Would it be proper for a Christian to do Qigong?
I enjoyed your response from a previous email, recently I've come across a form of exercise or martial art or a movement called QiGong which is very similar to a relatively popular one called Tai Chi. I've tried one style of QiGong after much reading about it and hearing good things of its increase in health, but I stopped since I thought, maybe I shouldn't rush and find out of it's okay with Christ and one's walk with Christ. What do you say, sir, in regards to that?
The apostle Paul told Timothy, "For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come" (I Timothy 4:8 NIV). Since this life is temporary, all physical exercise must be viewed as having only temporary value. Still, it is not without any value. We need some exercise to maintain our bodies while we live here on earth.
While exercise is good, there are several exercises that combine the exercise with spiritual and religious teaching that is contrary to the Scriptures. A Christian must be wary of the deceptive packaging and not compromise his religion just for the sake of temporary gains. For a similar reason, if a sport required immodest clothing, a Christian must be also wary of compromising a standard of decency in dress solely for the sake of exercise.
I am not familiar with Qigong, so I looked it up on Wikipedia. Below is an abbreviated description:
Qigong is an aspect of Chinese medicine involving the coordination of different breathing patterns with various physical postures and motions of the body. Qigong is mostly taught for health maintenance purposes, but there are also some who teach it as a therapeutic intervention. Various forms of traditional qigong are also widely taught in conjunction with Chinese martial arts, and are especially prevalent in the advanced training of what are known as the internal martial arts.
There are currently more than 3,300 different styles and schools of qigong. Qigong relies on the traditional Chinese belief that the body has an energy field generated and maintained by the natural respiration of the body, known as qi. Qi means breath or gas in Mandarin Chinese, and, by extension, the energy produced by breathing that keeps us alive; gongmeans work or technique. Qigong is then "breath work" or the art of managing the breath to achieve and maintain good health, and especially in the martial arts, to enhance the energy mobilization and stamina of the body in coordination with the physical process of respiration.
Attitudes toward the basis of qigong vary markedly. Most Western medical practitioners, many practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine, as well as the Chinese government view qigong as a set of breathing and movement exercises, with possible benefits to health through stress reduction and exercise. Others see qigong in more metaphysical terms, claiming that breathing and movement exercises can influence the fundamental forces of the universe. An extreme form of the latter view was advocated by some participants in the Boxer Rebellion of the late 19th century who believed that breathing and movement exercises would allow them to ward off bullets.
It is the last that can cause concern for the Christian. Exercise is one thing, a belief that proper breathing and movement can influence the universe is basically a form of witchcraft. Thus it would appear that you must be very careful in selecting a school and instructor to ensure that only physical exercise is being taught and no mystical mumbo-jumbo accompanies it.
Interestingly, the claim of supernatural powers associated with Qigong has been debunked as magic tricks:
In 1995 there was a very interesting and mysterious person active in Beijing. He aroused a strong wave of anti-qigong sentiment in a short period of time and inflicted a heavy blow upon qigong. The media in Beijing seized the chance to make it quite a hubbub and the focus of the public's concern. I stayed in Beijing for some time that year.
This person's name is Sima Nan. He was the news figure in the area of qigong in Beijing from 1990 to 1995. Because of his work, the Central Television Station of China cancelled qigong performances at the annual Spring Festival Evening Party in 1991 and afterward. He was a qigong master, and his view was that qigong is scientific but that supernormal-capability performances are only super magic and deceitful tricks. In order to prove the validity of his view, he performed in front of big audiences supernormal-capability shows which were seen by many to be just the same as those performed by supernormal-capable qigong masters, not erring by a hair's breadth. His audiences were greatly shocked, but he told them it was not qigong nor supernormal capabilities but magic. Many believed him, but were baffled, and some even regarded him as a high- level qigong master and tried to ask him for advice. The media quoted him as saying, "I faked it! Who ever did it?" His masterpiece is his book A Secret Record of Pseudo-qigong. He also produced a television film "The Inside Story of Mysterious Gong."
His emergence was a great embarrassment to the qigong field, for Sima Nan would attend every qigong seminar and performance followed by a constellation of journalists. He exposed their fallacy, raised doubt and difficult questions, and debated with qigong masters. Ke Yunlu and others were challenged unprecedentedly by Sima Nan, who now was a big headache for them. But the media were favorable to Sima Nan and consciously or unconsciously belittled qigong personnel who appeared to manifest supernormal capabilities.
[Breaking Through the Barriers of Darkness: Recognizing the Cult of Qigong for What It Is]