MAHATMA GANDHI ON CHRISTIANITY: ACCEPT THE TEACHING, BUT NEVER ACCEPT THE TEACHER!

[ 0 ] November 2, 2018 |

Introduction

B. P. Khanal

This short article will briefly search for Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi account on Christianity. Many believed the conspiracy that Gandhi was a follower of Christ, others believed that he preferably gave higher regards on to the Bible as the very words of God, and some others still believe that he was a Christian. Even in Nepal, there are many Christian leaders who tend to make Gandhi a model for their leadership role in the church ministries. Why this conspiracy was propagated? So this paper will briefly analyze the fact that Gandhi was a kind of man who accepted some teachings of Christ, but never accepted Him as his Lord and savior. The source for this argument is based on MK Kuriakose’s book.[1]

Mohandas Karmachand Gandhi (1869-1948) was know as MK Gandhi in his youth, and later part his life into politics in India, he was credited as Mahatma (person with a great soul). During the pick hours the independent movement his party-men also called him Bappu, meaning father. And particularly because of his means of non-violent approach of political agitation called Satyagrah, he attracted a high regard from the Christian expatriate missionaries and Indian national Christian leaders as well. Among them according to the collected sources of information by Kuriakose, C. F. Andrew openly wrote a sympathetic article supporting the freedom movement led by Gandhi.[2] In addition to that most of the Christian leaders in India had shown consensual support, they formally passed a statement congratulating Gandhi for a successful termination of his fasting.[3] But, was Mahatma Gandhi sympathetic towards the Christians? After careful studying the historical accounts of Gandhi, one can say that he was rather very much intolerant towards Christianity. Following paragraphs will concisely highlight on what he believed and acted against the Christian belief as suggested to be:

A. One God and several paths to reach Him

A general rationale made by most of the socio-political leaders is that in answering to the question about deity they simply sum up all names of gods and tell you that there is only one God. According to them, those names just exist as different paths, which lead to the same destination. They take this side so no one would be offended by their speech and action. Perhaps Gandhi was the leading figure of this kind of cunning perception and practice. He plainly denied that Jesus Christ was the only way, truth and the life, but added His name among many other names. He argued, “If a man reaches the heart of his own religion, he has reached the heart of the others too. There is only one God, but there are many paths to Him.”[4]  This clearly shows that Gandhi had some respect to Jesus and His teachings, but never put his trust in Jesus as his only personal Lord and Savior.

B. What conversion meant to Gandhi?

Mahatma Gandhi disbelieved in conversion. For him, conversion means to undermine and reject someone’s faith. His understanding was that one can certainly become a better follower of his or her own faith. He fervently pursued teaching others to remain in the same faith and continually attempt to attain the truth within the faith or religion.[5]  He never encouraged people in propagation of Christian faith in particular.[6]  Rather, he stood against. He would obviously opposed evangelism and missionary efforts of the Christians. For him, Christian faith is just like any other religion, and to proselytization would ultimately drive away the peace from the world. His position was that all the great religions were fundamentally equal.[7]

C. Superiority of the Bible and Christ’s Deity denied

It is true that Mahatma Gandhi was a witty student of the New Testament Bible. He learnt a very basic principle of life from the Bible. And even his non-violent approach to political agitation, as believed by many was Jesus’ model of victory-through-tolerance. As He said and did, turning another cheek to be slapped, Gandhi adapted most of the teachings of New Testament, especially from Jesus’ sermon on mountain (Matthew 5-7 chapters). But he arrogantly rejected the Teacher. He also deliberately denied Christ’s deity. He credited Jesus as one of the great prophets. His account goes, “I cannot ascribe exclusive divinity to Jesus.”[8]

D. Western Christianity and Indian Nationalism

Why Mahatma Gandhi could not put his sincere faith in Christ? There could be many answers to this question. It is possibly be an answer to this that he was skeptic towards the Western missionaries that they were not in favor to Indian Nationalism. He opposed those Indian nationals who partook “beef and brandy in the name of Jesus Christ.”[9]  He considered the Indian Christianity did nothing to help the Nation of India to get better. He saw Christianity had contributed negative towards the nationalism, and it appeared to him synonymous with materialistic civilization and imperialistic exploitation, [10]  which came along with the Christianity.

Conclusion

Above accounts were gathered for the materials that enlisted by Kuriakose, which sets forth the facts that Mahatma Gandhi was not a Christian as some of the Christian leaders still believe. The author has encountered that many leaders openly acknowledging that Gandhi was the man of true understanding and practices of the New Testament. But now, after reading Kuriakose’s source materials on Gandhi, every reader would truly recognize who he was in reality. He accepted the New Testament teachings and used them to influence the modern Hindus, atheists, and political freedom fighters. He cleverly attracted most influential Western Christian missionaries and also the national Indian Christian leaders by the disguised Biblical characters.  He earned favor of everybody by his life of simplicity, but he lost his own life by denying Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

Why Gandhi heartily accepted the New Testament teachings and rejected the Teacher? One clue is to be noticed that he would always longing to embrace the Nationalism as Indian national so he challenged the Christians to be serious followers of Christ by their daily walk. Perhaps, he misguided himself by mistakenly setting an equal standard to all religious scriptures with the Bible and all great men of the founding a religion with Jesus Christ. But what he personally experienced in the British Western empire, which also was supposedly a Christendom, and what he noticed the Indian church’s position towards the emerging Nationalistic movement were the ones that driven away him from truly following the Christian faith. He witnessed the war, hatred, poverty, crime and discriminations even within the church, which might have distracted him from receiving Christian faith for his life.[11] But, failed to see what the Christian mission was contributing to the Nation of India. He failed to acknowledge the Bible as only and true source of information about the ultimate Creator God. And more than these, he failed to witness the sincere life of Christians in his time, who would indeed talk their walk of life in Christ.

[1]MK Kuriakose, History of Christianity in India: Source Materials. New Delhi, The ISPCK, 1982 (4th reprint 2011), pp 321-323, 330-332, 343-344, 362-363, 368-369, 374.

[2]C. F. Andrews on India Independence (1921). pp326-330.

[3]Resolutions of the All-India Conference of India Christians (1943), p374.

 [4]Gandhi’s attitude to Christianity: Polak Interview (c.1920), p321.

[5]Gandhi on Conversion and Indigenous Identity of Indian Christians (1925), p332; and Gandhi’s Dialogue with J.R. Mott (1929), p344;  also with C.F. Andrew (1936), p362-363

[6]Gandhi on Conversion and Indigenous Identity of Indian Christians (1925), p332

[7]Ibid, p363.

[8]Mahatma Gandhi on Christianity (1937), p368.

 [9]Ibid, p332.

[10]Gandhi on the contribution of Christianity to the National Life (1929), p343.

[11]Gandhi’s Attitude to Christianity: Polak Interview (1920), p322.

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Category: Bible Study & Teaching