Pushing Thirty

and shedding pretentions

Is Ghandi a model Christian?

From time to time, in the midst of a foray on issues of justice and oppression, I catch a little line of thought that always seems to get a voice.  Often, it ends up being the last word, a sort of seal-the-deal argument that puts all dissent to rest. The words are always a bit different, but the idea is consistent:

Ghandi was a better Christian than most Christians.

Its a powerful line.  When it gets used, it stands as the definitive proof that Christians by and large aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing. This line of thinking really deserves a closer look, because there are some assumptions at work here and an implicit misunderstanding that is not helpful.

First, we should probably set aside the concern that Christian’s aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing.  That may or may not be a self-evident truth, but since we’re evaluating Ghandi as a standard, it would be best to hold off on that one.  But what might be a good starting point is the reasoning: if Christians were properly obeying the teachings of Jesus, their lives would look like Ghandi.  This means that Ghandi’s life, though he didn’t accept Jesus as God, lined up with the fundamental teachings of Jesus Christ, better, in fact, than most people who do accept him as God.

Now, these are murky waters, but the principle that must be accepted at this point for the Ghandi Theory to be true is that Jesus chief teaching, the core of his Life message was two distinct things:  1) Turn the Cheek, and 2) Help the Poor and Oppressed.  Together, these principles form a social doctrine of passivism and liberation.  And since Ghandi was a social advocate that popularized passivism and was a member of a massive global liberation trend, he stands forth as the model Christian, to whom few professing Christians actually make the grade when stacked beside him.

I’ve got a few good reasons why this isn’t a great way to approach the issues.  But I’ll save them for a follow up post.

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July 20, 2008 - Posted by | Christ, Religion | , , , ,

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