A couple of years ago, after nearly 35 years of running, I decided to try another form of exercise, to give my joints, which are still in remarkably good shape, an occasional break from pounding the pavement around town.
So, on a whim, I walked into a yoga studio early one Monday morning.
And not just any yoga studio. I happened to walk into a studio that practices hot yoga (with temperatures set between 95 and 105 degrees). I had never experienced anything quite like it. I’ve run marathons, and many, many races of shorter distances, but have never felt pushed physically the way I felt pushed in this one 90-minute class.
I liked it so much that I went back.
In my excitement, I even told a couple of people about my discovery. And that was probably my mistake. One person, with a disapproving tone in her voice, said, “You’re doing what?”
Later she forwarded to me an article she had read titled, “Is Christianity Compatible with Yoga?” I am familiar with the author, and I am aware that he takes strong positions regarding perceived threats to the Christian faith. (Remember Rob Bell? This author preached a sermon after Bell’s God Wins book was published that I thought was one of the biggest takedowns of a fellow preacher I had ever heard. He pulls no punches.)
As you can guess, the article about yoga was clear and unambiguous. Christians, he wrote, should stay out of yoga studios. Period. To venture inside is to put your salvation in jeopardy. Yoga, simply put, is not just another form of exercise; it’s a religion, one that’s very different from – in fact, antithetical to – Christianity.
So, not being one to shrug off a challenge from a brother in the faith, I decided to do a little reading myself and discovered that the “Is Christianity Compatible with X?” formula is a fairly common question for Christians to ask.
I found lots of interesting articles including, “Is Christianity Compatible with Freemasonry?” (apparently not) and “Is Christianity Compatible with Capitalism?” (depends on who’s asking the question) and “Is Christianity Compatible with Being a Goth?” (who cares?)
At that point I started to think of other questions I would like to see explored – such as, “Is Professional Football compatible with Christianity?” (A game based on aggression and physical violence, often resulting in long-term physical and emotional consequences for its participants, certainly needs a second look, though I admit that I’m a fan and don’t want to push the argument.)
Or, better yet, what about boxing? How is that compatible with Christian faith?
But back to yoga. What am I supposed to do? And what are the other church members who have unrolled their mats next to mine supposed to do?
Here’s what I’m thinking: we live in a morally complicated world. Nearly everything we do – for business, exercise, or pleasure – raises at least a question or two. Should I participate in that sport? Should I shop in that store? Should I do business with that person? Should I pay $10 to see that movie?
And not to minimize, I believe people who are sincere in their faith should actively think about these questions. To live faithfully often means to live carefully, thoughtfully, sensitively.
I listen to my yoga instructors at the end of the class thank me “for sharing my energy” with them. I don’t really know what that means. I shared a great deal of my sweat, but my energy? A lot of what I hear, frankly, sounds like drivel.
Am I about to be pulled away from my faith and absorbed by a new and heretical one? I don’t think so. Still, I wonder about it. Just as I wonder about freemasonry, capitalism, professional football, and boxing. I’ve never been tempted to become Goth.