Driscoll and the Dangers of Dancing image

Driscoll and the Dangers of Dancing

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Mark Driscoll has done it again. No stranger to controversy, the Pugnacious Pastor has stirred up debate with his article A Christian Evaluation of Mixed Martial Arts in which he argues that MMA (otherwise known as Cage Fighting or Ultimate Fighting) is appropriate viewing for Christians and is, in fact, a redeemable cultural good.

Some might take issue with the main thrust of his article, like our beloved brother Liam Thatcher, whose objections I suspect are less theologically driven, and more due to him having a weak conscience, a weak stomach and even weaker biceps! But leaving aside the issue of whether it is morally acceptable for Christians to batter each other senseless, the issue that stood out to me most was this: Driscoll is anti-cheerleading.

A sizeable chunk of the article is devoted to unpacking the inherent dangers of dancing with pom-poms. Driscoll writes:

Comparatively, cheerleading is the most dangerous sport for females. High school cheerleading accounts for 65.1 percent of all catastrophic (which counts fatal, disabling, and other serious injuries) sports injuries among high school females over the past twenty-five years, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research. In short, cheerleading (competitive cheer) is more dangerous than one might think, and MMA is surprisingly safe […] Other research indicates that not only is cheerleading potentially dangerous but the trend of its injuries is also rising sharply.

This raises a number of questions in my mind:

I’m sure it may appear cynical and sexist to make much of the gender divide, but is it not the case that it’s largely well-built, burly, fully-grown men who engage in professional MMA and young, petite school-girls who opt for high school cheerleading. Is it really fair to compare the two? I don’t for one moment wish to suggest that school-girls are more prone to clumsiness than trained athletic men! But imagine if the Ultimate Fighters were to switch and take up cheerleading, the stats may just improve (though the aesthetics would decline!).

Secondly, what is it that is causing the trend of cheerleading injuries to rise? Is the quality of training decreasing (and if so, is there any way we can blame this on Government spending cuts?)? Or are the manufacturers of pom-poms and tutus at fault for producing low-quality goods that put dancers’ lives at risk? Dancewear shops should be held to account for their shoddy production techniques and be made to answer for every sprained ankle they have inadvertently caused. 

And thirdly, a more pastoral, close-to-home issue. Whilst at Ring of Bright Water church we don’t encourage cheerleading per se, we do have a dance group at certain special guest services, our children’s work uses action songs and some of our congregants have been known to move in an extemporaneous manner during worship times. Are these acts of worship also more dangerous than MMA? And if so, do I have a pastoral responsibility to shut down such practices? 

A case in point: At 76 years of age, Ethel is one of the oldest members of Ring of Bright Water. A passionate worshipper, she has been unwilling to let her arthritis or hip replacements hinder her ability to express her devotion to God. This resulted in a rather unfortunate accident three weeks ago when, lost in praise and adoration, Ethel plummeted unexpectedly towards the floor. This was no manifestation of the Spirit; a combination of worshipful swaying and raised hands caused the poor lady’s vertigo to kick in, and she quickly found herself lying on the floor, covered in hymnals. One moment she was harmlessly dancing, and the next she was suffering a ruffled perm, a grazed knee and chipped dentures.

Tell me; by Pastor Driscoll’s reasoning, how should I counsel Ethel through her pain? Should I dissuade the dear old lady from expressing herself through dance on a Sunday? Should I suggest that she learns to glorify God through Ultimate Fighting instead? After all, it’s safer. And for that matter, should I consider developing a Cage Fighting troupe at Ring of Bright Water to perform acts of worship in our corporate gatherings?

These questions require deep reflection.

(See Matthew Hosier; you’re not the only one who can raise profound questions of pastoral theology!)

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