In looking at stats from this blog, I am amazed that a little article I posted a couple of months back, which I called “A Dancing Baptist”, continues to attract so many readers. It seems a lot of people type the terms “Baptist” and “dancing” into search engines, and pull up this blog.
I’m no expert on the subject of dancing. I’ve never been all that good at it, though I enjoy it. I went to my first dance as a seventh grader, a record dance at school, and was allowed to stay out until it was over at 10:00 p.m. I remember being very nervous about it. An older girl, a 17 year old who used to be my babysitter, offered to help teach me and we spent a Saturday afternoon on the screened-in back porch of her house with a record player and a stack of 45’s. I learned to keep my rear end straight, to move my feet and arms in rhythm with the music, how to keep a respectful distance when slow dancing, and that the acceptable way to do that in the 70’s was to put both arms around her and rest them just above her hips. My dance “teacher” was also Baptist and was privileged to go to the high school dances which didn’t end until midnight. Most of the other teenagers in the Baptist church in Arizona where I belonged while growing up went to school dances, too. My parents never objected.
It was not until a new preacher came to town my sophomore year in high school that I first encountered the idea that dancing equalled sinfulness. “Because the Bible says so,” was always the answer I received, though at the time I was not familiar enough with the Bible to know that it really doesn’t directly forbid dancing. In fact, it did not take me long to find prooftexts for my view that there wasn’t anything wrong with it, such as Psalm 150:4 which says, “Praise him with the tambourine and dancing; praise him with strings and flutes.” (NLB) Of course, I was informed that I was prooftexting and the kind of dancing I did wasn’t an act of worship. But I was never directed to a passage of scripture that actually mentioned dancing as being a sinful activity in and of itself.
Things really came to a head when I began dating this same pastor’s daughter. Deep down, I think she probably shared my convictions about dancing, and about other restrictions placed on her life that the rest of the youth group enjoyed. But she had to echo the party line. And as a result of my lack of understanding, it was a point of contention.
“Dancing creates lust, and lust is a sin.”
That’s a good argument, except that I cannot recall ever “lusting” as a result of dancing. I truly didn’t. For me, it was an expression of affection, but it was never “lustful.”
“Dancing is lacivious behavior, which is sinful.”
That wasn’t a convincing argument for me. I didn’t know what “lacivious” meant, and I was sure that I wasn’t.
“Dancing is done in places where Christians shouldn’t go.”
School? Christians shouldn’t go to school? That argument wouldn’t have worked on my parents.
“It’s the kind of music you dance to that is sinful and talks about sinful things.”
Music, in and of itself, isn’t inherently sinful. This is the one argument that I might buy, except that I can’t really say I was ever influenced by the lyrics to songs I used to listen to. I knew what most of them were about, though knowing that did not influence me to become involved in that. But then, at the school dances I went to, most of those songs with the drug and sex lyrics were not played. Vietnam war protest songs were about the most “over the edge” songs I ever danced to.
The fact that dancing takes place in venues where Christians probably shouldn’t go to be entertained doesn’t make dancing itself sinful. The kind of music that people dance to also doesn’t make the act of dancing sinful. Sin is something that separates us from God. Dancing with another person whose company I enjoy, which, through the last 19 years has been my wife, does not separate me from God.