Okay, one last run around this idea.
As I just now looked for this quote, I found this site claiming that Gandhi never said these words. I don’t know if he did or not. I do know, though, that many people, from the famous to the infamous and many points in-between, have said this or something similar to this. Many people have (rightly or wrongly) found fault with Christians or The Church. And some of those people have used that fault as a reason to not believe in God, as reason not to work through the God equation.
And that, again, is a mistake. I’m not sure what kind of mistake it is. I’m not sure if it is getting lost in the middle, as I first wrote about, or refusing to work the equation because of the anticipated answer, as I wrote about second (if I had to guess, I’d say it is the latter). But I am sure it is a mistake.
It is a mistake because the question of the existence of God is a question of reality, a question of what is real. And reality is not subjective. Reality is not altered because you don’t like it. Adam Savage famously said:
and yet, as he clearly knew, as is clearly implied behind his words and is indeed the basis of the humor of that statement, such a thing is impossible. Reality can’t be substituted. Reality is.
The question to ask, then, isn’t whether or not Christians are like Christ (not at this stage of the equation, anyway; I think all Christians should ask themselves that question, and I do everyday; but I don’t think those working the God equation should be asking it at this point). The question to ask is one of reality. The questions to ask, actually, are two of reality: “Does God exist?” and “Is God good?”
Oddly enough, “the Gandhi quote” (which is what I’ll call it whether or not Gandhi actually said it) implies that the answer to both those questions is, “Yes.” He speaks about Christ as if Christ is real. To be honest, he may be doing that for the sake of argument, the way I might talk about Luke Skywalker as if he is real even though I know he is not. But he is still talking that way; he is still describing something which could be called reality. Beyond that, though, he speaks about Christ as if Christ is good. He says he likes Christ, which I can only imagine a guy like Gandhi would do if he perceived Christ as being good. The very statement itself, then, implies a reality (or at least some reality) to God and a goodness to God.
And those implications require some sort of response. They require some sort of personal response all by themselves, regardless of what may or may not be true of the behavior of other Christians. That is what is at the heart of the issue here: personal response. To be sure, the Christian faith is a group endeavor; Jesus Himself talked about a church and the necessity of a church (Matthew 16:18), so a church is going to be part of it. But the Christian faith is simultaneously an individual endeavor; it is something the individual picks up regardless of whether or not anyone else picks it up and/or how well anyone else picks it up.
Jesus, again, stressed this at at critical point after His resurrection. When He reinstated Peter in John 21, He told Peter that what would be required of John was not Peter’s concern. Peter’s concern was solely what was required of him.
Not only so, but Paul, in teaching us how to handle “disputable matters”, made this insightful statement:
Both Jesus and Paul agree, then, that what other people do or don’t do, how they respond to God or don’t respond to God, has no bearing on you. Your response to God shouldn’t be dictated by how others respond to God, whether that be good, bad, or indifferent. Your response to God can’t be dictated by how others respond to God. It can only be dictated by the reality of God and His goodness.
Is Gandhi right? I don’t know. Seeing as how I know more Christians than he ever did and know them better than he ever did, I don’t think so. As one who has spent his entire life among Christians, I agree that they can use some work but I also know they are better than most people give them credit for. Whether or not he is right or wrong, though, doesn’t matter to the God equation, and allowing it into the God equation is a terrible mistake.