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  • James Rowell

Bonhoeffer and Gandhi

Dietrich Bonhoeffer never met Mahatma Gandhi, but he wanted to. Gandhi revealed a non-violent way to resist injustice. In the meanwhile, Bonhoeffer witnessed his own Germany being consumed by Nazi injustice. Had Bonhoeffer met Gandhi, his Christo-centrism might well have been challenged. Gandhi affirmed “I am a Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim and a Jew.” Gandhi believed there were many ways to come closer to God, not just Christianity.

Yet Bonhoeffer’s also wrote this: “True devotion and righteousness consist not merely in outward behavior, but in the disposition of the heart, and conversely not only the disposition of the heart, but also in concrete action.” (The Cost of Discipleship, 174) Gandhi might well have agreed, and argued that many religions are capable of this. It is not just the Christian, but the Jew, Hindu, Buddhist or Muslim who can be good and devoted.

It would have been good if Bonhoeffer and Gandhi had met, but they didn’t. History remembers Gandhi as the man who freed India. It remembers Bonhoeffer as the Christian who tried to help bring about the end of Hitler. Both men were certainly remarkable.


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