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Gospel, Raj and Swaraj: The Missionary Years of C. F. Andrews, 1904-14.

Despite his cameo clerical-collared appearance in the Gandhi film, one tends to forget that Charles Freer Andrews (1871-1940) was ever a missionary in the conventional sense. In 1914, when he relinquished his teaching post at St. Stephen's College, Delhi, to join Rabindranath Tagore at Shantiniketan, he had been a missionary for a decade--a turbulent decade in modern Indian history. From the moment he set foot in India and found himself a sahib, he had been working up to some such gesture.

Andrews, far more than most of his missionary contemporaries, was a personal meeting point of forces in tension. Almost from the first, Englishman or not, he was a warm supporter of the Indian national movement. His support was not uncritical, though to his more cautious missionary colleagues, often it seemed to go too far. His passion was to translate into terms of practical service the theology of the incarnation he had learned from the Christian Socialists, and especially from B. F. Westcott in Cambridge.

Daniel O'Connor has placed historians of the church in India greatly in his debt through this admirably crisp, clear, and well-documented study. The danger with missionaries of the somewhat eccentric Andrews type is that of being placed on a pedestal, as one of a select company of modern "saints," distinguished not by their orthodoxy or by miracle but by their practical compassion for suffering humanity. Others of the type include Father Damien, Kagawa Toyohiko, Mother Teresa, and (ironically but inevitably) Gandhi himself. O'Connor, his evident love for Andrews notwithstanding, does not fall into this trap, one that leads sooner or later to uncritical adulation. He has given us a sober account of the "public" Andrews, in print and in correspondence. The "private" Andrews remains a shadowy figure: did he keep no personal diaries or journals to complement his autobiographical writings?

Perhaps there remains something to be learned about Andrews' spirituality and inward motivation: were it accessible, his psychological makeup might repay further study. In the meantime, we are grateful to Dr. O'Connor for this valuable addition to the Andrews literature.

Eric J. Sharpe is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Sydney.
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Author:Sharpe, Eric J.
Publication:International Bulletin of Missionary Research
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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