Friday, November 04, 2011


"Tonight's Poll is Christians: threat or menace? So far 67% of viewers chose 'menace.'"

Seattle has a church called the Mars Hill Church, led by pastor Mark Driscoll. He's managed to build a very large congregation based on reformed principles and preaching the gospel rather than seeker-sensitive, market-driven, poll-designed entertainment services.

Recently, the pastor wrote a blog post on co-opting the culture and making it "Christian" by sticking the word "Jesus" to it or some similar method, like Christian Rap. He mentioned yoga specifically, and Amy Rolph at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer went nuts. The headline?

Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll says yoga is demonic

Wow, he's crazy huh? What a right wing extremist lunatic! Here's what the pastor says on his blog:
There is nothing wrong with stretching, exercising, or regulating one’s stress through breathing, but when the tenets of yoga are included, it’s by definition a worship act to spirit beings other than the God of the Bible.
Lets make something clear here: he's actually right. Yoga is part of Hindu worship, its an offshoot of a Hindu meditation technique which involves the activation of various "chakras" through poses and physical stretching exercises meant to help you achieve oneness with the Brahman. Its not generally taught that explicitly, but the themes, names, and concepts are there, even if cloaked in physical fitness tones. The idea of yoga is to achieve inner peace through ignoring the world and releasing yourself from its false construct in your mind. That's flat out Hinduism.

And Christianity, like most religions, teaches its God's way or the highway: either you're for God or you are for the other team... which is demonic. And that covers anything that is a substitute or distraction from God. That can be golf, it can be politics, it can be romance, anything. It becomes sinful - hence demonic - if it takes you away from God or replaces him as a modern version of an idol.

The pastor goes on to point out that Christians trying to make a Christian version of Yoga are mistaken and foolish:
As such, Christians are also adopting it as a healthy aspect of exercise and lifestyle—complete with things like “Holy Yoga,” which is an oxymoron. Saying yoga can be Christian because you do it for Jesus is a bit like going into a mosque, going through the worship practices, and then saying you’re not a Muslim because you’re doing it for Jesus. They don’t mix.

When looking at the acceptance of yoga in the Christian church, I find that there are two issues at hand: (1) People simply don’t understand what yoga is, its roots, and its tenants; or (2) People think that they can engage in yoga because it’s just stretching, while ignoring the religious aspects of the practice of yoga.
Now, there's no reason someone couldn't come up with a stretching and exercise system involving efforts similar to yoga, but it wouldn't be yoga without the mantras chanted, the focus on chakras, the names of the poses, and the effort to achieve blank mindlessness, releasing yourself from the illusion of reality for a brief moment of meditative oneness.

I know this sounds odd to some non-Christians, but it actually makes consistent sense for Christians. Don't adopt and add other religious efforts and ceremonies to your faith. And that's all the pastor is saying, but the PI can't understand or handle that.


Eric said...

I'll start by saying I think the types of yoga this pastor likely experiences in the Seattle area is probably much different from what the rest of the nation thinks of when it considers 'yoga'. Seattle is more Asian than most of America, both in in its population and its culture, and the yoga practitioners there probably are much more attuned to the spiritual aspect of it... but I don't think that is the case with commercial yoga in the rest of the country.

My wife has gone to many yoga classes over the years, and in fact had to do quite a bit of studying on yoga techniques as part her degree in Physical Therapy. She would be somewhat freaked out if chanting mantras or focusing on chakras was involved in any yoga class she attended. Even most of the names are more physical than spiritual in thier description (i.e., Downward Facing Dog, Fire Log Pose, Monkey Pose). And she has commented before that as pilates and core exercises have found their way into these routines, they are even losing the vestiges of their translated Asian names... now half the exercises in her 'yoga' class are things like "Reclining Leg Lift", and "Side Planks".

I think you do make a good point about the meditational aspects of it, but also for many (if not most) people it is more of a 'relaxing quiet time' thing than a spiritual exercise to escape the bounds of earthly materialism... i.e., not really any different than winding down by playing some relaxing music at the end of the day.

So while people should certainly be aware of the spiritual implications of what they are doing with their bodies, I think most modern commerical yoga programs are to Hinduism what fortune cookies are to traditional Chinese cuisine.

Christopher R Taylor said...

Sounds like she's in a stretching and exercise program involving efforts similar to yoga without actually being yoga. Fauxga, as it were.

Eric said...

Yes, but I think that's what an increasing number of people recognize as yoga. If you bring your own mat to the class to unroll on the floor, it's a 'yoga class'.

The problem is, if Christian leaders are going to start talking about how yoga endangers your relationship with God, it is going to leave these people scratching their heads and wondering what the big deal is. Instead of pointing out that these Christian leaders are talking about a fairly small segment of traditional yoga practitioners, people will make it out to be like the campaigns against Dungeons & Dragons and Harry Potter.

It seems to me the people who are concerned about this issue would do more good if they focused instead on educating Christians about Hinduism, as you do in your post. Most people will look at their 'yoga' classes and say, "Well, I'm glad its not anything like that." and the ones who do have classes that incorporate those traditions will be more aware of it and can make changes if necessary.

Chris said...

If you empty the house, someone will come to live there. Jesus addressed this specifically. This is more of a problem for non-Christians, but still, opening the door for anyone is not a good idea.

Be careful of the secular things you partake of, because they are designed to entrap you and cause you to lose your focus on Jesus.

BTW, I am just as guilty as anyone of this. I have my own demons which I battle constantly.