I suspect this blog has been a bit gloom and doom of late, so perhaps this post will provide some, er, "balance."
Yesterday, I took my son (age 4) to his first Tae Kwon Do class.
It was one of those "parent things." Doting parents outside the dojo beaming at their little precious ones executing kicks and punches in their gis.
What is odd is the cultural combinations that exist there; they count in Korean (well, I knew they'd do that), they bow to the American and Korean flags (the martial art was founded by a Korean general in the 50s) and much of what in other realms would be KWATSU! be expressed (somewhat clumsily) as "Focus! Discipline!"
But at the end of the day they know their stuff and I don't know it. At least I don't think I do. And my kid's having fun.
Now I suspect many conservative Christians have problems with the above (we were suprised to run into parents from his secular pre-school); after all, it does originate from Buddhism. And I, ultimately, am judging the teachers on the basis of their practice. Yeah, in a Buddhist sense. Yet frankly, in the Pacific NW, as the nights come early, I personally think that if you're not engaging your kid in a way like this, he's missing out. That is, if you can afford it. It's not like it's cheap.
I guess we really do need a Shaolin Temple in the neighborhood.
But if my son sticks with it, there is a Shaolin school somewhere around here. Or there's the people that trained under the classmate of Jet Li's. (You simply cannot believe what those kids can do...)
Well, at least Halloween's still free, more or less.
At the same time, I do find it odd that these traditions have to be culturally put in a blender and shaken because somebody's sensibilities one way or another might be offended. Yeah, I think it's a bit absurd to have a 4 year old kid bow to any flag, but at the same time I think it's even more absurd to deny a kid fun and discipline and expending calories furiously because the method of doing so is not politically or religiously correct.
Last Saturday the New York Times had an article on "Christian" yoga, and got a money quote from various religous experts, including apologetics flim-flam man Douglas Groothius (whose ideas were roundly debunked on the New York Times Religion boards a few years back):
"There is an element of superficiality or hypocrisy there," said Subhas R. Tiwari, a professor of yoga philosophy and meditation at the Hindu University of America in Orlando, Fla. "To try to take Hinduism or aspects of Hinduism outside of yoga is an affront. It's an act of insincere behavior."
Douglas R. Groothuis, a professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary, said that yoga was a Hindu practice structured to help people attain a higher spiritual state within, and that was incompatible with Christian teachings.
"I don't think Christian yoga works," he said. "It's an oxymoron. If it's truly Christian, it can't be truly yoga because of the worldviews."
The Vatican has also expressed misgivings about yoga. In a 1989 letter, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who is now Pope Benedict XVI, said practices like yoga and meditation could "degenerate into a cult of the body."
These ideas if taken to their logical conclusions would consign people to - geez, I can't imagine what...
- "To take Buddhism out of walking (kin hin) is an act of insincere behavior..."
- "I don't think Christian chanting works," he said. "It's an oxymoron..."
- Practices like being a couch potato practices could "degenerate into a cult of the body."
- Above all, don't just sit there and do nothing. You'll wind up practicing shikan taza! (That is, the Zen practice of "just sitting."