Gandhi and Christianity

  • Margaret Chatterjee


Gandhi’s attitude toward Christianity and his relationships with Christians can perhaps be treated in combination with his approach to religious pluralism, and yet in some ways, it needs to be addressed as a matter distinct in itself. This distinctness stems from at least four considerations. First, Christianity was the religion of the imperial power, something which inevitably colored the relations of British and Indians during Gandhi’s leadership of the nationalist movement. Secondly, while Jainism and Buddhism, which are both woven into Gandhi’s religious thought, belong to the family of religions of Indian origin, Christianity does not. Thirdly, Gandhi’s attitude to Christianity illustrates in an interesting way what I have elsewhere discussed under the rubric of understanding, and sharing religious insights.1 What emerges is that understanding and sharing, however sincerely embarked on, and however deep, have limits. Fourthly, Christians see their religion specifically in terms of the challenge of the person of Christ in a way which is probably not claimed by Jains in connection with Mahavira, or by Buddhists for Buddha, and certainly not by Muslims for Mohammed. The Christian asks the question ‘What think ye of Christ?’ Gandhi’s implicit response to this question brings out both the extent of sharing and its boundaries.


Lower Caste Christian Theology Religious Pluralism Imperial Power Nationalist Movement 
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  1. 5.
    From Greenland’s icy mountains, From India’s coral strand, Where Afric’s sunny fountains Roll down their golden sand; From many an ancient river, From many a palmy plain, They call us to deliver Their land from error’s chain! From Reginald Heber, Hymns (New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1978) p. 139.Google Scholar

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© The Claremont Graduate School 1989

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  • Margaret Chatterjee

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