3 Reasons To Stop Quoting Gandhi

Gandhi

He was a great worldwide leader of the peaceful civil disobedience movement. American Civil Rights activists like Martin Luther King Jr. saw him as a blazing forerunner to their cause for equality.

Gandhi spoke and lived out a wealth of worthy truth; I would never suggest we should ignore all of it. God is the God of truth, so we should be confident enough to claim it wherever it springs from. For clarification: my main issue is the ad nauseam use of one particular Gandhi quote, provided almost exclusively by Christians as a rebuke to other Christians. It goes:

I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.

So take a few deep breaths. This isn’t a moratorium on all things Gandhi (step away from the unfollow button).  Here are 3 reasons I personally wouldn’t exhort fellow Christians with this particular quote:

Gandhi May Not Have Liked Himself As A Christian

Sure, British Imperialism put a deservedly nasty taste in Gandhi’s mouth. And he fought it beautifully with counter intuitive peaceful resistance.

But Gandhi was a man with a fallen nature too. He abandoned his wife to gallivant with a German bodybuilder. He conducted some sexually strange “spiritual marriage” rituals with young girls.

Maybe worse: Gandhi had blatantly racist views fueled by his staunch belief in the Hindu caste system. Black South Africans had the same struggle with Britain the Indians did, yet Gandhi seemed to sympathize with the white establishment saying of them,

“We believe as much in the purity of races as we think they do.”

Black political leaders like Martin Luther King Jr may have loved to have coffee with their social justice idol, but that would likely never happen given Gandhi’s prejudicial presuppositions.

The Reciprocal Truth Would Be Rejected

Imagine a Christian leader standing up before the media masses and saying to the modern world,

“I like your Gandhi, but I do not like your Hindus”

or

“I like your Muhammad, but I do not like your Muslims.”

Doesn’t sound as cute and enlightened, eh?

Would that pastor be lauded as a high emissary of other worldly wisdom? No. He’d likely be railroaded out of town as some small-minded bigot. To be so dismissive of such a large diverse group is the opposite of careful nuance. But Gandhi gets a pass where he shouldn’t.

Jesus Already Covered This Perfectly

The Jesus that Gandhi speaks of like a flavor preference covered this one a long time ago. There are many penetrating biblical labels for “Christians” who are absolutely nothing like Christ:

“Lost” “Blind” “Dead” and “Goats” just to name a few.

Jesus the Prophet called this way before Gandhi the pacifist did. He knew many would claim Him who had nothing to do with Him.

Yes, there is some pertinent truth in the Gandhi quote. Because certainly, blood-bought born-again Christians aren’t perfect. But to suggest the geo political arm of British Imperialism or Southern White racism are synonymous with being “in Christ” is to ignore the nature of the King and Kingdom altogether. Instead of quoting a fallen man to make our point, let’s quote the perfect risen King of all men (Mat 7:21-23)

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven….”

But what of sincerely sputtering and stumbling Christians who are still a dim reflection of the Son? Jesus the Savior beautifully deals with this conundrum. He does it with a power greater than a million British empires or Pacifist movements. Jesus does it with

Grace.

Grace for the struggling Christian who doesn’t measure up to Gandhi’s Jesus ideal. Grace for the “Invisible” children of Calcutta who Gandhi would never dare touch because of religious legalism. Grace for Mr. Gandhi if he simply wanted it.

Grace for me.

Grace for you.

Grace that fills the daunting gap between who we are and who we will finally be. Grace covered and saturated and splattered with the blood of a precious Son, not a philosopher. Above anything else, let that be the story we’re known for sharing to our fellow brothers and sisters who stumble yet yearn to be like their adopted heavenly Father.

Bryan Daniels

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Author: Bryan Daniels

I am a follower of Jesus, a husband to Jessica, and a father of three boys: Josiah, Gideon and Judah. I teach high school math as a job, read reformed theology as a hobby, and write this blog just for kicks. With the rest of my time I coach football and track.

40 thoughts on “3 Reasons To Stop Quoting Gandhi”

  1. Identifying with a Christian community used to be a normal part of the American landscape. Now it’s much more hip to be perceived as too cool for Christianity. Either the pendulum will swing again or the Day of the Lord is near. Either way, sounds good to me.

  2. Great post Chief. Ghandi liked his own idea of Christ, but truly did not “like” or love Christ. I think they call that idolatry 🙂 kind of reminds me when people say “that’s not my god”

  3. Hi Bryan,
    Seems like I dissected Gandhi’s statement about Christ in one of my sermons at one point. But you did a much better job. I love the way you asked the reciprocal questions. It does point out the hypocrisy in Gandhi’s original statement so well.
    Blessings

  4. Nice one Bryan, first off, I also saw an interview with his wife, where she says he talked about the position of power in politics that he would get if he let himself be captured. not saying it’s true, but I’ve also taken his words with a grain of salt since then. just hadn’t thought about how he might have planned ahead that way…. 😦 and ps….I wanted to mention I think you should change your quote up there by Jesus…Mat 7:21, to “someone who doesn’t read the BIble”, where you placed the dots makes it confusing, it almost reads like “the one who does the will of my Father, I never knew you..” lol just a suggestion, maybe just add a few more words…lol take care

  5. This is a fantastic post. You “killed it” as they say. I honestly know very little about Ghandi and his religious views, I just always scratched my head when Christians quoted him in sermons and the like. Not that, as you said, truth can’t come in any package, but some things are worthy of considering the source. George Bernard Shaw is one who is quoted very often yet he was a major proponent of genocide. Thanks for making us think!

  6. I’ve heard sermon illustrations countless times saying that Gandhi went to church and was rejected because of his Hindu outfits. The idea is that we need to accept anyone who comes into the church. Supposedly, he was “seeking.” And, what would he have done for Christianity instead of Hinduism?

    After reading his exhaustive biography, I have found the story simply isn’t true. In fact, in his youth, Gandhi wore fashionable suits, not the garb that represented anti-colonial spirit that he donned later in life. Second, the Quakers actively sought to save Gandhi and he flatly refused the gospel, rejecting the message of salvation by grace and instead preferring the idea of earning favor with the divinity by lots of works. He lived an exemplary life (although some of his experiments where he slept with naked women to see if he could resist temptation — were cooky even for the leading Hindus of the time) and did great things and taught wonderful things about peaceful resistance, but he — unfortunately — never was a Christian. I think he’s more of ahero for the liberal Christians. We Bible-believing Christians should stick with better heroes. When we exalt Gandhi, we endorse Hinduism and flout Christianity.

  7. As an idiot inexperienced asst pastor I used this quote: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

    My implication was the great Gandhi was not a Christian because Christians were hypocrites. A kind saint took me to task for the comment and was quite right to do so. Duh on my part. Great post. Spot on.

  8. What a joy to run into another who respectfully challenges some of the things the church has carelessly seized upon in the name of zeal. Well done. I look forward to reading more posts!

  9. Awesome post, and very thought provoking. I had never thought of his quote in the context that you presented it. I also wasn’t aware of his personal beliefs in regard to race (yikes!). Obviously I’ve never been a big follower of Gandhi beyond appreciating some of his words. Thanks for the insight! Also thanks for stopping by my blog, I’m blessed to now be able to know of your blog as well. Have a great day!

  10. This is a wonderful post. Thank you for having the courage to write it. Hope you don’t mind, but I shared it with my (small) twitter friends. 🙂

  11. Hi Bryan,
    Thanks for visiting my blog.A very inspiring and thought provoking piece.I think God is shinning his light on the ideals we have held dear and near to our hearts.Not that they are necessarily bad, but should be classified as the works of men.The best model to follow will always be Jesus Christ, many blessings!

  12. Hi Bryan! Very powerful and extremely true! New follower… and BTW, thanks for checking out my Serendipity Diaries… you’d probally enjoy my Wren In The Willow…or probably your wife…

  13. Right on from beginning to end. The “reciprocal truths” are brilliant.

    Ronnie Hawkins (Canadian rock musician, native of Arkansas) once told an interviewer “I love the Lord. But I don’t have much use for his ground crew.” Much the same thought as Gandhi.

  14. I still think I will quote Gandhi… I think he saw how Christ could be corrupted through christians, so could he have been saying, why not follow the source?

  15. Well, of course the quote seems unfair and somewhat hypocritical taken out of context. Gandhi himself was mainly being polemical when he said it. But the context was his daily encounters with racist and brutal British colonialists, who loudly proclaimed their Christian values and the superiority of Western civilization, while destroying and oppressing Indian society. So I think we can cut him some slack here. When he said “you Christians,” he didn’t really mean every Christian, he meant specifically the kind he dealt with on a daily basis, who from all reports, fully deserved his rebuke, and much worse.

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