Mahatma Gandhi’s View on Christianity (Originally published in catholic weekly “The Messenger”)

If not for Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the Indian Independence struggle would have taken longer with more bloodshed, division and war. When senior leaders of the Hindu political groups urged Gandhi to respond ‘Violence with Violence’ and ‘sword with sword’ he opposed insisting and exhorting the path of non-Violence and peace, which Gandhi’s biggest sword to combat the trained and fully-equipped forces.

For sure this Great man is one of the most respected leaders of modern history, for not only his life, but also his ideals and his message to the people.

Although Hindu, Gandhi had a very close connection with Christianity and admired Jesus very much, often quoting from his favourite ‘Sermon on the Mount’ Chapter in Mathew 5-7.

When the missionary E Stanley Jones met Gandhi he asked him,

“Mr. Gandhi, through you quote the words of Christ often, why is that you appear to so adamantly reject becoming his follower?”

Gandhi replied “Oh, I don’t reject Christ. I love Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike Christ”

“If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian today” he added.

Gandhi’s closeness with Christianity began when he was a young man practicing Law in south Africa. Apart from being attached with the Christian faith, he intently studied the Bible and teachings of Jesus, and so was also seriously exploring becoming a Christian which led him to his discovery of a small church gathering in his locality.

These strongly entrenched Biblical teachings have always acted a panacea to many of India’s problems during its freedom struggle.

After deciding to attend the church service in South Africa he came across a racial barrier, the church barred his way at the door. “Where do you think you’re going Kaffir?” an English man asked Gandhi in a belligerent tone. Ghandi replied, “ I’ d like to attend worship here”

The church elder snarled at him “There is no room for Kaffirs in this church. Get out of here or I’II have my assistants throw you down the steps”

This infamous incident forced Gandhi to never again consider being a Christian, but rather adopt what he found in Christianity and its founder Jesus Christ .

In a speech to Women missionaries in 28 July 1925, he said, “..although I am myself not a Christian, as an humble student of the Bible, who approaches it with faith and reverence, I wish respectfully to place before the essence of the sermon on the Mount…there are thousands of men and women today who, though they may not have heard about the Bible or Jesus have more faith and are more God fearing than Christians who know the Bible and who talk of its ten commandments…”

To a Christian missionary Gandhi once said, “To live the gospel is the most effective way most effective in the middle and in the end…Not just preach but live the life according to the light…if, therefore, you go on serving people and asked them also to serve, they would understand.

But you quote instead John 3:16 and ask them to believe it and that has no appeal to me, and I am sure people will not understand it..the Gospel will be more powerful when practiced and preached”

“A rose does not need to preach. It simply spreads its fragrance of religious and spiritual life is much finer and subtler than that of Rose”

In many ways Gandhi was right, the intense proselytization by Christian by Christian missionaries in India through force and allurement forced him to make many scathing statements against Christian missionaries, which several times inspired them to retrospect and change the way the way of approach in ‘Evangelization’

“ If Jesus came to earth again, he would disown many things that are being done in the name of Christianity” Gandhi said during his meeting with an English missionary. Here I am remembered of Sadhu Sundar Singh who is said to have done more to “indigenize” the churches of India than any figures in the twentieth century.

“You have offered us Christianity in a western cup…Give it to us in an Eastern bowl and we will drink of it” is a famous statement by Singh, who converted from Sikh to Christianity after his personal experience with Jesus, who appeared in his room on one morning in the year 1905, when he was just fifteen-years old.

Stanley Jones once asked Gandhi: “How can we make Christianity naturalized in India, not a foreign thing,  identified with a foreign government and a foreign people, but a part of the national life of India and contributing its power to India’s uplift?”

Gandhi responded with clarity, “ First I would suggest that all Christians, missionaries begin to live more like Jesus Christ.

Second, practice it without adulterating it or toning it down. Third emphasize love and make it your working force, for love is central in Christianity. Fourth, study the non-Christian religions more sympathetically to find the good that is within them, on order to have a more sympathetic approach to the people”

“Therefore it is very important for Christians to practice Christianity among the non-believers so that they can know the real love of Lord Jesus”