So many of the problems I have with organized religion stem from the fact that there is no room for common ground. the complete unbending of personal interpretation that we have come to expect from the daily onslaught of extremists and religious nutbars*, but when it starts coming from mainstream, it's time for a reality check of biblical proportion. Last week, Southern Baptist Seminary President Albert Mohler spoke out against, of all things - yoga - saying that the stretching and meditative discipline derived from Eastern religions is not a Christian pathway to God. Really? We have circus barkers posing as pastors disrupting military funerals in the name of God and penny ante Hitlers** threatening to burn the Quran, and what the Southern Baptist Seminary objects to is yoga.
"That's just not Christianity," Mohler told the AP. I have to ask, what is Christianity, Al? It couldn't possibly be the concept of living a Christ-like existence, could it? A concept, I (sadly) find lacking in most Christians. [*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."] While there are as many and varied branches of yoga, as there are Western religions, the traditional physical and mental disciplines are the same - a discrimination between nature and pure consciousness. Though in the West, yoga is typically associated with Hatha Yoga and its asanas (postures) or as exercise. Most come to yoga to relieve chronic pain or as a workout - not to convert from Christianity to Hinduism. If a spiritual level is reached who does Mohler think the person is going to pray to?
Today's rampant Islamophobia and Homophobia is a frightening reminder of bigotries of earlier times. Have we learned nothing from the past? Now, as then, social division is fed less by what is known about the other than by what is not known or not understood. When a society is divided by race, gender, class, politics, or religion, the path to harmony always leads through encounter, dialogue, and engagement. Too often, our most deeply held prejudices are simply unexamined. So where do we start? I'd hope it would start with those who care about lifting up the values that have meant the most to America's social, political, and ethical maturation
So to Al Mohler and his like, I say this before you rail against something as unthreatening as yoga, refer to the First Cornithinans 6: 19-20, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." Either you don't want you followers to be flexible, or you want (with apologies to Mark Twain) to limit your exercise to acting as pallbearer to your overweight, unbending bigoted followers. Where do we start? Thomas Jefferson said, "It does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are 20 gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket, nor breaks my leg." Open your mind, open your heart, find some common ground - What would Jesus (Allah, Budda, Ghandi) Do?