Last month, Albert Mohler wrote an article on the Yoga’s incompatibility with Christian faith. The Associated Press has a report on Mohler’s argument, and today Yahoo put the story on its front page. Mohler has posted a response to the AP article, and it is not short on irony:
“The first lesson â€” count the cost when you talk about yoga. These people get bent out of shape fast.”
Read the rest here.
I love you like a brother, but I believe Mr. Mohler’s approach tickles the edge of fanaticism. Yoga? REALLY? This smacks of a man spoon-feeding me on what my life can and cannot include. A man. One man leading men. Not the Bible, not the Lord, but some rich dude casting stones at something he may not fully understand.
Not trying to be insulting, that was just my gut reaction and I’m trying to be honest.
So I can’t say “ohm” if I feel like it? Sure hope I don’t hum the wrong way in church! 😉 Seriously, just because Yoga’s perceptions of inner thought and meditation originate outside the SBC doesn’t mean that its practitioners are damned. Does it?
Just my opinion, brother.
Mohler (a comp) quotes Groothuis (an egal) as coming out against yoga many moons ago. This made my day!
I had a similar experience to Dr. Mohler’s (although not nearly to the same degree) when I wrote a response a few years ago to a Washington Post article extolling the benefits of reiki, a Japanese version of the energy therapy techniques that seem ubiquitous to eastern philosophical and religious systems. My intent was to provide a gentle suggestion that observant Christians and Jews might wish to discuss such practices with their pastors before participating. The printed reply a week or so later from a professing Jewish woman and reiki practitioner could have curled the wallpaper! Unhappily the Post never afforded me the courtesy of a counter-response.
If you propose to poke the bear you’d best have a long pole, sturdy armor, or iron bars between you.
Many folks do yoga on a limited basis, i.e. using some of the positions to alleviate muscular tightness and/or to increase circulation. Technically, this is not Yoga. Mohler admits that distinction. I’m fairly certain that many of the emails he’s received are from people unaware of that distinction. Gyms all over the country house “Yoga” classes that are little more that aerobics with work on a few positions.
This wears me out. Is there anything that’s not a problem or unchristian for this guy? I’ve looked at his website a couple of times (very limited exposure to suppress nausea) and I used to think that if we just burned down all the abortion clinics and killed all the queers, he’d get happy and shut up. However, it now appears that we’ll have to get enough combustible material to torch the yoga studios too.
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?â€”unless indeed you fail to meet the test! 2 Cor 13:5(ESV)
Wow, Mitch. Just wow.
It seems the distinction that Scott mentioned is what many people are missing. Dr. Mohler’s original piece discussed the practices that go into yoga, such as focusing sexual energy and use of the body as a means to commune with the divine. When these elements are excluded and all that is happening is stretching and contorting the body in different ways, then while you may be exercising, you are not doing yoga. However, when the various “spiritual” elements are practiced, then they are necessarily anti-christian. (As an oft used example, consider the difference between Eastern meditation and Christian meditation. One involves the emptying of the mind and the removal of self, the other involves the filling of the mind with reflection on the Word and works of God.) If Christians would take the time to really consider what Mohler said then I would be surprised to find that they thought any of it is controversial.
So you don’t think the word “yoga” has been so marginalized in this country that the very mention of it in a spiritual form causes confusion? I think that is Mohler’s biggest issue. His commentary assumes that everyone who reads the word yoga immediately thinks Hinduism and spirituality. Granted he spoke of the roots of it, but if you did a survey in country asking people to define the word yoga, I would imagine they would say exercise or crazy stretching exercise, etc.
Ask them to define the word Easter if you want corrolation. If Mohler had written on the dangers of giving your kids chocolate Easter eggs he would have been laughed off the stage. I think yoga (for the most part) has quickly reached that kind of absorption in the US today.
How many folks do you know who truly practice yoga and tantra in the ancient form, who claim to be Christians.
I serve in South Asia, and the practice of yoga here is regarded as one of great seriousness and spirituality. For American believers to be seduced by the claim that yoga is simply exercise is very sad. Yoga is a complex system of mental, spiritual, and physical activities. If someone wants to stretch, that’s exercise, not yoga. There is no such thing as Christian yoga.
I will be looking for a resolution at the next Southern Baptist Convention that ALL Southern Baptists boycott yoga and places that teach yoga.
Actually, I’m going to go out on a limb here and type out what I have been thinking. The real reason for this blow-back is that Mohler writes while assuming the categories he learned while digesting Syman’s book. In other words, Mohler is using informed and *academic* terminology that simply doesn’t fit the vernacular. As Beth put it, above, stretching isn’t yoga – but most people use it that way. I would also gently ask why so many Christians want to practice yoga? Not, “why do so many Christians want to stretch and stay fit?”, but why are they so concerned to cal it yoga? I think the answer has something to do with being hip and cool, but I might be wrong.
Mohler claims that if its not spiritual, then its not yoga. Sorry, that’s incorrect. Since when is Albert Mohler an expert on yoga, or any other Asian health practices?
@Tom J. Are you saying that you are wanting that to happen, or just looking toward the likelihood of said Boycott? Just want to understand what you’re saying (hard to do in text).
I think it all comes down to the teacher. I’ve taken yoga classes with hindis and earth mother hippie types, and I come away frustrated.
I’ve also taken yoga classes from fitness instructors and own (actually pretty great) yoga DVD’s put together by Diamond Dallas Page. In those situations, I come away worked out, stretched and invigorated.
I will not go as far as Mohler and say that the fitness instructors weren’t actually teaching yoga. They’re yoga poses with yoga names taken at yoga speeds.
I genuinely think intent makes all the difference in the world. Yoga, when it’s about the stretching, the breathing and the exercise, has to be perfectly compatible with Christianity.
When it’s about all of that, intertwined with meditation, lights bowing to one another (you’ll never hear me say namaste to anyone), centering one’s spirit, and so on, no I don’t think that’s compatible with Christianity at all.
My biggest problem with all of this is that yoga is clearly one of the best forms of exercise out there for the feeble, for the easily injured, for people with bad backs and knees, and it’s a great way to get into shape, learn to properly breathe, lose weight, etc, etc, etc. For Mohler to potentially take that off the table, so to speak, for so many people for whom this might be the single best method of exercise out there is sad. I think he would have been better off to state this: before you step on the mat, know your teacher.