Gandhi vs. Christ

Editorial by Fr. Benny Aguiar, in the Examiner, the official organ of the 'Mumbai' diocese of the New Church, 26th. September 1992.

Lucio Mascarenhas.
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Lucio: The following article by a notorious and shameless 'Ecumenist' is a condensation of Gandhi's perverted version of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Gandhi, the disciple of Tolstoy and Romain Rolland, needless to add, was a great dissembler and seducer, a mix of Voltaire and Rasputin, and a progressively higher evolution from them. The passage, 'Even the Devil knows to quote Scriptures' is made real here. The original title of this editorial was Gandhi On Christ. I have changed it to reflect the true position.
What did Jesus mean to Gandhi? Did he have any influence on Gandhi's life and teaching? What according to Gandhi was the essence of Christ's message? Was Gandhi a secret Christian? What is the challenge that Gandhi presents to Christians and Christianity today?

Answers to these questions may be found in a recent book, 'Gandhi and Christianity' edited by Robert Ellsberg and published by Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York 10545. This book is an anthology of the speeches and writings of Gandhi on the subject as well as responses to Gandhi's challenge by various Christian scholars. It should be a valuable reference book on the ongoing dialogue between Christians and representatives of other religions.

Early in his life, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi had been reading the Bible to keep a promise he had made to a friend. He found the Old Testament extremely difficult going. He disliked the Book of Numbers. But the New Testament produced a different impression, especially the Sermon on the Mount which went straight to his heart. The verses about not resisting evil but offering the other cheek and giving the cloak to one who asked for one's coat delighted him beyond measure. They reminded him about something he had learned in his childhood about returning with gladness good for evil done.

"I did once seriously think of embracing the Christian faith," Gandhi told Millie Polak, the wife of one of his earliest disciples. "The gentle figure of Christ, so patient, so kind, so loving, so full of forgiveness that he taught his followers not to retailate when abused or struck, but to turn the other cheek, I thought it was a beautiful example of the perfect man..."

However, on another occasion, he said he could accept Jesus "as a martyr, an embodiment of sacrifice, and a divine teacher, but not as the most perfect man ever born. His death on the Cross was a great example to the world, but that there was anything like a mysterious or miraculous virtue in it, my heart could not accept."

"The message of Jesus as I understand it," said Gandhi, "is contained in the Sermon on the Mount unadulterated and taken as a whole... If then I had to face only the Sermon on the Mount and my own interpretation of it, I should not hesitate to say, 'Oh, yes, I am a Christian.' But negatively I can tell you that in my humble opinion, what passes as Christianity is a negation of the Sermon on the Mount... I am speaking of the Christian belief, of Christianity as it is understood in the west."

Gandhi could speak beautifully about the message and personality of Jesus. Talking about the Gospel passage of the rich young man, he said, "St. Mark has vividly described the scene. Jesus is in his solemn mood. He is earnest. He talks about eternity. He knows the world about him. He is himself the greatest economist of his time. He succeeded in sermonising time and space - He transcends them. It is to him at the best that one comes running, kneels down and asks, "Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said unto him, "One thing thou lackest. Go thy way, sell what thou hast and give it to the poor, and thou shall have treasure in heaven - come, take up the cross and follow me." Here you have an eternal rule of life stated in the noblest words the English language is capable of producing." Gandhi went on to say that he could quote even stronger passages from the Hindu scriptures and the lesson he wanted to draw was that if we could clean our houses, palaces and temples of the attributes of wealth and show in them the attributes of morality we could fight all hostile forces without military strength. Let us seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, he said, and the irrevocable promise is that everything will be added upon us. "These are real economics. May you and I treasure them and enforce them in our daily life."

Poverty, suffering, the Crosss, non-violence, morality - all these were part of the Kingdom of God. But for Gandhi what struck him most in the Sermon on the Mount was Christ's teaching on non-retaliation, or non-resistance to evil. "Of all the things I have read what remained with me forever was that Jesus came almost to give a new law - not an eye for an eye but to receive two blows when only one was given, and to go two miles when they were asked to go one. I came to see that the Sermon on the Mount was the whole of Christianity for him who wanted to live a Christian life. It is that sermon that has endeared Jesus to me."

"Jesus occupies in my heart," said Gandhi, "the place of one of the greatest teachers who have had a considerable influence on my life. I shall say to the Hindus that your life will be incomplete unless you reverentially study the teachings of Jesus... Make this world the kingdom of God and his righteousness and everything will be added unto you. I tell you that if you will understand, appreciate, and act up to the spirit of this passage, you won't need to know what place Jesus or any other teacher occupies in your heart."

For Gandhi, Jesus was the prince of Satyagrahists1. "The example of Jesus suffering is a factor in the composition of my un-dying faith in non-violence. What then does Jesus mean to me? To me, He was one of the greatest teachers humanity has ever had." For Gandhi, to say that Jesus was the only begotten son of God was to say that "in Jesus' own life was the key of his nearness to God, that he expressed as no other could, the spirit and will of God... I do believe that something of the spirit that Jesus exemplified in the highest measure, in its most profound human sense exist... If I did not believe it, I should be a sceptic, and to be a sceptic is to live a life that is empty and lacking moral content. Or, what is the same thing, to condemn the human race to a negative end."

Gandhi believed that in every man there was an impulse for good and a compassion that is the spark of divinity that will one day burst into the full flower that is the hope of all mankind. An example of this flowering, he said, may be found in the figure and in the life of Jesus. "I refuse to believe that there not exists or has ever existed a person that has not made use of his example to lessen his sins, even though he may have done so without realising it. The lives of all have, in some greater or lesser degree, been changed by His presence, His actions and the words spoken by His divine voice... I believe that he belongs not solely to Christianity, but to the entire world; to all races and people, it matters litle under what flag, name or doctrine they may work, profess a faith or worship a God inherited from their ancestors."

For Gandhi Jesus was the true satyagrahist who passed the test of non-violence even if he seemed to be otherwise a failure. "The virtues of mercy, non-violence, love and truth in any man can be truly tested when they are pitted against ruthlessness, violence, hate and untruth... This is the true test of Ahimsa2... He who when being killed bears no anger against his murderer and even asks God ot forgive him is truly non-violent. History relates this of Jesus Christ. With his dying breath on the Cross, he is reported to have said, "Father, forgive them for they know not what to do."

According to the theory of Satyagraha, said Gandhi, an adequate appeal to the heart never fails. "Seeming failure is not of the law of Satyagraha but of incompetence of the Satyagrahist by whatever cause induced. The name of Jesus at once comes to the lips. It is an instance of brillant failure. And he has been acclaimed in the west as the prince of passive resisters. I showed years ago in South Africa that the adjective 'passive' was a misnomer, at least as applied to Jesus. He was the most active resister known perhaps to history. His was non-violence par excellence."


Sir, - With reference to your editorial (Gandhi on Christ) of 26th September 1992 and Gandhi's attitude to Jesus, here is what the great Christian writer, C.S. Lewis, wrote: "I am here to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people say about Him: 'I am ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I do not accept His claim to be God.' This is the one thing we must not say.

"A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.

"He would be either a lunatic - on the level of a man who says he is a poached egg - or else he would be the Devil of Hell.

"You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a mad man or something worse.

"You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.

"But let us not come up with any patronising nonsense about His being a human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."
Martin Raghunath, Juhu, Bombay. 400058.

To Martin Raghunath and to C. S. Lewis, I say: AMEN!

Sir, - I was amazed at your editorial of September 26, 1992 as I was at the responses to it (October 10, 1992). The sad fact is that Gandhi approached Jesus and His Gospel 'cafetaria style' — take what you like, leave what you don't. He admired the Sermon on the Mount, but rejected Jesus' teaching on salvation by his atoning sacrifice and the whole of salvation theology as explained in the epistles of St. Paul. To Gandhi, Jesus was a great teacher and a good man, but not God's Son made flesh to die for the salvation of the world. And he never faced the real issue: how could a good man like Jesus claim to be the Son of God and the Saviour of the World, if He was not.

Rachel Rajaiah, Lokhandwala Complex, Bombay 5.
Notes by Lucio:

1. Satyagraha, the ideology developed by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, from the 'pacifist' and 'passive resistance' ideas of Tolstoy and Romain Rolland, etc. Means "the Imperation for Truth."

2. Ahimsa, non-violence. From the Sanskrit, 'a,' negation of, and 'himsa,' violence.
Lucio Mascarenhas.
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