Pro-yoga folks around the world have taken a page out of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals and are now resorting to labels and slurs to marginalize yoga opponents and shut down debate.
Consider the case of Andrea R. Jain, an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. She recently wrote a lengthy lament about the rise of the “yogaphobes” who are warning people not to get involved in yoga. Jain relies on her own “yogaphobe meter” to determine who is yogaphobic and who isn’t.
For instance, she doesn’t believe Pope Francis is yogaphobic because his recent remarks about yoga – that it can’t open hearts to God – aren’t yogaphobic because he said catechism or zen courses can’t do this either.
“Rather, he seems to have suggested that nothing, not even formal religious classes offered by the Catholic Church itself, could facilitate a loving disposition without a personal relationship with the so-called Holy Spirit,” Jain writes. “Since yoga was not set apart from Catholic practices in this regard, I did not think it made a notable contribution (or any contribution for that matter) to yogaphobia.”
Francis might not be yogaphobic, but there are plenty of others who registered very high on Jain’s meter. These include Rome’s chief exorcist, Father Gabriele Amorth; Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and televangelist and Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson. These men all espouse what she labels “the Christian yogaphobic position.”
Why not just refer to this as an opposing view? Does Jain really need these degrading labels in order to enhance her arguments?
She also criticizes one of the most esteemed theologians of modern times – Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, aka Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. She finds fault in his document, Some Aspects of Christian Meditation, which warns that eastern body practices are not compatible with Christianity and could result in severe consequences such as “mental schizophrenia”, “psychic disturbance” and “moral deviations”.
Jain found his arguments to be “fear-inciting” because it might cause people to shun practices such as yoga.
That would not be acceptable to Jain, especially because she just wrote a book on yoga and is anxious to sell it.
Jain’s penchant for labeling seems to have been picked up by yet another yoga-enthusiast, this one a Catholic priest/yogi named Joseph Pereira, who believes people who oppose yoga are fundamentalist “God addicts”
Not surprisingly, he cites Vatican II as his reason for being allowed to practice Iyengar yoga. It’s also why he refers to Jesus as the “supreme yogi” because Christ spoke about being one with God.
The Mumbai-based Pereira believes Iyengar yoga transcends all ideologies and philosophies because of its ability to unite people.
“So many people who come to church every day are lost in religion – they make a fetish out of their idea of God but don’t know what it really means,” said Pereira. “Marx was right when he said that religion can be like opium for people.”
He goes on to make the even more outrageous correlation between Christian denominations like Pentecostals and Baptists who are against yoga as being like Al-Qaeda.
“All these groups preach the prosperity gospel – the idea that if you follow the gospel, you will prosper,” Pereira opines. “They are only in it for the money and power.”
Speaking of which, did I mention that Father also has a new book on yoga that he’d like to sell you?
Oddly enough, it’s only at the very end of the article that Father admits the only yoga he is defending from opposition in the West is Iyengar yoga.
“All kinds of yoga are being popularized in Western countries these days, and some of them do present yoga through a Hindu religious lens,” he admits. “Most, however, have just reduced yoga to acrobatics. But yoga is not just a work out – it is a work in.”
Ironically, the way these two yoga enthusiasts resort to labeling those who hold a perfectly legitimate counter-opinion makes them seem to be just as shrill and dogmatic as they claim their opponents to be.
Instead of relying on labels, why not just stand on well-thought arguments like the rest of us – unless, of course, they don’t think their arguments are strong enough.