Saturday, October 13, 2007

Worship Dancewear

I got a new catalog at the church office last week.

Here is the online version. Yes, this is a line of "dancewear" for "worship." The catalog is very colorful and filled with smiling dancing girls - some in front of stained glass windows. Some of them have colorful streamers, some are wearing leotards and tights (one of them is even fleshtone, perhaps giving a Bourbon Street look to liturgical dance), while others look more like Jerry Seinfeld in the "puffy shirt."

Interestingly, the most common colors are white (like the alb) in combination with purple (the traditional color of a bishop's cassock), scarlet (the traditional color of a cardinal's cassock) and black (the traditional color of a priest's cassock). I don't know if that's coincidental or not - but I doubt it. If the devil is as clever as C.S. Lewis's Screwtape character, it's probably not by chance. And somehow I think Satan is even more cunning than Dr. Lewis.

Once you click into the page to "begin shopping," you can find all sorts of interesting vestments for worship.

Under the "worship" tab, you can find an outfit that looks like a Kung Fu or Tai Chi uniform - complete with a sash around the waist. One gal is even delivering a high martial arts style kick - perhaps as a way to interpret battles with the Philistines and other Old Testament military campaigns. There is also the one that looks like a rendition of an alb and chasuble (which, I suppose, would work for the priestess at the altar who wants to "get her boogie on" while desecrating the elements). All that's missing is the Asherah pole.

But it gets even better.

Click on the "performance" tab, and you get to the real point behind having dancing girls in "church..."

These vestments are known as "booty shorts." If you click here you can see some of the other items: the "leather look shorts", the "short camisole dress", and the "slinky top" (and I don't think it's a spring that walks down stairs).

The point of having dancing girls at a "worship event" has nothing to do with our Blessed Lord, the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, the restoration of fallen Paradise, the proclamation of the Word of God, prayer, praise, thanksgiving, the reception of the Holy Sacraments, or submission to the Creator - rather it's all about "performance" - calling attention to the girls and their wriggling bodies.

The devil is indeed clever - what a better way to mock the incarnation than to abuse the sacredness of the human body during a parody of Christian worship?

This one is especially illustrative - hands folded in prayer. Very spiritual, indeed. Doesn't she look pious?

As silly and ridiculous as this stuff is, keep in mind that at the last few official LCMS Youth Gatherings, the Divine Services have included "liturgical dance." All the while, synod and district bureaucrats express dismay, alarm, and shock that so many congregations no longer participate in them, opting instead for the Higher Things youth gatherings (where you won't find dancing girls and rock music at the Divine Service).

Of course, being a conservative and biblical church body, I would imagine that Missouri Synod booty shorts would have "John 3:16" clearly visible on the buttocks. Moreover, those who don't approve of dancing girls at the Divine Service must be "stodgy conservatives" who are not "missional" in reaching out to the youth.

Dancing girls - coming to an LCMS church near you!


Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...

Notable is that the clothier's site may mention "worship" but other than that makes no reference as to what or whom is being worshiped. There is no pretense that these are for Christian worship.

Father Hollywood said...

Sadly, "liturgical dance" seems to be pretty much a "Christian" phenomenon. I have never heard of Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, or Buddhist dancing girls used in religious ritual. I'm not saying it doesn't exist, but this has become so common in, for example, the Roman Church, that you can easily find pictures of bishops, even popes, surrounded by dancing girls at the high altar.

A search of the website yields three "hits" for "Jesus" - they seem to be "liturgical dance" resources.

In the final analysis, this is really about worship of self, of the female form, and of entertainment. It should not be confused with worship of the Holy Trinity.

Anonymous Lutheran said...

Yay, I get to play the contrarian today! ;-)

It's worth noting that the url you link to is a portal that takes you to a worship section of a general dancewear site. They are not claiming that all the dancewear on the site is suitable for worship.

I am not familiar with the liturgical dance at the LCMS conventions, but let me tell you a little about what I *am* familiar with.

I'm a Lutheran now, but part of my time growing up was spent in Charismatic churches. While I have plenty of issues with Charismatic worship, I do feel compelled to point out that there is scriptural precedent for using dance in worship, so the concept is not inherently heterodox. The best argument to be made against it is that in western culture it has become so synonymous with sexuality, that this detrimental association may outweigh any benefits.

On the other hand, I can tell you from first-hand experience that dancing can be integrated into a church's worship without there being a sexual component. When a church is doing it right, there is an inherent difference between this and worldly dancing. Take for example a procession where (in the Charismatic example) banners are carried which declare Jesus. If dancing is used correctly, the dress, demeanor, and choreography are designed (1) to focus attention on the *banners*, not the dancers themselves, and (2) to reinforce in the congregation a sense of joyful celebration for what Christ has done for us.

Perhaps what bothers me the most about dance in some Charismatic churches is that it is not given an appropriate role, but instead tends to take over everything. I don't know how Lutheran congregations use dance, since mine does not; but I would only think it appropriate in a very few settings. In particular, I think Easter would be an appropriate time. No other obvious examples are coming to mind right now.

So, there it is. *prepares to be pilloried* ;-)

Philip Hoffman said...

While I am not in favor of liturgical dance I do wonder: where does the Church draw the line in employing the arts to glorify God? We appreciate the greatest of music, the best preaching, the finest of smells, the finest of vestments. And so I wonder, what would a liturgical aesthetic be that would eliminate "good" liturgical dance?


Father Hollywood said...

Dear Anonymous:

"They are not claiming that all the dancewear on the site is suitable for worship."

Under what circumstances are "booty shorts" suitable for Christian young ladies? The pictures of the "models" on the site is not that far from kid porn. And yet these are considered clothing to wear during a "performance." Yeah, right. Pole not included...

To link "worship wear" with that kind of thing demonstrates how "dance" and "worship" are simply incongruous.

I don't believe there is any way to have dancers *without* them being the center of attention. Otherwise, just hang the banners on the wall. Furthermore, how often are "liturgical dancers" female vs. male?

As you say, the dancing tends to "take over." There is wisdom in tradition. "Liturgical dancers" would have been an unbelievably base scandal in Luther's day. Heck, even in my grandmother's day.

Furthermore, I don't see how it is compatible with the Book of Concord. More on that later (catechism class is over, and it's time to get something to eat with the family before this afternoon's adult inquirer class. Whew!).

Lutheran Man said...

"opting instead for the Higher Things youth gatherings (where you won't find dancing girls and rock music at the Divine Service)."

While I appreciate much that HT does, I have heard concerns from parents that male and female youth are sleeping in the same quarters. That to me is just ridiculous.

Sandra Ostapowich said...


Since I cannot contact you in any other way, would you please email me privately at with further information regarding this slanderous gossip you have heard and please stop repeating it. I am surprised and disappointed that anyone would believe much less propogate such obviously incorrect information about Higher Things.

And for everyone else's information, boys and girls are absolutely NEVER assigned to the same sleeping quarters. The the only remotely close exception to this rule has been regarding adult married couples sharing a room - an exception which we are no longer allowing at future conferences for precisely this reason.

Our Conference Housing Policy states:
"Participants will be housed in gender-specific units. A unit may be defined as a single room, block of rooms, wing, floor, or entire building depending upon the facilities available for Higher Things attendees, and will be determined by the Housing Coordinator and Associate Housing Coordinator(s)."

And lest anyone get any other ideas...
"Adults will not be housed in the same room as any youth in their group unless there is an immediate familial relationship between the youth and adult chaperone. Immediate familial relationship is defined as a parent or legal guardian and their child(ren). When apartment-style facilities are utilized, adults may be assigned to the same apartment unit as their group’s youth (same gender only), but it is expected that adults will not share a bedroom with youth unless there is a familial relationship (as defined above)."

If anyone has any questions about the upcoming Higher Things conferences, I would encourage them to contact me directly.

In Christ,

Sandra Ostapowich
2008 Conference Coordinator
Secretary, Board of Directors
Higher Things, Inc.

Sandra Ostapowich said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
1111 said...

you are confuse because they not sell only for worship dance they sell too for secular dancers, and you know what? why dont spend time on talk to people about salvation and not waisting time on this. Its looks bad judgement from a person who suppose to be an example.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear 1111:

No, that's the point. If you buy your ecclesiastical garb from the same company that sells "booty shorts" - this ought to be a red flag.

I am talking about salvation.

When the church becomes a place of entertainment - almost to the point of temple prostitution - this is injurious to faith. It is a poor witness to the world.

And I won't be bullied into silence about it just because someone (anonymous to boot) doesn't approve of my disapproval. I am not only to be an example (and I don't allow dancing girls in the chancel of my church) but I am also supposed to be a teacher and confessor of the faith. I want people to know exactly why dancing girls in Christian worship is an abomination.

Irreverence in worship is not only blasphemous and a mockery of our Lord, it leads people away from salvation.

You are free to disagree. But this is my blog, and I am speaking as a Christian pastor and warning my readers not to allow something to be normalized just because it is becoming mainstream.

Poetry of Motion! said...

I came across your blog while I was looking for something else. While I will not get into a theological debate with anyone as to the place and purpose of dance in the worship of God in the Word of God (we can't tear those pages out of the Bible), I will say that many of the items that are referred to in the Spritual Expressions catalog are mass-produced by secular manufacturers who know nothing about modesty or proper attire for worship. They are simply out to make a profit. Unfortunately there are many who dance in the church who have not been properly taught how to dress, and will quickly purchase these items that are poorly made of thin, tight-fitting materials because they are low-priced (so they think) or will not do the research to find garment makers who make appropriate garments. One example is the white dress that you mention where the young lady wearing it looks "pious" (quotations yours) when that garment is only acceptable as an underdress, and not to be worn alone. And for your information, the booty shorts are not for worshi8p and are not even in the worship catalog, they are for song/ your article is misleading. Sadly to say, that one of the main reasons that dance is not accepted in the church is because of the way that the dancers are dressed. But it is Biblical, when done in context of God's word. God bless you.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Poetry:

You make some excellent points.

I think a lot of the problem is that young girls simply don't know how to dress. They have not been taught to respect themselves and be modest. Whether the "booty shorts" are for church (of course they aren't) or not - they are never acceptable for a young lady to wear in public - whether for dancing or cheering or washing the car.

The object of the "booty shorts" is right there in the name - and it is especially inappropriate for little girls. And yet day in and day out, naive mothers allow their children to dress this way - perhaps dressing that way themselves.

Dancing is fun. Dancing is mentioned in Scripture. Dancing is an expression of joy. There is nothing wrong or inappropriate about it - depending on the context. That's what is important.

Worship is a time for prayer, a time for receiving the Lord's gifts, a time of reverence. There are simply things that don't fit in. There is nothing sinful about football, but it would be sinful to watch the game on your phone during the sermon. There is nothing sinful about having a beer. But it would be inappropriate (again in my opinion) to have an open bar in the narthex of the church. Ditto for cigars and video games.

Dancing, eating snacks, playing games, watching sports, putting on a movie - all fun and entertaining. And yet, all of these take away from worship if they were done in the chancel during a worship service.

There was no mention of dance moves for the Levitical priests in the Temple, no mention of choreography in the synagogue, and no hip-hop, jazz, tap, or salsa in the New Testament churches.

Liturgical dance is not something you will find in churches that are being persecuted. It's an American thing because our national religion is entertainment. We look for ways to make our services more "fun." Dancing is fun.

Worship is simply deeper than that - especially in our Lutheran context of worship in which we believe a miracle actually happens on the altar and Jesus is literally and physically present in His flesh. When you look at it from that perspective, entertainment just becomes kind of shallow.

Peace be with you!