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My Karma Ate Your Dogma

On Facebook recently, I had the interesting experience of seeing a photo album posted to an acquaintence’s page. This acquaintence was someone I knew from having attended the same church she currently attends, long, long ago.

The pictures she posted were of a dance, conducted in the main meeting room of the church.

These pictures brought on a fit of uncontrollable laughter. I’ll explain.

When I was a young teenager, I recall a certain meeting of the “Brothers”, on the weighty subject of roller skating. You heard me correctly–roller skating. This special meeting was called because, apparently, there was much consternation that the church was sponsoring trips to the local roller rink, and there was some question as to the appropriateness of this activity for young people. You see, the crux of the issue was that they played MUSIC at the roller rink as people skated, and it was thought, by some of the elders, that this movement to music could somehow be interpreted by some onlookers as “dancing”. And if it was, indeed, dancing, or could be interpreted as such by those unsaved individuals who could actually see us skating, then what sort of a testimony for Jesus would we be, and how many of those unsaved would we cause to “stumble” in their quest for Jesus’ truth?

I remember quite a bit about this meeting–I was allowed to be there but, of course, being a female, I was unable to speak or participate. I remember the red faces, the shouting–even the tears as one brother pled with another on points of scripture, regarding our position in the world, and our duty to remain unsullied by the sensual pleasures of the same. I remember their discussing the finer points of roller skating, and which movements which were executed in roller skating crossed over from the wicked world of dance. Of course, there were some folks there who felt that being in the roller skating rink at all was sinful, because they played rock music in any case, and if you exposed yourself to that, even without moving at all, one was in a place that shamed the Lord, and no good Christian should even want to be there. And rumor had it that some folks drank beer in the lounge before and after skating–so there ya go!

Roller skating=rock music=dancing=beer=Hell. An astonishing slide from the Friday night mirrored ball to the Lake of Fire.

I remember the faces of my contemporaries as the old folks levied their judgment on what was turning out to sound like the most evil of activities–some were shocked, some were outraged, some were confused and some, clearly the most backslidden among us, were simply bored, and no doubt planning their next excursion to this den of wickedness on the next Friday night, in the company of the rest of the youth group or not. Those were the folks who, no matter how UNdevoted to the activity of roller skating they might be, were prepared to go and defend its honor, on principle. Or out of sheer rebellion–but then, it was the time in history when the line between principle and rebellion was very, very thin anyway.

And it was painful. Really, really painful. So painful, in fact, that many left that meeting, never to return.

I remember it in my mind as The Great Roller Skating Schism of 1971.

So you can imagine my astonishment when initially presented with photographs of young people from my old church, not only dancing, but dancing in the auditorium of the church. The very room in which the Lord’s Supper is served every Lord’s Day!

But not astonishment alone, but extreme amusement. Because while, at this stage of my life, trying to roller skate would no doubt mean certain death, and while dancing never was and never shall be my strong suit (having gone through my most formative “dance learning” years spending all my energy trying not to move to music), I am taken back in my mind to those days when it was such a big hairy deal as to be the final nail in the coffin of some folks’ connection to their “brothers and sisters in Christ”, and wonder at the ironic and hilarious way the world turns, and wonder at how things that, at one point in history, were so incredibly important to the fabric and dogma of The Church, are, after a few years, meaningless.

And it leads me, when I hear the screaming and hollering coming from the Fundamentalist faction of society about the dire consequences of some action or another, to picture them all on roller skates.



( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 15th, 2009 04:16 pm (UTC)
there's an old joke that goes

a man dies and goes to the Pearly Gates, where he's met by St Peter. St Peter notes that he is entitled to enter Heaven, but since he wasn't aligned to any particular church, he gets to choose where - which of the Many Mansions - he wants to spend his eternity.

So he arranges a tour. First they pass the Heavenly Choir, sitting on clouds with harps. Then a beautiful garden with fountains and beautiful young men and women serving pitchers of cold drinks. Then a wonderful pastoral wilderness. One by one they explore beautiful places - each the "perfect" version of somewhere beautiful on Earth.

Then they reach a big brick wall. Very tall, with spikes on the top. St Peter motions the man to silence and they tiptoe past the wall.

"Sorry," he says, when they're past. "that's the Baptist heaven - they think they're the only b*ggers in here, so we don't want to disappoint them".
Nov. 15th, 2009 04:38 pm (UTC)
If you think about it, the people running the church now are the ones that were denied the "pleasures" of the roller rink back then that are now correcting past mistakes!
Nov. 15th, 2009 05:13 pm (UTC)
I don't remember us ever getting into any group activities that might have been mistaken for dancing. In my childhood church the issue was "mixed bathing." To whit, parties at which girls and boys alike, in bathing suits, were TOGETHER IN THE SAME WATER OH NOES at a church member's backyard pool.
Nov. 15th, 2009 11:51 pm (UTC)
Terrifyingly enough, this has become a current issue in the religious community that bears the same name as the one I grew up in. To my eye it seems to bear no resemblance otherwise. When I was growing up, high school girls and boys danced circle dances in mixed groups. Now a teenage girl who chats with a boy on a street corner can be expelled from the parochial high school.

Not every group is that extreme, but enough have gone that way that, while that isn't why I left, it is why I will never go back.
Nov. 15th, 2009 10:23 pm (UTC)
This ought to be posted to readers_list. May I?
Nov. 16th, 2009 10:42 am (UTC)
Nov. 16th, 2009 04:45 pm (UTC)
Done! Expect some folks from there to comment here, as we're required to turn off comments to reposts to r_l, and link to the original post, so that the original person who wrote the piece gets the comments.
Nov. 16th, 2009 03:23 am (UTC)
I now have an image of the Church Elders spinning in their graves,on roller skates of course.
Nov. 16th, 2009 06:38 pm (UTC)
People don't dance? Women don't talk? What Church is this?
There aren't many like that anymore. My guess: Plymouth
Brethern. Maybe the Gospel Hall in Arlington, Washington. Please, God, I hope there are not too many like it around!

On second thought, I must be wrong. There would be no dancing there today either.

Edited at 2009-11-16 06:40 pm (UTC)
Nov. 16th, 2009 11:32 pm (UTC)
Plymouth Brethren, YES!

And I take it from your use of the term "Gospel Hall" that you are familiar.

I was astonished to see it--I know that the "tight" meetings would want no parts of it, especially since most of them have yet to even get pianos! But there they were--unbelievably!

They're getting further and further away from a lot of the old ways at this particular meeting--lax on head coverings for ladies and such, too....;-)
Nov. 17th, 2009 12:38 am (UTC)
Plymouth Brethern
Fact is, my birth mother and her rapist were both members of the Plymouth Brethern (but I don't think either of them danced). I never had any first hand experience; but it was the dominant Church in the town where I lived from age 5 to 7. Later I researched a little bit because of an academic interest in religion and because I wanted to know something about my own background.
Nov. 16th, 2009 10:12 pm (UTC)
Here from Reader's List: this is lovely and brought a smile to my face (a sort of pained smile... I remember arguments like these from my childhood church). Do you mind people who lurk at the edges of your journal just because they like your writing? Would you mind if I became one?
Nov. 16th, 2009 11:33 pm (UTC)
By all means, feel free!
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )



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