Yoga: Christian Conservatives Fearful Of ‘Satanic Possession’

Yoga: Christian Conservatives Fearful Of ‘Satanic Possession’

Are you one of those stressed city-dwelling young professionals who need to relax once in a while? If you attempt to relieve your tension by doing yoga, you might be OF THE DEVIL, according to Christian conservatives.

A yoga class. According to Christian conservatives, these people might be possessed by demons. By Trollderella at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], from Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AYogaClass.jpg
A yoga class. According to Christian conservatives, these people might be possessed by demons. By Trollderella at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], from Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AYogaClass.jpg
In the last few years, yoga has become extremely popular in the United States. According to a 2008 study by Yoga Journal, 15.8 million Americans practiced it in 2008.

For many, yoga is a trendy recreational activity.  But because of its origins in Hinduism, Christian conservatives in the US are afraid that yoga may lead its practitioners away from the one true faithtm (theirs).

As the Atlantic reports, E.W. Jackson, a Virginia lieutenant gubernatorial contender in 2008, argued that as the aim of yoga “is to empty oneself [spiritually] . . . . [Satan] is happy to invade the empty vacuum of your soul and possess it.”

A number of conservative Christian clerics share this point of view. For example, Mark Driscoll, pastor of a megachurch called Mars Hill, which is based in Washington State and could be described as a neo-fundamentalist church for hipsters, called yoga  “demonic” and warned his flock of attending such “demon classes.”

But it is not exclusively American evangelicals who seek to expose the evils of yoga. In 2011, the Vatican’s former chief exorcist (!) called yoga (and Harry Potter books, too) “satanic.” And in 1989, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, later to become Pope Benedict XVI, said in 1989 that meditation, if used as a ‘spiritual’ practice, might lead to “moral deviations” among Catholics.1

Within the framework of belief in a demon-haunted world, all of this makes perfect sense.

A fun statistic: According to a 2012 survey by Public Policy Polling, 57% of all registered voters in the US, both Democrats and Republicans, believe in demonic possession. Among Republicans, the number is even higher at 68%.

[Update, 2013/06/13] E.W. Jackson, the former contender for Virginia lieutenant governor now claims about the opposite of what he implied in his 2008 book:

“I do not believe that yoga leads to Satanism. One of my ministers is a yoga instructor. Christian meditation [as opposed to Hindu yoga?] does not involve emptying oneself but filling oneself…with the spirit of God. That is classic biblical Christianity [emphasis mine].”

 

 

 

  1. In my opinion, the primary moral deviation among Catholics that the Vatican should invest more energy into correcting is its very own systematic and decades-long cover-up of child abuse. Once these child-molesting priests are convicted in courts rather than being shuffled to another parish, where they are free to continue the abuse, we may talk again about morality.