November 20, 2002
OR IS HE AT THE SEVENTH CIRCLE BY NOW?:Did Gandhi Make It Past Pearly Gates? (Rabbi Marc Gellman & Msgr
Thomas Hartman, November 16, 2002, Newsday)
Q. My sister and I differ greatly on who goes to heaven. She feels only those who accept Jesus as their savior will go to heaven.
I find it hard to believe that Gandhi, or Jerry Seinfeld, for that matter, will burn eternally because they aren't Christians. - Angela, Bloomville, Ohio
If religious people who wish to convert others to their faith would focus on acts of kindness and charity, justice and mercy, they would both serve their faith and increase their flock far more than by beating prospective converts over the head with texts they don't believe.
It's also possible that certain progressive Christian doctrines, such as the idea of "baptism by desire," developed by the German theologian Karl Rahner, might provide a helpful theological loophole for ecumenical Christians to affirm the truth of their faith while also admitting that a God of goodness would never keep Gandhi out of heaven.
This doctrine proclaims that by living a righteous life, non-Christians are actually accepting Jesus with their lives, even though they don't accept him as savior with their lips - and even though they don't realize they're accepting Jesus at all.
Not so fast, fellas. No one should make up their mind about the holiness of Gandhi before reading one of the great movie revies of all time, The Gandhi Nobody Knows (Richard Grenier, March 1983, Commentary). Here's just a smidgen:
ANYONE who wants to wade through Gandhi's endless ruminations about himsa and ahimsa (violence and nonviolence) is welcome to do so, but it is impossible for the skeptical reader to avoid the conclusion--let us say in 1920, when swaraj (home rule) was all the rage and Gandhi's inner voice started telling him that ahimsa was the thing--that this inner voice knew what it was talking about. By this I mean that, though Gandhi talked with the tongue of Hindu gods and sacred scriptures, his inner voice had a strong sense of expediency. Britain, if only comparatively speaking, was a moral nation, and nonviolent civil disobedience was plainly the best and most effective way of achieving Indian independence. Skeptics might also not be surprised to learn that as independence approached, Gandhi's inner voice began to change its tune. It has been reported that Gandhi "half-welcomed" the civil war that broke out in the last days. Even a fratricidal "bloodbath" (Gandhi's word) would be preferable to the British.
And suddenly Gandhi began endorsing violence left, right, and center. During the fearsome rioting in Calcutta he gave his approval to men "using violence in a moral cause." How could he tell them that violence was wrong, he asked, "unless I demonstrate that nonviolence is more effective?" He blessed the Nawab of Maler Kotla when he gave orders to shoot ten Muslims for every Hindu killed in his state. He sang the praises of Subhas Chandra Bose, who, sponsored by first the Nazis and then the Japanese, organized in Singapore an Indian National Army with which he hoped to conquer India with Japanese support, establishing a totalitarian dictatorship. Meanwhile, after independence in 1947, the armies of the India that Gandhi had created immediately marched into battle, incorporating the state of Hyderabad by force and making war in Kashmir on secessionist Pakistan. When Gandhi was assassinated by a Hindu extremist in January 1948 he was honored by the new state with a vast military funeral--in my view by no means inapposite.
It's long, but it's a riot. Posted by Orrin Judd at November 20, 2002 8:55 PM