Gandhi, God and All of Us Together

Ever since I was a child I have felt the presence of God in my life.

Missy Crutchfield Gandhi Worldwide Board Member

Missy Crutchfield

But, unfortunately like so many young people, I found myself and my spiritual life hijacked by a fundamental religion or otherwise “boxed-up version of God.”

I would find myself going to church and being yelled at by any number of preachers telling me and the congregation that if we didn’t do this or that (always their version and interpretation of the Bible) we would all go to Hell. Forever. No second chances. Burning and screaming—eternally. Forever. And ever. And ever.

It doesn’t take too much of that kind of preaching every Sunday to make you say, “I give” and “Sign me up for salvation” or “Save me now. Please!”

When I was 12 years old, I would get saved every Sunday. With tears rolling down my face I would say, “I don’t want to burn in Hell eternally with fire and brimstone.” And I would have reoccurring nightmares about the devil, the “end days,” the Tribulation, the Rapture, and on and on…

Get the Gandhi Bracelet and be the change!

Get the Gandhi Bracelet and be the change!

It’s like a horror movie right? That’s the way it felt to me… Maybe that is why those kinds of movies are such a box office smash. They remind us of our past and present. We are so conditioned by this violence that we continue to participate in it, sometimes without even knowing. And, it’s not just the blood and gore we can’t get enough of. Violence happens in passive ways as well as non-passive. It exists in our expressions, our writing, our attitudes, and in our thoughts–which are the first seeds to create our actions.

Somehow though, I knew I would be part of it all—part of when it all came down. Part of the change. Part of a time that would demand people make different choices and begin to embrace a new day…

I always knew I was chosen for this time and this work. But as a child, I interpreted it in a whole different way. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that my life began to change in a huge way and I started my path to freedom. It started with Gandhi.

Gandhi loved Christ but not“I love your Christ, I just don’t love your Christians,” Gandhi said. In the American South, and frankly with most Christians, this quote is close to blasphemy. For me, this has become my favorite quote from Gandhi, next to “Be the Change You Wish to See in the World” and “My Life is My Message.” Why? Because it embodies everything I think that Jesus would say and do and actually did do while he was alive, right?

Didn’t Jesus challenge authority? Was he not one of the original “question authority” rebels? However, I feel we credit Jesus with way too much. By this I mean we assign things to him that I believe have nothing to do with his message. I think if Jesus were here today, he would be appalled.
If Jesus’ message is about love, and if God is “love'” then why do so many religions, and particularly the fundamental ones, preach so much about fear?

If Jesus’ message is about forgiveness and tolerance, why do we spend so much time, energy, and money on war and hate? By the way, did you ever wonder what the KKK was trying to communicate when they would burn crosses in the yards of innocent victims? Was it that Jesus was leading them? Was it that Jesus doesn’t like anything but white skin or that the white culture is superior? It sounds like that Jesus was Hitler. The KKK made their personal Jesus more like Hitler, sentencing someone of another color or culture to death simply because patriarchal and dominant culture felt it was right. Why? Really?

A rose by any other name in this case, is still the anti-Christ. And, as long as we continue to use Jesus or any religion or religious figure for selfish and self-serving purposes, we are not following Christ, we are following the anti-Christ. We are choosing the darkness. We are living anti-light.

I gave up on the Biblical anti-Christ interpretations years ago. However, I think “he” has existed in many people throughout history, and perhaps still exists today as more and more people find themselves in living hell perpetrating heinous crimes and fanning flames of fear and violence all over the world. I mentioned Hitler, and there are so many other individuals that are or have been part of the evil in the world, part of this darkness that is festering and affecting us all. It has become an addiction to violence. It has become rampant and it can be contagious, if we don’t stop it.

We must all be accountable and responsible for our actions. The really hard part is acknowledging we have contributed to all of the good and bad in the world. As long as we allow hate crimes, judgmental attitudes, injustice and intolerance to continue—we are contributing to them. Another favorite quote of mine is from Edmund Burke, an Irish political philosopher, who said “The only thing for evil to exist is for good men to do nothing.”

Too many Christians seem to live their lives more anti-Christ-like than Christ-like. Gandhi’s message and life were inspired by Christ, and yes, Jesus was one of Mahatma Gandhi’s biggest inspirations. As a matter-of-fact, Gandhi almost converted to Christianity, but the more he encountered Christians and learned about them, he decided they really weren’t followers of Jesus’ real message. To him, Christians espoused a diluted and mass-manipulating version that served their need and hunger for power. Gandhi would read the Bible everyday, along with writings from other amazing spiritual and inspirational teachers from many cultures and religions. He was always seeking to understand and bring meaning and purpose to his life, and be more Christ-like. He was the first person to bring the message of Jesus Christ to activism, and particularly the Sermon on the Mount, and he turned a country around and brought independence to India. His message was about love. Love your neighbor. Tolerate and embrace our differences. Be the Change.

Gandhi’s life and work later inspired another amazing human being: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who was the first to bring Gandhi’s message to America. Dr. King returned to the South, the heart of struggles past and present in America, to right the wrongs and put his life and message into action. He risked life, limb and freedom (he spent many days in jail) so African Americans and others would one day be truly free. Ultimately, he would lose his life fighting for this cause. His message was about “All God’s Children.”

Isn’t that what we all truly hunger for? Freedom. Freedom from hate, control, persecution, intolerance, violence, inhumane conditions. We want what Jesus wanted for us. We want what Gandhi wanted, what Dr. King wanted… Freedom to live and love… Truly loving and accepting each other as members of this family of humanity. We really are connected through our love, our faith, and our lives. No matter what religion. No matter what race. No matter what gender. No matter.

It’s really all about living in the moment and embracing compassion. God is Love. Love is freedom. It’s a wonderful thought and it sounds really simple. Why, I wonder, have so many lived and died for this? Why is the notion of love or freedom so revolutionary? Why have we not freed ourselves completely from the shackles of our current mindset? Why is this idea so threatening? Love your neighbor. Work to help the poor. Basic respect and tolerance.

We must understand that making these changes in our lives is not about “arm chair” politics and philosophy. These changes must be made inside ourselves and in our thoughts, actions, and beliefs. Let’s work from this day forward to make our lives our message, as Gandhi so appropriately demonstrated, and “be the change we wish to see in the world.”

Missy Crutchfield
Editor-in-Chief, Gandhi’s Be Magazine
Board Member, Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute

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GWEI Board member Missy Crutchfield is Editor-in-Chief of Gandhi’s Be Magazine, a social entrepreneur, creator of Chattanooga Education, Arts & Culture—a city department nationally recognized by Virtual Schools Symposium, Partnership for Livable Communities, Arts and Education Partnership, and the National Education Association for addressing arts & social issues and lifelong learning. Missy has held leadership in media, community development, higher education, and local government, she has developed model initiatives for addressing arts & social issues and community-building: “Remember Your Dream,” “Connecting the Dots,” “Sisters Speak Out,” “Boyz Inc.,” “The Truth Project,” and “Unbroken.”

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