Thursday, June 6, 2013

Yoga: not actually a risk factor for demon possession



So this happened: GOP Candidate: Yoga Opens You to Satanic Possession And it's not just some random political nut job, it is also the president of the Southern Baptist Convention and the infamous Mark Driscoll (who says: "If you just sign up for a little yoga class, you're signing up for a little demon class.")

It wasn't actually shocking or surprising, considering I'm pretty sure I was told that yoga was "of the devil" in my conservative evangelical churches growing up. But I went ahead and did a PubMed search and, shockingly, found not a single study about a causative or even correlative relationship between practicing yoga and being possessed by demons OR Satan. I mean, I'm not accusing fundamentalist Christians of being anti-science. I'm just saying, if I did a Venn diagram of "science" and "fundamentalist Christian beliefs," there might not be any overlap between the two circles.

hypocrisy
This did really bother me for a few reasons, first the president of the Baptist Theological Seminary was quoted in this article. Like oh hey, Mr. Mohler, I remember you from the time you stood by your good buddies at Sovereign Grace Ministries who were accused of perpetuating and covering some massive child abuse. So to be clear, yoga is evil but child abuse is okay? Weird, but whatever. Not the first time you said something that I wholeheartedly disagree with and am actually pretty sickened by.

stupidity
The second reason this bothers me is that it seems to completely misunderstand yoga and meditation. 
The purpose of such meditation is to empty oneself. . . . [Satan] is happy to invade the empty vacuum of your soul and possess it. 
The purpose of yoga isn't to "empty your mind" it is sort of the opposite. It is to cultivate awareness. Awareness of your thoughts, feelings, body, and surroundings.

cultish
This is, yet again, an example of religious leaders trying to dictate every aspect of your life. You aren't allowed to make even simple decisions for yourself, like which class to take at the gym? Seriously? Tell me again how you're not cult-like?

logically vacuous
Let's just say the goal was "emptiness." So by not thinking, you're emptying your soul? That is an interesting theory. I guess, by your logic, we should avoid things like sleeping or medically necessary anesthesia. Avoiding sleeping is actually sort of Biblical. So Christians, maybe you should stop sleeping, okay? Because Satan.

Also, by your logic, "emptying oneself" might also include totally not thinking rationally and maybe being completely stupid. Which might include suggesting things like, Satan is super eager to hop on into your soul at a moment's notice.

satanic/demonic possession is ridiculous
Also, this is just dumb. Can we just stop? This "demonic possession" garbage is primarily used to stigmatize mental illness. And I'm sick of it. I'm still pretty pissed off about the time (like 20 years ago) my associate youth minister said that  hearing voices was a pretty clear indication (as per the Bible, natch) that you were possessed by the devil. I mean, seriously? One of my friends in the youth group's mom struggled with bipolar depression with occasional psychotic tendencies. Which means that youth leader's stupid assertion basically communicated to at least one kid in the group that someone he loved, cared for, and was raised by was possessed by the devil. Come on, guys. 

evidence
Finally, yoga has actually demonstrated some pretty remarkable health benefits. Including lowering your risk of a heart attack. And God is pro life, right? I mean, this one confuses me sometimes, it is hard to keep straight.

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