Dance like God is watching… and not amused
By Doug Jackson
There it was, a brief video clip buck-shotted all over the interwebs for everyone to see: Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump on the front row of Great Faith Ministries in Detroit, swaying to the praise music like, well, like a Republican, and a white guy, and an old guy. I think my horror sprung more from personal than political reasons. You see, I frequently preach in black churches, and while the kinetic and rhythmic worship moves me deeply, it does not move me superficially. I try to participate but I feel like a paint-by-numbers hack who has set up his easel in the studio of a guild of Renaissance masters.
I grew up Baptist, a denomination and a theology which remain my faith home, but I sympathize with Garrison Keillor when he writes in We Are Still Married, “The beat goes on but I can’t dance to it anymore. Of course I never could dance at all, having grown up in a fundamentalist home, which you can tell by the way I move. . . .[E]ven today, when I sweep into a room holding a glass of Pouilly-Fuisse, people see me sweep and say, ‘I didn’t know you were Baptist.’” “Dance like no one’s watching,” says the meme, but whoever wrote that is no match for a murder’s row of Sunday School teachers telling me that God is always watching.
Of course there’s lots of dancing in the Bible, and Dante’s Paradise is practically dizzy with choreography. Still, I must face the fact that of all the adjectives anyone might ever apply to me, terpsichorean will never make the list.
But there are more ways of dancing in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your choreography, Horatio. When I mount the pulpit in a black church a sophisticated word dance begins. With a freedom I never find in white churches I waltz with words to the tune set by a call-and-response pattern that predates Emancipation. For the only time in my forty years of pulpit ministry I find preaching ceases to be a solo and becomes choral as the current bearers of a style shaped in the forge of oppression offer the whole thing for the use of a beneficiary of white privilege.
So, to paraphrase an old proverb about prayer, dance as you can, and not as you cannot, and then dance like God is watching – and can’t get enough.
Doug Jackson is a preacher/professor/poet who after a quarter-century in the pastorate now teaches spiritual formation, pastoral ministry, and Greek for the Logsdon Seminary program at the South Texas School of Christian Studies in Corpus Christi. His collection of poetry, Nothing There is Not More, is available from Finishing Line Press.
Image by Anissa Thompson via freeimages.com.