Voodoo Dolls, Prayer Mats, Yoga and Spiritual Gardens

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. ~1 Peter 5:8~

As more and more people come to reject their Christian heritage and then look for purpose and meaning in other places, the more unhelpful, and indeed harmful spiritual practices are creeping in under our nose. Let me keep you abreast of some of the latest spiritual dangers which are coming (or have already come) to a school near you. This is given because this past week 1 John 4:1-6 encouraged us to TEST THE SPIRITS. There is a spiritual realm we cannot dismiss (Eph 6:10-20). Sadly, many have succumbed to spiritual gullibility.

These four examples are each true and disconcerting ways in which these practices have crept into our schools:

1. Voodoo Dolls. Originally a West African spiritual practice (also present in the Caribbean), which in a nutshell uses dolls to manipulate the spirits to protect you or bring harm to others. Voodoo Dolls, being sold in the UK under various names including Watchover Voodoo Dolls, are being worn by children in our schools who attach them to their backpacks. They believe that the doll is watching over them and that it can be a tool of manipulation. Instead of relying on dolls and false spirits for protection we should look to the Lord (Ps 121:1-2).

2.   Prayer Mats. These are utilized in Eastern Religions to aid the process of self-realization (see below). They are also used by Muslims to keep themselves ritually pure while praying (and could also be seen to aid the focus of prayer). When I was in Ontario recently I saw a class on the playground in a grove of trees all sitting on prayer mats, with two likely possibilities for this being either that they were i) meditating, or ii) learning about Islam (but we cannot pray to the Christian God in school?). Prayer is referenced over 500 times in the Bible, so pray is clearly important. While it may be appropriate for Christians to have prayer aids their prayers are to be directed to the Lord; are relational in nature; we fill ourselves with Him (vs. empty ourselves to find self-realization); and prayer can be done anywhere.

3. Yoga. A meditative exercise from Hinduism whereby each pose represents a Hindu god. This is often used in schools under the guise of fitness and also as a means to quiet otherwise unruly children (and sadly in many churches and Christians fitness workouts too). Yoga (Sanskrit- to join or unite) is a series of body movements and exercises designed to unite the body and mind with its end being to find the divine within yourself or to get in touch with your divinity as the highest spiritual end (self-realization). Contrary to this, is the Christian teaching of recognizing yourself as created and coming to know your Creator through Jesus (Ro 1:25). In terms of exercise how about finding appropriate ways to be a steward of the body our Creator entrusted us with, and if we are Christians, to treat it as the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19).

4. Spiritual Garden. A place at school where children can go and be encouraged to be “spiritual” by doing who knows what to achieve a rather loosey-goosy state (by the way- being spiritual in a Christian sense can only come when we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit). Why not encourage children to plant a garden so they learn to be good stewards of God’s creation, learn about the species planted and marvel at God’s glory (Ro 1:20)? Then in that context that garden (or other wonderful places in creation) may be a place where they may want to go to talk to God Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

John reminds us to be discerning! Put away all moral filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls, as James 1:21 also reminds us.

It appears to me that society has largely rejected not authentic Christianity but nominal Christianity (they have rejected Christianity without actually having heard the Gospel or experience authentic Christianity) and as one demon (nominal Christianity) has been cast out many other demons far worse than the first have taken its place (cf. Matt 12:43-45).

How has this onslaught of new religions (like Islam) or New Age practices (like yoga) crept in? Two initial reasons emerge. In our liberal and enlightened modern world we have embraced two lies. The first is that as we all know spiritual things do not really exist we can allow people to dabble in whatever they want. As it is not real it cannot possibly hurt them. The second is like it and is the post-modern belief that all spiritual beliefs are equally true, valid and helpful and must be embraced and affirmed.

Oh let us hear and embrace the exclusive and life giving promises of the Lord and fill our schools and society and hearts with them instead of with spiritual rubbish.

Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart. (Ps 37:4).

If you are interested in identifying the unsuspecting influence of New Age religion these core beliefs may be helpful[1]:

  • Monism (the belief that every diverse thing in the world has its origin in a single source).
  • Pantheism or the belief that “all is one and all is God”; God is therefore not a person or a personal creator but “the Force.”
  • Humanity’s immortal divinity; the realization of that divinity being the goal for every human being; “Everyone is God.”
  • Reincarnation based on the concept of karma (actions and consequences), with good karma moving individuals towards a higher state.
  • The ultimate restoration to wholeness of the creation, which is a living being, Gaia, with men and women discovering new powers within themselves that will be released into the earth to right ecological imbalances.
  • The disappearance of boundaries leading to the world becoming a global family.
  • One universal religion (the belief that all the different religions in the world are alternate paths to the same end).

From examining these you can see many similarities to post-modern views and other current worldviews. At the end of the day not all truths can be true. Holding mutually opposing beliefs can only be held for so long until we reach a breaking point. May we seek the truth before it is too late and may we not be guilty of spiritual gullibility.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

[1] Taken from Nigel Scotland. A Pocket Guide to Sects and New Religions. (Oxford: Lion Hudson, 2005), 211.