A few years ago I asked a friend of mine, a staunch atheist, to join me for lunch.
“Let’s just catch up. No spiritual talk,” I said.
“No problem,” he said.
Halfway through lunch, after we talked about some political issue, he put his fork down and asked me, “What do you think happens when we die?”
“I thought we weren’t going to talk about religion,” I responded.
“Well, I know what you’re going to say, but it’s been on my mind a lot lately.”
“What do you think happens when we die?” I shot back.
He paused, pointed at my Wildﬁre Chicken Salad, and said, “Same thing that happens to that head of lettuce.”
“You don’t really believe that, do you? As if all of this—you, me, this planet, the universe—all of this is some cosmic accident and we’re here all alone?”
“Absolutely I do.”
“Well,” I said, as I wiped my mouth with my napkin, “what exactly do you believe if you had to give your beliefs a name?”
“I’m more into a Hindu sort of approach to the world.”
“Really? This coming from a guy who wouldn’t recognize a Hindu belief if it ran him over on the freeway!”
“Jones, seriously. I like that Gandhi guy. I mean, I saw a special about him on TV the other day and I thought to myself, Now he’s got it all together. That’s what I believe. I’m a follower of Gandhi.”
“Gandhi over Jesus?”
“Absolutely. I don’t know what your deal is with Jesus is anyway. Don’t know why he’s any more special than any other great religious teacher, especially Gandhi.”
“Can I ask you a question?”
“Do you even know anything about Gandhi? I hear atheists like you say all the time what a wonderful person Gandhi is. Do you even know anything about him?”
“What do you mean?”
“Gandhi did a lot of great things for his people, I’ll give you that, but the last person you should hold up as a great moral example is Gandhi. Did you know that Gandhi used to practice something called brahmacharya? Any idea what that is?”
“Never heard of it.”
“It’s a spiritual practice where Hindu holy men sleep next to a naked woman to prove they have the self-restraint not to have sex with them. If they successfully spent the night with them without having intercourse, they proved to themselves, the woman, and the world they have heightened spiritual abilities and self-control.”
“Gandhi routinely practiced brahmacharya, but here’s the kicker—he did it with underage women.”
“He did not!”
Then I shared with him what all scholars who have studied Gandhi’s life know about him—Gandhi had a need, bordering on obsession, to practice strange brahmacharya experiments with teenage girls.
Elizabeth Abbott, former dean of women at Trinity College in Toronto, is just one of the many scholars who points out that Gandhi “requested that various young women—teenaged virgins or newlyweds—sleep next to him to warm him.”
Abbott points out that Abha, Gandhi’s great-nephew’s sixteen year-old wife, “had to remove her clothes so Gandhi could judge whether he, like Ramananda [another Hindu holy man], was sufficiently chaste to be unaffected by her nakedness. Abha’s husband was so distressed he offered himself in his wife’s place; he, himself, would keep the old man warm at night. But no, Gandhi wanted Abha for his brahmacharya experiment.”
Abbott goes on to point out that “another teenager, distant cousin Manu Gandhi, bathed and shaved Gandhi, slept with him, monitored his physical condition during his fasts, and gave him enemas.”
“Did you know any of this?” I asked my Hindu-obsessed friend across the table.
“Had no idea.”
“We have a name for that kind of behavior in this country; four words to be exact: corruption of a minor. I didn’t bring this up to bash Gandhi; this is simply an established fact about his life. It’s well documented. I bring it up because you compared him to Jesus, and quite frankly, Gandhi isn’t even in the same league as Jesus Christ. No one is, in fact. That’s the point.”
He just sat there silently. Didn’t say a word. He just moved his fork around, playing with his food, and processed everything I had just shared. Somehow I sensed that God was working on his heart and a spiritual barrier had been removed. I think he realized it too.
So I did what any apocalyptically urgent person should do in this situation—I changed the subject. I said, “That’s enough talk about religion for one day. How’s your wife’s job?”
You’re probably thinking, You had him against the ropes, why didn’t you press for a decision? Why didn’t you ask him what was preventing him from surrendering his life to Christ, right there, that instant?
I didn’t press him to make a decision because I knew that removing one barrier didn’t mean I removed all his barriers. I couldn’t allow my fear of losing my friend to hell to cause me to barge ahead.
I did, however, leave what I call a “lifeline” at the end of our conversation, which is a simple action step I like to give people when I sense they’re not yet ready to cross the line of faith. I asked my friend if he’d be willing to read a chapter in a book and get together at some future point to talk about it.
And that was it.
No miraculous conversion that day, just one tiny barrier removed.
Yet, I had faithfully fulfilled my duty as a loving Christian.
The good news is that my friend eventually came to faith in Christ a few years later through the help of another good friend of mine.
The bad news is I got stuck with the check that day.
(Hey, I may not be pushy, but I am cheap.)
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