My Father is a “Christian yogi”

In Chapter 8 of Religion: The Social Context, McGuire describes the narrative of religious individualization, which refers to “the degree to which individuals choose among various religious options, crafting a custom-made religious life, rather than choosing a package formulated by religious institutions.”

While some may have a hard time grasping this concept of patchwork-religion, my father immediately came to mind as a perfect example. He grew up in Protestant household, and was taught to believe wholeheartedly in G-d and Jesus Christ. He went to church on Easter and Christmas with his family, but aside from that his life was very secular. With fatherhood, my dad became more interested in religion and spirituality. When I was young, he read the Bible all the time and taught me and my brothers about Protestant tradition, even though we were raised Jewish. Over time, my father started gravitating away from traditional Protestantism and seeking more spiritual fulfillment. Soon, he began meditating and worshiping Paramahansa Yogananda, an Indian yogi and guru, insisting regular meditation made his everyday life easier.

While the changes I observed pointed towards conversion, my father continued reading the Bible throughout this process, and even worshipped pictures of Jesus beside pictures of Yogananda. Eventually, I asked about his religious identity, and he explained that he identified as a “Christian yogi”. He found a way to quench his spiritual thirst without giving up his belief in Jesus, and didn’t mind the stark lack of like-minded individuals around him. This made-up title and blending of two separate belief systems into one satisfying way of life is pretty much the definition of religious individualization, and I had the opportunity to observe it first hand growing up.

Also, it would make sense that when children are exposed to religious individualization, they are more likely to explore unconventional modes of religious expression later and life, which certainly fits the religious individualization narrative.