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


Introduction
This paper will briefly search on the accounts of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi about Christianity in India and beyond. Many believe the conspiracy that Gandhi was a follower of Christ, others believe that he preferably gave higher regards unto the Bible as the very words of God, and still some others 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. What was the reason to take him as Christian, and why this conspiracy was propagated? We will try to briefly analyze the facts that Gandhi was a kind of man who accepted some teachings of the Bible, the New Testament in particuar, but never accepted Jesus as his Lord and savior. The source for this argument, we are primarily based on MK Kuriakose's book, History of Christianity in India: Source Materials[1]
Mohandas Karmachand Gandhi (1869-1948) was known as MK Gandhi in his youth, and also in the later part his life into the politics in India. He was credited as Mahatma (person with a great soul). During the later succeeding days of independent movement, his party-men also called him Bappu, meaning father. And, particularly because of his 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 source materials collected in the book, one can say that in what extend Gandhi was intolerant towards Christianity. Following paragraphs will concisely highlight on what he believed indeed.
a.      One God and several paths to Him
It is well accepted that Gandhi was a political leader. Because of his nonviolent approach to political agitation called Styagrah, he was considered as a political leader with religious characters. But he was not a leading religious figure. Thus like all other political leaders in the country of vast diversity, he also made a general perception that 'all paths lead to one destination.'  Most of the socio-political leaders would put on masks, seem to be inclusive to every one but at the end stand with the majority. Thus, to answer the question about ultimate deity they simply sum up all gods as to one, and tell you that there is only one God. According to them, those names of the gods and goddesses just exist as different paths, which ultimately lead to the same destination. They take this side, so no one would be offended by their speech and involvement with religious communities. It is clear that Gandhi was the leading voice of this ideology. He openly admired the teaching of Jesus Christ, yet plainly denied that He was the only way, truth and the life, rather, and added Him among so many other gods and goddesses. In one of his interviews, 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 never put his trust in Jesus as his 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 is 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 in propagation of Christian faith in particular.[6] Rather, 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 lot from Bible. And even his non-violent approach of political agitation, as believed by many was Jesus' model of victory-through-toleration 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 teachers. 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 speculated 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 India get better. He saw Christianity had contributed negative towards the nationalism, and it appeared to him synonymous with materialistic civilization and imperialistic exploitation, which came along with the Christianity.[10]
Conclusion
The account here, gathered and enlisted by Kuriakose sets forth the facts that Mahatma Gandhi was not a Christian as some of the Nepali Christian leaders still believe. The author has heard the 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 also 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. 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]



[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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