…As Mark Driscoll claims, then I wonder about Pilates (yoga stretches plus more strength and cardio exercises). And if Pilates is demonic, then I wonder about exercise machines and medicine balls and all sorts of things. If yoga is demonic, then I wonder about tai chi. And if tai chi is demonic, I wonder about martial arts. And if martial arts is demonic, I wonder about self-defense. Others were speculating that this opens a market for someone to rename all the stretches after Christian cliches and say that it’s something totally different. In jest, of course, but that’s the problem with banning things: Since the stretches themselves are rather innocuous, it’s difficult to say where you draw the line.
For serious, Driscoll thinks that yoga can’t be divided from its Eastern religious/pagan roots, and therefore is demonic and absolutely, positively not allowed. For me, this hearkens back to my later days at Mars Hill, when I found myself repeatedly visiting a blurb on the website about what Mars Hill did and didn’t allow. It’s gone now, but this document (PDF) covers similar ground, particularly the last paragraph: one of Mars Hill’s primary narratives is being and “open-handed” church, strict on important stuff (theology) but permissive on unimportant stuff (tattoos and the like). That’s largely what separates the new Reformed movement of Driscoll et al from classic Evangelicals like Al Mohler: they don’t freak out if you have a tattoo. Notably absent is a solid list of what is and is not allowed, adding to the narrative the idea that you’re allowed to interpret the Bible for yourself (the heart and soul of the Reformed movement) and decide whether your conscience will allow it.
I say “narrative” because, as you already know, it isn’t true. There are things, above and beyond the obvious (premarital sex), even above and beyond things that could reasonably be classified as sin, that are absolutely, positively, under no circumstances allowed at Mars Hill Church. You’d just never know it because they are never spelled out explicitly. That would break the narrative. I kept returning to that page with gender-related questions. Women are absolutely, positively not allowed to preach or teach men, raising the obvious question of what, precisely, they are allowed to do. Gender is a favorite topic of Driscoll’s, but he always couches it in subjective terms. “My daughters love pink stuff,” he’ll say approvingly, leaving you wondering: is it a problem if my daughter doesn’t? The vibe I ended up getting from Mars Hill was: If you’d just go be a submissive housewife like you’re supposed to, none of this would be a problem.
But we’re talking about yoga, not gender. Still, the same problem arises: Reading that document, you’d never, ever, ever in a million years reach the conclusion that yoga was forbidden (assuming we’re talking about the basic exercise, not any kind of meditative or spiritual stuff). What does my Bible say? Nothing. What does my conscience say? That exercise is good. What does my weakness require? Again, stretching is good. What does my friend need? We’ll assume you’re just going by yourself. So yoga passes…but still isn’t allowed.
The “open-handed” approach of Mars Hill-style churches is, thus, not really much different from the “closed-handed” approach of churches that ban drinking, dancing, and cards. They have different ideas about what is dangerous, but the same idea that said things should be unequivocally forbidden. It’s just difficult or impossible for any church to resist drawing lines and establishing rules.
In the meantime, however, I’ve thought of a great Christian alternative if yoga opens you up to demonic influence.
Image from Wikimedia Commons.