Author focuses on lessons Gandhi found in Jesus’ life

July 18, 2010 by

Dr. Terrence Rynne answers a question from the audience after his lecture Sunday afternoon. Listening are Sister Bette Moslander, right, and Sister Eulalia Kloeker.

The message Dr. Terrence Rynne offered this afternoon combined a history lesson, a detailed biographical sketch, more than a little Christian Scripture and a touch of theology — and provided the audience at the Nazareth Motherhouse with a thougthful reflection on Gandhi, Jesus and “The Saving Power of Nonviolence.”

That, in fact, is the title of Rynne’s 2008 book as well as the weeklong series of lectures he will be giving at Manna House of Prayer in Concordia beginning Monday.

He is the founder of the Marquette University Center for Peacemaking. Previously he has served as a parish priest in the Archdiocese of Chicago, on the faculty of the Mundelein Seminary in Illinois and later as a hospital administrator. He retired as founder and president of Rynne Marketing Group, a nationally recognized consulting firm that has served more that 600 leading hospitals and health care organizations, to earn a Ph.D. in theology and pursue his passion for peace.

Dr. Terrence Rynne makes a point during his talk at the Nazareth Motherhouse this afternoon.

In this afternoon’s talk to an audience of nearly 70, including members of the Concordia Year of Peace Committee, he detailed the life of Mohandas Gandhi, who was born in India in 1869. After studying law in London, Gandhi went to South Africa to work as a lawyer. But it was there he began to see the injustices done to the Indians living there, and he began to take increasingly public roles in resisting government policies that discriminated against non-whites and women.

It was also there, in 1906, that Gandhi changed his lifestyle from that of a British-educated barrister to the dress and behavior of an Indian Hindu. He started an ashram and in both the Boer War and the Zulu Uprising organized ambulance corps to serve the wounded soldiers.

By 1914, when he returned to his native India, he had already developed his philosophy of satyagraha, or nonviolent action. “But,” Rynne noted, “the opposite of nonviolence is not violence; it is cowardice. To practice nonviolence, you have to be capable of violence.”

Rynne explained that satyagraha encompasses four basic principles of resistance:

  • Satya, which means truth
  • Agraha, which means firmly holding on
  • Ahimsa, or refusal to do harm
  • Tapasya, or self-suffering, or the willingness to face the consequences of one’s actions

The fifth principle of satyagraha is one of building, Rynne said. “It must be a constructive program.”

For Gandhi, that meant ultimately addressing the three core problems he saw in Indian society: Relations between the Hindu and Muslim Indians, the elimination of “untouchability” in the Hindu caste system and “village uplift,” or solving the poverty and dependency of the rural poor.

Rynne said that Gandhi called Jesus a “prince of the satyagrahis” because his teachings and life so clearly reflected all those principles.

He said Gandhi particularly appreciated Jesus’ concept of “the Kingdom of God,” which showed Jesus saw himself as both a political and religious leader. And, Rynne noted, Gandhi believed that Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” perfectly captured his belief in nonviolent resistance to the political powers of the time.

That belief also gave the Hindu Gandhi a special appreciation for the Christian cross, Rynne said. “People killed (Jesus) because he was standing up; he died faithful to his life.” Gandhi was assassinated by a Hindu nationalist less than six months after he led India to independence from Britain.

Rynne’s book, and the lecture series at Manna House, include much more detail on the two leaders separated by nearly two millennia, as well as Rynne’s definition of nonviolence and its power.

But there is one central element he shared with his audience this afternoon: “The key to power is that it rises,” he said as he gestured upward. “It never comes from the top, it always has to flow from the people to the top.”

Rynne’s lectures at Manna House make up the 2010 Theological Institute, held each summer and now in its 19th year.

His public lecture at the Motherhouse this afternoon was sponsored by the Concordia Year of Peace Committee, and was the latest in a number of activities dedicated to peace and nonviolence.

For information on upcoming Concordia Year of Peace events, click on the “Year of Peace” tab above or call Sister Jean Rosemarynoski at 785/243-2149.

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