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Mahatma Gandhi: Nonviolent Liberator (A Biography).

Mahatma Gandhi: Nonviolent Liberator (A Biography). By Richard Deats. New York: New City Press, 2004. 136 pages. Paper. $12.95.

"Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth," said Albert Einstein about Mahatma Gandhi. Because Gandhi was an outsider to and critic of Western culture, his thoughts have not received the attention they deserve. However, there has been renewed interest in him in recent years by both activists and thinkers from around the world. Moreover, the government of India recently collected and published his works in 95 volumes.

Many people have written biographies of Gandhi, and Richard Deats's work may be the latest and the shortest (87 pages--the rest is a Foreword by Mary Evelyn Jegen and quotes from Gandhi's works on different themes). The book presents only a glimpse of Gandhi's more than sixty years of phenomenal public life and his enduring contribution to humanity. The purpose of the book is stated by Deats: "It is my hope that this biography will help introduce the life and message of Gandhi to a new generation of persons searching for a genuine alternative to war, intolerance and injustice" (p. 14). Deats presents the important events in Gandhi's life in chronological order and highlights certain programs he initiated and themes he emphasized. He shows how Gandhi became a great inspiration and guide to people who resist evil structures and oppressive regimes. He quotes Gandhi extensively throughout the book.

Because Deats himself is involved in resisting evil and oppressive structures, he writes with commitment and passion, which makes this book valuable and interesting. He goes beyond the popular understanding of Gandhi as a freedom-struggle leader using nonviolence, bringing to our attention his original contribution in religion, human nature, constructive programs, and so on. However, I think he fails to connect Gandhi's various activities and themes to help readers understand the most important mission in his life. Throughout his life Gandhi sought to develop a nonviolent way of life in which human beings could recognize themselves as God's children, irrespective of religion and culture, and live in truth, love and justice. The goal of his life was to present this nonviolent way of life as an alternative to the dominant Western consumerist culture, which is built on extreme individualism, ruthless competition, and violence.

I recommend this book with the hope that the reading of it will encourage the next generations to know more about Gandhi and his works and choose to follow and propagate the way of nonviolence.

Johnson Lawrence

Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
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Author:Lawrence, Johnson
Publication:Currents in Theology and Mission
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 1, 2006
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