MIDDLE EAST, INDIA, March 28, 2011 — After twenty centuries all that can be said of Christianity is that it is the world’s largest religion with over 2 billion followers. Its influence on men’s hearts and minds as the truth is highly debatable.
Mahatma Gandhi is perhaps the best example of someone who was discerning enough to reject Christianity not Christ. He was deeply hurt by his experiences with apartheid and “Christians” during his time in South Africa, and it obviously stymied his relationship with Christ.
Like Gandhi millions have been unable to see the Christ obscured by Christianity.
Gandhi was shrewd enough to tell missionaries, “I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” When asked why he did not embrace Christianity, Gandhi said it offered nothing he could not get from his own religion, observing, “…to be a good Hindu also meant that I would be a good Christian. There is no need for me to join your creed to be a believer in the beauty of the teachings of Jesus or try to follow His example.”
The man whose death Nobel prize nominee and legendary missionary E. Stanley Jones described as, “the greatest tragedy since the Son of God died on the cross,” precisely assessed Christianity as being no different from other religions.
Gandhi took the ideas of Christ and tried to implement them by faithfully adhering to Hinduism. But he did not realize there were forces already at work in his lifetime, converting the Hindu religion into, ‘Hindutva’ a fanatic ideology developed by radical Hindus who ultimately murdered the Mahatma.
Today these same forces have acquired political respectability and sit in India’s Parliament as the country’s largest opposition group – the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) accountable to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) that bred Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse.
Hinduism is not the only religion that has been perverted by ideology. Christianity has used and misrepresented the name of Christ; Islamism is a corruption of Islam, which basically means submission to the will of God and obedience to His law.
It also works the other way around – ideologies basically seek to become religions, Nazism, Communism, Fascism etc., are good examples. So far Materialism has found the most acceptance globally.
Violent ideologies inflict pain, a materialistic philosophy breeds the love of pleasure in direct contrast to Jesus’ counsel, “’Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Among the religious ‘isms’ of the world Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Catholicism etc., are notable. Islam does not have a suffix but Islamism is associated with extremists.
To what purpose was the name of Christ extended? Does Christianity distance or draw people to Jesus?
In a hopelessly muddled world of religiosity, theology may have obscured the basic good news of eternal salvation. Entrusted mainly to illiterate fishermen at first, the gospel was never meant to be veiled or enhanced by man’s religious knowledge. The finest theological minds could have been divinely employed for that purpose if their learned input was required.
Christianity asks people to follow wise men in a hierarchy; Christ asks people to follow him in Spirit and in Truth. Christianity requires institutional membership; Christ has promised to be anywhere two or three gather in his name. Christianity binds individuals with ritual and tradition; Christ warns that tradition makes God’s Word void in people’s hearts. Christianity has blood on its hands, it is guilty of untold depravity; in John 8:46 Christ demands, “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?”
Because Buddhism, Sikhism, Islam etc., were each founded by one individual, it is assumed that Christianity falls in the same category. But Jesus was not its founder - it was legalized as Rome’s state religion in 317 by the emperor Constantine.
The fact remains truly knowing Christ need have nothing to do with Christianity.
Down the ages with its violent history of power and politics, debauched clergy and widespread division, Christ has been consistently sullied and concealed by what the world accepts as “Christianity.” Often it displays no resemblance to the name it bears. It is man-made and not all Christians consider it authentic or desirable in its current institutional model.
Many are concluding that a choice must be made, and following Christ authentically and simply as he showed how, is the growing preference.
Even the uninitiated in their hearts know that Christ brings peace and unity, all else has been tried and found wanting.
How could one man’s death on a cheap, wooden cross reconcile mankind to God? Why does our perplexed, religiously diverse world struggle with such a possibility?
Why does the Quran confirm his exclusive virgin birth and call Jesus Kalimuttullah – the true Word of God? Was he just a man? Was he just a prophet? Why is he called the Messiah?
Why does the Bible declare that everyone who calls upon the name of Christ shall be saved?
I believe no one can induce people to believe it is Christ who waits at the end of man’s spiritual quest – there is enough evidence God uniquely dialogues with each one of us. It’s a mystery most people ignore or dismiss. Only a few accept the divine invitation for an incomparable, lifelong relational adventure.
Profound theological arguments may refute this, but anyone who has glimpsed the hope of eternal salvation is soon unimpressed by the knowledge and piety of man, clergy or otherwise.
When people surrender their hearts to Christ and discover sin’s grip can be broken, they will not settle for a lofty religion that complicates life and brings no deliverance. Freedom does not always come instantly without trials, but people know it surely comes to broken hearts longing for their “Maker.”
Alternatively some folks prefer to feel safe in the groupthink of organized belief, and uniformly follow something called Christianity or some other religion. One way demands death to pride, the other offers the standard feel-good-about-myself religious experience and self-gratification with group membership in a club of sorts.
The idea that the God of the universe can be bribed with good works, piety, rituals and traditions has widespread acceptance, and millions are shackled and controlled by the idea, which the clergy easily manipulates.
But the scriptures mysteriously indicate that it is God who chooses us, (John 15: 16), offering the free gift of himself. We don’t choose him. We can accept or reject him, but we cannot bribe our way to him using religion.
That pretty much describes authentic, divine, agape love.
So what is of greater worth – the truth that sets people free or the experience of being stuck in a lifelong religious rut?
Frank Raj belongs to an extended Indian-American family; he is based in India and the Middle East where he has lived for over three decades. He is the founding editor and publisher of ‘The International Indian’, (www.theinternationalindian.com) the oldest magazine of Gulf-Indian society and history since 1992. Frank is listed in Arabian Business magazine’s 100 most influential Indians in the Gulf and is co-author of the upcoming publication ‘Universal Book of the Scriptures,’ and author of ‘Desh Aur Diaspora.’ He blogs at www.no2christianity.com