The thing about Gandhi…a review

Gandhi, the controversial biography
Gandhi, the controversial biography

A Review, with quotes, of Jad Adams’ biography of the much-loved Mohandas Gandhi.

This biography of one of the most iconic figures of the twentieth century is impossible to put down. It’s a fresh look at the man through his own writings and the testimony of those closest to him.

One aspect of the book, unsurprisingly, dominated the reviews: Gandhi’s risqué experiments in testing his own commitment to Brahmacharya (celibacy).  The claim is that the presence of the two young women who regularly slept in his bed was necessary in order to test that commitment and thus help preserve his spiritual power for the benefit of others.

Astonishing as that may sound, there’s much more to the book than that…

To read the review click here

© 2014 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

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Influencing Culture – Engineering, Economics and Health Care

We’ve already seen how 19th century missionary William Carey, rather than being a culture-destroyer, actually sought to strengthen and build the nation of India.

We saw how he sought to instill a ‘basic scientific presupposition’ into Indian thinking and how he even helped develop Botanical research in India.

In this post we are continuing Vishal Mangalwadi’s imaginary quiz amongst modern Indian university students about Carey’s identity.

So, in answer to the question ‘Who was William Carey?’ a student of Mechanical Engineering suggests:

Locally produced steam engines and locally made paper
‘William Carey was the first Englishman to introduce the steam engine to India!

‘Carey encouraged Indian blacksmiths to make copies of his engine using local materials and skills.’

He was also the first person to make indigenous paper for the publishing industry. (Mangalwadi, William Carey and the Regeneration of India, Good Books, Mussourie, p.1)

Fair and Honest Banking
‘William Carey was a missionary,’ announces an Economics Major, ‘who introduced the idea of Savings Banks to India, to fight the all pervasive social evil of usury.

‘Carey believed that God, being righteous, hated usury, and thought that lending at the interest of 36-72% made investment, industry, commerce and the economic development of India impossible.’ (ibid. p.2)

Compassionate Medical Care
Next a Medical student raises his hand: ‘William Carey was the first man who led the campaign for a humane treatment of leprosy patients.

Until his time they were sometimes buried of burned alive in India because of the belief that a violent end purified the body and ensured transmigration into a healthy new existence.

‘Natural death by disease was believed to result in four successive births, and a fifth as a leper.

‘Carey believed that Jesus’ love touches leprosy patients, so they should be cared for.’ (ibid. p.2-3)

The more we read about Carey the less he sounds like the caricature of a blundering insensitive colonial missionary, and the more he sounds like a man bringing the authentic love of God into peoples’ lives.

In the next post we’ll examine Carey’s commitment to developing printing technologies and a free press in India.

We’ll continue to examine Carey’s breathtaking efforts here

To see the first part of the William Carey story click here

© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

Christianity and Karma

William Carey and the Passion to Reform India

‘Carey’s mission to India inaugurated a new era in the history of the Christian church.’ So says biographer Timothy George.

He then outlines how Carey’s example impacted others who later followed in his steps (see George, Faithful Witness, IVP, 135-152)

Carey’s ideological impact on India
Certainly his impact on the Western church was great. But author and Indologist, Vishal Mangalwadi focuses on Carey’s impact on India itself. This makes for fascinating and challenging reading!

Mangalwadi sees Carey not only as an Evangelist but as a Reformer, and a man of courage and faith.

The courage to say that there’s a problem
He writes, ‘The primary presupposition of any reform…is that before we can improve a society, we have to admit that it is degenerate. The second presupposition is that a fundamental change is, in fact, possible – even if the majority is against the change.’

Comprehensive opposition
‘The opposition to Carey was phenomenal. It came from the British Parliament, from the Company, from the Military, from the Oriental scholars, from his own mission board, and also from the very people he was seeking to serve – the Indians themselves.’ (Mangalwadi, Carey and the Regeneration of India, Good Books, 76)

Part of the resistance to reform, Mangalwadi argues, was the traditional doctrine of karma, which teaches that the earth is the place where souls are living out the deserved consequences of the sins of former lives. Therefore to reform, to alleviate suffering, to initiate an escape from that suffering was to violate this process.

‘What then, should a man born ‘untouchable’ do? Or a widow? Or a leper? The Hindu/Buddhist answer is that each has to live with their karma and dharma, as best they can, without seeking to change fate in any fundamental way.’

‘This was not all; if karma, stars, and demons did leave some freedom for a person, it was severely limited by the Hindu scriptures, written, often, from Brahmanical self-interest.

‘[Hence] the scriptural mandates behind India’s social and intellectual evils worked powerfully against reforms…Is reform possible when religion defends evil and the State is committed not to interfere with religion?

The faith to believe that the problems can be overcome
‘Carey’s faith in a transcendant Ruler, the God of History who was above human rulers, sustained him against all odds.

‘One result of his success has been that since his day, most Indians (including even those who believe in karma, reincarnation, astrology, Brahmanical scriptures etc) now tend to agree that reform is possible. They are forced to reject the fatalistic idea that reform is not possible.

Carey’s imprint of faith is still bearing fruit today
‘That premise had ruled Indian civilisation and ruined India for two thousand years. Carey’s belief that human suffering can be and should be resisted has dominated the last two hundred years of Indian history.’ (Mangalwadi, 76-77)

That’s a pretty impressive perspective from an expert on Indian thought and history.

But Carey was a practical Reformer, and not primarily a philosopher. His efforts launched a vast number of practical projects and initiatives in Indian society.

We’ll continue to pick up the story of Carey’s reform programme next time…

For more on the William Carey story begin here

© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides