Week in Review 10/7/10

by by Deepali Gupta, Ashton Strait, Natalie Villacorta & Emma Whitford

Next time you consider changing into spandex and easing into child’s pose, wrap your mind around this: yoga is incompatible with the Christian faith, according to Dr. Albert Mohler, Jr. president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“Christians are not called to empty the mind or to see the human body as a means of connecting to and coming to know the divine,” Mohler said in a blog post last week. Clearly Mohler has never practiced yoga before, because connecting with the floor, let alone the divine, is challenge enough when your arms and legs are twisted into a complicated pose.
Many Christians are confused by Merton’s announcement. Yoga is often taught in churches and practicing Christians have said they view it as simply another way to pray and worship God. They cite the Bible’s call to renew and prepare their minds for action and to “set [their] minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2).
Other Christians are just interested in yoga’s physical and health benefits. Besides increasing balance, flexibility, and muscle tone, research shows that yoga reduces stress and improves mood and concentration. But more importantly, yoga is all the rage. Celebrities like Madonna and Jennifer Aniston are huge fans of yoga, citing it as great way to cope with the stress of stardom.
So what exactly is it about yoga that’s got Mohler turned upside down and bent out of shape? Mohler says that the poses aren’t the problem, but the necessity of intense meditation to achieve them: “Believers are called to meditate upon the Word of God—an external Word that comes to us by divine revelation—not to meditate by means of incomprehensible syllables.”
Perhaps Mohler’s issue with yoga is the connection to Eastern religions like Hinduism and Buddhism. Or worse, the sexual energy of some styles—the sweat, the skin-tight spandex, and the provocative poses that conjure up kinky sex positions out of the Kama Sutra… downward-facing doggie-style?
Mohler’s views are not new. The Catholic Church has expressed disapproval of eastern and New Age practices like herbal medicine and crystal healing since the 1980s. Despite this condemnation, yoga’s following has soared. With millions of Americans currently practicing yoga, and research demonstrating its numerous health benefits, Mohler is going to have to be a little more flexible.

There are several things about Linda McMahon that are indisputable. It is a fact that McMahon is a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut. She is a member of the Republican Party. It’s also true that she was CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) before she decided to launch a senatorial campaign. Her CEO position was pretty cushy, in the neighborhood of $46 million a year.
But move away from biographical facts, and things start to get foggy. On the last day of September, McMahon admitted that she didn’t know the minimum wage—federal or state. She couldn’t say for sure if any of her employees at WWE received it. Still, she couldn’t resist voicing her opinion: “I think we ought to review how much it ought to be, and whether or not we ought to have increases in the minimum wage.” Democratic opponents immediately pounced on the coifed 61-year-old in pearls, accusing her of supporting a decrease in the federal minimum wage.
For McMahon’s clarification, the minimum wage is $7.25 on the federal level and $8.25 in CT. The Department of Labor reports that 2.6 million workers earned less than the minimum wage in 2009—4.9% of all hourly workers in the country. Elizabeth Lower-Basch, a policy analyst with the Center for Law and Social Policy in DC, speculates that a lower minimum wage would make jobs unaffordable for some potential workers. After deducting transportation and childcare, people would actually be losing money.
When it comes to millionaires and the rest of the world, it seems that miscommunication is inevitable. After reports of McMahon’s ignorance hit the internet, her campaign immediately issued a statement that the words ‘review’ and ‘cut’ do not have the same definition. One spokesman was especially indignant: “Noah Webster, I’m certain, is turning over in his grave today.” Apparently, just because McMahon wants to review the mystery wage, doesn’t mean that she wants to slice it up into tiny pieces.

Ireland looks to be headed toward its worst financial tragedy since the potato famine. The country’s banking system has hit a rocky patch that needs a €50 billion fix—the price Ireland’s central bank has put on recapitalizing the floundering financial institutions if this financial blight continues to spread. The Irish banking system has been struggling ever since the property market boom ended, causing the casual lending practices during that period to finally catch up with them.
The majority of this economic fertilizer will go to the Anglo Irish Bank—€34 billion worth of green growth, in fact. Why bother trying to coax these dying businesses back to life? According to the Irish Finance Minister, Brian Lenihan, “the failure of a bank on that scale would do huge damage to the local economy here in Ireland. This is the only course to follow if we are to ensure the future economic well-being of our society.”
Unfortunately, the bailout will dig the country into a deep hole, causing the budget deficit to balloon from 12 percent to a whopping 32 percent of its gross domestic product and exploding the total government debt to a stratospheric 98.6 percent of the GDP if government estimates prove correct.
“The Irish banking system is at rock bottom today,” Lenihan told reporters in a news conference last week. The European Union is also taking a pointed interest in the economic health of Ireland. As mandated by EU regulations, Ireland’s budget deficit needs to be at or below three percent of its GDP. The EU has good reason to be concerned—the value of the Euro slipped from $1.379 to $1.368 the day after the announcement.
Plans to get the budget deficit below three percent in the next four years have led to vicious pruning of the Irish national budget. Lenihan has already announced plans to hack €3 billion from the budget later this year—that’s a whole lot of potatoes.

Last Thursday, a three-judge panel in Uttar Pradesh, India ruled that a highly contested holy site in the city of Ayodhya will be split into three parts in order to resolve a 60 year-long dispute. Two of these parts will be given to Hindu groups, while the third will be given to a Muslim party. Some people might make the point that this basically seems like splitting it into two unequal parts, but they obviously just don’t understand. Some people might even find it ridiculous that a holy site can be ‘split,’ but who knows where they’d get an idea like that.
The site is said by Hindus to be the birthplace of Rama, one of the most revered incarnations of Vishnu, a principal god of maintenance and upkeep in the Trimurti, or Hindu triad of deities. The site was also once the location of the Babri Masjid, a mosque constructed in the 16th century that stood until 1992, when Hindu extremists—claiming that a temple to Rama had previously existed there—tore it down. This act sparked yearlong riots that caused approximately 2,000 deaths and exacerbated tensions between Hindus and Muslims, whose relationship was already shaky due to decades of violent and sometimes deadly territorial conflict.
The panel’s unprecedented division was based partially on historical accounts of Hindus and Muslims worshipping together at the site and generally being friendly and non-murderous with each other before their worship segregated during British rule in the mid-nineteenth century. Last week’s resolution of this case—originally filed in 1950 but kept alive in the judicial system by a series of appeals—was met with an unexpectedly quiet and nonviolent public response. Indian officials have interpreted this as a newly arisen maturity among the Indian public (and more unusually, Indian officials) regarding the situation. Impartial observers are just hoping that this outbreak of institutional back-patting doesn’t accidentally turn into another riot—perhaps it’s just that no one cares enough anymore.