Going to Hell Because of Yoga?September 27, 2007
Christians often seem to have odd ideas about what types of activities should be considered unacceptable. For instance, some claimed that rock-n-roll music is inherently unchristian. Despite the numerous Christian rock-n-roll bands who use their songs to worship God and teach people about God, some think that the musical structure itself inherently makes it from the devil. The street preacher I debated a few weeks ago makes this argument.
Now some Christians argue that yoga is inherently unchristian. Apparently, Satan does not just live in certain drum beats but also in certain stretching positions! Last month, The Pathway editor Don Hinkle attacked the idea of churches offering yoga. He declared that "there is nothing Christian about yoga. In fact, rather than lead Christians to God as it claims, it actually leads Christians away from God." Hinkle also condemned yoga as "pantheism" and argued that it was "dangerous" to try and "integrate yoga with Christianity." Baptist blogger Aaron Weaver gave an excellent response at the time to Hinkle's column. He wrote, "Just because something is not decidedly Christian doesn't mean it's anti-christian."
Unfortunately, it seems that this issue is going to continue. In this week's issue of The Pathway, Southwest Baptist University (my alma mater) is attacked for offering yoga for students. The article complains that "[t]here is no mention about yoga being a Hindu-type exercise." Of course not because they are not teaching Hinduism along with the class. As the director of the wellness center explained, it is a very popular exercise program with the students and they use the name "yoga" because the students like that more than "stretching class." The piece also quotes a Hindu professor who is upset that people would use the exercise without the spiritual worship aspect. Wow! Who thought that a Christian publication would take the word of a Hindu teacher over that of a Christian one? Just because Hindus do not think it should be practiced without spiritual aspects does not mean that it cannot be done. I do not think people should celebrate Christmas without praising Jesus, but that is done by many people.
The piece also declared that yoga "is not Christian." But does that mean that it is unchristian? The options are not either for Christianity or against it. Something can be neutral in and of itself. Stretching can be used as a part of Hindu worship or it could be used in a non-spiritual sense. Paul went so far as to use an idol to lead people to God so it does not seem like too much of a stretch that yoga could be used as well. Yet, The Pathway article goes so far as to suggest that the offering of yoga is at odds with the "Christ-centered" mission of SBU. Seriously? One might argue that teaching students to take care of their bodies (a.k.a. their temples) would help them become more Christ-centered as they love God not just with their hearts, minds, and souls but also with their bodies. In fact, it would seem that a lot of preachers are more likely to suffer from not enough exercise (so much for preaching out against the actual sin of gluttony).
It is time to quit looking for more and more things to condemn. It is time to stop looking for a new crusade so that we can rail against the world and our fellow Christians. It is time to stop declaring that everything we do not like or understand is "unchristian."