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Mahatma GandhiA Good Gandhi Home Page
In January of 1983, my future wife and I saw a movie that I was to never forget, and which was to leave a permanent impression on me. Gandhi, with Ben Kingsley, was an epic production, and I was to use the video tape of that movie with several groups in the future.
For me, the question was raised by that movie which has led me to an openness concerning the issue of ecumenicism, and how far one can go in a "Christian" theology toward giving legitimacy to spiritualities that do not explicitly call upon Jesus Christ as their guiding priniciple.
It raised also the question of the status of an individual who is raised in a culture with a dominant theological outlook other than some brand of evangelical Christianity. Are these people lost and without God? I was struck with the story of Gandhi, and the kind of struggle he led, and the "theology" that he spread. He did more to enable and promote community and sacraficing love than the majority of churches and Christian organizations that I have known.
I read a couple of biographies of Gandhi after that movie, and began to think a lot about just what it means to "believe in Christ". Gandhi himself realized that in order to "believe", it must be something that one "lives by". Clarence Jordan said that the word "belief" comes from Greek that means "to live by". To "be-lieve" is to "live by". Jordan also pointed out that to "take the name in vain" has really nothing to do with cussing while using the word "god" or "Jesus Christ". It has to do with "taking the name" ; claiming to be a follower, and then living as if it meant nothing. So I could stand around saying "Buddha-damn" and never take the name of Buddha in vain, because I've never "taken it" in the first place. It's the Christians, those who take upon themself the name of Christ, that can take the name in vain. If our life is no differnet than that of the dominant culture, then we take the name in vain.
So with Gandhi, I think he "lived" the teachings of Jesus to a radical extent, and that he had the love of God in him. The fact that he was raised in a culture that did not teach him Christianity is irrelevant. Christ for me is a Cosmic Christ; bigger than the theologies which have been constructed around him. The life spirit which he pointed us toward----the very prescence of God-----is not limited to what can be explained of him. The spirit moves and works among all of God's creation, and while there is much that has been "preserved" for us by our Christian tradition in Western society, there is still much that we have diluted, distorted, and compromised in the name of politics, power, or economics.
Gandhi was a true ecumenist in this sense. When asked by a Christian if he wished to convert him to Hinduism, Gandhi said no, he only wished for the Christian to be the best Christian he could be. Gandhi brought together the highest aspirations of many of the great teachings of his culture. For this wide embrace, he was despised by the fundamentalist ranks of Hinduism, who were to eventually assasinate him.
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