Yoga in America, according to the Southern Baptists

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary — the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world. Stefanie Syman’s The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America,  and he’s reached some interesting conclusions:  The Subtle Body — Should Christians Practice Yoga?

The embrace of yoga is a symptom of our postmodern spiritual confusion, and, to our shame, this confusion reaches into the church. Stefanie Syman is telling us something important when she writes that yoga “has augured a truly post-Christian, spiritually polyglot country.” Christians who practice yoga are embracing, or at minimum flirting with, a spiritual practice that threatens to transform their own spiritual lives into a “post-Christian, spiritually polyglot” reality. Should any Christian willingly risk that?

Although Dr. Mohler gives an eloquent and nuanced review of the book, he fails to understand the full dimension of yoga by focusing on the cultural trappings that brought yoga to this country and now clothe the discipline. This narrow vision is only natural because of his religious focus and limited exposure to what yoga really is (even though he did read Syman’s book). Indeed, these days it’s really hardly to reduce yoga as manifested in America to a strict definition.

Earlier in the article, he states:

The bare fact is that yoga is a spiritual discipline by which the adherent is trained to use the body as a vehicle for achieving consciousness of the divine. Christians are called to look to Christ for all that we need and to obey Christ through obeying his Word. We are not called to escape the consciousness of this world by achieving an elevated state of consciousness, but to follow Christ in the way of faithfulness.

In other words, Christians should adhere to a faith based on the Bible as interpreted by the Baptists, and not rely on the frailties of human intentions. Anyone with the illusion that they can find spiritual comfort through self-discovery are fooling themselves. He also associated yoga with the notion of “healthen”  and reminds readers about all that sexual energy being channeled through Tantric rites. Yoga, by its very nature, is sinful.

You should also have a look at the transcript of an extended conversation between Dr. Mohler and Stephanie Syman, and then Dough Groothius, Professor of Philosophy at Denver Seminary (the final chat between Mohler and Groothius seems scripted since it leads into what can only be described as a sermon). In the end, although Dr. Mohler or Dr. Groothius may have read the book, they are really projecting onto yoga their own theological conception of the world and see it as a threat to their faith.