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So You Think Pastors Can Dance? Think Again.

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It’s the last thing any middle-aged Baptist preacher with barely enough rhythm to clip his own toenails without minor injury wants to face.

 

But after a special appearance on the Today Show and hits on YouTube now spiking near 9 million views, the familiar JK Wedding Entrance Dance has reached the phenomenal status of an “Internet sensation.” I’m sure it won’t be long before some young couple request the inevitable of me: We want to do that, too!

 

 

How should I respond? My first thought is a flat-out rejection. It’s probably the safest territory. A minister defending the time-honored tradition of solemn reverence in God’s sanctuary is nothing new. It fits nicely within the stereotype of our kind being sanctimonious killjoys. I frequently have individuals apologize to me when letting out an expletive within earshot, as if I might tell on them in my nightly prayers to God.

 

But deep down, I know my resistance on holy grounds is a shallow cop-out. Dance has been a form of public worship much longer than the quiet repose of silence.

 

Miriam, who rescued her little brother, Moses, from certain death on the banks of the Nile, is found again, many years later, in joyful exultation on water’s edge after a narrow escape from the Egyptian pursuers. She leads her community in song, playing the tambourine and dancing.

 

Another biblical great, King David, breaks it down with trumpets and shouting when the Ark of the Covenant is returned to Jerusalem. Even Psalms encourages similar forms of praise in its final chapter.

 

So what’s my problem? Perhaps the context of the dancing itself is suspect. In these biblical examples, dancing was a form of praise to God. Without proper focus, what is to keep dancing from becoming a vain display of selfish and personal promotion? But am I qualified to make this distinction? Isn’t it a matter of intent? And who can look upon a person’s heart except God alone?

 

But I’m still uneasy, and I think I know why. I had a Baptist upbringing where drinking and dancing went together, and “God never put a dancing foot on the same leg as a praying knee.”

 

I’m a product of the Puritans, lily-white and reserved, who remembers waiting out the slow numbers when the dance floor was crowded and limited movements, where required, to muster the courage of venturing out.

 

How am I qualified to coordinate a dance processional? It’s often confusing enough to remember the protocol of whether the groom’s maternal grandmother is escorted in after or before the bride’s paternal grandmother.

 

No, I think I have my answer ready. Have you seen the “How to Dance like a White Man” video? It could be ugly.

 

Mark Johnson is senior minister at Central Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky.