Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fear the Free Yoga Classes!

For the past month the school district in Encinatas, California has been offering free yoga classes to students. In order to comply with federal guidelines regarding the promotion of religion in schools, the classes do not include any eastern religious content and consist of the same sort of stretching and breathing exercises that you would find in a totally secular exercise class at your local YMCA (Note: the 'C' there does in fact stand for "Christian"). Furthermore, the classes are elective so no students are forced to participate. None of that is good enough for a group of paranoid Christian parents, who fear that the complete absence of eastern religious teachings in the classes somehow constitutes indoctrination into Hinduism. An e-mail sent by these parents on October 12th to Superintendent Tim Baird threatened legal action if the classes were not stopped.

The district has removed any religious content from the twice-weekly classes, Baird said.

"I think that they really would like to think that, but I don't think that, in actuality, it has been done," said Mary Eady, who removed her son from the classes. "There's really a lot of unease among a lot of parents."

The superintendent said only a few parents have pulled their children from the yoga classes and he did not expect district trustees to cancel the program. "Our goal is that kids get a really healthy workout, that they get a chance to relax and reduce stress and yoga's perfect for that," Baird said.

"Yoga is a worldwide exercise regime utilized by people of many different faiths," he said. "Yoga is part of our mainstream culture."

All of this goes back to those perennial villains, the Poor Oppressed Christians - the subset of Christians who not only believe they are under siege by ridiculously tiny minority religions like Paganism, but that the very acknowledgement of anything not explicitly Christian constitutes a dire existential threat to their faith. Here's a news flash - children are not leaving these denominations in droves at the first opportunity because they found out that yoga exists. They are leaving because to any intelligent person living one's adult life as a whiny oppressed Christian is really really pitiful and sad. Face it, the sheer delusion required to find stretching and rhythmic breathing exercises heretical is pretty overwhelming.

These individuals and their churches simply need to knock off the whining if they want to be taken seriously, both by their children and everyone else in the majority culture - which, I will point out once more, is Christian just like they are. There are plenty of Christian churches, even quite conservative ones, who do nothing of the sort and understand how their faith operates in the world as a legitimate spiritual practice. Being a Christian is about following the teachings of Christ and putting those teachings to work, not engaging in some kind of contest to see who can cast themselves as the biggest victim or martyr in response to the smallest possible offense - or even worse, the complete lack of one.

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1 comment:

Imago said...

Bravo! Well put. I hope that we start to see more people practicing spirituality rather than thumping on about imagined threats to their tribal markers.