Before you read any further, let me caution you: This article is about sexuality. If you haven’t already thrust your copy of the Waltonian into the nearest waste receptacle or run away screaming with your fingers clawing at your eyes, then by all means, venture forward. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.
In my experience, our Western culture defines sexuality in two ways: it is either something to be indulged and exploited, or neglected and avoided. Neither approach seems correct, so why doesn’t the Christian community talk about it more? We tend to avoid the topic so vehemently that we cringe at the slightest allusion to reproductive organs. But it is only when we start talking about sexuality that we begin to understand the spiritual implications for our bodies.
Shift over with me to Spring Banquet, 2011. You’re wearing a spectacular dress and four inch heels (or, if you’re a fellow, a slick suit-and-tie combo) and you’re pumped up to dance and hang out with friends. You’re on the dance floor under the spinning fish mobile and when Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok” starts booming over the speakers, you rev up to show off your Running Man.
Suddenly, it strikes you: If we as Christians believe that what we do with our bodies affects our entire selves, then why are we embodying hyper sexual messages like: “The way that booty movin’ I can’t take no more. Have to stop what I’m doin’ so I can pull up close”?
What bothered me that night, my brave readers, wasn’t the dancing. Dancing in itself is good, a natural, healthy and freeing form of self expression. What bothered me was the seemingly mindless way my friends and I internalized the songs through our dance moves without even pausing to consider the lyrics’ assaults on our Christian values and the way we should understand sexuality.
Dr. Christopher Hall, chancellor of Eastern University, emphasizes the goodness of dancing. But like any good thing – whether it be food, money, or sexuality – it can be distorted. “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold,” he said. When we listen and dance to pop music, if we “sense that something is pulling us away from truth and beauty,” we need to reassess the quality of the music’s message and our own desire to embody it.
This doesn’t mean we need to join a cloister or start flogging ourselves. It just means that we need to pay attention to the messages our culture feeds us. Dr. Yolanda Turner, professor of psychology, said that rather than passively absorbing media messages, we need to learn how to critique, assess and grow in awareness of them. Just like sexuality, these songs and messages “need to be talked about.”
Every dancing situation differs depending on where we are in our spiritual development. No set formula exists, so we need to learn how to use our “God-given discernment” to fully enter into – rather than avoid or exploit – culture. “As we are sexual persons, we have to be able to talk about and learn how to negotiate, manage, and navigate our sexuality,” Turner said. Sexuality is not evil or scary, but wonderful and it deserves our attention. When we know our values, we are free to discern whether or not we should dance to a particular song.
“I wouldn’t say to everyone, ‘You shouldn’t dance,'” Hall said. “But you must know yourself.” As embodied souls, we need to be constantly engaged in open, wise and Spirit-led conversation about our sexuality. Through this, we begin to “know ourselves” and the values we hold so that we can exercise them in all circumstances, even on the dance