Watch Your Posture, You May Be Worshipping

It doesn’t take the vision of an enthusiast to know that Mark Driscoll has a tight lower back and Al Mohler loses his balance when he stands on one leg. Well, okay, maybe it would take a vision to be that precise but surely they don’t risk doing too much stretching or balance exercises when all it takes is one wrong posture to turn exercise into worship. Idol worship, that is.  That’s the basic conclusion of Southern Baptist Seminary President Al Mohler and pastor-celebrity Mark Driscoll.  Just when we thought going to a health club was about sweat, pulse rate, and ibuprofen, it seems we need to be on guard against idol worship in the yoga room.

Some think yoga is little more than sitting in the lotus position and saying “ommm.”  That position can be useful for loosening the hips and working on back posture, but it’s one position among many and no one says that.  Yoga classes can be light and rehabilitative for the injured and elderly or they can be physically demanding workouts.  The roughly ten instructors I’ve had range from pretty philosophical to too perky, and I’ve yet to hear a prayer, chant, or see levitation, just in case you think those happen.   Accompanying music tends to be ethereal so you can put it into the background easily, but I’ve also done stretching to the sound of “Low Rider.”

But I guess it’s all the same to Reverend Mohler and Pastor Mark who claim that doing stretching, balance, and core exercises at the local YMCA is pretty much worshipping a non-Christian god.  Mohler approves of the idea that yoga “cannot be fully extricated from its spiritual roots in Hinduism and Buddhism,” and Driscoll uses more pixels to say the same thing.  As a type, this argument is well-worn in religious circles. It’s like saying we can’t have a Christmas tree because its origin is in Druid worship.  But neither its repetition nor its religious motivation makes the argument any less a form of the genetic fallacy; the initial motivation of the originators of yoga does not eternally put similar postures and movements into the “worship” category.

Pastor Mark – you know he’s an enthusiast, right? – then tells us yoga is “a spiritual act to a being other than the God of the Bible” and the “result is often an unguarded spirit…”  To understand Pastor Mark we have to understand charismatics. (And, by the way, who decided they could sit at the adult table, anyway?) To the charismatic, demonic spirit life swirls around us; our various activities, states of mind and even posture tap into that spirit life so that even the Christian with no conscious thought or intent of doing anything other than an exercise class can come under their influence. Driscoll doesn’t say that in a quick quote, but in an article in which he calls yoga demonic, talks of unguarded spirits, and says things like “one can find oneself naively participating in spiritual activities that are not Christian” you know he’s out there in Oral Roberts territory.

Of course, it was predictable that someone with a religious megaphone would denounce yoga, what with all that peaceful Eastern stuff and those stretchy clothes.  Fortunately, we have a historical account of dealing with this sort of thing.  The time was the first century, and the place was Corinth. Down at the meat market there were some cuts that had been offered to idols. Now, if we could put Mohler and Driscoll back in Corinth, they would be scrolling about the evils of eating such meat. They would have gone through the history of idol worship and claimed that it was worship to eat the meat. So I guess Mohler and Driscoll believe idols are something, because that’s their basic argument against yoga.

But idols are nothing, and we don’t need to exorcise exercise.  Loosen up, guys. For your back, Pastor Mark, I recommend a routine including forward fold, monkey pose, cat and cow postures.  And for you, Reverend Mohler, practice the tree pose while focusing on any object that doesn’t move.  And, at some point, let the Southern Baptists and the folk in Seattle loosen up, too.

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6 Comments

Filed under Charismatics

6 responses to “Watch Your Posture, You May Be Worshipping

  1. dgh

    It seems to me another factor here is worldview thinking. If everything in life springs from a worldview, and if Yoga comes from a pagan outlook, then those with a Christian worldview should stay away at least for the sake of consistency. We need more room for doubleness and tripleness of mind. (I fear enthusiasm won’t help.)

    • It’s tempting to say that Mohler is adding yoga to the traditional list that includes drinking, dancing, and card playing and then Driscoll is just doing the charismatic thing but I didn’t find them to be that easily distinguishable. Certainly one explanation for their similarity could be worldview leaven.

  2. Very nice commentary on these God Market Contractors who just want to bind the
    people in their own manger. Because they will lose their marshals and money. It is
    silly diversionary issue. Like saying that because science originated in western society, hence it is a christian belief and everybody else should keep away from studying it who are non-christians. I don’t know if it carries some sense?

    Let me clear the point here. There is no doubt that it originated in Ancient India. It teaches one to know his/her highest self which is not his/her body or mind but far beyond it. That, far beyond (i.e. Soul) is a matter for individual enquiry. There is no force to anyone. This has become the most difficult point to discuss because it has been sufused with hate. That is not religion.
    Dr. O. P. Sudrania

    • "Michael Mann"

      Dr. O, it seems to me that people can go through the yogic postures with very different intents and thought processes, and that there are alternative explanations for what is experienced there. I find that a kind of relaxed focus is naturally compatible with contracting some muscles and loosening others, i.e., body control. Then, I have mostly had teachers who brought no religious perspective to bear, but even if that is their understanding, that does not make it so.

  3. Michael Mann, I am sorry if you are the blog post honour here. I didn’t mean it to anyone personally about the ‘fix’ but you can see it yourself the kindness here. Any way, forget it and we don’t involve in non issues.

    Coming to your first comment, I agree with you fully. There is no hard and fast rule. It is like any other curriculum. The depth, the various degrees one wants to attain is dependent upon individuals. Someone drops out even after the primary or secondary level while others keep going incessantly.

    Yoga is absolutely scientific and systematised by Sage Patanjali whose age remains a matter of scholastic discussion. His legacy remains with us. It has no religious tag but had it been discovered in some other lands, it would have contained matter in their language or prevalent belief. Hence your query is quite legitimate and a good one. Thank you for it.

    Michael just one point; like any other subject or exercise, same way it may me better that if one does it under supervision, then after you can continue at home also. It just to avoid the ill effects and derive the maximum benefits. If you want to limit it to physical and mental levels, no problems. Keep it to that. Then I will recommend to practice it upto Pranayama level. You will have a fantastic feeling in your day to day life including your family environment. It has to be experienced to believe it. Choice is ours.

    God bless
    God bless

    • Dr., thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me. People do not really talk to each other enough.

      My involvement with yoga is pragmatic and natural. It is pragmatic because I enjoy flexibility, balance, core work, and muscle control. It is natural because there is a totally natural explanation of the techniques and benefits of yoga.

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