

He misrepresents Gandhi – both Gandhi’s teaching and his practice.

  1. Of several points, here’s a key one: Gandhi himself defined “ahimsa” in a much more rigorous way than is represented here.
    • It meant rigorous self-awareness and self-discipline in spiritual life and in service.  It meant rigorous study of the people and needs around so as to appropriately serve them.
      • He said satyagraha (his strategy of spiritual and public work) required “great study, tremendous perseverance, and thorough cleansing of oneself”.
      • For Gandhi, Ahimsa is very active, energetic, intelligent, proactive, publicly engaged – not at all a “live and let live tolerance”. It is profoundly self-sacrificial, profoundly alert to the sufferings and the needs of others, profoundly attentive to issues of strategy in dealing with those needs.
    • So if we’re going to complain about Gandhi, let’s deal with Gandhi, not make-believe, not just some generalized Hindu climate of opinion.  After all, we do not appreciate being slandered by general cultural opinions about our own faith.  We should never do that to others.
      • And by all means let’s not present him in a way calculated just to make us look better.  We don’t actually look better – especially when we do that – so give it up.
  2. Gandhi practiced what he preached – and India knew it. And his practice demonstrated love for all fellow-Indians, particularly the lowest and most despised.  And India knew it and loved him for it.
    • Most of America today has quite an opposite evaluation of the most prominent “Christian” spokespersons, and therefore of Christian faith itself.  That’s our fault, not Gandhi’s.
  • He ignores the blatant reality that Gandhi did practice the “Golden Rule” (and ahimsa), FAR better than most western or westernized Christians practice either the Golden Rule or other parts of their own professed faith.  And Gandhi knew that.  And Christians who knew him generally admitted it.
    • Jesus said to judge them by their fruits – that is, not by their professions or arguments about speculative theology or moral theory.  Gandhi, of course, agreed with Jesus on that. He also measured up.
  • Gandhi loved and respected Jesus.
    What if deep, genuine love and respect are actually more holy, more saving, than what most American Christians think and do when they say they “believe in” Jesus?
    • What if love and respect and follow actually equal “believe in”? What if deep, genuine love and respect are actually more holy, more saving, than what most American Christians think and do when they say they “believe in” Jesus?
    • Gandhi frequently said that he loved Christ – that it was Christians he had a problem with.
  • The article implies that Gandhi was more passive and uninvolved than Christians are, or are called to be, which is wildly false.  Wildly false.
Gandhi did practice the “Golden Rule” (and his own religion), FAR better than most western or westernized Christians practice either the Golden Rule or the rest of their own professed faith.  And he knew it. And Christians who knew him generally admitted it.
The argument is that “ahimsa” does not measure up to Jesus’ standard of “The Golden Rule.’  That’s false, based on what Jesus meant with “the Golden Rule” and what Gandhi meant by “ahimsa”.  The article also argues that holding up a standard of self-sacrificial love is “relativistic” and therefore “wrong.”  That’s ridiculous.

That critic lifts a VERY high theoretical standard.

The thing is, Gandhi actually lived up to it, and Christians are notorious for not doing so, AND for even ignoring it – or often much worse.

So –

What do we GAIN from such misrepresentation?

  • Confidence?
  • Strength?
  • Pride – a sense of superiority?  “At least we’re better than that” famous truly holy and respected person (He, by the way, thinks adherents to our religion are often arrogant and hypocritical – How Dare He!?).
  • Someone we can point at and complain about to distract attention from our own failures? Ah. Maybe that’s what’s going on.
  • What we can get for sure: A bad reputation!
  • Another thing we can get for sure: Damage of our witness, and damage of our own spirits.

We’re doing the opposite of what the Golden Rule requires, by:

  • Assuming moral superiority
  • Presuming logical superiority
  • Assuming theological superiority
  • Refusing to look and listen carefully before we criticize
  • Refusing to discuss with patience and accuracy
  • Slandering
  • Refusing to give credit where credit is due
  • Refusing to entertain legitimate questions about our own practice

And it all still leaves us without the holy, loving, carefully informed PRACTICE which Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi actually achieved personally and helped to promote in the lives of millions of other people.

I don’t like it.  We don’t have to be like this.

Jesus said to judge them by their fruits - not by their arguments over speculative theology, or over who has the best moral theories. Gandhi, of course, agreed with Jesus on that. He also measured up.Click To Tweet

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Here’s the article I’m complaining about:

“Gandhi Was Wrong” by xxxx August 6, 2018

Mahatma Gandhi was fond of saying, “The various religions are like different roads converging on the same point. What difference does it make if we follow different routes, provided we arrive at the same destination?” His sentiment has become very popular in our globalized, relativistic culture, and it is often linked to platitudes about The Golden Rule being the heart of all religions. However comforting this idea may be, it remains entirely untrue.

Eastern religions like Jainism, Buddhism, and Gandhi’s own Hinduism are predicated on the rule of Ahisma which means to “do no harm” or “cause no injury” to any living creature. This is certainly an admirable calling, but it fails to capture the fullness of what Jesus taught with his Golden Rule. For this reason some have called Ahisma the Silver Rule—it is good but there is something better.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus commanded: “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.” This is more than a call to avoid harm or injury; it is command to active love. As Dallas Willard notes, “The Golden Rule is devoted to the good in the lives of those around us, and this reaches far beyond the mere absence of harm…it aspires toward a remarkable richness in their lives, not simply the alleviation of their suffering.”

Some religions should be commended for leading us on a path of non-violence and a live-and-let-live tolerance. The path of Christ, however, leads us to far more. It seeks the flourishing of all through self-sacrificial love.

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