YOGA classes are being banned in inner west church halls because the exercise practice may lead Christians to “worshipping false gods”. The Anglican Church in Erskineville is not allowing yoga classes in its hall after June 30 to stop “spiritual confusion”. And other churches across the region have been told by the Anglian church’s Sydney Diocese to “review” yoga classes being conducted on any church premises.
This review comes after the diocese received a report — Yoga and other such activities — from its Social Issues Committee, at its 2015 Synod, the annual policy meeting of clergy and lay people. In the report, the committee urged that yoga be kicked out of church and school halls because it “emerges from an Eastern religious background”.
The Synod, in accepting the report, noted that the First Commandment points out that “as Christ’s disciples” they must “avoid participating in the worship of false gods”.
The committee advised churches not to rent out their premises to yoga classes “on account of the spiritual confusion this may cause”. It also suggested that other activities such as tai chi, some martial arts and dragon boating should be examined because they are contrary to the gospel.
A diocese spokesman said the church was reviewing classes being conducted on church premises where there was a spiritual teaching associated with the practice, “as opposed to yoga positions done merely for the sake of exercise”. “The review is ongoing in a number of churches. In the case of Erskineville, conversations have been entered into with class providers but no final decision has yet been taken,” the spokesman said.
But two yoga teachers said they have been told by church officials that their rental agreements with an inner west church would not be renewed after July 1 if they continue yoga classes. One of the teachers, who asked not to be named, said he was changing the name of the classes to “mindful movement therapy” to get round the church ban. “If I continued to say I’m teaching yoga, then the class is not allowed,” the teacher said.
“It’s a big decision by the church that affects a lot of people but it has been done in a hush-hush sort of way.” Another yoga teacher, who asked not be named, said local church officials told her that she was preaching about yoga and that it could lead to her clients worshipping false gods.
“We are not teaching religion,” the teacher said. “It’s exercise. It’s also a lot of fun. “We’re not worshipping anything. We’re sharing the joy of yoga, breath, gentle movement, rhythm, deep relaxation. “It’s not like I’m sacrificing virgins in there.”
Gillian Farrell, a member of a yoga class held at Erskineville for four years, said she and other regulars were disappointed at the church’s stance. “I think it is sad that this body of people doesn’t recognise just what yoga can do for health body and mind and make a decision that affects the wider community,” Mrs Farrell said. “For us it’s not religious.”
Her husband, David Farrell, said the church should be more aware of its responsibilities to the general community, “rather than painting the simple act of practising yoga a dangerous and soul threatening activity”. “Apparently the Anglican’s Invisible Sky Friend is jealous of other people’s Invisible Sky Friends,” he said.
This episode again demonstrates the contempt with which Christian fundamentalists hold Hindu Dharma, repeatedly defining it as ‘worshipping false gods.’ They do not even accord the respect of recognizing Hindu Dharma as a legitimate religion at par with Abrahamic faiths like Christianity, Judaism, Islam – often bracketing it as an obscure ‘Eastern religion’.
Anglicanism is one of the countless sects of Christianity – its emergence in the mid-16th century in England corresponded closely to that of Protestantism, as a middle way between two of the emerging Protestant traditions, namely Lutheranism and Calvinism.
It is an irony of our times that the Christian West claims to lead interfaith-dialogue to promote understanding between different religions or beliefs to increase acceptance of others, yet Western Christian sects routinely label Hindus and other Dharmic practitioners as ‘worshippers of false Gods.’
As for those who think that rebranding Yoga as ‘mindful movement therapy’ or treating it as just an exercise form to get around fundamentalist Christian objections is valid, such secularization of Yoga is appropriating the Yogic heritage of Hindu Dharma – it is a gross insult to the countless rishis and yogis who have contributed to this spiritual treasure.
We will conclude by quoting from this earlier article –
“Hindus do not deny anyone the right to use Yoga, it is the stripping off of its Hinduness which causes outrage. Hindus have been the custodians of Yoga for millenniums, we believe that it was given to us by our Gods to enhance our spirituality. We are happy to share the wisdom, but it is our wisdom in the end.”
(Featured Image Credit: http://www.neac.com.au/)
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