Doctor R. Albert Mohler is the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the primary seminary and theological backbone of the Southern Baptist Convention. He wrote an essay on www.albertmohler.com discussing Stephanie Syman’s book The Subtle Body: the Story of Yoga in America in which he makes a pretty dramatic statement.
“When Christians practice yoga, they must either deny the reality of what yoga represents or fail to see the contradictions between their Christian commitments and their embrace of yoga.” Dr. Mohler brings this conclusion due to a number of fallacious yet deeply-held assumptions within his own Southern Baptist culture that need to be addressed from a yogi who comes from that same tradition.
Let’s look at his argument, shall we?
In my humble opinion, this all derives from his understanding of kundalini. Kundalini is, as we all know, the basic primal life-energy that resides at the base of the spine and is channeled into higher energy so we can reconnect to the Divine/Universe. Its a deeply spiritual yet non-religious path. This, I think, is where Dr. Mohler gets lost. The good doctor feels like this channeling of kundalini (which is also called sexual energy because its also generative energy, what makes new life through sex) is just using sex to raise our consciousness, conflating red tantra (which uses explicit sex to raise and hold energy) with other yoga paths. What this practice actually does is transmute the primal energy into more etheric energies, to better connect with the higher Power/Universe. Think of prayer – connecting to God – and know that this is just another means.
Dr. Mohler, you can’t conflate one path into every yoga path’s methodology. That would be like claiming that all theological leaders are gay because Bishop Eddie Long was playing with boys in his spiritual retreat. Is that unfair to conflate one leader’s activities with the whole? Yes, it is. Therefore Dr. Mohler should not conflate one path with the whole. Shame on you, sir.
Let’s move on, shall we?
Let’s look at meditating. Meditation, according to Dr. Mohler, is when the mind is empty and looking inward for answers. However, this is not meditating in a yogic sense. In yoga, the silence we achieve is to create a mental space to rest and be at peace. In this peace, we can find the answers, but they don’t necessarily come from within. Take the Biblical example of Elijah – he looked for God in the hurricane, the earthquake, and finally heard God in the quiet breeze (I Kings 19:12). So, in this, In yoga, we make space to hear that quiet breeze when we meditate.
So, I call bullshit on you, Dr. Mohler. You can’t tell people something that meditation contradicts the Bible, or you are wrong. You are being hypocritical at worst, or blissfully ignorant at best, in telling people that God does not talk to us in the quiet of our minds. Its also somewhat hypocritical to practice dwelling in the presence of God, as Kevin Martineau discusses here, when Martineau is in essence telling his people how to meditate and feel the presence of the Divine.
I guess its a matter of DADT, right? If you don’t ask, we don’t tell you that you are meditating…
So, let’s talk about the other thing, the thing that scares Christians. Sex… that insidious beast that thunders in our loins and drives us to greatness, recklessness, and the need to marry. We lust after beauty, we desire to sate our lust and bring ourselves to ecstacy. We are human, rooted in a body that desires these things in order to perpetuate the human race. Christianity’s fear of this primal energy can be traced to Paul of Tarsus, who apparently had an issue with women in general. Pauline Christianity – which is an appropriate designation for most forms of Christianity – takes Paul’s teachings as amplifications and clarifications of Jesus of Nazareth’s teachings… which contradicts Dr. Mohler’s primary belief – Jesus’ divinity. If Jesus was God, then why does His teaching need clarification. Can’t God talk clearly to everyone?
Therefore, the paradox exists – either deny Jesus his divinity, or accept that Paul was an undue influence in Christianity and either reject his influence… tough choice for people who have internalized their rejection of their own appetites.
Look, we get that you are struggling with – how to maintain this elevated discourse with God while wanting to take your mate and give her some hot love… do these have to be separate? God gave you a mate to slake that heat and taste the bliss involved when you and your mate quit being two and become one for that split second of incredible pleasure. God gave that hot, torrid embrace to taste what ecstacy is like so you can share it with your partner forever.
To take that and transmute it into something that elevates you spiritually to God should be something you would want – imagine instead of stroking furtively in the dark, that energy was focused into communion with God… why again do you not find that desirable? It’s bound to be better than endless stained sheets and other clothing. Besides, I guess no one pointed out to Dr. Mohler that meditating is good for the brain.
To finish this response, Dr. Mohler concludes with ” 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.” In this, Dr. Mohler feels that Christians are at risk of becoming something that he doesn’t recognize, and therefore is not really Christian.Yet more bullshit. This fallacy occurs because Dr. Mohler thinks he is an authority of what Christian is… and the only thing he really has expertise is in being a Southern Baptist. This is like saying all tires are Michelin because Michelin makes tires. Christians will never stop being Christians because of yoga because yoga is not a conversion. It’s just a practice that helps clarify the person’s connection to the Universe/God/Divine. the polyglot part applies to those who don’t subscribe to Christianity, though, and this will give them another tool in a vast chest to find God.
Maybe, Dr. Mohler, you should take your limited view and instead of condemning without understanding, learn about what you are talking about. It’s clear that you are neither as conversant with your Bible as you think you are, and definitely not educated beyond some sadly held misunderstandings of what yoga is. You should fix that, sir. You are a Christian leader, and instead of unifying your people, you added a new fracture in a mosaic of cracks, simply for feeling like you had a good, easy target. By doing this, though, you simply tarnished an image of Christian leaders that’s still cleaning egg off its collective face. Most Christian leaders marginalize themselves from other spiritual leaders simply because they speak authoritatively without understanding, so in essence those who get maligned end up shaking out heads in amused disbelief…
I see that you are trying to lead your people to a closer walk with God. We all want that, sir. Maybe instead of condemning, you heard some dialogue instead. Its worked for Billy Graham, and the Pope.
I offer this – I teach Kundalini Yoga, a yoga designed to help you in your path. Come take my class and compare what you think you know to what you find… you’ll be surprised how much of what I teach is just another version of what you teach or intuitively know about your own spirit already.
Sat Nam (I see the truth in you)
the Motorcycle Yogi.