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Soul Survivor: Gandhi and Our Dilemma

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Currently Reading
Soul Survivor : How Thirteen Unlikely Mentors Helped My Faith Survive the Church
By Philip Yancey
see related

Gandhi. Just a name fo so long. But reading Yancey's book has given me a whole new take on the man, and I am having a very hard time putting into words what is affecting me so deeply about him, and the type of things Yancey brings out. I find mysefl deeply disturbed, and it does go deep.

The best place I can start at is that it is how the church responded to him. "The church did not make a favourable impression on me," Gandhi remembers, citing dull sermons and a congregation who "appeared rather to be worldly minded, people going to church for recreation and conformity with custom." (p.173) While still a lawyer in South Africa, a proclaiming Christian society, he was "thrown off trains, excluded from hotels and restaurants, and barred from some Christian gatherings." He was greatly impressed by C.F. Andrews, whom even the Indians themselves named "Christ's Faithful Apostle". He was turned away from an Andrews meeting because of the colour of his skin. He became close friends with Andrews later, but he never forgot this incident. As E. Stanley Jones concludes, "Racialism has many sins to bear, but perhaps its worst sin was the obscuring of Christ when one of the greatest souls born of a woman was making his decision." (p.175) (Deep deep sigh…..)

Mahatma, through the strength of his own will, lived out the teachings of Jesus, teachings he said often were the guidlines for his life, while we, with the strength of the Holy Spirit, still struggle greatly to crucify our flesh daily. Gandhi wrote, "I must become zero", and we know this is true. On the surface, he lived this out. Yet he rejected Christianity as a religion, rejected the deity of Jesus and that His sacrifice alone could atone for our sins.

Maybe it's just me that is straining to hear his life. Have I Iet materialism affect me? Am I becoming zero? Is Jesus a made up figure I, or we, have created, or do we truly understand who He was, what He stood for, what He asks of us? I am not sure, but I am willing to hear, listen, obey. I hope.

I know Gandhi was Gandhi, and Darren is Darren, and Christ has His own call on all of us. As someone responded to me the other day after I told her that Gandhi carried all his belongings in a bag and took a goat with him everywhere to make milk for him, "Well, that's great for Gandhi!" Yes. It's just that a life like Gandhi's screams out at me in this capital- , material- , hedonistic culture, "Don't get trapped! Keep life simple! Remember the poor! Treat all men equally! (and that means in thought, deed, motive, etc.)"

The most gripping part to me was at the end of the chapter. Yancey is talking with Christian believers in New Delhi. The goal of this community was to try and live out Jesus' radical call to his followers.

"One thoughtful young Indian who had sat quietly through the discussion spoke up at this. 'I don't understand', he said. 'You seem to say the West in general is receptive to a saint, someone like Gandhi who stands apart from culture. But is the church receptive? You have said that American Christianity has never produced a saint who follows along the lines of a Gandhi. You seem to imply that if a Gandhi rose up in the American church today, he would not be taken seriously (refer back to my friend's quote earlier), would perhaps be laughed at and rejected. (Gandhi wore loincloth usually, looked funny, brought a goat with him everywhere, refused first class, slept in hovels and slums where the poorest were…what would you do?) And yet those same Christians say they worship Jesus Christ. Why don't they reject Him? He lived a simple life, preached love and nonviolence, refused to compromise with the powers of this world. He called on his followers to 'take up a cross' and bear the sufferings of the world. Why don't American Christians reject him?" (p.176)

Yancey says it was a good question, and one he couldn't answer. My question: What do we do with Gandhi and his life, a man who rejected Jesus, but lived out the life Jesus taught?

"Stoning prophets and erecting churches to their memory afterwards has been the way of the world through the ages. Today we worship Christ, but the Christ in the flesh we crucified." – Mahatma Gandhi


One comment on “Soul Survivor: Gandhi and Our Dilemma

  1. I am interested if WordPress allows a forum like discussion for each entry. Let's see if this works.

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