There is an interesting debate which crops up from time to time amongst my fellow Christians. It has to do with all three of the things mentioned in the title of this piece; Christianity, Culture, and Spirituality.
The Olympics in China have actually brought this back into my thoughts, as well as some discussion on a Christian message board. The debate usually starts (just as one example of a larger phenomenon) something like this, “Is it ok for Christians to do yoga?” There are many many different POVs on questions such as this…I have one too; it depends.
It’s going to be my standard answer right off the bat; what you do and don’t do is between you and God. Remember, freedom in Christ, but freedom comes with a lot of responsibility. But, to get more detailed, I would say it totally depends upon what form of yoga someone is talking about, who’s teaching it, is it aimed at spiritual matters, or merely physical? Can you as an individual separate the spiritual aspect from the physical? etc…
One side of the issue is that yoga began as a Hindu practice, and some of the forms are indeed aimed at certain “gods.” But the thing that gets me, is that for most Christians who are against yoga, they say that if the forms are changed slightly and accompanied by scripture (just as an example) then it is ok. I understand this point of view, because that is exactly what the Roman church did with things like Christmas and Easter.
Take a pagan occurrence, practice, celebration, etc… and take it over, change it, Christianize it. It is all a very interesting discussion, one which I’m not going to go into any any great depth here, I’m more just thinking out loud, so to speak.
How about meditation? How about Tai Chi? How about any martial arts? I know you know what is coming from me at least; it depends. What are you meditating on? Are you chanting, or even repeating a vain “prayer?” Then no. Are you simply calming you heart and meditating on God’s word…why not? But, again, some people will be able to completely divorce the spiritual aspects of things like Tai Chi from the purely physical or mental. The Holy Spirit is there to guide each one of us; some should stay completely away, and some can and will handle it.
If you are going to an instructor, or a dojo, or a studio; use your eyes and also talk to the instructor. Is there a shrine? Then stay away. Do they force you to participate in the meditation exercises and you don’t really want to? Don’t go back. The Holy Spirit does guide us, and God gave us common sense…well, most of us, anyway.
It is a heart matter. You know if you are offering up something to false “gods” or if you are simply trying to maintain your physical flexibility. Now, of course, as in the rest of life, there are certain things that no Christian should “mess with” such as playing around with an ouija board; there’s nothing to “separate” there folks, it isn’t a mere board (or bored) game…you are asking questions to whom exactly whilst “playing” with a ouija board?
So, I do think there are some “black and white” issues; should you light a “punk” and place it in front of a statue of Buddha because the rest of your family is Buddhist and wants you to because it is a part of “your culture.” Probably not a good move.
Anything that the Bible explicitly touches upon and instructs us to avoid, we should. If you are in doubt about something, stay away from it. If you are feeling guilty about something, don’t do it again, or find an alternative. Long discussion short; pray about it, read any pertinent scripture, and follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Scripture? Romans 14 speaks to issues such as these I believe. We should indeed always keep our “witness” in mind as we either participate or refuse to participate in certain activities. We should not help to cause a brother/sister to stumble in the exercise of our freedom (look over 1 Corinthians chapter 8). As always, don’t trust my ideas on all of this, I’m a fallible human; dig into it on your own and pray about it…I would be interested in any thoughts on this subject if anyone cares to comment.