Archive for October 20th, 2010

“Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. – Jesus (according to Matthew 7).

Recently a group I am part of studied these verses and the surrounding context.  It is quite possible that this excerpt from Jesus’ sermon is one of the most oft quoted and oft misquoted of his proverbial sayings.  Contrary to our cultural pressure; it is obvious from the context that Jesus is not making an absolute prohibition against judging others.  It is equally clear that Jesus is calling for judgments that are fair, informed, and free of hypocrisy.

Shortly after this study I came across a new entry into the Museum of Idolatry.  It is a posting of a video… offered without comment, explanation, nor objection.  It carries the simple title: Marriage Dance?. The comments in response to the posting are but three, yet they acutely illustrate Jesus’ concerns about judging.

The posting and comments exemplify the insatiable need felt by many within the Body of Christ to judge others without restraint, without context, without relationship, and without a proper understanding of culture, and from a decided ethnocentric point of view.  In short – they judge by a standard they would never want applied to them.  They judge by a selfish standard of their own creation.

The dance is offered as an “artifact of apostasy”  - an example of “the Great Apostasy that is sweeping through the “Christian” Church.”  The misuse of 2 Thessalonians in this context will not be pursued, what will be asked is why the posting is entitled “Marriage Dance?”  What purpose does the question mark play? What is being questioned; there marriage status, their ability to dance?

The real travesty plays out in the three short comments.  The comments display and incredible lack of cultural insight and abundance of ethnocentrism – of improper judging.

Comment:

I couldn’t watch the whole thing, I turned it off before 2 mins were up. What is this doing in a church service? How is it edifying our Savior? I’m sorry but I would have walked out if I was there in person. The only good thing I have to say, it that at least they were married to each other (I hope). Still, not the thing to be showing in church!

It’s unfortunate this person cannot appreciate the manner in which people who are different from him/her express themselves to God.  Marriage was created by God.  The marriage covenant is one of the grander illustrations of the Trinitarian nature of our God… it also serve as an illustration for the relationship between our Savior and his Church.  Therefore, this dance could edify our Savior because it celebrates marriage.  And just why is this not appropriate for church?  How do you know it was a worship service?  Or is dance always inappropriate within a space used for worship?

Dance has a rich heritage in the African culture and nothing in Scripture prohibits it as an expression of God’s greatness.  The description of the video itself (which I suspect the commenter did not bother to research) gave the reason for the dance – “Married couples minister in dance: Giving thanks and honor to God for the blessing of marriage.”  Apparently thanks can only be given to God in a way that is culturally acceptable to Shar.

In response to this comment came:

You are so right, this is what is wrong with the churches today. It is suppose to be worship of the Most high God, not lifting up of the flesh.

Married couples giving thanks and honor to God for the blessing of marriage through dance is what is wrong with the churches today?  Seriously?  Again, no rationale is given as to why this is wrong, just the declaration that it is.  Though Floyd does add one clear objection – it lifted up the flesh.  This is an interesting (and rather cliché) objection. Since the Most High God created the flesh, created marriage, created the physical and spiritual bond… how is celebrating that “fleshly”  - in the improper sense.  Particularly when done in a tasteful manner.  Nothing in this video was inappropriately suggestive, or erotic.  Makes me wonder how Floyd would respond to… oh… say the Song of Solomon.  Talk about lifting up the flesh!

The final comment agreed:

Even worse than the obviously inappropriate, human-centered dance, is all the womens’ voices I hear cat calling in the background; makes me understand why Paul said women should be silent in the assembly. Boy, was he right.

This one made me laugh.  “Human (or man) – centered” is another cliché that is so over used it has become meaningless.  It’s basically code for “Anything I dislike.”  But Melba also shows a lack of understanding of the audience’s response.  No one was making cat calls.  They simply responded audibly to what they were seeing.

The bottom line is these comments show how easy it is to take our own cultural standards and assume them to be biblical… to impose on others the same cultural (as opposed to biblical) standards we hold… to assume the way we do things is the only biblical was to do things… to judge others who are different as inappropriate, as an examples of apostasy, as sinful – not on biblical standards, but upon personal preferences.

Appendices to address expected objections:

A – I am not accusing anyone of hypocrisy.  I do not know the poster or those who commented.  Nor do I intend to fully defend the Marriage Dance.  In fact, one could have come up with all sorts of biblical/legitimate objections to the theology and practice of a UCC church.

B – I found the dance posted twice on YouTube (here and here).  Each posting gives one line to describe the video.  They are “The Married Couples Dance Ministry of trinity united church of christ in chicago dance to BabyFace” and “Married couples minister in dance: Giving thanks and honor to God for the blessing of marriage.”  Neither video gave the context of the dance.

C – The issue here is not one of race, and certainly not racism.  The issue is judging others without the facts and from a false premise.

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