This is one of the funniest things I've heard. Ever. Period. BlogRodent, a friend of this blog, has posted on "When Worship Goes Awry." Here's the synopsis: a rather conservative visitor to a church notices a member of the praise team doing some holy swaying during service. Believing that what he has seen is out of order (an all-purpose phrase that, let's face it, covers a host of situations), he calls the pastor to bring it to his attention, leaving a rather lengthy voicemail.
The minister of music gets behind the mixing board and turntables and makes his own response, using the man's own words.
Hilarious. Go check it out.
But . . .this does provide some fodder for discussion (you knew this was coming). As I listened (OK, and listened, and listened . . .) I thought about the gospel music/black church community and our Theology of the Body. These thoughts are still pretty unformed, but I'd be interested in thinking aloud with other members of the blogosphere.
I started thinking about the messages we receive about our bodies and movement and how that affects the way we worship and relate to one another.
On the one hand, I believe it's a good thing to involve your body in worship. We know from Scripture that David, overwhelmed with joy, danced so hard that he danced out of his clothes. He danced in a way his wife found "vulgar." He must have been shakin' it pretty hard, hmmm? Here's the interchange between David and his wife in 2 Samuel 6:
20 When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, "How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!"
21 David said to Michal, "It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD's people Israel—I will celebrate before the LORD. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor."
Sounds like David's saying, "Hey, I'm praising God, and it's not about my dignity." I've heard many a preacher attempt to whoop up a congregation by pointing out that they mustn't become too dignified and educated and sophisticated to stand up/clap/shout/"give God some praise!" (Parenthetically, this is kind of uncomfortable for the "dignified, educated, sophisticated" person who worships from a more contemplative posture, not to mention the introvert. Hell-o . . .). So I have the sense that it's important to involve ourselves physically in our worship (cue "Dancing In the Spirit," as recorded on Ron Winans Family and Friends Choir II). That means singing, clapping, swaying, dancing, rocking, etc. as we are moved.
At the same time, how do we make room for the concerns of people like the man who recorded this voicemail (and, true confessions, occasionally Gospel Gal)? His concern, though it sounds petty on his voicemail/remix, is interesting to me, because I think it says something about the tensions (*ahem*) between freedom and responsibilty. He was careful to point out that he's "not a freak," but seems to be struggling with the sense of sexuality that is present in this woman's whole-body worship.
I've occasionally been in settings where the movements, though perhaps in the context of worship, didn't seem appropriate for a church setting. I've seen gospel performances where the dancing (grinding/thrusting/shakin' like a Polaroid picture) would be a bit much, even for a family-friendly mainstream setting. And let's not even get started on some of the praise dance moves and costumes that leave me pitying the poor deacons in the front row. I mean, you'd think that with all that lame', there'd be enough to cover everyone's decolletage. Can I get a witness?
At the same time, I would hate to see the woman referred to in the message called out of line if she's simply keeping the beat by gently swaying her hips in a very natural way. I'm troubled that her movement would seem, to this man, so sexualized that it was "out of order" for church. In that case, it would seem like he was the one with issues, not her. Does that make him a weaker brother who shouldn't be caused to stumble, or someone who needs to grow into a Christian maturity that moves him beyond the ways women's bodies have been sexualized in our culture?
(Which leads to another question: aren't we still sexual beings, even in church? So how is that God-given part of us rightly expressed, or, perhaps, rightly not repressed in a worship setting?) It bothers me when, for example, churches are reluctant to include liturgical dance because they are uncomfortable with bodies and dancing, particularly women's bodies and dancing.
You can see how there are a whole host of related issues that can grow out of this rather hasty post. But then, that's what the comments section is for. There's a lot of food for thought in those three minutes of voicemail. Comment away!