‘Secular’ Meditation in the Schoolroom, or, There’s More Than One Way to Be Anti-Christian
Not all anti-Christian hostility comes in the form of overt oppression. Some of it is, “Hey, you can hold on to your Christianity. Practice it all you want. Just remember it isn’t actually true.” It happens all the time. It’s making news right now in a Cobb County, Georgia public school.
Bonnie Cole, an elementary school assistant principal, introduced yoga-based meditation into classrooms at her school. Her instruction was partly based on the book Peaceful Piggy Meditation by Kerry Lee MacLean. Christian parents objected. Administrators transferred Cole to another school. Now Cole is suing.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says a jury will decide if banning yoga there “advanced the cause of Christianity.” It’s the wrong question. The jury should be deciding whether this imposed yoga-based meditation impedes the practice of Christianity. I’d say the answer is clearly yes, and therefore First Amendment doesn’t permit it. This is so even though the Journal-Constitution says, “Neither side of the dispute is saying yoga is religious.” Religious or not, there are worldviews involved here, and the worldview of Peaceful Piggy Meditation is decidedly anti-Christian.
Shambhala In the Schoolroom
Its roots certainly aren’t Christian. Kerry Lee MacLean has been teaching at Shambhala Meditation centers worldwide for 15 years. Shambhala’s mythical roots trace directly to the Buddha; more recently they’re connected to a Tibetan meditation master, Chögman Trungpa Rinoche. Shambhala’s “history and legend” grow out of “a great community that was able to reach a higher level of consciousness.” It teaches that “every human being has a fundamental nature of basic goodness.”
Yet Shambhala also claims its style of meditation “can be expressed through existing cultural norms.” Christians don’t have to give up anything to practice it. Nothing, that is, except our most basic beliefs about reality. For its views contradict Christianity’s on one point after another — and Peaceful Piggy Meditation reflects those views.
Hemant Mehta, the so-called “The Friendly Atheist,” says PPM “never mentioned Buddhism.” He also implies MacLean would hardly be teaching Buddhism since she’s Jewish. Maybe she is by birth; maybe it’s also a good idea to fact-check atheist blogs. Anyway, a book doesn’t have to mention Buddhism to contradict Christian thinking.
Clearly Contradicting Christianity
PPM recommends (for example) that students find a “special place,” where Mom or Dad would set them up with “maybe a crystal, for clear thinking, a stone, for stillness, or even a flower, for kindness.” Meditating there in that quiet place, “Peaceful Piggies” can “feel free as a bird,” and “fearless.” One result is, “You like who you are, just as you are.”
Christianity believes in self-esteem, too, but in a wholly different sense. Healthy self-esteem, on the Christian view, isn’t, “I’m a good person.” Healthy self-esteem, reflecting Romans 5:8, is, “I’m a loved person. I’m worth everything, whether I’m good or not, because God Himself created me and loves me.”
PPM also teaches that meditating your way to a peaceful and quiet mind leads to solutions for all kinds of life problems. Christianity teaches that a peaceful and quiet mind is one aspect of the total life solution only God can provide.
PPM teaches that meditation can “keep your mind clean.” Christianity says only Jesus Christ’s sacrifice can cleanse us.
PPM teaches that meditation helps kids stand up to others, take care of others including enemies, love all beings — “even worms,” it says — and stay happy even when things go wrong. Christianity teaches (almost) the same virtues, but says we find them in following Christ.
Where “Secular” Is Not Neutral
These are all full-blown contradictions. Teachers — government employees — should not send a message that Christianity is wrong in all its most important precepts.
But the book doesn’t mention Buddhism, so it’s “not religious,” right? And Shambhala says its practices “can be expressed through existing cultural norms.” This implies it’s neutral with respect to all beliefs. Or as one Facebook commenter told me today, “It’s actually only some extreme fundamentalists who think yoga is against Christianity and everyone else thinks it has been secularized.”
It welcomes any Christianity except that which thinks Christianity is actually true. Which is plenty hostile, even without overt persecution.
Secularized? Sure. But “secular” in this context means, “completely contradicting the Christian view of reality.” It means accepting the same Christianity-denying worldview you find in Peaceful Piggy Meditation. It means happily coexisting with “Christianity,” as long as no one but “extreme fundamentalists” notices the serious contradictions there.
This isn’t hostile to Christians in the same way persecution is, but it’s certainly hostile to Christian belief. It’s incredibly effective, too. It shunts genuine Christian thinking off to the “extreme fundamentalist” corner. It normalizes a view of reality that completely excludes most of Christianity’s most basic precepts. And it welcomes any Christianity except that which thinks Christianity is actually true. Which is plenty hostile, even without overt persecution.
Tom Gilson is a senior editor with The Stream, and the author of A Christian Mind: Thoughts on Life and Truth in Jesus Christ. Follow him on Twitter: @TomGilsonAuthor.