Father Gabriele Amorth is an old school priest. The octogenarian told The London Times this week that, since he was ordained way back in 1954, he has cast out some 160,000 demons.
I believe that gives Father Gabriele some authority on the devil. So when he told the Times, “Practicing yoga brings evil,” he got my attention.
I’ve long considered yoga a benign form of exercise, no more harmful than, say, aerobics or Pilates or, the apparent latest craze, Zumba. But after doing some research, I’m inclined to agree with Father Gabriele, the exorcist.
While yoga indeed has a physical component, it’s the spiritual component that leads to the devil. For yoga, defined as a “union with the divine,” is not about obeisance to the God that Christ followers worship. It’s about homage to the false gods of Hinduism.
That brings me to a lawsuit, brought by parents of children enrolled in the Encinitas Union School District in California, challenging the yoga program the district mandated for its nine public schools, under the guise of “physical education.”
Funding for the program comes from the KP Jois Foundation, which promotes a form of yoga called Ashtanga. The Ashtanga practice traditionally begins with a mantra, which concludes, “To Patanjali I salute.”
“Lord” Patanjali, as he is known by the Hindu faithful, is considered to be one the incarnations of Shesha, a many thousand-headed serpent god.
The Encinitas Union School District maintains that its district-wide yoga program is strictly secular; that neither Shesha, the serpent god, nor Patanjali, his human avatar, are anywhere to be seen.
But that’s not what Harvard-trained religious scholar Candy Brown found when she visited the Encinitas public schools. “I see it all over the place,” she testified in court a fortnight ago.
And even though the school district insists that there is no chanting of mantras, Dr. Brown provided the court written statements from teachers in the district that children have, in fact, been observed chanting while doing their yoga.
They were sending shout outs to Patanjali, the several-thousand-headed serpent god, and they were none the wiser.
Now, many may think the court case in California is much ado about a trifle. And even some Christians may argue that there is nothing unGodly about yoga. That they separate their faith and their workout. That Shesha and Jesus can peacefully co-exist.
Well, that’s what the KP Jois Foundation wants Encinitas parents to believe. That’s what the devil wants all of us to think.
Which should bring to mind to all of us who count ourselves Christ followers the challenge Joshua issued to the children of Israel: “Choose you this day whom you will serve.
The choice for the Joshua’s people was between the gods their fathers served “that were on the other side of the flood,” or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land they dwelled after the Exodus, or the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The choice today for those who consider themselves faithful Christians, who have been advised by Father Gabriele and others that yoga is a gateway to evil is whether they will stand with the Lord, or sit, in Lotus position, in homage to the serpent god Shesha.