Sunday, April 24, 2011

Faith, Flaws, and Gandhi

Easter is a very interesting holiday for me, a non-Christian. Easter is the most holy day in the Christian religion, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, probably the most noble human in history. My son calls Jesus the first hippy, for his teachings including his directive to "turn the other cheek." the religion of my youth called for "an eye for an eye." Jesus helped the poor and the forgotten. He was a peaceful rebel who gave his life for the greater good.

I much prefer the way Americans celebrate Easter over the Christmas is observed. For Easter, Christians traditionally go to church and honor Jesus. Christmas is much more commercial and has become a retail extravaganza where every American, whether Christian or not, is expected to "celebrate" by buying things. Everyone takes a holiday from work or school on Christmas, regardless of his or her beliefs. Easter is on Sunday, a traditional non-working day, and believers go to church.

I am Jewish by birth, and I believe that Jesus' teachings are profound. I do not believe that Jesus was the Messiah nor that we will ever have a real Messiah. Jesus is a hero to me. If we all adhered to his teachings, the world would be a much better place, where humans cared and took care of each other without judgment and without the motivation of greed or power.

But, the world is filled with the greedy and the power-hungry. We humans are profoundly flawed. Sometimes, I am profoundly disheartened by how flawed we all are and how hard it is for those without power to be treated fairly. And I think the root of my disillusion stems from my realization of how flawed I am, how, at times, I am motivated by greed, or power, or

Jesus appears to have been perfect, with no flaws. I don't know if he really was, but that's how the story goes. Who would not state that Jesus, as portrayed through history and the Bible, is not a hero to be admired and emulated. I admire other heroes, including Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela and my grandmother. I know that humans are flawed, but I look to the traits I admire in these people and ignore the rest.

Today I researched Gandhi, probably the person whom I revere the most. I really have not read much about Gandhi, outside of his quotes that resonate with me. Gandhi's quote which most resonates with my law practice is "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." He was the pioneer of non-violent dissent, mobilizing a nation to wrest British control of India. I saw the two-part movie with Ben Kingsley as Gandhi. He fasted for causes, he said profound things, he was not afraid to die and he changed a nation.

So, today, for the first time, I decided to research Gandhi's life on the Internet. It was just a passing curiosity during an idle time today and I was not prepared for what I found. Gandhi, to my naive chagrin, was not the perfect soul I had imagined. When he was a young lawyer in South Africa fighting for the civil rights of his fellow Indian expatriates, he wrote extensively about the "inferiority" of the native Africans. I knew, from the movie, that Gandhi forsook sexual pleasures as a way to strengthen his moral strength. What I did not know was that Gandhi, apparently to cure his sexual cravings, slept naked with young girls. Ths discovery caused one of his stenographers to resign from Gandhi's service in disgust. Gandhi believed that Jews in Hitler's world should have non-violently rushed to the gas chambers and refused to leave Germany in protest to the Nazis. If my grandmother had donr that, I would not ever have existed. Gandhi was not perfect.

I know I am profoundly flawed, but I irrationally thought Gandhi was perfect. I have accepted that Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and my grandmother Oma were human. I accepted that Gerry Spence, whom I had admired for years, is flawed. I had not, however, ever even considered that Gandhi was less than perfect. In a way, Gandhi represented my Jesus.

I must resign myself to the knowledge that we are all flawed and I know my goal should be to accept people with all of their flaws. There is no daddy figure out there who can solve all of the world's problems.


  1. Accepting people with all their flaws seems like a huge challenge. Perhaps it is easier to choose people with flaws that are tolerable.

    As for the daddy figure, I have always said (and timely with your article), if Jesus Christ himself ran for president, the media would find some dirt or make up some dirt on him! I guess if the world had no problems, we would have no goals to attain.

  2. Once you see his flaws, surely, he will become more alive, even more interesting. If this is how you felt about him, perhaps you should visit places that relate to his name, his legacy. Of course one can read about it all, yet to grasp how he went about his experiments, those of living together (like in the Sabarmati Ashram), is not a simple task. He started the Ashram way back in 1915, and it is very interesting to see for yourself how his story is told and retold and at the same time watch the landscape that witnessed it all.