Friday, February 10, 2017

Yoga & Christianity

Sue Debord is going to be doing chair yoga 10 AM & gentle yoga at 11 AM on Wednesdays

Some people struggle with the use of yoga by Christians.  They point to the fact that yoga is a practice of Hinduism and comes out of a different culture.  This is true.

However,  Christianity has a long history of integrating the symbols and practices of other religions into our practice.   Like a pendulum, Christians go back and forth between acceptance and rejection of borrowed practices.

The Puritan movement in the 1600's is when Christians started to reject traditions that were not Biblical, to seek a more "pure" Christianity.   This was just after the big split from the Roman Catholic Church so many of the traditions of catholicism were rejected: icons, incense, churches that were ornate with stained glass, the Rosary, clergy robes etc etc.   Puritan churches were simple, no instrumental music, no decorations, just preaching of the Word.

This impulse to go back to "pure" Christianity is still seen in many denominations and is the root compulsion at the center of those who reject Halloween, yoga, Christmas trees etc.

In the other direction, Christians have often accepted with curiosity and delight new practices and traditions of peoples that they lived amongst.  For example when Roman Christians entered into what is now Germany and encountered the winter solstice traditions that honored gods of light & life with cutting down and decorating of fir trees, the Christians embraced this tradition and incorporated it into our Christmas celebrations leading to Christmas trees.  When in Scandinavia, the tradition of counting down to the solstice with candles became our Advent wreath.  These traditions are not universal.  Christmas trees and Advent wreaths are not used by Christians in Ghana, China or Mexico because they are borrowed traditions from Northern European pagan culture.  Only when you live in a cold climate do these traditions speak to you and have meaning for you.

Christianity is a Middle Eastern religion, the traditions of Jesus and his followers were desert traditions:  washing feet, anointing with oil, dipping bread into wine.  But for Northern European Christians these traditions don't speak.  They are strange and uncomfortable.  So we discovered and borrowed and transformed other traditions so they spoke to us about Jesus's love.

This is what people are now doing with yoga.  Christian traditions of sitting and listening in church isn't speaking to some people anymore.  Yoga's movement, holding, stretching, breathing and finding balance is speaking to us in our modern culture.  The Holy Spirit is working in people through this practice.  So lets use it!  Lets connect with God in the ways that speak to us and call us to know Jesus' love.

What traditions speak to you?   What traditions have lost meaning over time?

What questions do you have about yoga?    Write in the comments!!

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