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Why Are Many Evangelical Christians Opposed to Yoga?
A question was asked in the Q&A area of Hub Pages a few days ago. I responded to that question and decided to turn my comments there into a hub. The original question thread can be found here: Why Do Some People Consider Yoga Anti-Christian?
Why Are Many Evangelical Christians Opposed to Yoga?
Many Evangelical Christians are opposed to the practice of Yoga. I would like to offer an explanation for this based on my 50 years of experience in the Evangelical community as a layperson, student, pastor and missionary. I am not an expert on the topic of Yoga, so I will do my best to handle that subject responsibly in this article. I also will avoid defending Yoga against the opposition they find among Evangelical Christians. I merely want to clarify the issue described in the title of this article.
What Element of Yoga Do Christians Object to?
There is one particular teaching of Yoga to which some Evangelical Christians are opposed. It might be argued that they are actually opposed to a misunderstanding of this particular tenet of Yoga.
Here are two quotes that will represent the aspect of Yoga to which some Evangelical Christians are opposed.
“Dhyanam nirvishayam manah-‘That state of the mind, wherein there are no sensory thoughts, is meditation.’”
According to Yogasutra of Patanjali, ‘Yoga is restraint of the activities of the mind.’”
Source: Yoga: A Basic Understanding
We are not really dealing with what Yoga teaches at this point but with how Evangelical Christians perceive the teachings of Yoga.
A Yogi Seated in a Garden
Emptying the Mind
These quotes contain statements which many Evangelical Christians consider to be dangerous. The quotes refer to “No sensory thoughts” and “Restraint of the activities of the mind.” These teachings, and others similar to them, are interpreted by some in the Evangelical community to refer to a complete emptying of the mind. Here is a quote from the CANA (Christian Answers for the New Age) website:
The ultimate goal is samadhi with no cognition, or absorption into a state of pure consciousness through disengaging the mind and a loss of self-awareness and subject-object awareness4.
Does Yoga teach such a concept as a complete emptying of the mind? I will leave that to others to clarify since I have had very little teaching on the subject of Yoga. But as I look at the quotes above, two things stand out. Neither of these quotes mentions a complete emptying of the mind. The first refers to “No sensory thoughts.” The kinds of thoughts that are to be eliminated are qualified. It is not a blanket statement. The other quote uses the word “Restraint” in reference to the activity of the mind. Restraint is not necessarily a complete shut down.
But in reference to the question at hand, it really doesn't matter if Yoga teaches the concept of emptying the mind or not. What matters is that many Evangelical Christians are absolutely convinced that Yoga teaches the concept of completely emptying the mind. We are not really dealing with what Yoga teaches at this point but with how Evangelical Christians perceive the teachings of Yoga.
What is the Biblical Basis for the Christian Objection to the Practice of Yoga?
We have seen the particular teaching to which Evangelicals are opposed. Now let’s look at why they are opposed to it. The root of the opposition can be found in a passage from the New Testament of the Christian Bible. It is found in Matthew chapter 12, verses 43-45.
Interpretation of the Biblical Basis
These verses are about the subject of demon possession. The hypothetical situation is that a person has had a demon cast out of them after which the demon is running around without a place to go. It returns to see whether it would be possible to repossess its previous host. According to other Christian teaching, in order for this person to be safe from being repossessed, they would need to have a relationship with the Christian God. If this was not the case when the demon returned, then it could repossess the person and bring other demons along as well.
Sri Swami Ken MahaRaj
Yoga and the Phenomenon of Demon Possession
Some may be asking at this point, what does this have to do with Yoga or being in opposition to Yoga? Look at the verses again. One word stands out that is important to this discussion. It is the word, “Empty.” The demon went back and found the person empty, having not built a relationship with the Christian God.
This idea of being empty is where Evangelical Christians find a conflict with the teachings of Yoga and the teaching of the Bible. In their understanding, Yoga teaches people to completely empty their minds. Evangelical Christians believe the Bible teaches that if a person is completely empty, they are opening themselves up to demon possession. The logical next step then is to conclude that Yoga leads to demon possession. This is why many Evangelical Christians are opposed to the practice and teaching of Yoga.
Do Evangelical Christians Really Believe That Yoga Leads to Demon Possession?
Some of you at this point may be wondering if I have any idea what I’m talking about. I will admit that on many issues, I don’t. But on this one, yes, I know that what I am saying is true. But I want to bolster my position by providing a few quotes from Evangelical Christians regarding Yoga.
E. W. Jackson, Pastor and GOP Politician
Quote by E. W. Jackson
When one hears the word meditation, it conjures an image of Maharishi Yoga [sic] talking about finding a mantra and striving for nirvana. . . . The purpose of such meditation is to empty oneself. . . . [Satan] is happy to invade the empty vacuum of your soul and possess it. That is why people serve Satan without ever knowing it or deciding to…. E.W. Jackson, Virginia pastor and GOP politician. Yoga Opens You to Satanic Possession.
Pastor Mark Driscoll
Quote by Pastor Mark Driscoll
Should Christians stay away from yoga because of its demonic roots? Totally. Yoga is demonic, If you just sign up for a little yoga class, you’re signing up for a little demon class.
Mark Driscoll. Pastor of Mars Hill Church, Seattle, Washington. This mega church closed its doors on December 28, 2014. Yoga 'demonic'? Critics call ministers warning a stretch
Father Gabriele Amorth, Former Chief Exorcist at the Vatican
Quote by Father Gabriele Amorth
Evangelicals aren’t the only ones who feel this way. Father Gabriele Amorth, former Vatican chief exorcist agreed. "Practicing yoga is Satanic, it leads to evil just like reading Harry Potter.” Yoga is the Work of the Devil
David Ortiz Interviews a Woman Who Was Reportedly Demon Possessed as a Result of Participating in Yoga
David Ortiz Interviews Former Hindu Woman Named, Purvi
Video above. David Ortiz is a Television Reporter most recently with Infowars. This is an interview with a Woman named Purvi, who was raised as a Hindu. She now is head of a Christian ministry which teaches Christians about the alleged dangers of Hinduism, including Yoga.
Is This Relevant to You?
I could post more quotes, but why don’t you do it. Google “Yoga demon possession” and you will have plenty of reading to do.
I have attempted to remain neutral on the subject at hand. My purpose is not to support or condemn either the practice and teachings of Yoga or the beliefs of the Evangelical Christian community regarding Yoga. I have provided information, but it is up to you to evaluate its truth and relevance and to use it as you see fit.