It’s 4th of July weekend. The pandemic has waned, and the reunions are back. In black backyards across the country there will be eating, drinking, and laughing. The hymns, psalms and spiritual songs on Sunday, will be replaced by The Gap Band, Cameo, and Michael Jackson on Monday. The National Anthem will not be “The Star Spangled Banner” by Francis Scott Key, but “ Before I Let You Go” by Frankie Beverly and Maze.
And there will be dancing. Plenty of dancing. The Cupid Shuffle. The Cha Cha Slide. The Wobble. And the ever-present Electric Slide, which was a crowd pleaser at many of the recent Black Lives Matter rallies.
But this year don’t be surprised if the person “sliding” is your Sabbath School teacher. In the last 10 years there has been a 73.8% rise in Adventist dancing….ok, I just made that up. But as an international authority on all things Adventist, that is my unscientific observation. Adventist wedding receptions have recently been mistaken for “ Dancing With the Stars” reunions.
Now this is interesting, because the church has always had mixed-emotions about dancing. For the first 5 centuries of Christianity, the church seemed clearly opposed to dancing. They were determined to separate themselves from the pagan dances and practices common to the Greco-Roman culture. Good idea.
But the early Church was Jewish in origin. They would have almost certainly incorporated Jewish circle dancing in their celebration of the Messiah, especially during the festivals.
Dancing comes up fairly often in the Bible. Miriam got it rolling in Exodus 15:20, as she danced in celebration and worship. David and others kept that general theme going in 2 Sam. 6:16, Ps. 30:11, Matt. 11:17. The Bible speaks of dancing positively and negatively depending on the purpose and practice of the dance. Makes sense.
Now, Adventists have always danced. They might have called it “marching” at Saturday night socials, or “skating” at the roller rink, but there was some moving going on. Ellen White was clearly no fan of dancing. Even as she beautifully described David “dancing before the Lord” in 2 Samuel 6:14, she warned that there’s dancing…..and then there’s dancing!
But in that very chapter in Patriarchs and Prophets, page 707, there’s an excellent piece of advice for determining the “rightness or wrongness” of dancing, or anything in popular culture for that matter. “ This test should be decisive. Amusements that have a tendency to weaken the love for sacred things and lessen our joy in the service of God, are not to be sought by Christians.”
That’s good counsel. And that’s why I’m good with dancing. Not all dancing, but good dancing. Surveys show that church board meetings are 98% more productive when members are required to do the electric slide!....well, that’s not accurate either, but I’m pretty sure it would work. Because dancing, especially line dancing or group dancing has benefits. “Good’ dancing is many things:
- An expression of joy
- An act of worship
- A builder of community
- An example of Christian liberty
- A reflection of individuality
- A great exercise.
25 years the Hancock Center for Youth and Family Ministry did important work and research with Adventist youth and young adults. They suggested “5 Biblical Principles of Dance.”
- Dance is an acceptable component of worship. Psalm 149:3 and 150:4.
- Dance is an appropriate expression of community joy. Judges 11:34; 1 Samuel 18:6; Luke 7:32 and 15:25.
- Dance should praise no other god but God. Exodus 32:19.
- Dance should not promote inappropriate sexual arousal. 1 Corinthians 10:7, 8; Mathew 14:6; and Numbers 25:3.
- Appropriate dance is dance in which God is invited as a witness and participant. 1 Corinthians 10:31 and Romans 14:23
Good counsel then and now. Shall we dance? Ecclesiastes 3 says there is a time for everything and a season for every activity, including dance. I agree.
So what about you? What are your thoughts?