The ever-liberal Huffington Post dropped two great pieces this week, setting straight some of the wacky fundamentalist remarks that two different Christian groups have made: one on how yoga is anti-Christian, and the other about creationism.
A little background: a few weeks ago, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (based right here in Louisville!), a one Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., wrote about the “dangers of yoga.” In “The Subtle Body — Should Christians Practice Yoga?” he mostly quotes from Stephanie Syman’s book The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America, describing how yoga “cannot be fully extricated from its spiritual roots in Hinduism and Buddhism.” After rambling on about ritualized sex, the spiritual connection, and heathenism, he concludes:
When Christians practice yoga, they must either deny the reality of what yoga represents or fail to see the contradictions between their Christian commitments and their embrace of yoga. The contradictions are not few, nor are they peripheral. The bare fact is that yoga is a spiritual discipline by which the adherent is trained to use the body as a vehicle for achieving consciousness of the divine. Christians are called to look to Christ for all that we need and to obey Christ through obeying his Word. We are not called to escape the consciousness of this world by achieving an elevated state of consciousness, but to follow Christ in the way of faithfulness.
If you think this is silly, you’re not the only one. Interfaith minister Philip Goldberg responded aptly:
What are they afraid of? Are they that insecure? Do they think so little of their flock as to fear that they’ll convert to Hinduism because they chant some Sanskrit mantras, or say “Namaste” instead of goodnight, or hear some tidbits of Vedic philosophy while stretching?
Goldberg makes the comparison that non-Christians are almost always under an indirect influence of the religion just by living in America. Christmas songs, holidays, greeting cards, even “bless you” – our lives our laced with religion left and right, and yet “despite the relentless exposure, there is no sign of mass conversion,” says Goldberg. Unless….is that the issue? Are people like Mohler and others worried about a conversion away from Christianity? Goldberg summarizes:
Old-fashioned religious supremacists are under threat not from yoga but from the currents of history itself. Reverend Mohler and his brethren may lament that, but those of us who welcome the rise of genuine pluralism and the advent of a rational spirituality can only say Amen.
Rational spirutality is another matter, and could be considered an inherent contradiction. Dr. Michael Zimmerman, who will be featured in Part 2, might agree that there is no such thing. Stay tuned!