Mahatma Gandhi was a great spiritual and political leader who demonstrated the ability of one person to make a difference and to do so via methods of peace and nonviolence. Sadly, the man who lived the way of nonviolence was shot to death by a Hindu extremist who was tired of Gandhi’s acceptance and tolerance of Muslims. In his lifetime, Gandhi was arrested several times for leading peaceful demonstrations of civil disobedience which, in each case, were attempts to make better the plight of the poor, the forgotten and, in some cases, those who were grossly sinned against by the Empire. Gandhi was once quoted saying, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” I think this was a very astute and powerful observation. In Jesus, Gandhi read about a Nazarene who lived the way of nonviolence and who in fact was an inspiration to Gandhi.
In the Anglican Calendar today is the commemoration of Charles I, martyr of the church. This man was executed because of his tolerance toward the Roman church. He had married a Roman Catholic and it was all downhill from there. After his capture, he was offered his life and could have perhaps saved his throne if he would turn away from the idea of the “catholicity” of the church and embrace congregationalism as a truer representation of the Church of England. When he refused to denounce the historic episcopacy of the Church of England, his fate was sealed. Because he held firm, he is considered a martyr of the church. Charles lived in a time when religious tolerance was far from the norm. By most accounts, Charles was peculiar in that he rejected religious persecution of any kind. His fight was for an understanding of the church that embraced the real presence of the Divine in the sacraments and in the leadership of the church. For that principle he gave up his life. The story of Charles I is quite interesting, and you can read more about by clicking here.
All of this history of fighting between the Roman Church and the Church of England brings me right back to “the great soul (Mahatma)” Gandhi. He was so right in his assertion for tolerance, for acceptance, and for respect. He was so right to, from the outside, offer a very candid criticism of the body faithful who profess Christianity. Gandhi had a lot of respect for Jesus, but could never figure out “the Christians.” Sadly, the story of King Charles I is one little piece of a large jigsaw puzzle of dissent, disrespect and, in some cases, even hate among Christians. Charles was put to death over 350 years ago. As we look around the church today can we claim to be much better? Just this past weekend the Anglican Network in Canada lobbied Anglicans in Windsor to adopt their brand of exclusion and intolerance, asking Anglicans to turn away from the universal nature of God’s love to embrace a singular way of being church. And make no mistake about the anger and vitriol that “the true believers” have for those of us who preach tolerance and respect for all people. One letter to the editor not so long ago went so far as to say that Anglicans should “not accept platitudes from their clergy about Jesus’ teaching tolerance and love.” It leaves me asking what they should accept from their clergy, if they cannot accept the very basic nature of what Jesus taught in his living and in his journey. Thankfully most people are not taking this very seriously and, apart from one parish in this city, there is no real audience for this brand of exclusion.
In looking at the many quarrels, disagreements and theological rifts that have permeated the years, including the present debate in the Anglican Church, it would be fair to say that Gandhi was right; “Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Let’s tear a page from history today and lament the times humanity has rejected tolerance, and seek to reflect in our actions Christianity based on Jesus – not on the few men who over the past number of years claim to speak for him.
3nteresting in that we jus passed 9artin Luther 6ing day. 3t was his study of +andhi that formed his principles of non violence as the way to change.
Yes Indeed Scott – I was in NL when Martin Luther King Day was commemorated. In reading up on The great American social prophet, I was impressed with the way he was influenced by Gandhi as well. In Martin Luther King\’s own words regarding Gandhi "As I read, I became deeply fascinated by his campaigns of nonviolent resistance. As I delved deeper into the philosophy of Gandhi, my skepticism concerning the power of love gradually diminished, and I came to see for the first time its potency in the area of social reform." The rest as they say is history. It is sad to note that each of these great men were taken in the most violent manner…it seems a very terrible paradox. It is also a strong reminder of how very much these men were committed to the cause of peace and the way of nonviolence – so much so that they would give their lives.
Ghandi has always been a tremendous hero of mine. Although, on paper, we have (had) almost nothing in common, I have always felt that his approach to people and issues was much the same as mine. Before he went about his life\’s work in India, he was a lawyer in England, and is known amongst that set as one of the first to get both sides of a dispute into a comfortable room with coffee to get them to talk through their issues successfully. He believed legal structures should only exist to resolve a small portion of certain types of disputes. I suspect (although I don\’t know as much as about his faith as I should) that he would regard the Church similarly. That the Church exists to create certain structures for limited purposes, but that faith is larger than the Church, more personal than the Church and more fluid than the Church. In placing substantial weight in what the Church says, we are missing our own callings.
Any moment now my husband and I are expecting our first child. We are an ecumenical family– Anglican and RC (much like Chas 1). Currently we want to baptise the child in the RC faith because the city in which the child will be raised is very RC, and we think it\’s important to pick a Church to start the child in so that they can branch out on their own with a good basic understanding. From there the child can be Hindu for all it will matter to us. There\’s an RC church right around our corner, so it\’s easier as well. The current concern is whether we can even baptise the child RC given our faith quilt of a family, and that the godparents we want aren\’t all RC. Exclusion still happens based on the insurmountable insignificanies of Church and it\’s a shame. Maybe our child will adopt a Ghandi-esque attitute (and a Chas 1 attitude) and set about changing minds in his/her lifetime. We can only hope.
Glad you made it back from your difficult trip in one piece (physically at least).
We are back i one piece – sort of!
I am certain that any child raised into your household which has a very "Generous Orthodoxy" will no doubt do fine in faith – I would suggest despite the church and not because of it. We will say some prayers for openess and a sense of respect for all. Sponors into Christianity should be Christian – ie baptised persons. Last I checked there are a few of us kicking around that are Christian but are not RC. Hopefully the parish around the corner will recoginize that truth and understand the depth of faith that you family will offer to any child.
Cheers for now
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