Today’s Seattle Times paper had an article about the practice of Yoga and 1) its growth in popularity and b) the push-back from some Christian leaders that believe Yoga is ‘demonic.’ Now, let me first say that I’ve never practiced Yoga but know of several folks that regularly do Yoga.
Let me also say that I’m not writing this as a back-handed slap against the two pastors/leaders that are prominently featured on the article: Mark Driscoll [Mars Hill] and Al Mohler [President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary]. I share this because pushback comes up in the form of:
“Eugene, why are you such a jerk? Why can’t you first contact “them” to work stuff out with them rather than writing about it on your blog?”
Umm, nothing to work out. I’m just responding to public leaders and their comments on a public medium.
But back to the topic at hand. The simple question I pose to you:
Is ‘yoga’ demonic?
Here are some of my vomitaceous thoughts:
- I really think we need to be a bit more careful with the usage of the word, ‘demonic.’ Translation: Let’s not use it so freely. That or folks don’t quite know what that word means.
- Demonic bullet point.
- The problem is that we’re trying to exegete complex aspects of culture with very simplistic and black/white paradigms. To try to imply that there’s such a thing called a “pure” practice of Christianity is well…incorrect. The Gospel enter into a context and culture and will inevitably take various forms – particularly, over generations and generations. In one sense, I could make a case that we’re all syncretists in some way.
- I understand Mohler and Driscoll’s premise: “Rather, they believe the physical aspects of yoga can’t be separated from its historical roots in Hinduism and other Eastern religions.” The distinction is that they seem to see it as a practice of religion while some see it as form of wholistic exercise.
- While I certainly wouldn’t phrase the question in such a simplistic way, I think it’s worthwhile to ask for Christians:
- “Is Yoga helpful or detrimental to our faith and devotion to Christ?’
- How can Yoga be detrimental or helpful? I don’t know personally but personally know of folks that have indicated as such. And vice-versa, the same is true for friends that have espoused its value to them.
- My point is that if you’re practicing Yoga as a religion, it opposes our worship of Christ and thus, is not good.
- Out-of-context. Having been interviewed for articles before, I can also tell you that it’s difficult and at times, unfair, to have a lengthy conversation be deduced to couple sentences for an article. But such is the reality of articles and media. All to say that I’d be curious to hear or read more unless its simply a ploy to get attention.
- I’m also curious about the implications of a Mars Hill member, leader, or staff person being a practicing Yoga-ite [Is that the right word?] and chose NOT to stop. Would that be person guilty of demonic practice and thus, expelled from church?
- Gender issues. Gender issues. Gender issues.
- Sometimes, I wonder if pastors/leaders think that Christians or their church-goers are incapable of processing, reconciling, and living in a complex world without the necessity of simplistic answers.
I did appreciate this commentary [via his FB] from a Quester [minus the demonic usage of the word sh*t]:
…this coming from a guy [Mark Driscoll] that thinks Jesus should be an MMA fighter.
Here is the 411. If he thinks Yoga is ‘demonic’… so is MMA.
Why? MMA is essentially Brazilian Jujitsu and mixes thereof eastern martial arts which is derived from Kadokan Judo…practiced by Buddhist monks in ancient Japan. Martial arts is not just a way of beating the crap out of others. At its core, is an art of mediation, discipline, and exercise based out of eastern religions, kind of like…Yoga.
Sometimes, I find the sh*t that ‘in the spotlight’ leaders spew to be exactly that… sh*t. As an asian man, I’ve reconciled my culture and traditions, which are not rooted in judeo christian ideals, with my Christianity, so i’m not worried about losing my faith over some exercise/meditation classes.
Here’s a portion of the article from the Seattle Times:
Is the downward-facing dog somehow … demonic?
A recent essay by the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., warned Christians that yoga is contradictory to Christianity. And local megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church went even further, saying earlier this year that yoga is “absolute paganism.”
“Should Christians stay away from yoga because of its demonic roots? Totally. Yoga is demonic,” Driscoll said. “If you just sign up for a little yoga class, you’re signing up for a little demon class.”
Even as yoga has become a mainstream form of exercise and stress relief in the United States, the question of whether Christians should practice it is making the rounds once again, raising a stir among some Christians and yoga practitioners alike.
“Here we go again with fear-based, black-and-white thinking,” said Jennifer Norling, of Seattle, a 42-year-old mainline Protestant who has been practicing yoga for many years. “It’s not fair to say yoga is demonic. In fact, I find it insulting. There are many ways to grow spiritually.” [full article]