I love the YMCA. I love supporting them and their commitments to fitness, healthy living and social responsibility.They do great work. I used to enroll my kids in many of their programs. It is a Christian organization and yet it is inclusive with regard to sexual orientation and also actively cultivates diversity. I travel often and I almost always grab a temporary membership wherever I go so I don’t have to interrupt my workout routine. I am working out at the Y just outside of Portland, Oregon this week and they have little posters all around the place that put forth their vision and mission statements.
Igniting the Passion for Excellence: Spirit, Mind and Body
To put the Christian principles of love, respect, honesty, responsibility and service into practice through programs that build a healthy spirit, mind and body for all.
When it caught my eye of course I immediately realized that it is factually incorrect and needs a re-write. I am happy to offer them a more accurate version that focuses on and corrects two things – use of the word “Spirit,” and what they say are “Christian principles.”
The word “spirit” could be interpreted a number of ways. It could be more an attitude than a physical property. I could for example, think of the spirit of excellence, or something along the lines of “that’s the spirit!” But in both uses of the word here in their statements, it’s coupled with “mind and body,” an assumption of Dualism. There is no real peer-reviewed or empirical evidence whatsoever that there is such a thing as a spirit separate from the mind or body, and there’s also no consensus on what is even proffered by use of the word (those who believe in a spirit cannot agree on what it is, its mechanisms or properties). The confusion and complete lack of evidence and consensus renders the term nearly meaningless and the term must be deleted.
Love, respect, honesty, responsibility and service did not show up when Jesus did, or Moses, and had been widely written about centuries before the first books in the Bible appeared. They are human principles, not Christian principles. One need not be Christian or have any faith at all to position and embrace these principles as their life’s central driving forces. I can appreciate the YMCA wanting to adopt and extol these virtuous aspects of humankind but to call them “Christian principles” is just factually wrong and exclusive.
Is this really that big a deal? Can’t I just let this slide? Well, on the one hand, yes, I could simply ignore it as I do so many other religious encroachments and co-opting of non-religious constructs for its own purposes. It does no great harm to anyone except in the perpetuation of the false idea that religion in general or any religion specifically is necessary to live a complete, full, and virtuous, human life. If these are Christian principles in any sense, it is because they are co-opted, borrowed from the larger umbrella of the universal human condition, not the other way around.
I therefor humbly submit the following revision to the YMCA Vision and Mission statements:
Igniting the Passion for Excellence: Mind and Body
To put the human principles of love, respect, honesty, responsibility and service into practice through programs that build a healthy mind and body for all.