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.