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" Christians and Dancing "

"Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, because of sexual perversion, let each have his own wife, and let each have her own husband. Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband." (1co7:1-3)

"Nor shall you go up by steps to My altar, that your nakedness may not be exposed on it." (Ex20:26)

At this ministry we have addressed all sorts of things from time to time, many of them in detail. And regarding dance, although we have addressed many things about it in the past, we have never delved into it, specifically, in depth; like we have, for instance, music: where we have addressed the beat, harmonics, dissonance, and such technical things in "God is: my song"

...or charismania: discussing tongues, healings, slayings, demon possessions, etc.

And, before we go any further, let me issue a caution and warning about this commentary, especially for the younger reader, for whom your parents/guardians may not yet have covered certain aspects of life with you: that it might be wise if you have them read this commentary first, to verify if it is suitable material for you to read at this stage of your life. We are going to be quite explicit in talking about a few things, from an 'adult' perspective.

This topic is necessary because it seems the world lately is utterly bombarding us during prime time with dance: Dancing with the Stars, So you think you can dance, various kinds of comedian Star Search; not to mention the regular 'performances' of both music and dance, which leave very little to the imagination. And if the -world- wasn't enough, today's apostate (so-called) 'church' also has what it calls "worship dance".

This, in contradistinction to a few decades ago when there was a clear delineation between Christians and the world. There were certain things of the world that it was -obvious- were not right for the Believer. But today that 'line' of demarcation has all-but-disappeared.

God calls the Christian to "be holy, because I am holy" (1Pet1:16) and this holiness is to be "in all conduct" (vs15) Biblical holiness is not about 'feelings'

But in today's world, where everything has been mushed around into the dialectic 'gray areas', the question might be raised, "What's wrong with dance?" After all, doesn't the Bible say that David danced before God? (2Sa6:14) And after Israel came across the Red Sea, Miriam led the women in dances of praise. (Ex15:20) This was addressed in the past in a Q/A: "Jazz Dance", so I won't re-address it here. But while that Q/A addressed some differences between what David and Miriam did, compared to today; some might legitimately be wondering (since you've never been taught certain standards of decency, and decadence is in-your-face all around us at every turn) what's "wrong" with today's dance? And do we understand these things FROM SCRIPTURE?

The two passages with which we opened, above, are key concepts. We'll address them first; and then we'll also talk in some technical terms.

The first one: "it is good for a man not to touch a woman".

This is a concept that has all-but-disappeared out of our western mores. Everybody hugs everybody else in sight, male or female. Everybody is touchy-feely with everybody. And if they show something of an 'old' concept where children, in dancing together, an adult comes along and puts some 'distance' between them (arm's length), that is considered old fashioned and prudish. At beech or pool parties it is assumed that everybody is pretty much naked, and guys and girls all wrestle with each other and are in such physical contact with each other.

But what happens when the opposite sexes 'touch' each other in a pleasant social setting, one-on-one, facing each other, looking into each other's eyes? When he spins her away and she comes swooping back into his arms? There is a physiological built-in mechanism that arouses the male, in preparation for procreation. It is often an automatic thing. And I know that something similar happens to the female. I am reminded of when I was younger (first year college age), and attending this church youth party of Jr.High and High schoolers, and a game of pass-the-apple was being played. The apple was carried under the chin, and passed to the next person, under their chin. A contest, to see which 'line' could pass the apple the fastest. Well, this one fellow was trying to pass the apple to the next girl (I think, his 'girlfriend'), and she became so emotionally overcome with the physical proximity to him, in such a posture, that she became unable to function physically to receive the apple from him (actually swooning), to continue the game. I was too young and naive at the time, and so was flustered as to how to go about 'breaking them up'; I had never seen such a thing before. And this was -in- 'church'...in view of everybody at that party!

What are the traditions, reputations and jokes about the "back seats" of cars in the dance party parking lots. The dance is going on, and couples leave the floor, to go out to their cars to "make out". The annual Jr/Sr prom: for how many is it assumed that that is where, if it hadn't happened before, they are -planning- to "lose their virginity". They've been on the floor, being close together, 'touching' each other. They go and "touch" each other some more to commit sexual immorality.

Do we need Scriptural reminders as to what is wrong with that? That is part of the "works of darkness" (Eph5:3,11)

Now this, so far, is what I might call "intimate" dance. There is also what I might call "show" dance. (Other people might use other terms. But these seem appropriate for this discussion, based on my own observations of these things.)

Show dance would be the stuff they were doing last season (in America) on "Dancing with the Stars". The Fox trot, Tango, Rumba, Salsa, etc. The dances where the women are essentially naked, and behaving towards the male in the fashion of: "And behold, a woman came to meet him, with the attire of a harlot, and a heart of secrecy. (She is boisterous and stubborn; her feet do not settle down in her own house. At one moment she is outside, the next in the streets, and she lies in wait at every corner.) So she has seized him and kissed him...." (Pr7:10-13)

This is the kind of dance where, in the 40s and 50s I think they used to call it "cutting the rug". Where in society in general, the female is taught to be demure and modest, back in the 50s with skirts down below the knee mid-calf... but when they get on the dance floor and the fellow tosses the girl and spins her to where all modesty is tossed outside, showing everything to the world. She is tossed and flipped upside down by the fellow, spreads her legs; as if to say to the world: "Here I am!"

This is one of the things I loathe about skate dancing and female gymnastics. The girl gets out there, and one of her opening moves (like Michelle Kwan is famous for) she spreads out her arms, lifts one leg -high- behind her, exposing herself to the world. There is a rolling billboard on some local buses that go past my store periodically for a local gymnastics school: the young, barely pubescent girl, doing a handstand, body upside down, legs spread as wide as possible, opened to the heavens: "Here I am!" You watch their floor or balance beam routines, and they are continually strutting, primping, wiggling; thrusting out their barely developing body parts, and exposing others...at an age where in ancient cultures girls were typically betrothed by their parents for marriage to whoever the boy/man was that was to be their husband.

If we can understand something from one incident in the Bible... A brutal rape/murder had occurred, and the tribe protecting the guilty parties would not give them up for punishment, so the rest of the tribes went to war with Benjamin and wiped them out. But as the youngsters were growing up, there were no females for wives for them, so they devised a plan: "and when the daughters of Shiloh come out to DANCE their DANCES, then come out from the vineyards, and every man catch a wife for himself from the daughters of Shiloh; and go to the land of Benjamin" (Jdg21:21) The girl is dancing, and you like what you see? Essentially: Go grab her for yourself.

But after that account, we are given to understand the context, as it then closes the book: "In those days there was no king in Israel. Every man did what was RIGHT IN HIS OWN EYES" (vs25) Thing is: "Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but Jehovah ponders the hearts." (Pr21:2)

Many animals in nature have "courtship" rituals/dances. It is all for one purpose: mating and procreation. Cats will squall at each other. The sparrows around my house, the male will fluff up his feathers, bouncing along in a special way, chasing the female, who coyly stays -just- out of reach, but not really flying away, until it is the right time and she lets him mate with her.

That's what dance is. If you watch "show" dancing, it is all about the woman, half naked, "making moves" on the male. It's all about Passion, Lust, Sensuality and Desire. The male is usually fully dressed, and his purpose is to "frame" the female, while she is the one that is intended to be seen, on "display". Just like Herodias' daughter danced and "pleased Herod" (Mt14:6) And her purpose is to show off her various body parts, and display them with vigor; to entice the male into copulation... for procreation; in some of the dances the female grabs and raises her skirts in such a way as to purposely make them flutter to expose her legs and more.

The various types, the rumba, tango, salsa, etc are rather sophisticated. But if any of you in America have seen the TV promos for the "reality" deal that either -is- on now, or is -going- to be shown later this summer, you've seen some of them not even being creative with any sort of 'moves', but just simply squatting, wiggling/thrusting their pelvises... as though the only thing missing is for them to be naked and with the opposite sex...'doing' it. Just like wolves and bitches in heat, behaving as dogs do! And this is being promoted in early evening prime time, around news time and thereafter! (Sorry for the graphic terms, but you were warned at the opening. Many claiming to be "christians" try to excuse why there is nothing wrong with dance. Perhaps if we paint the full picture here, it will make things perfectly clear, with no misunderstandings.)

Unless it is the bedroom with husband and wife, where they are "naked and not ashamed" (Gen2:25), which is blessed of God and "honorable" (Heb13:4); when sin came along God made clothing for Adam and Eve. (Gen3:21) And for the priests, who were to be pure and holy, God also instituted the concept of underwear: "And you shall make for them linen trousers to cover their naked flesh; they shall reach from the hips to the thighs." (Ex28:42) in order to 'cover' certain things.

It is not decent to be exposing one's body parts to the whole world; only to one's own spouse. Anything else is prostitution and adultery; which "God will judge" (Heb13:4b)

And then, if we can move back to the "intimate" dance a moment; there is another aspect to dance that is moving, besides merely the 'touching' aspect. I don't know if others, who talk about these things, have addressed this factor. But this begins to relate to that other study we did regarding music and rhythms.

Everything in life has rhythm; rhythm, in and of itself, is not sinful. There is the earthly cycle of day and night. Living beings with hearts have a rhythm of their pumping hearts, and of breathing in-and-out... over and over. When a person walks there is the rhythm of the first foot stepping out, and the other following, again, again, again. At the moment a person takes that first step, it is a definite -action-. Everybody has one -side- that is stronger than the other. A right-handed person tends to lead their actions with the right hand. Feet, in walking, are the same way; one is more 'sure' than the other.

Translate that to the rhythms of music, that first step might be the "down" beat. In marching band, that's the 'left' foot.

In music, if it is 4-beat music, the strong beats, naturally, are first of all, beat 'one'. And then there is another strong beat, but not as strong as 'one'...'three'. The beat goes in doublets: ONE-two THREE-four. In three-beat music it is beat 'one' that is strong, like in the Waltz: ONE-two-three, ONE-two-three.

But one of the things that makes jazz and rock what they are is that the rhythm accentuates the "off-beat". In other words: one-TWO three-FOUR. Think about when a jazz musician/singer is standing there, being 'cool', snapping their fingers to the music, to what are they snapping? The "off" beat. When a crowd is clapping to rock music, to what do they clap? The "off" beat. When they make their body 'jerking' movements, again it is to the "off" beat. On the other hand, if a crowd is clapping to the band playing patriotic music, march music, to what to they clap? The 'strong' beats...the same way a marching band marches.

And this is part of what makes sensuous dance -work-. It is continually 'jerking' the body to the UN-NATURAL pulses. The "off" beat. The music starts, but -then- 'after' that the pulse hits. The music would want to go ONE-two-THREE-four, but jazz and rock pulls the physical senses of the body from that -stable- rhythm, to the "off" beats of one-TWO-three-FOUR. And the drums help out this matter with the high-hat cymbals and the rim 'clicking' sounds, and such things.

Do you wonder why there is so much "jerking" going on in rock dancing? It is because that's the way the music is... BY DESIGN. And the 'pulsating' nature of rock's strong -beat- also naturally lends itself to those aforementioned pelvic 'thrusts'. That's why most pop music concerts also include the in-your-face pelvic thrust dancing. Seems to be about all they do these days!

But let's move to more 'polite' society, shall we? That which is called "ballroom" dancing. Some years ago I thought it would be a 'fun' thing to do, so signed up for one of the publicly offered evening classes at the local community college. And I learned something there. What I'm about to share here, when I expressed the matter to the teacher, she was apparently oblivious to it. Perhaps it was my music background that caught it... Perhaps a difference between the female emotional blind 'acceptance' of things, vs my 'analytical' ways, always trying to figure everything out, down to as minute a detail as possible.

In ballroom dancing there is a -basic- step, that seems to be the foundation for most other steps: the "box" step. It's been so many years ago, I hope I'm remembering this correctly; but there are basically three foot positions: One foot steps, the other foot steps, and then the first foot moves to the third location and one 'rocks' between the 2nd and 3rd positions; and then that process starts over.

Rhythmically it goes: Step * Step * rock rock. In terms of dancing instruction a person is supposed to count: ONE-two-THREE-four-FIVE-SIX. Notice the ALL-CAPS indicating the foot movements. But also notice how, even though there are -officially- "six" beats to this dance step, the -pulses-, when coordinating to the music, are actually "three"; for you musicians, it's as though it was two quarter notes followed by two eighths: quar-ter-quar-ter-eighth-eighth, or STEP-hold-STEP-hold-STEP-step As though counting musically: ONE-&-TWO-&-THREE-AND.

Now, here's the twist (why I'm going into such detail with this): This -three- 'pulse' dancing is done in the context of -four- 'beat' music. In other words: mixing 3/4 dance, with 4/4 music. (Again: for you who know dance, and are convinced it is 6/8 dance, in truth, when done with music, has the 'feel' of 3/4)

I never used to see anything wrong with jazz; since I did not know anything about dance. My dad, during my growing up years, would call jazz "dance music". But I didn't understand it. I had never even seen dancing, nor been inside a dance hall during a party. To me, just to listen to jazz by itself, as a disjunct form of music, as a 'musician', jazz was "cool". Some of it is very complex, and obviously requires great skill and musicianship. With jazz, a person can intellectually understand that the emphasis is being placed on the off-beats, snap their fingers, tap their toe, and it chugs along, going along regularly: off-beat, off-beat, off-beat.

But what happens when the body is moving to 3-beat pulses, but the music is playing in 4-beats; and at that, with off beats? It's like trying to plug a round hole with the square peg. Where is the emphasis? Where is the pulse? Where is the beat? And the head can start spinning. Needless to say, as an analytical musician, I really struggled initially in that dance class, trying to resolve the differences; because as a musician (and former conductor, used to moving the arms/hands to the music), my body wants to move -with- the 'pulses' of the musical beat.

That is the 'seduction' of dance. The music pulses (and pulls) one way, but the dance step pulls another. And it is never the same. As the "3" and "4" continually cycle around, sometimes the music pulse and dance pulse line up together; sometimes they are 'off' from each other. And combine that with the 'touch' with the opposite sex, and... sorry to be graphic again, but: what is a better arousal than the 'unpredictability' of the stimulus! You who have lived life...you know what is being said here.

And then, add some of those jazz pieces like Glenn Miller's "In the Mood" (for you who know that famous piece), where the music itself has rhythm that's all over the place continually cycling with that fast moving pulsating repeating 3-note melody/pattern in the context of 4/4 time, combined with the 'slower' 3-pulse dance steps; in other words not only is the 3/4 dance step at odds with the basic 4/4 of the music, but it is further at odds with the faster moving 3-note melody, which itself is 'straining' against the basic 4/4 beat; and so everything is pulling every-which-way; and you've got dance arousal heaven!

In spite of Elvis' fame, and everything that has followed, today's rock music has 'nothing' on what they were doing in the 40s and 50s! By comparison it is rather tame, boring and mundane. For parents of the 50s and 60s to have complained, criticizing their kids' music and dance, was hypocrisy, pure and simple. For them to make a big deal of Elvis' pelvis was hypocrisy, because they were already doing those moves the decades before Elvis. The hippy generation was correct in calling their parents "hypocrites". They were.

And then, do we even need to address "slow dance"? Or "dirty dancing"? People, often not married to each other, not only 'touching', but 'rubbing' up with each other in various ways and poses. After everything that's been said, do we even need to go any further down this path?

Is it alright for Christians to dance? In the context of this commentary, we are talking of western male-with-female dance; not some of the ethnic dances of some parts of the world where males dance together, and females together as larger groups, bouncing, twirling and jumping; as David did; as Miriam led the women. But we are asking the question of that which we have just been discussing and describing.

What does the Bible exhort?

Is sex and intimacy wrong? No. God created it. One of the things that is "too wonderful...which I do not know" is the "way of a man with a virgin" (Pr30:18-19) An entire book, Song of Solomon, is dedicated to the very topic. Man is commanded to "be fruitful and multiply" (Gen9:1)

Indeed, since we have mentioned skating; one of the things that I think is most beautiful is when a married couple skate. Years ago there was that British couple (I forget their names: Torvel and Dean?); and more recently that couple from Canada. There is a beauty to the movements of a man with his wife, that I find is simply too wonderful for words; which is not there between a couple of -random- people who have been put together for the "sport". And when they are husband and wife, what is more appropriate. Of course, some might argue about the appropriateness of them performing before the world in public. But then, it is recorded that "Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife" (Gen26:8) Some translations say "caressing" or "showing endearment"; being done in view of the public; and nothing is said to suggest that what they were doing was wrong or improper; but it was assumed, then, that they were married, when they had been claiming to be "brother and sister" for what they assumed would be fear for their lives in a strange place.

But for an unmarried couple to be dancing, considering all the things we've observed...

Jesus said, "whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Mt5:28)

If lusting while -looking- is as bad as the deed, what is dancing?

God commanded, "You shall not commit adultery" (Ex20:14) Everytime there is arousal and lust due to all the stimulae we've addressed, in a very real sense is that not the same as adultery?

On this subject, my dad spoke one time of his parents, my grandparents (I never knew my grandpa, he died before I was born): that they might have gone to parties where there was dancing, but even though they were not saved, they would only dance with each other. (This, even, during the era of the "roaring 20s")

But for strangers (unmarried couples) to dance together? Well, by the very definition of what it is, if a couple is going to dance, then they should consider that to be their 'courtship', and then get married. It starts on the dance floor, and ends in the bedroom; if not in actuality, in the emotions and psyche. Otherwise, if one makes the rounds, dancing with everybody in sight, is that not the same as 'perversion'?

As children of God we are to be "proving what is ACCEPTABLE TO THE LORD" (Eph5:10) We should not be engaged in those things of which "it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret" (vs12)

"But sexual perversion and all uncleanness...let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints" -- Swinging from partner to partner: that's perversion.

"Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting" -- As people are getting their stimulations, is that not what they do? They joke rowdily with each other (especially as their tongues also get loosened up with liquor) about what they would like to do to/with so-n-so, because "she is so -hot-".

"For this you know, that no prostitute...has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God" -- In some of those dances, as we've discussed, the female behaves very much like an agressive prostitute; as it is like a ritual "fertility dance".

And it is "because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience" (Eph5:3-6)

So...should the Christian indulge?

"Therefore do not be partakers with them" (Eph5:7) -- Is that not clear enough!

And since we mentioned that arousal is "often" an automatic thing, supposing a person would be inclined to rebut, suggesting, "Well, I don't have that issue; my mind is pure" Well... supposing that most of the time you don't, but do you want to put yourself in a situation where something 'may/could' happen? Where you find your thoughts and lusts going in directions that are "not fitting"? (Eph5:4)

"But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make NO PROVISION FOR THE FLESH, to fulfill its lusts" (Rom13:14) Don't be there where it could happen to you (supposing you're a female, who swoons...consider who might take 'advantage' of you while you are in that state, and you are lacking the ability to repulse him?); or even where it's going on around you!

Remember: "Do not be led astray: Evil company corrupts good character (or morals)" (1Co15:33)

In the final analysis...
"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy; think on these things." (Php4:8)


Q/A: Dance Music?

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