Dancing and The Harlem Shake in Christian Perspective

I am disturbingly astounded by the adamant defense of some Nazarenes for the spiritually-deadly fad sweeping across our church’s turf called the Harlem Shake.  I have always stood with the “old-timers” who preached hard against worldly practices that included even ballroom dancing.  I have heard professing Christians say time and again that they see nothing wrong with dancing or whatever else they happen to want in their lives.  I know of Nazarenes, leaders in their churches, who have openly taken part in dancing.  Some of them have even included drinking alcohol to their new Nazarene repertoire. At least one granddaughter once sought my guidance on the issue. Excuses are lame. God forgives confessed sins. He can’t forgive excuses.

We can slather those events with spineless, wishy-washy “innocence” all day long in an effort to ease our consciences, but it changes nothing.  I can remember being disturbed the first time I sat in a Nazarene service in Macon, Georgia while a group of young people were singing a song and one of the girls in the group was slapping her grinding her hip to the tune.  I saw it as being suggestive and distracting from the song’s message. 

So I am from another generation!  How does that matter?  I have grown weary from that tired excuse that times are different.  What does the passing of time do to basic values?  It is not time that has caused an improvement.  If anything, there has been a steady slide into depravity and there is plenty of evidence to demonstrate that.  The old landmarks in Israel were erected to remind future generations of God’s deliverance.  I see us old-timers as sort of old landmarks for the truth as it is in Christ Jesus.

I am now hearing Nazarenes talk about innocent “shakes.”  One woman defended her youth pastor son whom she said conducted such an event in his church.  She turned a blind eye to the facts in order to defend the sin in her son’s actions.  My children and grandchildren know that their parents/grandparents would never be so unloving and uncaring about their souls as to not earnestly confront them about such things.  Of all of the You Tube videos among Nazarenes I have seen, I think the most disturbing to me was the one at Hendersonville, Tennessee Church of the Nazarene where they involved small children.  That church is just up the road from me and I remember when sinners poured out their hearts in tearful repentance at that church’s altars—when it was actually a Nazarene church, a church I would have been proud to pastor had I been invited.

Oh yes, I have often heard that old saw about David dancing before the Ark and similar excuses.  Show me one modern dance that includes the intense joy of the Lord (actually so) and I will say you might—just might—have a point.  Otherwise, please do not insult my limited intelligence with such obvious opposites.  Please do not try to tell me that even the most innocent secular dance is without sexual innuendo. 

I have shared this story before and it bears repeating.  A young woman challenged her pastor who had preached about the sins of dancing as being damaging to the Christian testimony.  She informed him that she could be a witnessing Christian on the dance floor as well as anywhere else.  The pastor asked if she intended going dancing anytime soon.  She said she did.  He asked that she witness to her dance partner.  She agreed that she would.

While they danced, she remembered her promise to the pastor and asked her partner:  “Are you a Christian?”  He replied: “No, are you?”  She said that she was and he answered:  “Then what are you doing here?”

It does matter how we behave before the world.  I cannot say that we will be A-plus perfect at all times, but I will say that we should never give in because something is attractive, convenient, or expected by those before whom we are duty-bound to be faithful witnesses.  If it means being a prude, then be a prude.  God notices and that is all the matters in eternity.

It has always cost to be a Christian.  The Bible tells us that.  The world will hate us.  It will scorn us.  It will seek our harm.  That is what the world does because they are just like their father, the Devil.  Go ahead and join them if you think you must, but you will be linking up with the losing end of it all.  It will come to a tragic end for you but you might have a wild time until you hit the wall—and you will hit the wall.

If you remember the stories about the sinking Titanic, you may recall that up until it was certain the mighty ship was actually sinking, passengers were dancing to music.  Then, as death loomed in front of them and they knew they might be doomed to a watery grave, the orchestra began to play “Amazing Grace.”  I do not know the hearts of those poor souls on that fateful night, but I do know that it is unlikely that many of them actually took the opportunity to pray through for that amazing grace and may well have died in their sins.

As the song says, “I have one deep supreme desire—that I may be like Jesus.”  I have no qualms about wanting to be like Jesus and I just cannot picture Him dancing or justifying it in His teachings.  We are actually told to come out from among the world and be separate from it, not assimilate it.  Our witness is to call the lost out from it.  One cannot rescue the perishing if he or she is floundering in the same dangerous waters.

John Henderson

Related posts:





Pastor Saeed Abedini- please pray for this pastor who has been sentenced to eight years in prison in Iran.  Plray for his wife and children, and pray that the State Department will work as hard as possible ot free this man from prison.  Above all, pray for God;s will in his life, that as long as he remains in prison, he will be used by God to witness to and bring others to the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.  His wife testified today at a Congressional hearing, however, it was disappointing that the State Department turned down an invitation to appear at the hearing to support Pastor Abedini.

Dr. Anthony Harper:
A message from my friend and brother in the Lord, Dr. Anthony Harper, publisher of Intermountain Christian News and a Chaplain in Counseling Ministry:

Dr. Harper here. As a Christian news reporter, I am headed for Israel Sunday March 17 to join the White House Press Corps to President Obama speaking events in Jerusalem and Ramallah. I will be sharing our Christian concerns for Israel and need help to pay White House Press Corps expenses. For more information about my White House experiences, visit our following web site: http://www.imcnews.org/paper/washingtondcjuly2012drharpertrip.php.
Donations are tax deductible and can be made online at the following InterMountain Christian News web site by clicking on the ‘Donate’ button: http://www.imcnews.org/paper/support.php

13 responses to “Dancing and The Harlem Shake in Christian Perspective

  1. Just something to notice, the dancing of a person in worship and David dancing are not comparable, you are right. David was stark naked. If you try to tell me that wouldn’t be suggestive of some sort of sexual expression to you, you’d be lying. If you saw me dancing in a worship service naked, you’d be offended, and rightly so. It’s not respectful. But if I slap my hip or bounce up and down while worshiping, don’t criticize it as being opposite of biblical. Because it’s far closer to biblical than any of your solemn worship services. Do a search on how many times dancing for joy is mentioned in the Bible.
    And one more thing. Tell me how we are supposed to reach the world if all we do is tell them they are wrong, sinful, and going to hell? That message goes over like a lead balloon. In fact, I have difficulty doing outreach anymore. People tell me they don’t want to hear my message of condemnation, before I am even able to say anything, because they expect me to tell them they are going to hell. It will take years for my generation to show that the church is an instrument of God’s love.

    I’d like to see some actual biblical evidence that dancing is wrong. Show me where it says not to do the Harlem shake. And spare the evasive maneuver of saying that biblical dancing is different. “obvious opposites” is not obvious. Show me. Prove it in scripture. What does a praise dance look like? Tapping your foot during worship? Or jumping up and down naked in front of the entire nation?

    Just some thoughts from a young christian who has dedicated his life to full-time service for Christ.

  2. I find so many points you made that I could spend much time on each of them.

    “People tell me they don’t want to hear my message of condemnation, before I am even able to say anything, because they expect me to tell them they are going to hell.”

    This is the most disturbing to me. So are you saying that if the true Gospel message offends sinners, and telling them the TRUE Gospel message drives them away, we should stop telling the truth? Is it not true that unrepentant sinners will be condemned to eternity in hell? Is that not what God’s word says. Why would you want to water down the message, just to please people, bring them into the church, and then have a church full of false converts?

    We are to give the unvarnished, truthful Gospel, and if only 1 out of 100 people respond and are convicted and repent, so be it! Our duty as Christians is to share the Gospel, without a bit of modification- and let God do the rest. I hope you understand that, because we should not be worried about how people react- that’s not our job. We should tell them as lovingly as possible that they are lost, but we should tell them. You need to think about what your concept of “reaching out” means.

    As far as the Harlem Shake, if you cannot see the worldliness in this, then I cannot help you. Only God can. Of course it is not mentioned in the Bible, that is a red herring you put up. Many things are not in the Bible, but Christ and the apostles gave us guidelines on how to live holy lives and “in the world” but not of the world.

    Heed the following verses, as just a few of many:

    Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Phillipians 4:8

    I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Romans 12:2

    Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17And the world passes away, and the lust thereof: but he that does the will of God stays for ever. 1 John 2:16

    For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Titus 2:12

    For God has not called us to uncleanness, but to holiness. 1 Thes. 4:7

  3. “Of course it is not mentioned in the Bible, that is a red herring you put up. Many things are not in the Bible, but Christ and the apostles gave us guidelines on how to live holy lives and “in the world” but not of the world.”
    My friend, may God grant you the ability to see. I said nothing that was a red herring, and your suggestion that turning to the Bible for truth on the matter is in any way irrelevant to the question deeply troubles me.

    If your own sensibilities are offended by the Harlem shake, then by all means do not watch or participate. But do not condescend to tell me that the practice is in any way demonic or unchristian. You have no ground to stand on, other than your own opinion.
    Let me give you a few of many verses that you may consider.

    The Bible tells us there is
    “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Ecc 3:4).

    “Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.” (Jer 31:13)
    (I did see both old and young dancing together in the official NNU Harlem shake, it was quite heartwarming to see Dr. Alexander and his wife begin the video)

    Let me continue the Romans passage… “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”

    “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

    Finally to touch on how you reach out to the lost. I think that you have forgotten, “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor 1:18) The lost do not want to hear the message. They won’t respond. It is folly to them. But a message of love, THAT is something anyone can hear. God can and will convict their hearts. That is not our task. When the apostles spread the gospel they did not preach a message of condemnation, but of salvation. There is no mention in the gospels where the apostles threatened anyone that if they did not repent they would be thrown in Hell.

  4. John Lee,

    There are three main elements of the Gospel, which I will try to summarize here:

    1. First, Romans 3:23 tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We all need to acknowledge the reality of sin when we approach God for salvation. A sinner cannot truly be born again unless he acknowledges this state of his condition, that he is hopelessly guilty. And as we see in Romans 6:23, the sinner also must realize that “the wages of sin is death.” This is the first start in understanding the Gospel. We are hopelessly lost. What do you think death means? It is eternity in hell, apart from God.

    2. Second is what Jesus is and did for us. He is both God and man. He lived a sinless life. Being the only sinless One, he was the only proper substitution for our sins. He died on the cross for our sins, to pay our penalty, which was death, a penalty pronounced on us by a just God who is BOTH a God of love, and a God of justice. Remember that, you cannot separate God into small parts based on your preference.

    3. Christ’s resurrection of course is necessary to fully understand the Gospel message. It is the ultimate proof of the power of God, and showed that Christ was who He was. His resurrection was victory over death, which is again the penalty which we were under, and still are, unless we repent of our sins.

    So your idea of only a Gospel of “love” without preaching the message that rejection of God means eternal damnation in hell, is really a gospel of hate. Why? Because if the sinner thinks that all it is about is LOVE, without realizing the comdemnation he is under will lead him to hell for eternity, is not love at all.

    You are either hopelessly misguided as to what the Gospel is, or you have rejected the true Gospel and are inventing your own. I don’t know which one it is, but I pray your eyes are awakened to the true Gospel.

    Of course there is a hell, and of course part of the Good News is that Jesus’s sacrifice made it possible for us to escape the coming judgement, where those who have rejected Christ will be sent away into eternal punishment. I love my friends too much to omit the full Gospel when I witness to them. If they reject it, they will need to answer to God someday, not to me.

    Luke 16:19-31
    [19] “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. [20] At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores [21] and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
    [22] “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. [23] In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. [24] So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
    [25] “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. [26] And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
    [27] “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, [28] for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
    [29] “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
    [30] ” ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
    [31] “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ “

  5. John I am not sure where you got the impression that David danced naked with sexual expressions. 2Samuel [6:14] “Then David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was wearing a linen ephod.” David was, girded, with a simple ephod an honorary garment, used by those who were not priests. He laid aside his royal robe and took the apparel of a servant. When the ark of the Lord came into the city Saul’s daughter Michal saw David through a window leaping and whirling and she despised him in her heart. 2 Samuel [6:16]

    Afterward in 2 Samuel [6:20] “Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, “How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!” Michael’s jealousy for David sitting where Saul once sat, and David laying aside his royal robe might have given Michael occasion of expression of David uncovering himself. At worst David, putting on the Levitical ephod might have given occasion to see his thigh or leg.

    2Samuel [6:21-23] ”So David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me instead of your father and all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the LORD, over Israel. Therefore I will play music before the LORD. And I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight. But as for the maidservants of whom you have spoken, by them I will be held in honor. Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.”

    In other words, David was not ashamed to humble himself before the Lord whom the same God rejected her father because of his obstinacy and pride. When the maidservants learn of his motive of conduct, they will treat David with honor and respect. Michal having no children, only two things could occur. David never took her to his bed again, or God in His providence shut up her womb.

    One cannot compare the Harlem Shake and associate it with anything spiritual or liken it to David’s dance of joy. John, you mentioned that the Harlem Shake was heartwarming. My question is, are the gyrations that I saw on video, were they holy, are they treated with respect? I seriously doubt it! In fact, I do not recall Jesus ever dancing, nor His disciples, or any in the early church. God has given us other means to worship that will gain respect, and not to be confused with the world.

  6. I’m a concerned Nazarene! I am deeply concerned that many comments here are not of God, who intend to unite people with himself and with others. Here I find MUCH which has only the intention divide, cloaked in the interest to “stay Christian,” but I think that is not the case when I find so many things that are against scripture. Such as the authors admission at one point he has a problem with someone but has not gone to that person face to face (and this is only one such finding).

    Be that as it may, my question on this…is there a difference between sin and a personal conviction? It seems to me this is a personal conviction and very little scriptural basis on this one. I’m not opposed to you hold a personal conviction as this, please by all means. Yet don’t try to push a personal conviction off as a sin. This move from personal conviction for self to sin for everyone seems sinful on its face. To make such a move is to attempt to “rewrite” what God says in a subject. ReformedNazarene please clarify your stance as a personal conviction, not a sin.

  7. To “ARealNazarene”,
    You wrote much criticism here and not one specific pointed out.

    “Many comments are not of God” – NO SPECIFICS. which comments?
    “MUCH which has only the intention divide” – NO SPECIFICS. example please? And how did conclude our intention?
    “cloaked in the interest to “stay Christian,” – this I would consider judgmental in the wrong way, because how would you know my intent in any way?
    “I find so many things that are against scripture” – NO SPECIFICS.
    “the authors admission at one point he has a problem with someone but has not gone to that person face to face” – NO SPECIFICS

    Thank you for your time, but unless you point out specifics, you cannot help anyone if you believe they are wrong, and you fail to point out where specifically they are in error. Your opinion does not matter, unless it can be supported by the word of God.

    I will give you just one Scripture which speaks to this issues, the key being to “not be conformed to this world”:

    Romans 12: 1-2 I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

  8. No one scripture in your entire post. Please show me a scripture where dancing is a sin.

  9. Dancing is not necessarily a sin. Here is what I referenced, which points to this activity in its context as performed by these various groups, is a sin:

    Romans 12: 1-2 I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

  10. You referenced the mother’s defense of her son’s sin. If you say dancing is not necessarily a sin, how do to call this sin? Or perhaps I misunderstood what you were calling his sin.

    I think Wesley was right…”In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity…” That is the heart of Nazarene! Is this what you or this site is promoting? From my perspective that does not to be the intent of the site.

    Is this issue of dancing and essential or non-essential? I fear if we call everything then nothing becomes essential.

  11. First of all, the “in essentials” quote has no biblical basis for it, other than those specific instances where Paul talks about such things as what someone eats or not, what day to worship, etc. I prefer to quote God’s word, than John Wesley or any other man.

    The essentials are these: everything that Scripture teaches and commands us to do. There are no “minor” commands where we have the choice to opt out from. If we are commanded clearly on any issue, we obey it.

    Are you actually reading what I wrote? Romans 12 says we should not be conformed to the world. This is worldly behavior which we should not be imitating. That’s very obvious to the Christian who knows the Scriptures and should know better than to participate in worldly dancing. There is nothing holy about what these dances are doing. If you think there is, then you have a problem and need to understand what God’s word says- which I plainly stated twice now.

  12. Again, I point to your total lack of specifics after launching a bunch of accusations and judgments. See my previous post. Also, your most recent and unapproved answer only contained additional personal attacks instead of defending your stance with the word of God. I gave you several chances to respond biblically- and all you gave back is personal opinion and baseless, unsubstantiated attacks. You never even commented on the appropriateness of Romans 12:1-2 in this situation. Instead, you quoted a man’s quote which is not even a biblically sound quote.

    That is no surprise. When someone cannot defend such things and support it with Gods word, the only thing left is to personally attack us. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will open your eyes to all of God’s truth on this matter, and that you will in turn learn not to hurl general accusations that cannot be supported by any proof whatsoever.

    I am sorry that I wasted time on this, but I did give you the opportunity, which I don’t always give to everyone who attacks us here.

  13. Reformednazarene, I commend you for your stand, even when it seems like you’re the lone voice in the wilderness at times. I agree with just about everything you mentioned, but just for fun let’s lay aside all other aspects of this debate and take a look at the lyrics alone:

    Con los terroristas (With the terrorists)
    Ey Shake
    Ey Shake
    Ey, Ey, Ey, Ey
    Shake, Ta. Ta
    And do the Harlem Shake
    Ey Shake, Ey

    Shake, Shake
    Shake, Shake, Shake
    Con los terroristas (With the terrorists)
    Ey, Con los terroristas (Hey, with the terrorists)
    Ey, Ey

    How can ANYONE compare this to David dancing before the Lord in worship? Why would ANY American (let alone Christian) want to dance to a song like this? How can anyone in their right mind somehow legitimize this being done IN CHURCH and draw the conclusion that it’s being done in the name of Christ? To do so is apostasy!
    People these days desire to simply have their own ideas (religion) and set of beliefs and then fit scriptures around them to support what THEY think is good. In reality, it should be exactly the opposite. We are to take scriptures and change OUR beliefs and actions to fit/support them.
    There is a lot of heresy out there, sometimes with good intentions, but nevertheless it’s heresy.

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