Posts Tagged “yogi”

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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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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