We are again in the midst of the spring season, and all kinds of teenagers around the country are getting ready for their school prom. School dances, particularly homecoming and prom, have become American rites of passage for teenagers, and represent a particularly difficult choice for teenagers who strive to obey Christ. Should the teenage Christian have anything to do with such school dances? Let us search the Scriptures and make righteous judgment.
The Scriptures do not speak much of dancing; Jesus uses the idea a couple of times in metaphors in His preaching, but the Scriptures never come out and authorize or condemn dancing. We know, however, that the Scriptures are complete and equip us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We also know that if we are going to be good and mature Christians, we must train our powers of discernment through constant practice to distinguish good from evil (Hebrews 5:14). Therefore, while the Scriptures may not speak explicitly about dancing, we can surely establish what we ought to do based upon its principles.
Perhaps the best place to seek such advice is within the listing of the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:19-23:
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, parties, envyings, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of which I forewarn you, even as I did forewarn you, that they who practise such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control; against such there is no law.
The third “work of the flesh” listed is “lasciviousness.” Lasciviousness is not a word we use often in modern English; Webster defines the term as:
1. Looseness; irregular indulgence of animal desires; wantonness; lustfulness.
2. Tendency to excite lust, and promote irregular indulgences.
Lascivious behavior, then, is full of lust and tends to excite lust.
We must consider “lasciviousness” in particular because of the purpose of dancing and especially in its modern forms. It is a biological given that teenagers start to become interested in teenagers of the opposite gender in sexual ways, and societies tend to provide teenagers opportunities to interact with other teenagers to see how they all “measure up”. In America, this tends to be done by school dances; in Africa, there will often be tribal get-togethers with ritual dancing. According to biologists, dancing is important to this process because it allows a prospective partner to judge the physical strength, fitness, and physique so as to decide whether they want to help pass on such a one’s genes. Dancing, then, has always involved the movement of the body so as to render one attractive to the opposite gender. Dancing is therefore a biological impulse to lead to the fulfillment of other biological impulses; in short, dancing exists to promote lust and desire.
While previous generations had dances that were perhaps more “modest” according to modern standards, all stops have been pulled out in school dances today. At school dances across the country, what is being left to the imagination? When such dancing is referred to as “bump ‘n grind,” what do we think is going on? In large part, modern dancing involves sex-like acts done by (at least somewhat) clothed people while music is playing. If the music was not playing, and the dancers were still dancing in the same way, what would you be thinking that such persons were doing?
The conclusion is hard to avoid: teenage dancing, especially modern teenage dancing, is designed to incite lust. Such dancing can be rightly judged as lascivious behavior, and therefore a work of the flesh akin to Galatians 5:19-21. Consider Paul’s warning in verse 21: those who do such things will not inherit the Kingdom!
It is recognized that many teenagers have a hard time understanding this conclusion. Many do not see how dancing is lascivious behavior. They think of such dancing in innocent terms. While it is praiseworthy that so many teenagers are innocent in their understanding, for it means that their eyes have not yet been opened, such does not justify the behavior! Eve, before she ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, did not know that she was naked– she was innocent in terms of lust and shame (Genesis 2:25). Once she ate of that fruit, however, she knew that she was naked and was no longer innocent of lust and shame and felt compelled to cover herself (Genesis 3:7-10). Teenagers, especially those who are sexually pure as they ought to be, are in many ways innocent like Eve. But once the eyes are opened to sex and sexuality, suddenly dancing and what it represents become very clear, just as the nakedness of Eve became clear to her. While many teenagers have difficulties understanding how school dances are lascivious, most twentysomethings who are married begin to clearly understand how school dances were and are lascivious! We hope and pray that the innocence of teenagers will not compel them to be deceived and do what they ought not!
Many teenagers resent having rules made for them and want to be able to make their own decisions; this is an understandable desire considering that stage of life. Unfortunately, despite their profession of having all knowledge, teenagers often do not fully understand the risks involved in many forms of behavior and are thus hindered from making righteous decisions. Please consider this and be honest: why do you want to go to a school dance, if you desire to? Is your desire based upon a holy impulse, on a study of God’s Word, or based on your own desire? From where does this desire come?
It is very easy to determine whether something is good to do: compare it to the fruit of the Spirit: “Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Does the school dance and its activities correlate with any of these? On the other hand, we have made a strong case that school dances promote lust, the definition of “lasciviousness,” which is condemned as a work of the flesh. Remember that Galatians 5:21 establishes that “things like these” are also works of the flesh. Consider Galatians 5:24:
And they that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof.
Is this true of you, Christian teenager? Have you crucified the flesh with its lusts? There is no comfort in trying to say that since the Bible does not explicitly condemn dancing that you should go: the Bible is not about telling you every little thing that you cannot do, but provides the way you ought to go and gives you the tools to make the right decision (Hebrews 5:14, 2 Timothy 2:15, 2 Timothy 3:16-17). All the tools at your disposal lead to one conclusion, and one conclusion only.
If your parents have established that you cannot go, then to go is sin (Ephesians 6:1-4). If your parents have given you the opportunity to make your own decision, consider what has been said, and realize that you will stand in judgment for your decision (Romans 14:11-12). You can associate with your classmates at other opportunities. You can engage in alternatives to dances that do not promote lascivious behavior. The only reason that you “have” to go to the prom, or to homecoming, is that you are willing to be led by your fleshly desires and submit to them, when instead you ought to crucify them in Christ.
It is not an easy decision, and it is hard to see all of your friends participate while you do not. Remember, however, that your eternal reward in Heaven will far surpass the difficulty you experience (2 Corinthians 4:17). Judge righteously!
Ethan R. Longhenry