Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Halloween-Loving Christian?

Holly's latest blog entry on Today's Christian Woman magazine's website is now up:

A Halloween-Loving Christian?
Maybe it’s OK for me to enjoy this controversial holiday.

To ponder:
1) Do you engage in any Halloween-related activities? What are your reasons for participating or passing?

2) Think about your favorite non-church entertainment: maybe it’s pop music, romantic movies, social dancing, or even Halloween. What are some of the "yucky candies" that come along with this treat? Pray for discernment: Ask God whether he will remove the bad candy or give you an alternative. Or, perhaps he’s leading you away from this thing. Be honest in telling God the aspects you love, and the ones that are spoiling it for you.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Harry Potter Author Says Christianity Inspired Her Books

"On any given moment if you asked me if I believe in life after death, I think if you polled me regularly through the week, I think I would come down on the side of yes - that I do believe in life after death. But it's something I wrestle with a lot. It preoccupies me a lot, and I think that's very obvious within the books."

--J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series. Last week, Rowling said Christianity had inspired her books. Rowling was raised in the Anglican tradition and is currently a member of the Church of Scotland. Some Christian writers have long noted religious references in the Harry Potter books, while others have denounced them as bathed in the occult and inappropriate for children.
J K Rowling: 'Christianity inspired Harry Potter'

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Disney Strikes the Word "God" From Movie Ad

"Who do they think gave Moses his power? Tinkerbell?"

--Frank Yablans, CEO of Promenade Pictures, which is releasing The Ten Commandments, an animated movie, this Friday. In a press release, Yablans commented on the request by Radio Disney executives to remove the words "Chosen by God" from their radio ads for The Ten Commandments movie.

Radio Disney: Remove God From 'Ten Commandments' Movie Ad

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

What I Believe: An Open Letter to Sean and Best Seller

I recently received two comments, one in response to my post on The Secret, and one in response to my most recent post on yoga:

Sean wrote:
<<We are part of god. One person is not a god as such. God has infanant potential. We are extentions of gods ever expanding potential. As for what would happen if every one used the secret well for startes we all do. But if we all knew how we would be fine because we are all one we all together with everything in the universe are god.>>

Best Seller wrote:
<<Is it wrong for a Christian to practice yoga because it has roots in Hinduism? I do not think so, since Yoga involves physical & mental exercises designed to bring the mind in tune with the body. To have a stress free life, Yoga is very helpful.>>

Dear Sean and Best Seller,

I'd like to take a minute to discuss some core beliefs of Christianity. I'm writing this open letter because I'm sure there are others who hold opinions similar to your own. I hope this will provide some understanding about why I don't feel The Secret and yoga are practices Christians should engage in.

Best Seller, I went to your website to see how you might define yoga. From your site:

<<YOGA means UNION WITH DIVINE or SELF REALIZATION OF DIVINE WITHIN YOU. Of course, it has many other meanings too. The word YOGA came from the root word YUJ to YOKE or JOIN. So YOGA teaches one to JOIN THE INDIVIDUAL SOUL [JEEVATHMAN] WITH ABSOLUTE SOUL [PARAMATHMAN OR GOD].>>

For starters, the focus of yoga as defined above and on your site is to complete actions that will bring us into oneness with God. Christians, however, don't believe our personal actions bring us into relationship with God. Because of our sinful, imperfect state, we are separated from God. We don't believe we can personally release this sin (what we call "sin" you might call "negativity," though Christians don't believe humans can release themselves from their inherent sinful state).

Instead, Christians rely on the actions of Jesus Christ to be released from the consequences of our sinful nature (the consequence being eternal separation from God).

In biblical times, God gave those who believed in him a set of laws to follow. These laws weren't intended to make people perfect; in fact, it was impossible for any human to keep all the laws all the time. God also provided a means for the people to be forgiven when they broke his laws. The laws were to show the people that they were indeed sinful--they could never be as good and perfect as God. The laws also showed God was graceful and always willing to forgive. So it wasn't about making people see how bad they were. It was about showing humans how good and kind God is.

This reminds me of a news segment I viewed about a woman whose husband was killed by a drunk driver. The woman forgave the driver, and even became friends with the driver. In watching the story, I wasn't focused on the wrongdoing of the drunk driver. I knew the driver hadn't intended to kill anyone, though the driver was certainly guilty of murder. Rather, I was focused on the goodness of the widow, who had offered forgiveness for a seemingly unforgivable crime. Similarly, biblical law was given for people to recognize their sinful nature, while placing the greatest focus on the goodness of God.

Back to the Bible: The people stopped truly loving and worshipping God, and began to just pay lip-service. They thought they could live however they wanted, then just perform some simple actions to get right with God. (It would be like that drunk driver unremorsefully saying, "Here's your insurance settlement money, but it was really no big deal--your husband was gonna die someday anyway. Now at least you've got some cash. Are we done here?") God wanted the people to know it was only by his benevolent grace that they could have a relationship with him. And God got tired of their empty words--he wanted their true love. So he sent his son, Jesus, to earth in human form to remind his people of their sinful nature and his benevolent grace.

When he was on earth, Jesus proclaimed himself to be deity: the Son of God. Jesus gave his life in a way the people of the day would understand as the means to forgiveness--and thus, renewal of relationship with God the Father. Jesus then proved he is deity by coming back to life and ascending into Heaven.

Christians believe it is only because of Jesus' actions that they can have a relationship with God. This makes sense to me. I am a human who will die someday. I do not have the power of a deity; I'm not omniscient, omnipresent, or omnipotent. In The Secret, some are said to possess a greater ability to employ The Law of Attraction. In Hinduism, some are said to achieve nirvana faster than others. In other words, both say some humans are more god-like than others. True Christianity is realizing all humans are equally sinful, and can be equally forgiven and receive the same relationship with God.

Since I don't believe I'm deity, how could I, as a human, come into touch with deity, other than through another source of deity? For me, Jesus is that source. He is deity equal to God, so he has the power to bring me into good standing with God the Father.

The idea that humans contain deity, and thus are able to be one with God (or, in Best Seller's terminology, the Universal Soul), thus runs contrary to the core belief system of Christians. I do not believe I am God, or that I contain deity. I don't believe I am able, by my own actions or merits, to become one with God.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, I believe Jesus' actions justify me before God. In other words, I can have a relationship with God because of what Jesus did, and because I've put my trust in his actions. I can show my love and gratitude to God through prayer (and other spiritual practices), obedience to and worship of God, good deeds, and kindness to others. But these actions won't bring me into relationship with God--as I said, I simply must put my trust in Jesus' actions.

If I were to believe doing yoga would bring me closer to God, it would be like saying, "Jesus, your actions didn't really take care of everything. I still need to do yoga, because I trust it will bring me closer to God." As I've said many times, there's nothing wrong with Christians stretching, relaxing through deep breathing, and meditating on the goodness of God and the Bible or doing such meditation through prayer. Best Seller, I hope you can see how it would be problematic for a Christian to believe yoga (or any other action) is the means to becoming closer to God, or the way to attain forgiveness for sin.

If you have any questions about why Jesus had to be crucified, the significance of his death and resurrection, the ideas of the three-in-one God (Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit) or other questions about core Christian beliefs, please feel free to email me. I'll do my best to answer or will ask a more experienced Christian theologian to address your questions.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Big Mac and Bradys Better Known than Bible

A national survey conducted by Kelton Research found Americans know more about Big Mac sandwiches and The Brady Bunch than the Ten Commandments.

The survey was commissioned to promote the animated movie The Ten Commandments, in theaters October 19. Of those surveyed, 25 percent could identify all seven ingredients of a McDonald's Big Mac sandwich, and 35 percent could name the six children from The Brady Bunch. But only 14 percent could accurately state the Ten Commandments. In fact, 60 percent of those surveyed couldn't remember at least five of the 10.

For more about the study, the upcoming movie, and tips on how to remember the Ten Commandments, check out

Monday, October 08, 2007

So Yoga Isn't the World's Greatest Exercise?

Yoga means bringing together mind, body and spirit, but in Western yoga, we've distilled it down to body. That's not even yoga anymore. If the goal is to look like Madonna, you're better off running or spinning."

--Shana Meyerson, a Los Angeles yoga instructor, in a Time magazine article on the rise of yoga-related injuries.

Holly sez: A couple years ago, I wrote about my personal objections to yoga. Essentially, I don't practice yoga anymore because its spiritual elements clash with my Christian faith. Specifically, yoga is a Hindu spiritual practice that pays homage to gods and is intended to bring practitioners into alignment with the universal mind (to reach enlightenment). My personal spiritual focus is on worshipping the one true God and pursuing the things he wants in my life. I don't believe in the universal mind or that I have the ability to reach a god-like state of enlightenment.

Since I had a lot of sources that agreed with my interpretation of yoga (ie. being a Hindu spiritual practice that supposedly connects mind, body, and soul), I didn't think my ideas were all that controversial. Prominent Hindu yogis have publicly stated yoga is more than exercise. So I was somewhat surprised when my little story started showing up on websites, blogs, and discussion boards. Some people said I was yet another example of Christian intolerance (I expected that). Many--including some Christian websites--said I was a crazy person who didn't understand yoga was merely exercise.

Even before I became a Christian, I knew yoga wasn't merely exercise. I used to be involved in my New Age practices, and I was long drawn to yoga for its spiritual component. I didn't even know about the Hindu connection back then, but I liked the idea of using the body along with the mind to "empty" myself and reach a state of numbness.

After I became a Christian, I still didn't know yoga was a Hindu practice. But I sensed something felt wrong when I went to yoga class. So I looked into it, and when I discovered the Hindu spiritual connection, my discomfort immediately made sense. Then I wrote about it.

Over the years, I've seen many defensive comments on how American yoga is just good exercise, and nothing more. I understand why people don't want to believe it has a spiritual component. Surely there are some American yoga classes that are merely stretching classes. The label "yoga" is hip and current; it provides a better selling point than "stretching," which sounds like a low-impact class for senior citizens or pregnant women.

Perhaps Americans don't like their exercise to be spiritual. Our country isn't overrun with Christian exercise programs, despite being a nation whose citizens largely identify as Christians. Exercise is supposed to be physical, with measurable benefits like muscle definition, weight loss, and lower blood pressure. Like the separation of science and religion (the former which identifies itself as measurable and verifiable), perhaps we think physical exercise should be separated from spiritual exercises like meditation and prayer.

Mostly, I think folks feel the need to defend yoga because it is extremely accessible. There's something for everyone: Yoga can be practiced by the very young and the very old. The stretches are good for people with physical limitations as well as professional athletes. It's a low-impact workout that can be started without any pre-conditioning, which makes it available to those who are overweight and/or out-of-shape. So, when some nasty writer like me comes along and says, "Hey, this isn't a good practice for Christians for these reasons," it makes sense folks would get mad. I'm attacking the unifying character of yoga, in essence stating it isn't for everyone.

People may not accept that yoga originates in Hinduism and is still considered their spiritual practice. It doesn't make the statement less true. But I've got some new news to get those defenders of yoga spitting fire again. According to a study by the American Council on Exercise (ACE), yoga isn't the all-around exercise some folks want it to be. (ACE is a national nonprofit organization that tests exercise products and programs, and creates the standards for fitness instructor certifications.) The study found yoga doesn't improve cardiovascular health. Though there are some strength benefits, it's no match for weight-training for building muscle. Weight-training makes people much stronger more quickly than yoga. And yoga doesn't burn many calories--you'll get better weight-loss results from even low-impact aerobic activities like walking. Says John Porcari, who headed up the ACE study, "People’s expected benefits need to be in-line with reality. People often try to make yoga into this all-encompassing thing. Americans have changed yoga and tried to morph it into programs that will hit every aspect of fitness, but it was never designed that way.”

According to the study, yoga is a good addition to other exercise because it best provides flexibility, balance, and relaxation. So does stretching. I've been adding stretching to my workout for years, and I can honestly say the only thing that's missing is the "yoga" label and the Hindu spirituality.

To ponder:
1) The American idea of separating church and state often seems to extend beyond government issues. What are some ways you've seen this idea in action?

2) Some people called me intolerant for refusing to do yoga due to the spiritual element. To me, it's much more intolerant to deny there is indeed a Hindu spiritual element.

How might you feel if people used a Christian spiritual practice, such as communion or the Lord's Prayer, and denied it had Christian roots? (For example, if a large group of people claimed communion was more about getting a good boost of nutrition and could be utilized without any spiritual connection.)

3) What does the word "tolerant" mean to you? Is it necessary to keep mum about something you know is true in order to be tolerant? Is is necessary to keep your beliefs and opinions to yourself in order to be tolerant?

4) What are the benefits to being tolerant? What are some possible negative effects of being overly tolerant?