SLD07.20.08 16th Ordinary
Emory Presbyterian Church
Romans 8:5-6, 12-17
Jill Oglesby Evans
“Mahatma Gandhi: My Life Is My Message”
Have you ever seen the bumper sticker or t-shirt slogan, “Peace, like war, must be waged?”
Whatever else might be said about this morning’s saint, Mahatma Gandhi, who could argue but that the man dedicated his entire life to waging peace, in his heart, in his home, in his country, and in the world.
And if you think that waging peace is somehow more passive than waging war, you may want to know that, for all his abhorrence of violence as a means to an end, yet Gandhi insisted that the non-violent activist, like any soldier, has to be ready to die for the cause. Indeed, during India’s decades long struggle for independence, thousands of Indians were killed by the British. The difference was that the non-violent activist, while willing to die, was never willing to kill.1 [Sound like anybody else we know?] In Gandhi’s view, there are three possible responses to oppression and injustice. One he viewed as the coward’s way – to accept the wrong or run from it. The second was to stand and fight by force of arms, which, in his view, is better than accepting or running from the wrong. But the third way - to stand and fight solely by non-violent means – required the most courage and was best of all.
Born Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in 1869, to a well-placed family in presentday Gujarat, Western India, Mahatma Gandhi grew up with a devout mother and the Jain traditions of the region, absorbing influences that would eventually play an 1 www.mkgandhi.org/faq/q14.htm. S ource: M ahatma Gandhiand His M yths, by M ark S hephard. 2
important role in his adult life, including compassion to all sentient, or feeling, beings, vegetarianism, fasting for self-purification, and mutual tolerance between individuals of different creeds.2
When he was only 13, Mohandas was married 14-year old Kasturbai in an arranged child marriage, as was the custom in the region. The couple’s first child, born when Gandhi was 15, only survived a few days, though Mohandas and Kasturbai were to have four more children, all sons.
Despite his early marriage, Gandhi continued his education through middle and high school, and eventually to college to become a lawyer, a profession that frankly held more interest to his family than to him. In 1888, he traveled to London to study law and there crossed paths with members of the Theosophical Society, an organization founded a decade or so before for the purpose of furthering universal brotherhood. Not having shown a particular interest in religion before, Gandhi began reading works of and about Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam and other religions. Subsequently, Gandhi returned to India to practice law in India, but limited success there prompted him to accept a year-long contract with an Indian firm in South Africa. The first photo on your bulletin covers shows Gandhi as an attorney in South Africa in 1895.
In South Africa Gandhi achieved greater success in his profession, but he also found there the most flagrant discrimination against himself as an Indian. After refusing to move from first class to a third class when he held a valid first class ticket, he was physically thrown off the train. Traveling further by stagecoach, he was beaten by a driver for refusing to travel on the footboard to make room for a European passenger. 2 For thisand the following biographicalinformation, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M ahatmas_Gandhi 3
Another time, a magistrate ordered him to remove his turban in court, which he refused to do.
These incidents comprised a turning point in Gandhi’s life, awakening him to contemporary social injustice and prompting his passionate social activism. Prompted by a bill denying Indians the right to vote, Gandhi found himself becoming politically active, organizing the Indian community into a homogenous political force. Having experienced firsthand the...