Mahatma Gandhiji's views on Christianity
Gandhi and Christianity
Henry Polak and his wife Millie Graham Polak were quite to close to Gandhi. They actually formed members of his household in South Africa. Mr. Polak, then a young lawyer and editor of a journal, "Critic," presented John Ruskin's book "Unto the Last" to Gandhi which greatly influenced him. John Newman's "Lead Kindly Light" was Gandhi's favorite prayer. Ms. Millie has given affectionate and intimate recollections of Gandhi household and her conversations with Gandhi on many matters. Following excerpts are from her book, "Mr. Gandhi, the Man" which gives Gandhi's religious belief and deep insight of other religions.
"Is Mr. Gandhi a Christian?", a visitor asked Millie. Ms. Millie asked for further clarification whether she meant one converted to Christianity or one who believed in the teachings of Christ. The visitor emphatically told she meant former. She was talking about him with some friends and they were wondering that Gandhi knew Christian scriptures so well, and fond of quoting words of Christ frequently and hence her friends thought he must be a Christian.
Ms. Millie brooded over. What the visitor said was true. Mr. Gandhi frequently quoted the sayings and teachings of Jesus. The lesson of the "Sermon on the Mount" seemed to constantly in his mind, and was a source of guidance and inspiration to him. There was beautiful picture of Jesus Christ that adorned the wall over his desk. (There was no picture of the Buddha or of Krishna in the office, and only three other pictures were to be seen on the walls. One was of Justice Ranade, the great Indian social reformer. Another was of Annie Besant, ever eager to defend the downtrodden and to denounce injustice. The third picture was of Sir William Wilson Hunter, editor of "Imperial Gazetteer of India" who had very strongly written against the system of Indian indentured labor which he called as "semi-slavery," and at home there was photograph of Dadhbhai Naoroji, grand men and women who were fighting for liberation of the oppressed and so were dear to Mr. Gandhi's heart. But in the center of his office room was the face of Christ.)
When asked why he did not embrace Christianity, Gandhi has said that he had studied the scriptures and was tremendously attracted. But eventually he came to the conclusion that there was nothing really special in the scriptures which he had not got in his own, and "to be a good Hindu also meant that I would be a good Christian. There was no need for me to join your creed to be a believer in the beauty of the teachings of Jesus or try to follow His example," he said.
"What do you think is the essential lesson for man in the teaching of Christianity?" Gandhi asked Millie. "I could think of two or three. But one that stands out strongest is "One is your Master Christ and all ye are brethren," said Millie. "Yes," replied Gandhi, "and Hinduism teaches the same great truth and Mohammedanism and Zoroastrianism, too."
Derived from Millie Graham Polak's book Gandhi, The Man.
Why did Mahatma Gandhiji hate "Christianity"?
Mahatma Gandhi is one of the most respected leaders of modern history. A Hindu, Gandhi nevertheless admired Jesus and often quoted from the Sermon on the Mount. Once when the missionary E. Stanley Jones met with Gandhi he asked him, "Mr. Gandhi, though 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 your Christ. I love your Christ. It's just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ."
Apparently Gandhi's rejection of Christianity grew out of an incident that happened when he was a young man practising law in South Africa. He had become attracted to the Christian faith, had studied the Bible and the teachings of Jesus, and was seriously exploring becoming a Christian. And so he decided to attend a church service. As he came up the steps of the large church where he intended to go, a white South African elder of the church barred his way at the door. "Where do you think you're going, kaffir?" the man asked Gandhi in a belligerent tone of voice.
Gandhi replied, "I'd like to attend worship here."
The church elder snarled at him, "There's no room for kaffirs in this church. Get out of here or I'll have my assistants throw you down the steps."
From that moment, Gandhi said, he decided to adopt what good he found in Christianity, but would never again consider becoming a Christian if it meant being part of the church.
How we treat those others tells the people MORE about what we believe, and what following Jesus means to us than all tracts we pass out, or all the fine semons we deliver.
“We, as Christians need to understand the true essence of the religion that Christ came down to this earth to spread. Only if we are able to understand that will we be able to spread it correctly. So, our task is two-fold. First we need to perceive and understand Christ’s Christianity and not Christianity’s Christ. Christianity is not merely a religion meant for a select few. Instead it is a way of life that is open to all that want to accept it. Many believers are of the view that the best way to spread the message of Christianity is by giving a message through the Bible. But this is not so. When we understand the true message of Christianity we will be able to propagate it by using our lives as examples.
Let me illustrate this point by using an example. Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of our Nation, and a Hindu by religion had a great friend by the name of C F Andrews. So close was their friendship that Andrews was probably one of the few people who called the Mahatma - Mohan. Gandhi is quoted as having said: “I have not known a better man than C.F.Andrews.” Till this day, on January 26th (Republic Day) you will hear the song of Abide with Me being played. This is because Gandhiji would sing this song taught to him by C F Andrews everyday before going to bed. Who was C F Andrews? C F Andrews was an exemplary Christian who was also called ‘Christ’s Faithful Apostle’. But these two great men bridged the vast chasm of culture, tradition and religion and were bound by their attitude to life which was conditioned by their values, morals, beliefs and understanding of God. Therefore, though being staunch followers of their respective faiths, they were the firmest of friends and respected each other immensely. Gandhiji himself is quoted as saying, “If Christ’s Christianity was to be preached then the whole world would become Christians.”
To understand the true meaning of Christianity, it is not enough only to accept Christ – we have to be like Him. Our lives should exemplify His life. In our relationships with people, in our reactions to circumstances, in our degree of faith, in our strength in crises we need to behave the way Christ would have. And how do we know how to be Christ-like? Prayer is the answer. It is the way we communicate to God and ask him for strength and wisdom to deal with the everyday problems of life. And when we present all our problems to Him, be sure to be receptive to the answers He gives…..”