Gandhi, Faith, and Tolerance

Ben Kingsley's portrayal of Gandhi in the 1982 movie was a serious challenge to my Pentecostal Christian faith. The beauty of Gandhi's unparalleled devotion, as represented in the film, made me question whether there might be some truth in non-Christian faiths.

If this were true, according to my thinking at the time, it made Christianity's other claims suspect as well. To settle the matter, I excluded Gandhi (and with him, nonviolence, India, contemplation, vegetarianism, and everything else I thought the Mahatma represented) in order to preserve my own personal brand of religious orthodoxy.

Recently, works such as Robert Ellsberg's Gandhi on Christianity (Orbis Books, 1991, $12.95, paper) have shown me that this kind of all-or-nothing extremist view denies much of Christianity's historical legacy, and that the children of God squander many of the richest blessings offered us by dismissing other traditions. This book causes us, as Bob McCahill, M.M., writes on the closing pages, to "look at the Mahatma and think: How beautiful it is to be broad-minded."

According to Ellsberg, Gandhi "helped restore to the Christian West the 'dangerous memory' of the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus' radical commandment of love." This collection of Gandhi's writings and thoughts on Christianity does much to remind us of this fact.

Gandhi on Christianity includes sections on Gandhi's encounters with Christianity and Christian missionaries, his interpretation of the message of Jesus, and his thoughts on religious tolerance. The work also includes rich theological insights on Gandhi offered by Diana L. Eck, Ignatius Jesudasan, S.J., James W. Douglass, and Bob McCahill, M.M.

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Sojourners Magazine December 1992
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