Christian pastor: Yoga is demonic, so just stretch, OK?

I’m passing this one on because I suspect it will be one of those Internet pieces that get a lot of attention.

(That I’m sure that’s the point as much as making some sort of theological / moral / religious statement does, absolutely, make me complicit in giving this guy attention. C’est la vie!)

A year ago, you probably remember — and I vaguely do — Mark Driscoll made the bold statement that “yoga is demonic.” He’s back with what he calls “a much fuller and comprehensive teaching on what yoga is and why it is in fact demonic.”

OK, I have to stop here. I absolutely love the use of the word “demonic,” rather than “evil,” “un-Christian” or any other choice he could have made. There is something so medieval about it, but also — to my frame of reference that understands the historical and cultural dimensions to religion in which a lot of “demons” were just other, usually indigenous, gods or spirits made “evil” by the conquering faith — so calculated. Your Shiva, your Hanuman, your Krishna? All would have been “demonized” by Christian missionaries. So he’s right in a long line of religious leaders.

To be fair, here’s his explanation of that word choice: “By demonic I mean it’s a spiritual act to a being other than the God of the Bible.” (Here’s guessing he’s not too keen on worship of Mary, let alone the saints that have come since Christ.)

Now, there are any number of starting points that one can dive into in response. A few that stick out to me:

  • “Comments like this woman’s are the exact reason why it’s important to explore what yoga really is and what it teaches, and to understand that the spiritual elements of yoga make their way into our life and culture in ways we don’t necessarily see overtly.” Response: Really, it’s a bad thing for those spiritual elements to make their way into our culture? (I know his answer is, “Yes.”)
  • “As Christians, we must be intellectually honest and respect that yoga is in fact intertwined with Hindu religious practice. They have a right to be offended as much as we would be equally offended if they underwent Christian baptism or communion while denying any religious connection and secularizing it or doing it in a Hindu way.” Response: Smart arguing style. He’s using something that’s dividing yoga ranks to make his point. But, instead of “communion,” what if I suggested Christians should be upset if anyone broke bread or had a supper? Is yoga really absolutely equal to baptism? Isn’t it more, perhaps, like reading and studying the Bible? Should no one but Christians do that?
  • “Miller goes on to explain that the two limbs of yoga that exercise the body, asanas andpranayama, were never meant to be separated from the other eight limbs of yoga like they have been in the West. Some forms of yoga even go as far as to not demand extreme stretching positions because they actually get in the way of meditation. As Miller explains, “Patanjali’s expressed concern was for the practitioner to assume ‘steady and easy’ postures that would be conducive to meditation.” Response: Never meant to be separated? Maybe not — but they sure have been and they sure are by most. And, I’ll dare say, they have been by the folks Driscoll seemingly would be trying to reach. (I.e. NOT ME.)

I know, I’ve put you through enough of this already. I’ll put us all out of our collective misery by jumping to the point he makes that I think is the most stupid, and as good a reason as any to dismiss this guy. (Again, I know I’m spreading his word, but I give this all to you so you know about it… you’ve got to be aware, right?)

Basically, what Singleton is saying is that despite the arguments that yoga is just stretching, there is no historical evidence that this is the case—quite the contrary. The history of yoga is overwhelmingly spiritual in practice and the postures of yoga are only one aspect of yoga, and they are part of a broader system aimed at union with God and attaining enlightenment.

Bear with me for a second. Here’s where his argument falls apart to me. He’s just taken the argument about how the asanas of yoga aren’t very old and then used that to prove that yoga isn’t about the physical postures. But that’s all that the people doing “yoga” are doing, especially if they are doing “Christian Yoga” or “Acro-Yoga” or “Dog-ya.” They are engaged in the postures, which have been around a dozen or so decades.

In other words: He’s just proven that the “yoga” most people are doing isn’t demonic, anymore than weightlifting or running or Zumba. (OK, Zumba clearly is demonic, but that’s another topic.)

He’s just stated that what he’s arguing about, fretting about, isn’t tied at all to Hindu tradition. So what’s his problem? (I think we all know.)

Of course, he does keep going. He runs through the eight limbs, lists different kinds of yoga, including this:

Tantra yoga is based in the belief that engaging in taboo practices results in enlightenment. As such, tantra is associated with normally renounced practices in Hindusim, such as eating meat, drunkenness, and sex. An extreme form of tantra, known as left-handed tantra, “not only involves actual sex, alcohol, and drugs, but also has been known to involve black magic and all kinds of debauchery and criminal acts, including child sacrifice.”

If gluttony, drunkenness, and perversion are the telltale signs of devotion, perhaps no form of yoga is more prevalent in our society than the tantra. Our culture is consumed with the idea that partying and sex will lead to happiness. What’s left, however, is abuse, pain, depression, and sometimes even death.

That one pretty well demonstrates the absolute stance he has.

What I like most, though, is there is no comments section on his post. It proves he isn’t stupid.

Posted by Steve

Published by


Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

4 thoughts on “Christian pastor: Yoga is demonic, so just stretch, OK?”

  1. For those of us not embedded in this culture/debate, would you mind elaborating on this point:
    “He’s just stated that what he’s arguing about, fretting about, isn’t tied at all to Hindu tradition. So what’s his problem? (I think we all know.)”


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s