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Filthy pagan Christmas

The Rev. Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has caused a minor uproar by condemning the growing popularity of yoga among Christians, because yoga’s philosophical basis in Hinduism is inconsistent with Christian teaching.

Let’s pass over without comment the circumstance of the head of a major theological seminary who appears to be unacquainted with the extensive tradition of meditative and mystical practices within Christianity. Instead, let’s just look at where his argument could lead.

To Christmas. Or rather, to the abolition of Christmas.

Christmas, as the Reverend Doctor Mohler must surely have heard, was originally a pagan solstice festival, the holiday on which the Romans celebrated the Sol Invictus, the Unconquered Sun. It occurred at the time of the Saturnalia, the annual bout of feasting and exchange of presents.

There is no biblical warrant for dating the birth of Jesus at or near December 25. 

The Reverend Doctor Mohler may also have heard that the Christmas tree also has dubious origins, during a time when pagans in the Teutonic forests brought evergreens into the house to mark the solstice.

And he may also know that those flint-eyed Evangelicals, the Puritans of early New England, despised the Christmas holiday and forbade its observance.

So, if he wants to purge ungodly and non-Christian practices, he might just let yoga go for the moment and aim for the Big Target.

In the unlikely event that he is instead amenable to reason, he might consider that yoga, apart from its philosophical dimension, can be considered as a purely mechanical function, especially since meditative techniques show up commonly in many religious traditions.

Or he might get a little more relaxed about the syncretic tendencies in Christianity. English, as I’ve remarked before, is a sluttish language that has incorporated elements of the many other languages it has brushed against. In a similar fashion, Christianity has adopted and transformed for its own purposes numerous practices of non-Christian origin, Christmas being mainly one of the most obvious of the lot.

Take a deep cleansing breath, Reverend Doctor.



Posted by John McIntyre at 10:44 AM | | Comments (10)


John, I love the dripping sarcasm.

And don't forget Easter. And you thought those White House Lawn egg rolls were just good fun for the kids.

Oh yes, Easter, a name that the Venerable Bede said derived from Eastre, a goddess associated with spring.

Even though the contemplative tradition is well founded in Catholicism, the actual deep mystical experience was, until much more recently, distrusted in the church and Christian mystics were often persecuted (See St John of the Cross and Meister Eckhart), unless they carefully couched their realization in poetic language. I don't think that mystical practice has ever been an accepted part of Protestantism.

Quite right that Protestantism, though sometimes given to ecstatic practices, has not gone in too much for mysticism. But since the Reverend Doctor Mohler generously advises Roman Catholics and Anglicans about Christianity on his blog, I thought it material to bring that point in.

And all along I thought the spread of Yoga was to encourage people to buy loose-fitting, earth-toned frumpy clothing and expensive mats. Perhaps the Rev Dr missed that part of it: Capitalism Rampant!!

P the T, at my yoga studio the yoga outfits are pretty foxy, not frumpy. But to each his own.

Has Rev. Dr. Mohler noticed that the days of the week are named after pagan deities?

Happy Samhain!

reverend Doctor..;) Ho-ho-ho!

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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