Yoga and the Unholy Marriage of Church and State


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This morning Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and wife of U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), posted on her facebook page comments made by E. W. Jackson, Virginia GOP candidate for lieutenant governor, that recently came to light regarding his views on the practice of yoga:

“When one hears the word meditation, it conjures an image of Maharishi Yoga talking about finding a mantra and striving for nirvana. . . . The purpose of such meditation is to empty oneself. . . . [Satan] is happy to invade the empty vacuum of your soul and possess it. That is why people serve Satan without ever knowing it or deciding to, but no one can be a child of God without making a decision to surrender to him. Beware of systems of spirituality which tell you to empty yourself. You will end up filled with something you probably do not want.”

The source for the quote is E. W. Jackson’s book, Ten Commandments to an Extraordinary Life: Making Your Dreams Come True and appeared in the June 5, 2013, edition of The Atlantic.

I replied to Ms. Schultz’s post in the following way:

As one who was reared in Christian Fundamentalism, I am familiar with his point of view. Let me explain.

It is common within Evangelical and other conservative Christian denominations to hold a binary or dualist (all or nothing) worldview. These groups tend to believe unwaveringly in absolute truth, rejecting any form of relativism, including nuance. Many groups are proudly anti-intellectual, claiming intellectualism to be a product of humanism, and often reject,  along with it, reason and rationalism seeing them as compromising on absolute truth. In a binary worldview that rejects nuance and holds to absolute truth, that means there is only one correct answer, path, and solution and all others are in error. Compromise is viewed as weakness. Unyielding commitment to one’s convictions shows true faithfulness. This point of view was well-represented in a recorded interview of a Sarah Palin supporter at a book signing in Columbus, Ohio, during the 2008 campaign in which he said (at 4:47 in the linked video), “When you’re right you don’t have to compromise. Compromise is for people that [sic] are wrong.”

This worldview might work for some people within their paradigms of faith, but it proves to be an untenable point of view when brought into political office and government service where compromise, reason, nuance and intellectualism are valued.

This binary, anti-humanist thought process also often leads to a tribalist worldview: I am loyal to my in-group, which is right, moral and valuable and all others are seen as “other”, outsiders, and a threat. (See: Jonathan Haidt’s research on the difference between liberals and conservatives. More on Jonathan Haidt here.)

E. W. Jackson and those who share his worldview cannot tolerate yoga because, for them, it is inextricably linked to a religion they see as “other”.  In this worldview, anything that is other is against God. And, since there can be only one correct faith path (or orthodoxy), and he believes his is uniquely right – yoga isn’t simply different, it’s evil. This is the thought process.

This is not the first time Christians have recently opposed the practice of yoga as shown in this article from the New York Times.

The public at large needs to become better informed about the religious worldview of these faith groups.

In an article that appeared in Church and State by Dakota O’Leary from February 2013, entitled Christian fundamentalists are driving our country into the dark ages, the author further articulates these important insights. It is a worthwhile and important read.


I am reminded of this wisdom that we are far too slow to learn:

“Do not praise your own faith exclusively so that you disbelieve all the rest. If you do this you will miss much good. Nay, you will miss the whole truth of the matter. God, the omniscient and the omnipresent, cannot be confined to any one creed, for he says in the Koran, wheresoever ye turn, there is the face of Allah. Everybody praises what he knows. His God is his own creature, and in praising it, he praises himself. Which he would not do if he were just, for his dislike is based on ignorance.”

~ Ibn Arabi (12th -13th century Sufi mystic)


We do nothing toward forming a more perfect Union by endorsing the unholy marriage of Church and State.

Copyright 2013 © Christina Caine. All rights reserved.

This entry was posted on Thursday, June 6th, 2013 at 10:56 am and is filed under Binary Worldview, Connie Schultz, E. W. Jackson, Faith and Politics, Fundamentalism, Jonathan Haidt, Separation of Church and State, Tribalism, Yoga. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


  1. carol f says:

    Yes, yes and yes. Thank you.

    ... on July June 6th, 2013
  2. Susie Buehler says:

    I love your blog posts and almost always post them to my facebook page.

    ... on July June 6th, 2013
  3. Christy Caine says:

    Thank you, Susie! That’s so nice of you.

    ... on July July 3rd, 2013
  4. Scott Caine says:

    Well stated …themes are emerging and we need people like you to shine light into the dark corners of our seemingly well lit world.

    ... on July June 6th, 2013
  5. Deborah Lindsay says:

    Wherever you turn, there is the face of God. I love that!

    ... on July June 9th, 2013
  6. Lana says:

    I grew up in fundamentalism, so I know how anti-intellectual it can be. But what’s odd is that it wasn’t anti-intellectual when it began. IT was very scholarly and a response to 19th century liberalism. Part of it with Yoga is that people confuse it with the yoga overseas. I’ve lived over there. Very different.

    ... on July June 21st, 2013
  7. Christy Caine says:

    You’re right, Lana. So much disagreement is based on misunderstanding. Thank you for your note.

    ... on July July 3rd, 2013

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