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Southern Baptist leader on yoga: Not Christianity

PhillieG's picture
PhillieG
Posts: 4687
Joined: May 2005

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A Southern Baptist leader who is calling for Christians to avoid yoga and its spiritual attachments is getting plenty of pushback from enthusiasts who defend the ancient practice.

Southern Baptist Seminary President Albert Mohler says the stretching and meditative discipline derived from Eastern religions is not a Christian pathway to God.

Mohler said he objects to "the idea that the body is a vehicle for reaching consciousness with the divine."

"That's just not Christianity," Mohler told The Associated Press.

Mohler said feedback has come through e-mail and comments on blogs and other websites since he wrote an essay to address questions about yoga he has heard for years.

"I'm really surprised by the depth of the commitment to yoga found on the part of many who identify as Christians," Mohler said.

[One devout Catholic's perspective: Is there such a thing as Christian yoga?]

Yoga fans say their numbers have been growing in the U.S. A 2008 study by the Yoga Journal put the number at 15.8 million, or nearly 7 percent of adults. About 6.7 percent of American adults are Southern Baptists, according to a 2007 survey by the Pew Research Center Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Mohler argued in his online essay last month that Christians who practice yoga "must either deny the reality of what yoga represents or fail to see the contradictions between their Christian commitments and their embrace of yoga."

He said his view is "not an eccentric Christian position."

Other Christian leaders have said practicing yoga is incompatible with the teachings of Jesus. Pat Robertson has called the chanting and other spiritual components that go along with yoga "really spooky." California megachurch pastor John MacArthur called yoga a "false religion." Muslim clerics have banned Muslims from practicing yoga in Egypt, Malaysia and Indonesia, citing similar concerns.

Yoga proponents say the wide-ranging discipline, which originated in India, offers physical and mental healing through stretching poses and concentration.

[The whole discipline: An overview of yoga]

"Lots of people come to yoga because they are often in chronic pain. Others come because they think it's a nice workout," said Allison Terracio, who runs the Infinite Bliss studio in Louisville.

And some yoga studios have made the techniques more palatable for Christians by removing the chanting and associations to eastern religions, namely Hinduism and its multiple deities.

Stephanie Dillon, who has injected Christian themes into her studio in Louisville, said yoga brought her closer to her Christian faith, which had faded after college and service in the Army.

"What I found is that it opened my spirit, it renewed my spirituality," Dillon said. "That happened first and then I went back to church." Dillon attends Southeast Christian Church in Louisville and says many evangelical Christians from the church attend her yoga classes.

She said she prayed on the question of whether to mix yoga and Christianity before opening her studio, PM Yoga, where she discusses her relationship with Jesus during classes.

"My objection (to Mohler's view) personally is that I feel that yoga enhances a person's spirituality," Dillon said. "I don't like to look at religion from a law standpoint but a relationship standpoint, a relationship with Jesus Christ specifically."

Mohler wrote the essay after reading "The Subtle Body," where author Stefanie Syman traces the history of yoga in America. Syman noted the growing popularity of yoga in the U.S. by pointing out that first lady Michelle Obama has added it to the festivities at the annual White House Easter Egg Roll on the front lawn.

Mohler said many people have written him to say they're simply doing exercises and forgoing yoga's eastern mysticism and meditation.

"My response to that would be simple and straightforward: You're just not doing yoga," Mohler said.

Marcia527's picture
Marcia527
Posts: 2739
Joined: Jul 2006

A lot of people would call me an independent stinker. Opps, I mean thinker. Or maybe the first word is correct. I asked once if we needed to know how to spell if we used spell check and I was told 'yes' for this reason. But isn't this more editing skills than spelling? Or does it really matter what we call it? Well I guess it does because it's communication to others and they might get the wrong idea. Like my so misunderstood self. Actually it doesn't matter to me if someone else chooses to do yoga or not. It's their choice. Just like if they don't like what is being told to them they can attend another church. It's up to them. I'm not the religious type so yoga doesn't bother me although I've never tried it. So there you are. I've just made a comment on something I know nothing about. I told you stinker was correct!

soccerfreaks's picture
soccerfreaks
Posts: 2801
Joined: Sep 2006

Coincidentally and interestingly, CureToday magazine features an editorial about something called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction that is "based on several disciplines including Buddhist meditation practices."

There is some evidence, apparently, that such exercises in stress reduction (which also include group and individual psychotherapy support, I should add), are helpful as healing agents and are being studied with some excitement with respect to cancer treatment, which comes as no surprise to me, as I have been advocating the inclusion of mental health experts on cancer teams since my original diagnosis in 2005.

In any event, this Mohler cat sounds like a fraidy cat to me: "I don't understand it so it must be evil."

Take care,

Joe

PhillieG's picture
PhillieG
Posts: 4687
Joined: May 2005

the usual good people have the good comments (or really any comments!). I suppose yoga can't exist because it's 7000 years old, that's 1000 years longer than the beginning of time. Yeah, that's it! I do think that people like this guy live in fear of things that they do not understand. And true,the koran been burned so he can't use that to gain notoriety.

Why is the majority of things based on fear when it comes to religion? I realize that he (nor Terry Jones who had incredibly stupid answers in a BBC interview I heard the other night) represent all christians, these are just the squeaky ones who are looking for their 15 minutes of public stupidity but while reading Sam Harris’s "The End of Faith", Mr Harris points out that if one really takes their faith very seriously, they can not be tolerant of other peoples faiths.

I do understand that a lot of good things come out of the community that many religions create but also many of the problems throughout time have been fueled by differences in faith. I know I sound like a broken record with this stuff but the more I look at "the big picture", the more I see what lies at the root of many of the problems (IMO of course)...

3Mana
Posts: 829
Joined: Aug 2010

Phillieg,
What are you trying to say??? Why are you talking about yoga? This site is for people who either have cancer or caregivers who are taking care of someone with it, or people like me who have lost a spouse from cancer. Please explain!

PhillieG's picture
PhillieG
Posts: 4687
Joined: May 2005

Yoga, aside from being exercise, can be a type of meditation which can help people with their daily lives, improve their health, get through cancer, and also help with their spirituality.
Sorry for your loss.

(Also, I have cancer and am currently in treatment for it and have practiced yoga.)

3Mana
Posts: 829
Joined: Aug 2010

Phillieg,
Sorry, guess I didn't realize you have cancer. I feel bad cause I misunderstood what you were trying to say. If yoga works, keep doing it. Hope everything goes okay for you.
"Carole"

soccerfreaks's picture
soccerfreaks
Posts: 2801
Joined: Sep 2006

um...

The title of this particular board is Spirituality, Prayer, and Meditation... Meditation ... What don't you get about that?

Take care,

Joe

Kathleen808's picture
Kathleen808
Posts: 2335
Joined: Jan 2009

Kathy,
Great writing on tolerance. As a Christian who has lived in a Muslim country ( 3 years in Abu Dhabi) I agree that we can learn to tolerate each other even appreciate each other if we get over our fear. We have to talk to each other and be together to see the the "fringe" in the religions that promote hate and fear don't speak for all of us.

Side note - Last week Lama Tenzin the peace emissary for the Dali Lama came by my classroom and blessed our school and the kids and spoke about peace and friendship. It was wonderful. I know better than to pass up blessings from anyone. Kindness and friendship need to be embraced.

Oh, and back to Christianity and Yoga. We are Christians and we love yoga. We can control what and who we pray to and meditate on during yoga. It works for us and we know that relaxing and meditating are good for the body, especially bodies that are fighting cancer cells.

Aloha,
Kathleen

Sigma34's picture
Sigma34
Posts: 207
Joined: Jul 2009

I do various types of yoga. Just finished a Bikram challenge. All four of my kids do yoga.
I love and feel at peace on my Manduka pad.

Namaste'

PhillieG's picture
PhillieG
Posts: 4687
Joined: May 2005

Don't open a yoga place in Louisville Kentucky. I doubt a juice bar would e good either unless it's that moonshine juice.
Namaste' back at 'cha
:-)
-phil

I did some for a while too. It was very rewarding in many ways. I have a very long list of things I should be doing, that is on it.

stayingcalm's picture
stayingcalm
Posts: 656
Joined: Feb 2007

Bleeding Hearts?

PhillieG's picture
PhillieG
Posts: 4687
Joined: May 2005

Last years crop from my garden. Somehow some white bleeding hearts got in there (not in this photo but just some white ones showed up one year and keep coming back, very cool flower)

AnneCan
Posts: 3693
Joined: Oct 2009

We have a small plant here, but when I was growing up we had lots + sometimes we would pull one apart because each part looked like something else - kept our imagination going. That is a beautiful photo, Phil.

mariam_11_09's picture
mariam_11_09
Posts: 693
Joined: Nov 2009

“It was not until the Western nations broke away from their religious law that they became more tolerant, and it was only when the Muslims fell away from their religious law that they declined in tolerance” - Pickthall

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