Pole Fitness for Jesus?

This is perhaps the weirdest news story I have seen all year. Crystal Dean, a fitness instructor at a studio called Best Shape of Your Life, is offering a fitness class that as far as I know is unprecedented: Pole Fitness for Jesus. These types of fitness classes are a growing trend in fitness centers across the country but hosting such classes primarily for church goers is a surely a first. Dean offers these classes free of charge on Sundays to women who bring in their church bulletins. Dean says, “God gives us these bodies, and they are supposed to be our temples and we are supposed to take care of them . . . and that is what we are doing.”

ABC News, who ran the story, interviewed University of Texas professor Thomas Tweed who rates the pole dancing classes as “mildly surprising.” He says, “this is just another attempt to think through how to live a full Christian life  . . . some people of course would say it’s too vulgar, it’s too crass, it’s inappropriate.” But he says, “I can imagine some Christians saying if it actually brings a husband and wife together as Christians to deepen the marriage bond, that actually it’s okay.”

So what should we make of this story? Certainly we would all agree that the marriage bed is sacred and that there is a measure of sexual freedom within it between husband and wife.  We would all agree that fitness is a wonderful thing and taking care of our bodies honors the Lord who gave them to us. But is this an appropriate way for Christians to be taking care of their bodies in public?

To be fair to Dean and Best Shape of Your Life, the classes are only offered to women and the women in the classes are married. It appears that these classes are in no way training for anything these women might do in any public setting. However, what “the pole” represents in this instance is not helping their case as Christians seeking to get closer to God. My problem is that anyone you talk to knows what “the pole” represents. “The pole” represents strip clubs and strippers, two images that I don’t think are honoring to women or helpful with regard to our Christian witness.

Are these women in sin for going to a poll dancing fitness class? We should note that Scripture doesn’t condemn dancing. David danced before the Lord when the Ark of the Covenant was returned to Israel and encourages us to dance in worship of the Lord as well (Psalm 149:3). But does the mode of our dancing matter? I think it does, and I think in this instance what the pole represents is best left alone by Christians holding public fitness classes. The pole doesn’t represent the purity of intimacy found inside of marriage, it represents public nakedness and shame. The pole represents flaunting for all that which God made to be enjoyed intimately inside of marriage between spouses.

Further, it is a little troubling that the women interviewed in this story claim that this fitness class makes them “feel closer to God.” They seem, however, to be grounding that mostly in the Christian music they listen to.  To that I say, why not just listen to Christian music? There is freedom in the Christian life and there are things that are sin for some that are not for others (1 Cor. 8). I won’t speak as to whether this would make other brothers or sisters “stumble,” but I will say that this certainly appears to be an instance of failing to live “honorable” lives before unbelievers (1 Pet. 2:12).

So married couples–feel free to dance however you want in the privacy of your marriage, but publicly held, pole-dancing fitness classes can’t escape the public nakedness that they represent. As Christians we should be interested in redeeming the culture. But given what “the pole” represents, holding public fitness classes revolving around it seems like a bad idea.

About Drew Dixon

Drew is an editor at Christ and Pop Culture and editor-in-chief of Gamechurch.com. He is also a pastor, soccer coach, and writer. Drew also regularly writes for Think Christian, Bit Creature, and Paste Magazine. He has also written for Relevant Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @drewdixon82

  • http://alienman.blogspot.com/ Brad Williams

    If they don’t call it “Christian” pole dancing, or “Pole Dancing for Jesus”, it would surely help. We ought to be slow to add the adjective “Christian” to anything other than a person. It generally confuses things.

  • http://electexiles.wordpress.com/ Drew Dixon

    Yes I agree Brad. I also think its unfortunate when Christians title their businesses in such a way that it seems they only want to serve Christians. Examples that come to mind: “Christian Corner Meats” and “Carpets for Christ.” Such businesses seem to fail to recognize our calling as Christians to live productively in the world and make disciples of those outside our fold.

    I suppose in this instance they want to make clear that they are not encouraging women to strip in public. I guess I am just thinking that they cannot escape that connection.

  • Dan Davis

    Confused Christians with poor leaders in their life. As I recall, Satan is the counterfeit, not Christ. Should we take Christ and try to apply Him to every secular event in an attempt Christianize it? I know this is a stretch and I apologize for the vulgarity, but would it now be OK to make Christian porn? I mean, seriously, that is how absurd this idea of pole dancing for Christ is.

    Truth? This is yet another attempt by the enemy to get the word “Christ” to become as benign as “God” has become in this world.

  • Carol

    Completely agree with Dan Davis. Pole dancing = strippers. Slapping the words “for Christ” or “Christian” doesn’t take the connection away for 99% of the population.

    As a Christian woman, I find this nauseating and quite frankly, annoying. This makes a mockery of what we’re supposed to be trying to do in the world – be good and true witnesses to Christ and the Gospel. Christians should have a sense of humour – but not when it makes Christ look ridiculous.

  • Ben Pitseleh

    Agreed. We are supposed to be interested in redeeming the culture. We are to be a light on a stand or a city on a hill. We cannot stand out if we look just like them.
    I find it ironic that nobody who even supports or participates the class states that has had an absolutely changing nature to their relationship with God. They attribute it to the music. I also think that “acrobatic dancing” which could involve a pole, can be a very interesting (and healthy/fit) thing, but that doesn’t mean it is pole dancing. Throw in a trapeze, or a rope, or anything you see in Cirque du Soleil. If they were attempting that, I would understand a lot more. But the entire focusing on the pole is tying it to the “secular” classes that are such a trend, which in themselves is tied to the erotic dancing that spawned the genre. I don’t see any Christ in that.

  • http://goodokbad.com Seth T. Hahne

    I didn’t have sound when I spent ten seconds watching the video, so I don’t know if the class is actually called Pole Fitness for Jesus or not. If it is, then probably unsurprisingly, that is really the only problem I have with the class.

    What I’m fine with is Christian women exploring ways to both embrace their sexuality and discover methods to add interest and verve to their marital intimacies—and doing so in a Christian-safe atmosphere, emphasizing the sacred trust of the marital covenant. I’m a pretty firm believer in the idea that Christians would benefit from a well-founded sex education, not just in the reproductive mechanics but in the activity of intimacy as well. A class that promotes both physical fitness and an interested sexuality in Christian terms could be a great help to many women (and, via a kind of trickle-down economy, their husbands).

    Clearly, men find women who can employ allurement to be a pleasure (the economics of adult industries attests to this). Pole-dancing excites the imagination of many men. This is not a Christian/non-Christian dilemma but simply a natural exploration of the socio-sexual dynamic present in our culture—and can therefore be employed in both moral and immoral ways.

    No, I have no problem with there being a class that teaches pole-dancing to women in a Christian-safe environment, in a manner that emphasizes women as monogamous members of a covenant duo seeking to explore their sexuality in a manner that honours both God and their husbands. What I do think is lame is the naming.

    Pole Fitness for Jesus? Talk about trite usage of our saviour’s name. I’m reflecting Brad’s reasoning here. Employing Jesus and Christian flippantly is never a healthy choice. Better to call it something mundane like “Exotic Dancing in Christian Life.” If you’re actually terrified of admitting the activity’s sexual purpose and feel the need to call it “pole fitness,” I suspect the class is not going to address things in a way that promotes a healthy Christian sexuality.

  • Kiel

    What Seth said. Like, exactly what Seth said.

  • http://electexiles.wordpress.com/ Drew Dixon

    @Seth and Kiel (since you are saying exactly what Seth said)

    Yes that is the name–I watched the video.

    I don’t know that I am really speaking out against what you are promoting here. I am decisively for Christian men and women growing in sexual intimacy inside of marriage. My question in the article was does what “the pole” represents keep this from being wise?

    In my mind, “the pole” does not represent sexual intimacy but public sexual exposure. I am decisively supportive of men and women growing in their sexual intimacy and joy in one another inside the covenant of marriage.

    I certainly agree that the biggest problem with this is the name. That I suppose is what I was trying (perhaps poorly) to say. Its not helpful to have this kind of class and say its for Jesus and market it to Christian women whom we would not want to represent with “the pole.”

    So the real question is in my mind, does the public nature of this course and what “the pole” represents make it a bad idea? I am sincerely interested in your thoughts here.

  • http://goodokbad.com Seth T. Hahne

    I don’t believe the use of a pole necessarily needs to speak Public Exhibition any more than sexy lingerie necessarily means loose morals. If one uses the skills gained from responsible practice in pole dancing strictly within the milieu of one’s marriage, it becomes wholly divorced from the exhibitionist connotations. It’s not as if one should consider the classroom as a public exhibition any more than we should consider a male med student’s work with the nude human body to be the same as messing around with another man’s wife. Things inappropriate in one setting are appropriate in another and vice versa,

    I don’t think we should go too far defining What The Pole Represents, since signs signify a number of things to a number of people. You posit that the pole represents represents strip clubs and strippers—and I think in certain contexts that you would be correct. I think, however, that in other contexts (esp. within the contexts of our own homes), the pole could merely represent a morally good form of stripping, but more so a healthy form of alluring erotica, presented in a manner consistent with our life in godliness.

  • http://goodokbad.com Seth T. Hahne

    Also: high five, Kiel.

  • Alan Noble

    From that video, it’s not altogether clear that this “exercise” is done with the intention of cultivating a vibrant sexual life within a marriage. The fact that it is Pole “Fitness” suggests an attempt to take a sinful use of female bodies and strip (pun intended?) the use of its sexuality, thereby “redeeming” it. Instead of pole dancing, we have pole fitness for Jesus. But perhaps if it was actual pole dancing, and for marriage rather than for Jesus, it would be honorable.

  • http://goodokbad.com Seth T. Hahne

    Well, they do it in stilettos, so it’s probably not entirely about fitness…

  • Alan Noble

    I dont know what these stealettoes are, but if you’ve ever tried to walk in high-heels you’ll know what a workout it is.

  • Kristi

    I agree with Seth, and to address Dan’s comment about “Christian porn”, I would just say it’s about the spirit behind the thing. There can’t be Christian porn or Christian public strippers because porn and stripping are the result of sinful hearts at work. I imagine there are married Christian couples out there, sorry to be crass, making videos of themselves as part of a healthy sex life. In fact, I just heard Driscoll address this in the Peasant Princess series on Song of Solomon.

    It may not be wise for every married couple, though. If, for example, the husband had a past full of frequenting strip clubs and was unable to divorce himself from sinful associations, it would be best to stay away, I’d imagine. Great article and comments.

  • http://Www.christandpopculture.com Drew

    Those are fair comments Seth, we are not too far apart on this. I didn’t mean to ignore your response for so long, it’s just been one of those weeks!

    The name is probably what motivated be to write this more than anything else. The only worse name I have heard was a group called “Hookers for Jesus” which to me is both a trite use of the savior’s name and terribly misleading given that it was a ministry given to helping women get out of prostitution and sharing the gospel with them.

  • http://www.TheCrossAndTheController.com Joshua Wise

    I’m jumping in here a bit late, so sorry for that.

    It seems that there are two themes here that are in tension, two themes that are in fact in tension in the New Testament (so it shouldn’t be surprising that we’re still finding them difficult to pin down).

    The first is the redeeming of humanity in such a way that they act AS redeemed humanity. This theme focuses on leaving behind the old things, and living anew in Christ.

    The second theme is the redemptive work of redeemed humanity, now free from all of the old laws and fears. This theme treats Christians as ambassadors of the new life, able to make things new in Christ. Thus Paul takes up the old “unnamed God.” This is a particularly incarnational them.

    Both views find their “proof texts” in the New Testament, so the end result is that God has provided a tension in Christian freedom between purity and what might be best summed up in the Augustinian “love and do what you will.”

    This class is a perfect example of this tension. As Christians, these women are free images of the Living God, brought into relationship with the Father in the Son. What they do exists in this tension between “the old” and “the new.” The old is focused on what the “pole represents” to most people. The New says “Yes, very well, it meant that before, and it still means it to many, but we in the Body now say that it means this new thing.” We have done this with Christmas, Easter, tavern music (thank you, Mr. Charles Wesley), the organ (a scandal in its day), and many many other things in the world that were once either pagan or bawdy.

    Perhaps the pole, to those still starving for God, is a symbol of sex and money and objectification. But if it is made new in the Lord, the pole may in fact be topped with a cross beam, and come to mean something newer and older than the strip club.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X