Every observant person must admit that there has been a general deterioration of moral standards on the part of persons both inside and outside the church. That which was formerly universally opposed by persons of moral excellence is now openly advocated. Moral standards are now quite low.
When one speaks out against dancing many are prone to look upon him as an "old foggy" a "kill-joy" or as one who "just does not want us to have any fun." Yet in spite of such criticisms, there are some important things that need to be said about the modern dance.
Dancing in the Bible
When one criticizes the modern dance, its defenders try to justify it by referring to the dances mentioned in the Bible. Thus, it is pertinent that we have somewhat to say about these biblical dances. There are dances of public rejoicing, dances of worship and lustful dances mentioned in the Bible.
Dances of Public Rejoicing
The Hebrew word for "dance" which is used in the Old Testament means, "to leap for joy." The INTERNATIONAL STAN'DARD BIBLE ENCYCLOPEDIA therefore defines this type of dance as "the expression of joy by the rhythmical movements of the limbs to musical accompaniment" (pp. 1169, 1170). To such dancing many Old Testament passages refer. The dance of public rejoicing is alluded to in Ex. 15:20, 21; (Miriam and other Israelite women); Judges 11:34 (Jephthah's daughter); I Sam. 18:6 (Women who met David returning Irom the slaughter of the Philistines); I Sam. 21:11 (People of Achish, referring to the Israelite women's dance), I Sam. 29:5 (Philistines, referring to the Israelite women's dance); 2 Sam. 6:1216 ( David danced before the ark); and I Chron. 15:25-29 (David dancing before the ark as it is brought into Jerusalem).
From these passages, it is obvious that these were not regularly established practices, but occurred upon extraordinary occasions. They were performed at times of signal favor and great joy (This fact explains Ecc. 3:4; "There is a time to dance.") Men engaged in these dances, performed in open daylight, or women, with each sex dancing separately. They were never performed for amusement, but were to show great joy. Even these dances were not performed by Christ, or his apostles, or by any in the New Testament. I doubt that any would classify the modern dance under this heading.
Dances of Worship
In Ps. 149:2,, 3 and Ps. 150 one can read about dances of worship which were practiced during the Old Testament era. Such religious dances are not found in the New Testament at all. I am told that the Shakers still practice the religious dance in worship, and a few liberal Protestant churches, including the digressive Christian Church, are trying to reintroduce the religious dance into worship. Surely none would classify the modern dance as a religious dance.
The only other kind of dance one can find in the Bible is a lustful dance. Such dances were a part of the revelry occurring when Moses returned from the Mount (Ex. 32:19, 20). Job states that such lustful dancers "desire not the knowledge of thy ways" (Job 21: 11-20). Yet some modern worldlings in the church would contradict Job. One may also read about the lustful dance of Herodias' daughter, which resulted in King Herod's rash promise that cost the life of John the Baptist (Matt. 14:6; Mk. 6:22). Dancing " . . . is scarcely ever mentioned in the Bible as a social amusement" (ISBE, pp. 1169, 1170). And "of the social dancing of couples in the modern fashion there is no trace" (ISBE). ALL dancing in the Bible was either by single individuals or by the sexes divided into separate companies. Nature of the Modern Dance
There is nothing in the Bible that parallels the modern dance. Even the lustful dances referred to did not involve the dancing of couples. What, then, is the real nature of the modern dances? Before one can really tell whether it is compatible with the Christian's profession, he must know what is involved in the modern dance. Let those who know it best relate what is involved. The word of an immature teenager or of a naive adult cannot offset the statements of the following authorities.
Originated in Brothels and Road Houses
The dance as it is known today originated in the brothels and low-class road houses of yesteryears. It became the art of seducers. With such an unholy beginning, one could not expect it to have been created for the people of God.
Testimony of Law Enforcement OfficersJ Edgar Hoover, the head of the FBI department, said "Most juvenile crime has its inception in the dance hall, either public or private." Yet some naive parents who are Christians still insist on permitting their sons and daughters to be subjected to this temptation.
Dr. Phelps, of the New York City Police Dept., said: "It is estimated that in New York City, 4,000 women are living the life of infamy, and that three-fourths of these are started on their life of infamy through the dance." Can an act producing such evil fruit be called an innocent pastime?
The Chicago Vice Commission asked 300 prostitute girls the following question: "What led you to do wrong . . . what led you to become what you are today, a scarlet woman?" Eighty-five percent of them answered, "My first step wrong was caused by the modern dance."
Testimony of Physicians
The dance's nature is further exposed by medical testimony. Dr. E. S. Sonners, eminent nerve specialist of Chicago and Los Angeles, said:
"I attack the modern dance as a reversion toward savagery. As a medical man, I flatly charge that the modern dance is fundamentally sinful and evil. I charge that dancing's charm is based on sex appeal. I charge that it is the most insidious of the maneuvers preliminary to the sex betrayal. It is nothing more or less than damnable, diabolical, animal, physical dissipation. Do brother and sister dance like that? Father and Mother? Mother and Son? . . I tell you frankly, it is not safe to subject even the strongest men and women to the subtle temptations of the dance. A trail of broken homes proves this."
If you doubt the testimony of this man that the dancing "charm is based on sex appeal," look around you and see how many dances there are where men dance with men, women dance with women, or men dance only with their own wives. See if a dance successfully can be promoted on this basis and you will easily see what the "basic spell of the dance is."
Dr. Thomas C. Whitfield has spoken regarding dancing thusly:
"The modern dance is condemned precisely at this point. It is not wrong solely because it might lead one to the physical act of fornication, but it is sinful to the degree that it arouses unrestrained desires that cannot be fulfilled under present relations and conditions. When such desires are aroused, the dancing is within itself sinful use because it is then a lascivious act."
Further statements from the medical doctors as to the nature of the dance:
Dr. Howard Crosby: "The foundation for the vast amount of domestic misery and domestic crime, which startles us often in its public outcroppings, was laid when parents allowed the sacredness of their daughter's persons and purity of their instincts to be rudely shocked in the waltz."
Dr. Winfield Scott: "All specialists in this field without a single exception concur in the belief that the dance is the device of the devil."
Dr. B. S. Talmey: "The modern dance copies the oriental dances and represents, not wooing and love, but gross sexuality . . . the modern dance represents an appeal to the lower instincts."
Dr. A. C. Dixon: "The modern dance is the fine art of covering with music, indelicate, immodest and ofttimes indecent attitudes and postures between men and women. It is too bad for reformation. Its only remedy is extermination."
A Lubbock, Texas Physician: "As far as I am concerned, the children can stay home and twiddle their thumbs rather than go to dances, and others would feel the same way, too, if they could be in my office and see mothers come in with tears streaming down their faces, with their little girls begging for help and advice."
Testimony of Educators
We are not done yet. There are yet other specialists who wish to array their testimony as to the sensual nature of the dance against the lustful person who insists upon engaging in it as a harmless recreation. Professor W. C. Wilkerson of Chicago University, having analyzed the modern dance, concluded that it is a "system of means, contrived with more than human ingenuity, to excite the instinct of sex action." Dr. Lita Hollingsworth, Professor of Education at Columbia, in an article defending the dance, admitted: "Dancing is an exciting and pleasurable recreation as it affords a partial satisfaction to the sex impulse."
Testimony of Fashion Designers
The basic incentive that keeps the dance alive is admitted by Christian Dior, the famous designer, when he states why dance dresses were designed as they were. "For the first time I have done away with corsets even for dance dresses. I have often heard men complain that in dancing they couldn't feel a living form under women's corsets." The customary attire for dancing should be enough to prove to any thinking Christian that he should not be a participant. The jester was about right who described an evening gown as a "gownless evening strap."
Testimony of Dancing Experts
T. A. Faulkner, former supervisor of the Dancing Assembly of Los Angeles, also former President of the Dancing Master's Association of the Pacific Coast said: "The strongest indictment of the dance is the attendant immorality. The inducement to immorality lies in the co-sexual dancing." Professor Harry Stribes, renowned champion dancer and originator of many noted society dances, advised: "I will say that I do not believe a woman can waltz virtuously and waltz well, for she must yield her person completely to her partner." Professor William H. Holmes, former dancing master: "I have found the ballroom an avenue of destruction to multitudes. This is a truth burned into the hearts of thousands of downcast fathers and brokenhearted mothers."
Professor Louis J. Guyon, owner and operator of "Paradise Ballrooms," one of Chicago's largest dance halls, said:
"We know that sex is the strongest impulse planted in the human race. You can just picture the effect on a boy or girl of 18 or 20, when this hunger is keenest, when knowledge and experience are lacking m the formation of judgment, of one of these dances which calls for close bodily contact and frequently brings the cheeks together and entwine the limbs. Yet, we find thousands of boys and girls dancing in this very way who do not realize they are doing anything out of the way, and whose fool parents look on complacently. This form of dancing is a menace to the future of our nation.
"When you are told that youth of both sexes can . . . survive this experience without mental, moral and physical pollution, you know the teller lies . . . If you can believe youth is the same after this experience as before then God help your child or your charge, for you are not mentally fit for your responsibility . . ."
"If you do not believe I have correctly described the modern dances and their effect, you either have not seen them performed or you are willfully blind to their true character."Testimony of Others
Cicero, Roman man of letters, said, "No one dances except he be drunk or mad." A Jewish Rabbi added, "There is no decent dancing." Several men who dance have told me that if they should find another man holding their wives without musical accompaniment as they hold them with music during the dance, they would kill the man! In one assembly fifteen hundred men were asked to hold up their hands if they could dance without evil thoughts. Not one hand was raised.
An article in the NEW YORK SUN read:
"The modern dance is not new. It is a reversion to the grossest practices of savage men. Its culminating extravagancies are the same as the end sought by the heathen. The only difference is this that the heathen is childishly frank in his acknowledgement of the end sought, while we are not so bold. Preserved through all ages by the habitués of low resorts, by prostitutes, and their patrons, these dances have never lost their original reasons for existence. They never have been deprived of their appeal to the profligate and the debased. Today, when practiced in the brothel or in surroundings more expensive they retain without change their original meaning and are unmodified in their effects."
In contradiction to this great array of testimony comes the feeble voice of the worldling church member: "I cannot see anything wrong with it." Isn't it strange that everybody else can see plenty wrong with it, except the person who is determined to go ahead and do it? I have prolonged this section of our discussion in order that the nature of the modern dance clearly might be established. With this done, it is almost embarrassing to have to argue further to show a Christian that he should have no part in such ungodliness.
The Life Expected of a Christian
The Christian has to live "in the world," but yet is not to be "of the world" (Jno. 17:14-16). But when one obeyed the gospel, the old manner of life was left behind (I Cor. 6:9, 10; I Pet. 4:3). Following baptism, one became a new creature (2 Cor. 5: 17), raised to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4). No longer is he to be conformed to the world; he now is transformed, by the renewing of his mind (Rom. 12:1, 2). Such a person is to "put to death" his members that are upon the earth, and to "put on" the fruits of righteousness (Col. 3:1-14). As such, he is not to love the world or the things of the world (1 Jno. 2:15-17), and is required to keep himself "unspotted from the world" (Jas. 1:27; 4:4). In a word, one must keep himself "pure" (1 Thess. 5: 22), shunning even the appearance of evil.
Now I ask, "Is the nature of that act which we have just described, compatible with these high and holy requirements of God's children?"
Charges Against the Modern Dance
It does not embarrass me to speak against the involvement of Christians in the modern dance. In fact, I would be afraid not to speak against such an "unequal yoke" (2 Cor. 6:1418) . While the foregoing contrast between what is required of the Christian and what is required of a good dancer shows clearly the incompatibility between the Christian's obligations and the dance, yet I feel specific charges should be made against the Christian's participation.
Things Wrong With Dancing
1. Dancing is "reveling," one of the fruits of the flesh that will keep people out of heaven (Gal. 5:19-21). The Greek word used means "feasts and drinking parties that are protracted till late at night and indulge in revelry" (Thayer, Lexicon p. 367). This definition fits well most dancing parties. Some lexicons specifically include the dance as a part of this revelry, which is here prohibited.
Another "fruit of the flesh" which will damn is lasciviousness (Gal. 5:19). The Greek word used means " . . . indecent bodily movements, unchaste handling of males and females" (Thayer, pp. 79, 80). This perfectly describes the modern dance. Webster defines lasciviousness as " . . . lewd, wanton, lustful, tending to produce lewd emotions." The synonym of lasciviousness, "lewd," Webster defines to mean " . . . given to indulgence of lust . . . Suiting or proceeding from unlawful sexual desire."
The dance is guilty on nearly every one of these points. It usually involves "feasts and drinking parties that are protracted till late at night," "indecent bodily movements," "unchaste handling of males and females," is "lewd," and tends "to produce unlawful sexual desire."
The late hours, dim lights, scanty clothes, indecent bodily contact, suggestive music, and dulled moral and spiritual senses all tend to produce lewd emotions. What good can one expect to result from these inherently evil elements of the dance?
2. The dance's fruits are evil. Jesus taught that one could judge a tree by its fruits (Matt. 7:16, 17), and that if the tree's fruits are evil, undoubtedly the tree itself is evil (Matt. 12:33). Evil companions, obscene language, smoking, drinking, petting, adultery and divorce are concomitants of the dance. Unless these fruits are good, the dance is evil.
3. The dance destroys spirituality. I ask those of you who dance, "Does dancing cause you to love God more, to love the church more, to love Bible reading more, to love prayer more, to love worship more? Or, does it cause you to love all of these things less?" The unfaithful lives of dancing church members constitute an adequate answer to these questions.
Albert Barnes said, "No child dances into heaven, but many a one dances into hell." Someone else has observed that "A dancing foot and a praying knee do not grow on the same leg." You will observe that dancers are not the ones that establish churches, teach the gospel, lead the periods of devotion, attend worship services regularly, support the Lord's work financially, nor are they the ones of deep reverence. Furthermore, if none but dancers existed, no congregation worthy of the name of Christ would exist.
Dancing, like intoxicating liquors, needs no advocacy or cultivation to become prominent. Like a weed, if left alone, it will come. Since it is not an accomplishment but a damnable degradation, it must be fought. If only one boy or one girl were led to a life of impurity and adultery through the dance, this one lost boy or girl would be enough to fit the dance for destruction from our society, especially if that boy or girl were yours or mine!
In all the funerals I have preached, I have never had any family to ask that I state, in the reading of the obituary, that the deceased was a drunkard, used profanity or smoked. None has ever asked that it be announced, "He was an accomplished dancer and encouraged all dancing." In adulthood, thinking people are not proud of these lascivious "accomplishments." People prefer to reflect upon the good things one did, rather than upon his evil actions.
It is incontrovertible that dancing dulls the spiritual interests.
4. Dancing is "of the world." Since it is revelry and is lascivious, since its fruits inevitably are evil, and destroys spirituality, it should be obvious that it is not "from above" (Jas. 1:17). If it is not from the Father, it must be from the Evil One and is therefore "of the world." The world started it, the world now operates the places of business that conduct it, it is designed to gratify worldlings, worldlings engage in it, and its fruits are "of the world." Certainly no Christian should partake of it.
5. Dancing destroys the Christian's Influence. Christians are said to be the 'light of the world" and the "salt of the earth." By our good manner of life, we can cause others to obey the gospel and glorify God (Matt. 5:16; I Pet. 3:1,2). Our conduct therefore can have a good influence or an evil one. One should cherish the power for good of a righteous life. He should not permit this power to be diminished by any evil or even questionable action. Certainly dancing lowers the estimation by the non-Christian of any "Christian" who engages in it. A dancing Christian's "light" does not shine. No one was ever led to Christ by a dancing Christian. The most faithful Christians that you know are not dancers. Faithful elders, deacons, preachers, Bible class teachers will not be found at the dance. These brethren and sisters all know well that attending a dance would destroy their influence. And so will yours, my brother or sister.
Arguments "For" the Dance
Most persons who wish to dance never attempt any justification of their action. They are in the world) living like the world, and therefore feel no need to justify what they are doing before righteous people. But those few who want to wear Christ's name and yet engage in the work of the Evil One feel embarrassed, and feel the need to try to justify the dance. But their defenses are so very weak. Note them:
1. "I only go to chaperoned dances." The very need for chaperones is an indictment against the dance. Did you ever hear of a "chaperoned" Bible study? Chaperoned unrighteousness is unrighteousness still. Would chaperoned fornication be all right?
I have less respect for a Christian who is supposed to be "exercised to discern good and evil" who will "sponsor" a dance, or chaperone a dance than I have for a babe in Christ who because of ignorance attends one. Chaperoned dances are where people learn to dance. Then they go to unchaperoned dances.
2. "Dancing its good exercise." Is that really why you dance? Boys may dance with other boys and get the same exercise. Plan a "boys with boys" dance for "exercise," and see what response you get. You will see the "basic spell" of the dance to be the sex impulse and its "unchaste handling of males and females."
3. "I just enjoy the rhythm of the music; I've got rhythm in my bones." I do not object to persons enjoying good music. But girls could dance with girls and enjoy the music just as much.
4. "Dancing develops such poise." Again I ask, "Is that really why you do it?" The husband can dance with his own wife and develop for her the same amount of poise.
5. "It is necessary to social popularity." This is probably the most plausible defense made. Few are so brazen as to admit they like to dance because it gives them a chance to fondle females, and seduce them. But dancing is not necessary to social popularity.
Somehow I still think the people worth impressing look more favorably upon the pure and godly young man or woman than the boy or girl who has "made the rounds." But suppose dancing were necessary to social popularity, does that in itself make it right? In some circles, profanity, drinking, and sexual promiscuity are also necessary for social popularity. Is any ready to state that this makes these sinful practices lawful for the Christian?
Many gloating parents push their sons and daughters into the dance to try to insure their social acceptance. This lights the passion to continue. When the fruits of a wasted and misspent life in all its ugliness and horror appear, the parent raises his hands in holy horror and says "I don't know why this had to happen in our family." Yet the parent was the mainspring that set off the pent-up fury by an ill-advised action.
If you are sincere in pleasing God, ask yourself these questions regarding the dance: "Does the dance incite me to unlawful thoughts and desires?" "Does it provoke such unlawful thoughts in the mind of my dancing partner?"; "If it does, am I guiltless of his sin?". "Does my dancing increase good people's respect for me?"
The answer to these questions will show every sincere person that the Christian must not dance. It is so out of harmony with his profession of godliness (Eph. 5: 1; I Tim. 2:9,10), and God Almighty in His Word therefore prohibits it.
Truth Magazine IX: 1, pp. 18-23