Posts Tagged “yoga”

LotusNearly eight years ago, I first blogged about Christianity and yoga — and how, supposedly, they’re at loggerheads. At that time, Southern Baptist theologian Al Mohler had come out against it as un-Christian. Since then, other Christians have made their opposition to the practice of yoga known, in a number of ways, including via lawsuits.

Well, this controversy has kicked up anew. A Catholic blogger declared it un-Christian on Twitter, and complained that he was criticized for having done so (Archive.Is cached article):

The cool kids on Twitter use the term “ratioed” to describe an event where someone sends a controversial tweet that garners far more replies than it does likes. According to Twitter logic, this is supposed to be an indication that you were wrong about whatever you said.…

Yet I have found that the ratio more often indicates the correctness of a statement than it does incorrectness. That does not always hold, of course, but I think it did this morning when I fell into another ratio because of a tweet about yoga [cached]. Here’s what I said: “It’s kind of amazing to see all of the Christians who think nothing of going to a yoga class. There are many excellent ways to get in shape that do not involve participating in Hindu worship.”

Most of Walsh’s article isn’t so much a condemnation of yoga as a “pagan spiritual practice,” but a self-serving, infantile, sniveling whine about the criticism that was leveled at him. As part of his diatribe, Walsh (a supposedly Catholic blogger) cites Mohler (a very Protestant theologian). I find that little bit of irony amusing, even if it’s almost beside the point.

What is important to know, here, is that Walsh misunderstands what yoga is, as it’s practiced in America. As I’ve noted each time I’ve commented on this, it’s absolutely true that yoga began over a couple millennia ago (or more) as a Hindu practice. It’s been practiced in numerous ways since it began in classical India, however. It migrated through various religious traditions, and as it’s practiced in the occidental world, has lost any connection to its religious origins, aside from the Hindi names of some of its positions.

To be clear, American yogis and yoginis are not worshipping any Hindu gods — no matter how vehemently Walsh, or Mohler or any other Christian critics of yoga, might insist they are. What’s more, meditative practices along the lines of yoga are part and parcel of Christianity, and have been for a very long time. Meditation is embedded in the monastic and mendicant movements.

It’s time for Christianists to grow up and deal with things that seem foreign (and therefore scary) to them, rather than dismiss and castigate them as “pagan.”

Photo credit: CEBImagery, via Flickr.

Hat tip: Vox.

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Yoga Journal Conference 1I’ve commented before on occasional Christianist hissy-fits and condemnations of yoga as a profane “pagan”/Hindu practice. As I’ve said on those occasions, it’s true that what we now call “yoga” did originate as part of Hindu practice and ritual. However, it has changed through the millennia, and as it’s practiced in the occidental world, has long since lost any connection to the Hindu religion. American yogis and yoginis are not worshiping Hindu gods in any of their exercises.

But that hasn’t stopped Christians from getting their panties in knots over it nonetheless. The Kansas City Star, for example, reports that a Catholic college has renamed its yoga classes (WebCite cached article):

Yoga is designed to help bring peace and wellness to body and mind.

But at Benedictine College — a small and strongly Catholic liberal arts school in Atchison, Kan. — yoga classes per se will soon be yo-gone, out of apparent concern that use of the word “yoga” suggests advocacy for Hindu mysticism.

College spokesman Stephen Johnson said that starting this fall, both recreational classes and for-credit exercise classes that once taught yoga will likely still be taught the same way, but instead will be rebranded as “lifestyle fitness.”

“We’re changing the name,” Johnson said.

Note, they haven’t stopped the yoga classes. They’ll still be held. They just won’t go by the name of “yoga” any more. Why the college dislikes the name “yoga” isn’t entirely clear, or why yoga classes haven’t been banned altogether, isn’t clear based on the objections they’ve offered:

Complaints, Johnson said, began to come in from alumni, students, faculty and some administrators who argued that as a Hindu practice, yoga was not in keeping with Catholic-based education.

I note that mysticism and meditation — which yoga is a form of — is most assuredly very Christian. It’s been part of the religion since its inception, especially within its monastic movements. So really, there shouldn’t be much objection to it, even at a conservative Catholic college.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Apathetic Agnostic Church.

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Yoga woman / via PixabayFor the last few years there’s been a backlash among American Christians against the practice of yoga. Back in 2010, Al Mohler (of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) declared it un-Christian, citing its Hindu roots, and claiming that blanking one’s mind is something Christians can never do. (Yes. For some reason.) There have also been lawsuits over yoga in schools. Yoga’s origins as a Hindu philosophy are undisputed, but as its practiced in the US, it has very little to do with that religion.

Still, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, that hasn’t stopped some devout Christian parents in Georgia from objecting to it in one of their schools (WebCite cached article):

A group of parents at a Cobb County elementary are upset over the school’s use of yoga and other mindfulness practices for students because they believe it endorses a non-Christian belief system.

School leaders at Bullard Elementary held a meeting recently with parents to address the “many misconceptions” over the issue that “created a distraction in our school and community,” according to an email to parents from Bullard principal Patrice Moore.…

As a result, the school is making changes. When yoga moves are used in classrooms, students will not say the word “namaste” nor put their hands by their hearts, according to the email. The term and gesture are often used as a greeting derived from Hindu custom.

When coloring during classroom teaching breaks, students will not be allowed to color mandalas, spiritual symbols in Hinduism and Buddhism.

Granted, there’s a lot of BS out there about the word “namaste.” I’ve heard New Agers translate it as “the divine in me bows to the divine in you.” So yeah, for some folks, it has religious connotations. But with that said … all of that is excess baggage. “Namaste” comes down from Sanskrit, and is just a simple greeting, the equivalent of “hello” (its exact translation, if you must know, is “I bow to you”).

As the AJC article explains, yoga programs have popped up in schools around the country. I’m not sure how helpful it is, but unless there’s a lot more overt religiosity involved than what’s been described here, I just don’t see how it could be viewed as promoting Hinduism or undermining Christianity. It’s just a form of meditation.

Also, as the article mentions, one of the Christianist parents’ bogeymen here is their whine that — supposedly — Christian prayers aren’t allowed in public schools. They forget that prayers (from any religion) are definitely allowed … it’s just that school personnel can’t lead them. And they forget that yoga isn’t prayer (at least, not as it’s being done). Really, this is just another manifestation of their phony persecution complex.

Hat tip: Raw Story.

Photo credit: Pixabay.

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Trikonasana Yoga-Asana Nina-MelOver the last few years, some American Christianists have decided that yoga, of all things, is an abomination against their deity. The angry theocrat Al Mohler came out against it 5 years ago, and occasionally it kicks up a Christianist furor, as happened a couple years ago in California.

The latest example comes from Ted Shoebat, the Christofascist son of the claimed ex-PLO terrorist Walid Shoebat, who — as Right Wing Watch reports and provides video — has demanded that yoga, of all things, be outlawed and yoga studios raided (WebCite cached article):

Extremist right-wing activist Theodore Shoebat dedicated his most recent video to railing against the evils of Hinduism, declaring that if he was a dictator, he would invade India, destroy all Hindu temples and force everyone to convert to Christianity.…

“Yoga? Outlawed,” Shoebat continued. “And anyone who teaches yoga? Punished by the state … I think the U.S. government needs to crack down on this evil, demonic thing called yoga … You’re teaching yoga, have the SWAT team bust open the doors to that place and just arrest everybody.”

Note, this isn’t really new for the furious little Teddie. He’s previously called for all gays, and those who support them (even Christians), to be executed summarily (cached). He also supports Donald “it’s my own orange hair” Trump for president, with the expectation he’ll also have all Muslims executed, as well (cached).

Note that Teddie’s father Walid has a dubious history. He’s a Muslim convert to Christianity who said he’d been a Muslim terrorist, although he was almost certainly not involved in at least one terror attack he’d claimed to have been part of (cached). As one would expect, this has brought him a acclaim from evangelical Christians who love such claims and don’t really give a flying fuck whether or not they’re truthful, and has made a living on the Christian lecture circuit as a “terrorism expert.”

At any rate, I can’t fathom why “mainstream” Christians — who presumably find such views atrocious and unacceptable — haven’t done anything about the angry little Teddie or his father. Hmm. I mean, they may well be offended that this guy is speaking for their religion, their deity, and even them … but he just keeps spewing these ridiculous demands for people he dislikes to be killed.

As for yoga being a form of Hinduism, as practiced in most places in the US, it’s no such thing. Yes, it’s true it began among Hindus as a form of devotion, but over the centuries, not to mention the miles, it’s lost pretty much any connection it had to the religion known as Hinduism. Some of the practices and poses have Hindi names, but that’s about as close a link as you’ll find in most American yoga studios. Having people killed over it, though … ? What the fuck!? I mean that seriously … what the fuck is wrong with Ted Shoebat and why the hell are people actually letting jabber on like the the juvenile, ignorant, furious douchebag he is?

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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MeditatingDespite the fact that it’s relatively common … and mostly done in a completely non-religious way in the occidental world … there are Christians out there who can’t get over yoga. They don’t understand that, while it did originate within Hindu religious tradition, yoga can be — and almost always is — non-religious. They object to it anyway, just because they think they can.

A couple years ago I blogged about evangelical theologian R. Albert Mohler going on a tear against it, but he’s hardly alone. As the (UK) Telegraph reports, some Christians in California are suing their local school district because it plans to have yoga as part of the phys-ed curriculum (WebCite cached article):

The Encinitas Union School District plans to offer yoga instruction at all of its nine schools from January, despite a protest by parents who say they believe it will indoctrinate their children in Eastern religion.

The growing popularity of yoga is forcing US public schools to address the question of whether it is a religious practice or simply exercise.

The parents have their reasons … which are incomprehensible:

Mary Eady, a parent who has pulled her child out of yoga classes, said the pupils were learning to worship the sun and it was “inappropriate in our public schools.”

I’m not sure how or why Ms Eady thinks yoga is “sun worship.” She might be referring — perhaps — to something like Surya Namaskara, which might be called a yoga practice … however, it is, at best, a subset of yoga, and is certainly not the entirety of yoga.

It’s actually not uncommon for fundamentalist Christians to dismiss or condemn things they dislike as “sun worship.” They similarly dismiss Islam as “moon worship.” I’m not sure why, but they do.

In any event, as I blogged previously, these Christians forget that a lot of the meditative practices which are part of yoga, also happen to be traditional within Christianity … particularly in the monastic and mendicant movements. In other words, they’re condemning something that can also be found within their own religion. The meditative practices of Christian monks, friars, nuns, etc. may not be something these fundamentalist Christians are personally familiar with, but they’re no less “Christian” than any of their own rites or practices. That they’re ignorant of their own religion’s traditions, is the real problem here.

Photo credit: RelaxingMusic, via Flickr.

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yoginiSouthern Baptist theologian Albert Mohler has come out against the practice of yoga. Time magazine’s NewsFeed blog reports on his pronouncement (WebCite cached article):

In a recent blog post, Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, examines the argument that practicing yoga may be in direct conflict with the values of Christianity. “Yoga begins and ends with an understanding of the body that is, to say the very least, at odds with the Christian understanding,” Mohler writes.

He was prompted to make this declaration, apparently, by the publication of a single book, according to Time:

Mohler’s warning to Christians stems from Stefanie Syman’s recent book, The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America, a “masterpiece of cultural history” according to Mohler, who argues that it’s yoga’s deeply rooted – and almost ritualistic – meditation through physical positions that should cause Christians to think before they stretch. “Yoga begins and ends with an understanding of the body that is, to say the very least, at odds with the Christian understanding,” he writes. “Christians are not called to empty the mind or to see the human body as a means of connecting to and coming to know the divine. Believers are called to meditate upon the Word of God — an external Word that comes to us by divine revelation — not to meditate by means of incomprehensible syllables.”

I’ll give Mohler points for one thing, and one thing only: Yoga did originate as one of the orthodox philosophies of Hinduism, which is a religion quite distinct and different from Christianity or the other Abrahamic faiths. However, as it’s practiced in the occidental world, Yoga has long since lost any connection with the practice of Hinduism. Aside from the Sanskrit names for positions and exercises, it is not Hinduism. It’s not even “Hinduism-lite.” It’s just meditation and exercise.

(I do admit that the organization called Transcendental Meditation has some religious, even cult-like aspects, however, the vast majority of people practicing Yoga in the US are not part of that group, have no connection with it, and aren’t practicing TM.)

Mohler forgets, though, that the sort of meditation and exercises which make up Yoga, have long had a parallel in the monastic and mendicant movements in Christianity. Devotional prayers are very similar to meditation, and there are many Christian mystical practices with similarities to Yoga. All right, so as a Protestant fundamentalist, Mohler may not really consider these things “Christian” (since they’re most often seen among Roman Catholic and Orthodox monks and nuns, and Protestants don’t think too well of them), but he cannot deny a historical precedent within his own religion.

What happened, I suspect, is that Mohler read Syman’s book, became enamored of it, and wrote a blog post about it. In the process he pretty much dismissed all forms of Christian mysticism as being “un-Christian.”

Photo credit: dharma communications.

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