Read 2 Samuel 6:16-22
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“And David danced before the Lord with all his might, wearing a priestly garment. So David and all the people of Israel brought up the Ark of the Lord with shouts of joy and the blowing of rams’ horns.”
I have always loved dancing and the physical bodily expression of music…art. That is perhaps why the hymn, Lord of the Dance, has always been one of my more favorite hymns. Here’s are some of my favorite parts of the hymn:
“I danced on the Sabbath and I cured the lame; the holy people said it was a shame. They whipped and they stripped and they hung me on high, and they left me there on a Cross to die…
“I danced on a Friday when the sky turned black; it’s hard to dance with the devil on your back. they buried my body and they thought I’d gone, but I am the Dance, and I still go on…
“They cut me down and I leapt up high; I am the life that’ll never, never die; I’ll live in you if you’ll live in me – I am the Lord of the Dance, said he…
“Dance, then, wherever you may be, I am the Lord of the Dance, said he, and I’ll lead you all, wherever you may be, and I’ll lead you all in the Dance, said he.”
Recently, I rewatched the 2022 film, ELVIS, as I love a good rock biopic and ELVIS is an extraordinary rock biopic. Seriously, if you have not watched it, you should do so now, even though I am not going to give any big spoilers in this at all. You know me, I run a tight no-spoiler ship. I promise you though, the film will shed light on things you probably did not know about Elvis, and one of those will be discussed in this devotion. Reader be warned.
We all know “Elvis the Pelvis”, which the King of Rock himself thought was a rather juvenile jab at his style of dancing and gyrating across the stage. Most people know that he was known for such dancing, and that parents weren’t all that happy to see their teenage sons and especially daughters embracing his behavior. Most of us “remember” whether we were alive to see it at the time or not, Elvis not being shown from the hips down so that television stations didn’t get fined by the FCC for lewd and inappropriate content.
Here, on the other hand, is what you might not have known. From 1953 to 1958, Elvis was doing something very radical and forward for his time. He was taking black Rhythm and Blues songs, making them up-tempo, and recording them. Elvis had a kind of voice that made people initially think he was a black singer; however, news quickly came out that this was a white boy singing black songs. The black community at the time, for the most part, embraced him; however, the white community did not in the slightest.
When Elvis broke out on the National stage in 1956, he was immediately hit with controversy. Parents were outraged that their children were watching him move his hips the way that he was. Yes, they were upset with sexual implications of the movements; however, that is not at the heart of why they were upset. The idea of their children being influenced, or perverted as they would have called it, by black culture what not acceptable or appropriate to most white people at the time.
What’s more, to further prove the point, Elvis was creating modern “rock and roll” out of black rhythm and blues while Civil Rights Activists were pushing for the Segregation laws to be lifted across the country and for blacks to be integrated with whites. In just 8 years, segregation would be no more…and integration was implemented. The bizarre and sinful white societal fear of white children getting corrupted by black culture was very real and, let’s be honest, it still is today (e.g. look at white culture’s’ reaction to Hip-Hop, Gangsta Rap, and other current forms of black music.
But Elvis kept on dancing despite of it. At one point he was convinced to not dance; however, that was short lived. The boy just couldn’t help himself. He didn’t just sing music, he felt it, embodied it, and performed it with his very being. Why? Well, first off, Elvis had tremendous stage fright and dancing took his mind off of his anxiety. It was an outlet for it – a release. Also, he grew up in the black community because his parents were too poor to live in the white community.
So, he was a victim of classism growing up and that led to him being segregated along with the blacks. His friends were mostly black as there were only 4 white kids on that side of town. What’s more, he grew up in the black, Pentecostal church. Meaning, he learned how to dance and gyrate from church; except, in church we of faith know this as being “moved by the Spirit.” It was an expression of his deep religious faith, which Elvis had his whole life, despite his personal struggles.
So, while “good Christian” white folks were complaining about Elvis’ moves, he was just doing what the Good Lord gifted him, through the Holy Spirit, to do. Now, I am not saying that it wasn’t sexual or anything like that. For the time, it would have been a shocker to any parent with or without the racial reasons; however, the racial reasons cannot be dismissed or denied.
What’s more, it also cannot be denied that God loves dancing. Look at how King David brought glory to God after conquering Jerusalem…Wait a minute, wasn’t it through dancing through its streets angering his wife because she thought that sort of wild behavior was beneath a king? Yet, David danced onward, and did not heed the criticism of his wife or others who thought he was embarrassing or inappropriate, just as Elvis kept dancing despite the controversy.
Friends, as the hymn suggests, Jesus is the very Lord of the Dance. He is the one who turns the water into wine at a dance-filled wedding reception. He is the one who laughs and plays with the children, who causes the crippled to leap on two legs, and the blind to see where the dance floor is. Our whole lives are a dance and we should not be afraid move around as the Spirit leads! Jesus is the Lord of the Dance and we should celebrate and honor God through our dance and through our very being. I believe, despite the controversies and personal struggles, Elvis did that and I believe we all should be doing that as well!
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“I ain’t no saint, but I’ve tried never to do anything that would hurt my family or offend God…I figure all any kid needs is hope and the feeling he or she belongs. If I could do or say anything that would give some kid that feeling, I would believe I had contributed something to the world.” – Elvis Presley, 1950s
Lord, help me to learn to dance for you in all that I do, and to not be afraid to show my joy and delight in you! Amen.