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Blacklight Dances and other things.

January 16, 2012

Ah, another day, another blacklight dance. It seems that as soon as Wheaton College lifted its dance policy the venerable educational establishment was flooded with sanctified boogieing.

The legendary Blacklight Dance of 2011 is old news at Wheaton College, but when it was first announced it was quite revolutionary—College Union was hosting what was essentially a rave without the things that actually make raves fun. (Booze, hallucinogenic drugs, and sketchy women.) There was rejoicing in the streets and switzes. Everyone was happy to go and mindlessly jump up and down for two hours and watch everyone else glow in the dark.

And then the morning afterward someone got the idea that perhaps a tame, sanitized off-brand bacchanal wasn’t the best thing for the future leaders of the Christian world to be participating in. This led to an article which did not completely denounce the blacklight dance as being sinful, only questioned whether it was the best thing. The first response that I heard from many of my friends was “This article is stupid.” Apparently at Wheaton College, the broad-minded “Harvard of the evangelicals,” the default assumption is that anything you don’t agree with is stupid.

The other response I heard was “She doesn’t want us to have any fun.” This conflicts with Jesus’ great commission, where he tells the disciples “Go and have fun!” and also with the 11th commandment, “Thou shalt not keep people from having fun.” Apparently, in the worldview of the average Wheaton student, having fun is the ultimate value, taking priority over propriety, self-discipline and all those other nasty virtues, which are obviously outdated.

WJWHTOT: Would Jesus Waste His Time On This?

Both the article and the ensuing fallout raised an important question which I don’t think very many people realized: Why does modern American Christianity have such a desire to take modern American paganisms’ (read: pop culture’s) rituals and churn out uninspired, emasculated sanitized knock-offs of them. We see a bunch of stoners knocking themselves out at a Slayer concert back in the late 80s and think “Wow, we should have something like that, except without the sex, drugs and Satanic references.” Fast forward to 2011 and you can go to a Christian metal concert and see Christian metal bands and get a black eye in a Christian mosh pit. (By the way I like Christian metal.) Same thing with the Blacklight dance. Christianity has tried to take contemporary clubbing culture, take out a few “bad” aspects, and sell it to all the good kids.

The argument could be made that Christianity has taken pagan art forms and subverted them; nothing like a little gold from the Egyptians. For example, the epic was originally a pagan Greek form of storytelling, used by Homer in The Iliad and The Odyssey, but Milton took the form and adapted it for Christian ends in Paradise Lost. The problem with this argument is that it’s not being applied to the best of modern American Paganism’s achievements; it’s being applied to LMFAO. The lyrics of Homer have lasting literary value and elevate our thoughts to higher things; the lyrics of LMFAO go something like this: “Party rockin’ in the house tonight/Everybody just have a good time.” Somehow I doubt that’s anywhere near the high standard set by “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” or “How Great Thou Art.” (Or, to use a “secular” example, “We’ll Go No More A-Roving” by Lord Byron.)

Of course, this is going to be misinterpreted as “legalism,” and people are going to get the idea that my strict, repressed Calvinistic upbringing has led me to believe that any music that contains syncopation is straight from hell and that women should wear hoop skirts, which is of course ridiculous. I’m not advocating a return to some hyper-moralistic pseudo-Victorian standard of morals. I don’t believe that any music that doesn’t use a pipe organ is evil. I’m all for using our Christian liberty “for Christ and His Kingdom.” We should take the best that Modern American Pagan culture has to offer, and then respond to it. But instead, we allow pop culture to lead us by the nose while we think to ourselves how superior we are to those backward Puritans/Victorians/Our Parents.

At least there is some room for argument over whether mindlessly jumping up and down to Lady Gaga for two hours is the best thing for Christians to do. It’s quite another thing to have to hear a group of your fellow freshman (“Our future leaders”) croon the lovely strains of “I Just Had Sex” by The Lonely Island. I will say up front that that is an hilarious song. I nearly gagged laughing the first time I heard it. But the Bible doesn’t say that immoral humor is wrong unless it’s really funny, any more than it says that committing adultery is wrong unless the other person is really, really gorgeous. The way we (including me) have completely and totally surrendered ourselves to the dictates of pop culture is just disgusting. Can you imagine Billy Graham or John Piper singing along with the Lonely Island’s vile comedy? Do you think Jonathan Edwards or St. Francis would have gone to the Blacklight dance? Would St. Peter (post Acts 2) have Lady Gaga on his iPod?

“But those guys were all saints.” Yes, and so are you and so am I, if we claim to be Christians. Human nature doesn’t change. Just because we have Netbooks, iPhones and Justin Bieber doesn’t mean it’s different for us than it was for the saints of old. Our problem is our low expectations and our desire to remain perpetually adolescent. The difference between us and St. Francis and John Edwards and Billy Graham is that we’re rebelling against virtue.”

“You just don’t want us to have fun.” If it keeps you away from God and damages your witness to the world, then brother, I don’t want you to have fun.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Toni permalink
    January 16, 2012 5:23 pm

    I think Gary Thomas’s book Pure Pleasure addresses this topic well. Our love of the godly should cause us to feel empty when we indulge in the vulgar (common). Pleasure is a gift of God; we just need to learn to use it well.

  2. Katy permalink
    January 17, 2012 3:05 am

    This was both hilarious and convicting to me, at the same time. :S
    Legalism–NO! Personal holiness–YES!!!

  3. Noelle permalink
    March 7, 2014 12:37 am

    This is excellent. I am actually a high school junior considering attending Wheaton, and this subject is one that I have been thinking about for quite some time. It irritates me to no end how many Christians think it’s ok to “Christianize” things in secular culture that are clearly unbiblical to begin with. As followers of Christ, we are called to be set apart. This will never happen if we as a body of believers call ourselves just that while going along with the world’s ways in a manner that just tries to cut out some of the bad stuff. Anyways, mini rant over. 🙂 Thank you for this article!

    • March 7, 2014 1:48 am

      Thanks, Noelle,
      Keep in mind that this is article was written about two years ago, so things have changed both with myself and with Wheaton. If you choose to go here, keep in mind that Wheaton’s not going to be an ideal “Christian place,” whatever that looks like. It’s a great place to go to school, but don’t expect that just going to a Christian college will mean that everything or everyone’s OK, spiritually speaking. And if you do go, be sure to extend grace to the people you feel aren’t living the right way. A lot of them are struggling with really heavy issues.

      • Noelle permalink
        March 7, 2014 3:46 am

        Understood. I just was commenting on some things that you referenced that I thought were interesting, not necessarily on the state of the school. 🙂 I am certainly not expecting perfection from my university, and I do expect what you mentioned… that will happen wherever I go; Wheaton just happens to be one of my top options. 🙂

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