POCATELLO, ID – We’ve all heard the joke: “Why do [insert conservative Christian denomination here] forbid having sex standing up? Because it leads to dancing.”
One of my teenage friends, a Baptist, carried her Bible around with her at all times hoping that people would comment about it. She and her cohorts shunned dancing “because of what it leads to.” At the time, I was naive enough not to understand what it led to, and now that I know what she meant, I still think the ban was silly. After all, whatever Fred and Ginger were up to just appeared to be a lot of skill and fun. Humans seem to find their way to sexual experiences with or without dancing. Obviously moonlight and reproductive hormones are at work in that arena, not music particularly.
Sex, music, dancing – all have peculiar relationships with religion. Some religions shun them all; others ritually practice them all. Do these activities have more in common with heaven or hell? God or Satan? Or Neither. Why should these few pleasant and natural things that tie us instinctively to Mother Earth that also have the ability to allow humans to transcend this bizarre planet cause such consternation?
I’m watching one of Andre Rieu’s concerts. This Dutch violinist and orchestra/choir director has made a career out of performing much of the schmaltzy music that makes people happy, makes them want to sing along and dance. When the camera scans his audiences, they are swaying to Strauss, actually waltzing, or locking arms and dancing to Zorba’s dance. The world seems a happy place, world peace seems possible. All the world needs is a full stomach, a glass of wine and an orchestra in the background.
But wait! Are these people engaged in a wicked ritual?
As usual when dealing with the human race, as difficult as it is for some of us to believe, there are communities of people who oppose such joy and characterize these wholesome scenes as “reckless abandon”, or the machinations of an invisible source of evil.
European colonizers banned natives in the Americas and Africa from dancing, but I don’t believe their concern was so much for it leading to sex as perhaps working the people up into a state of rebellion. Or perhaps European cultural ignorance was just freaked out by colorful paints and natural clothing, being as they were cooped up in scratchy wool uniforms, corsets and restrictive underwear wallowing uncomfortably in the unfamiliar heat.
Some people cannot separate debauchery from joy, and so choose to ban beauteous camaraderie as well, just to be on the “safe side” of a god that apparently doesn’t choose to relieve suffering as much as encourage it.
Some Christian sects forbid social dancing; others refuse instrumental accompaniment to their singing of hymns and believe their god only wants to hear their voices. And yet other groups invite jazz bands and classical orchestras into their churches believing the joy they create is heavenly.
Islam also has an issue with music.
Somewhere in the Koran the end days are described as,
“This community will experience the swallowing up of some people by the earth, metamorphosis of some into animals, and being rained upon with stones.” Someone asked, “When will this be, O Messenger of Allah?” and he said, “When songstresses and musical instruments appear and wine is held to be lawful.”
So, I guess, if believers shun music, the end of time will be staved off a while longer. Earthquakes and volcanic activity will be under control and mad scientists won’t be able to turn humans into sad genetically altered creatures as were found on the fictitious Island of Dr. Moreau.
The Island of Doctor Moreau is an 1896 science fiction novel by H. G. Wells, who called it “an exercise in youthful blasphemy”. How dare humans play god!
Recently crazy TV preachers relate natural disasters to the fact that modern women are refusing to knuckle under to the patriarchy and shun their “natural” place in the Great Chain of Being [an ancient theory that details a strict, religious hierarchical structure of all matter and life, believed to have been decreed by God.] Of course white European males are high on the chain, other races further down, and women…well, many proponents of the theory just aren’t sure if women really count for much, after all, dancing and singing leads to men losing control over those pesky female sexual reproductive conduits.
When one looks at the big picture, all this banning and murdering over such things as books and music and movies and ideas seems about making life on earth as miserable as possible for it’s beings. I don’t quite understand why such misery should be viewed as a ticket to a pleasant afterlife.