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  • 06: Christian Yoga, Another Theological Oxymoron
  • 06: Christian Yoga, Another Theological Oxymoron

    Posted in ,
    December 3, 2003

    Twenty million Americans practice Yoga–including Madonna, Oprah, Gwyneth Paltrow, Monica Lewinski, Hillary Clinton, Phil Jackson (and many L.A. Lakers) and the Gores. “We both believe in regular prayer,” explains Al. “We often pray together. But meditation–as distinguished from prayer–I highly recommend it,” says the Southern Baptist Buddhist who nearly became President. Sandra Day O’Connor, called “the most influential woman in America,” and the notable “swing vote” on the Supreme Court, practices Yoga. Perhaps Justice O’Connor became the swing vote by swinging back and forth between the worldview of Yoga, invented by Eastern mystics, and that of the US Constitution, written by the sons of Western Puritans. Is this what is meant by the “living Constitution”? Meanwhile, Yoga is found not only among the stars, but at the street level in the community centers, schools and gyms of most neighborhoods.

    Yoga also goes to Church. Under the rubric, “Why should the Devil get all the good tunes?” Christians wonder why the Devil has all the good spiritual vibes. My recent travels to the “buckle of the Bible belt” confirmed my internet research: middle–American Christians are seeking deeper spirituality through “Christian” Yoga. A Christian youth magazine defines Yoga for the rising generation of the Church as: “the union between the individual and something greater … [it] does not represent or promote any religion; it is a system that aims to help people achieve their full potential and heightened consciousness.”

    Yoga slips through the net of church/state separation by claiming to be a non–religious technique for stress–reduction–a neutral tool for Jews, Catholics, Protestants or anyone else. Physically, there may be benefits, but practicing Yoga is like playing with a loaded gun. It is not neutral. Yoga is a pagan religious rite. It means “yoked to God,” or “union with Brahman” and its goal is to induce a state of trance in which one withdraws from the world of illusion (maya) to know, through self–realisation, the “truth” that one is Brahman. Yoga relieves moral stress by uniting the opposites–mind and body, stillness and movement, masculine and feminine, sun and moon, right and wrong–in order to reach “Kaivalya” (freedom).

    In uniting the opposites, however, Yoga destroys creation’s distinctive structures, including the greatest distinction–that between God the Creator and his creation. Yoga also attempts to eliminate guilt, as part of a massive agenda, for Yoga is now proposed “to the masses in the West as the means to open the planet to a new way of thinking and living…” in which the God of the Bible is absent. Under our noses and in our churches, the dream of theosophists like Madame Blavatsky, who longed for the joining of the East and the West, is becoming a present reality.

    The result is that, imperceptibly, we no longer hear the Gospel as a clear call to repentance and holiness. Practitioners of yoga who become “one with god” cannot hear the Gospel, because they no longer realize that they are sinners, alienated from God. This has practical consequences in the Church. After giving a lecture on mystical spirituality, one influential “evangelical” leader stated: “[Do you see] why no Christian can ever say one form of prayer is not as good as another or one religion is not as good as another?” Alas, this “new way of thinking and living,” now also proposed in the Church, leaves no room for the unique God of the Bible.

    Such thinking is everywhere. I was speaking on this subject in Santiago, Chile, last June. At my first lecture, a young woman named Maya voiced her rebellion against the exclusive claim of the Christian worldview. “Why,” she asked, “is the good in religions like Buddhism and others of no value?” On the fourth evening something happened. Maya wrote: “For so long, I have believed that I could attain to all that Christianity and the Bible require through this new spirituality. In the middle of the lecture the final surge of pride and rebellion manifested itself in my mind when I asked myself, almost in anger, ‘Alright Lord, if I can’t do anything, then what did you create me for?’ And at that precise moment, as if entering the debate in my mind, Dr. Jones said ‘you have been created to glorify God as Creator and Redeemer.'” Later that night, Maya prayed: “Lord, I finally understand that I can do nothing to save myself; forgive me for being so proud and rebellious. I ask you to forgive me, and to put your Spirit in that space in my heart from which you removed the lie. Amen.”

    In Maya’s case, the hold of Yoga was broken by the clarity of the Word. Seeing the antithesis between the truth and the lie led to conviction; conviction led to repentance; repentance led to forgiveness; forgiveness led to new birth, reconciliation and genuine stress–relieving peace with the true and living God.