The Pew Forum recently released the results of a study of religious knowledge in the United States, and it revealed two things that are not a surprise:
1. American Christians don’t know much about Christianity.
2. American Christians know even less about any other religion.
Big shocker there.
I have met people who call themselves Christians and believe that Moses started their specific denomination, in 2,000 BC, after literally walking around the world and checking out every religion, including Mormonism.
But, in a wonderfully frightful illustration of the wretched state of Christian’s own knowledge of the religions of the world, this past week Yahoo front-paged an article by Al Mohler (who if you don’t know, you should) on how Christians should not practice Yoga…and then the tornado started. The Yahoo story, as of my writing this, has 7,818 comments, and almost all of them are basically expressions of utter shock written by people who think Mohler, more or less, is an imbecile. Mohler threw an update on his website addressing the issue, and commented that his e-mail servers were entirely bogged down with all the e-mails he received, almost all of which were rebukes with no effort at making any form of biblical argument against his argument (which I don’t think most people even tracked).
Mohler noticed some very interesting things though from the hundreds of e-mails that he did read:
1. Not one–not a single one–has addressed the theological and biblical issues.
2. Yoga is basically done (or at least defended) by women. More than 90 percent of the protesting e-mails were from women.
3. Every single defense of Yoga was pragmatic (i.e. “it works”, “it helps me feel better”), and most of the defenses of Yoga connected Yoga with spirituality (i.e. “it helps me connect with God”, “it renewed my spirituality”), but none of the spiritual connections had anything to do with Christianity (i.e. conviction and repentance, increased study and obedience to God’s word, etc.).
4. Most Christians who practice Yoga don’t have a clue what Yoga is all about.
Mohler is right.
Christians who practice Yoga basically confuse Yoga with Pilates, but words have meaning. Yoga is inherently a religious practice, in much the same way as communion. I mean, can you imagine if you went to your local school and tried to make communion part of the senior high nutrition program? Would anyone have a problem if you brought in a pastor/priest in full regalia to administer an “afternoon snack”? I imagine that half the parents would think that you’re forcing their kids to become Christians, and the other half would be protesting that prayer wasn’t brought back as well. Nobody would be confused at the inherent religious association of taking a wafer and some grape juice and eating/drinking it when the pastor/priest says “do this in rememberance of me”. Nobody would believe it’s just a snack…
Ironically, maybe some westerners could get away with trying that in India…
So, should Christians be practicing Yoga? Apparently millions do, and this happens even in Mennonite Brethren Circles, though we at least have changed the name (good idea). But, in answer to the question of whether or not we should, we simply need to be clear on what Yoga is.
I’d recommend this excellent resource on Yoga, written by Vishal Mangalwadi, a Christian apologist and speaker who is from India. He was concerned enough about the importation of Yoga to the west that he wrote that little 18 page PDF on Yoga to help Christians understand what Yoga is and is not, and made it freely available on his website. You’ll learn about the five Yogas (although there are even more), and exactly what Yoga is meant to accomplish.
After reading that, you may realize that you were previously very confused regarding Yoga. What most of us call “Yoga” is “Pilates”. If you stretch and bend yourself and are not directing your consciousness and thoughts, you’re not doing Yoga anymore than you’re painting your garage. You’re stretching.
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “Moksha comes through the Jnana of realizing that there is no Samsara” Unger