We end every yoga session with the words imago Dei, Latin for “in the image of God.” Imago Dei is the term used by theologians to describe the Biblical belief that we are made in God’s image. Genesis 1.26 reads: “Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness” (NRSV). This theological doctrine is the foundation of a quote attributed to the Roman Catholic archbishop and martyr, Oscar Romero:
“There is no dichotomy between man and God’s image.
Whoever tortures a human being,
whoever abuses a human being,
whoever outrages a human being,
abuses God’s image.”
Archbishop Romero is most remembered for his work on behalf of the poor and oppressed in El Salvador, he was martyred by gunmen while presiding over mass. Romero is not alone, or even isolated in his thinking. The image of God has long been understood to convey dignity to every human being. Furthermore, throughout church history there has never been any attempt to limit the imago Dei to persons of “good character.” It is simply not the way the image of God works. We were made in God’s image at the time of creation, that image, however tarnished by sin, remains in each of us. To torture someone, no matter how evil, is to abuse God’s image, and by extension to challenge God’s honor.