Yoga 'controversy': red meat for 'Times' readers

A front-page article made something out of almost nothing.

Pastor Mark Driscoll preaching at Mars Hill Church in Ballard.

Pastor Mark Driscoll preaching at Mars Hill Church in Ballard. Mars Hill Church

I was getting ready to lead a workshop on Saturday morning when someone, in a voice somewhere between deeply offended and totally appalled, said, “Have you seen this morning’s Seattle Times?” “No.” “Let me get it for you.” She rushed out into the rain to her car to retrieve the paper. She thrust the front-page with its headline, “Yoga ‘demonic’? Critics call ministers’ warning a stretch” at me.

“Isn’t this awful, what these so-called ministers, are saying?” “What ignorant cretins these people (the ministers who criticized yoga) are!”

Judging from that, I’d say the front-page article, by Times religion editor, Janet Tu, had elicited the intended reaction.

I had a different response. I wondered, “Why is this front page news? Is it ‘news’ at all?”

The article was based on comments from two clergy, one the president of a Baptist seminary in Kentucky, the other, Mark Driscoll in Seattle. The seminary president had written a thoughtful on-line article in mid-September, “The Subtle Body — Should Christians Practice Yoga?”

Driscoll’s comments had been made seven months ago, last February. R. Albert Mohler, the Kentucky Baptist, wondered whether yoga was okay for Christians. Often inflammatory, Driscoll called yoga “demonic.”

Still, is this news? Is it front-page news? Are people demonstrating outside yoga studios? Doing sit-in’s at churches? Don’t think so.

So what’s it doing on page one? Answer: controversy, even pseudo-controversy, sells. Moreover, controversy that involves conservative Christians like Driscoll sells really well. It’s red meat for the angry anti-religious crowd, a crowd whose self-righteousness is certainly equal to that of most fundamentalists.

It’s a terrific article for confirming the prevailing prejudice that religious people are all ignorant idiots. Is it news? A Baptist in Kentucky writes something on-line and a local pastor who said something at a Q and A session with members of his church in February is news?

Not news, simply pandering by the Times.

Anthony B. (Tony) Robinson is President of Seattle-based Congregational Leadership Northwest. He speaks and writes, nationally and internationally, on religious life and leadership. He is the author of 10 books. Crosscut readers may particularly enjoy Common Grace (Sasquatch Books). His blog, "What's Tony Thinking?", is at his website, www.anthonybrobinson.com.


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