Free your mind

In a few weeks, Meg McSherry Breslin reports in The Chicago Tribune, a college in the suburbs near Chicago will hold a school dance.

The reason this is newsworthy is that the school in question is Wheaton College, which has forbidden "social dancing" for all of its 143 years. But now the school has announced some changes in its "community covenant," and it is time, finally, to boogie:

After years of student pressure to lift the dancing ban, the college administration introduced new guidelines for campus living in February, shocking students with news that an official on-campus dance would be held for the first time in school history this year.

With the big event just weeks away–the date will be announced during the college's family gathering this weekend–Wheaton students are testing out their moves at area dance halls.

This is big news. Within the confining confines of the evangelical subculture, dancing is still a matter of great controversy. I graduated from Eastern College, an evangelical school long eyed with suspicion for allowing dancing. (As a DJ there I got to know several students from Messiah College who would sneak off campus and drive two hours to come to our dances. And I was a lousy DJ.)

Wheaton — the alma mater of Billy Graham and Wes Craven — is a flagship institution in the little world of evangelicaldom. What happens at Wheaton will have a ripple effect, spurring change at places like Messiah and dozens of other such colleges across the country.

"It makes us seem less like a subculture in our own little world," sophomore Julia Stampfl said of the new policy.

Exactly. Which is a Good Thing. And dancing is, itself, a Good Thing, so I encourage Julia and the rest of the folks there at Wheaton to get out on the dance floor and shake that student body.

A wise philosopher (George Clinton) once said, "Free your mind and your ass will follow." Here's hoping that works the other way around as well.

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  • Shag from Brookline

    There’s an old joke about sexual performance methods by a young married couple, inquiring of their spiritual advisor in a sect that opposes dancing. The last position the couple inquired of was standing up. This was rejected by the spiritual advisor: “Ah, but that would be dancing.”

  • Adam Kotsko

    At Olivet Nazarene University, which will never, ever allow dancing, a popular catch-phrase was, “I don’t believe in sex, because it can lead to dancing.”

  • Brendan Lynch

    Uh, Fred, about that George Clinton quote….
    I’ve always been impressed with the breadth of your knowledge, from Biblical exegesis to baseball to a remark you once made about Ryan Admans getting ticked off by ironic requests for ‘Summer of ’69’. I think you missed on this one, though:
    I’m pretty sure – darn near certain – that what P-Funk’s leader actually suggested was the opposite: “free your ass and your mind will follow.” I.e., get up and shake it as the Mothership arrives, and all that cosmic sh** about your mind will just come naturally.

  • mondo dentro

    A wise philosopher (George Clinton) once said, “Free your mind and your ass will follow.” Here’s hoping that works the other way around as well.
    I think it might have been the other way around…but in any case, the connection between bodily expression and enjoyment, on the one hand, and freedom of thought, on the other, is true–that’s why it was being suppressed in the first place!

  • Fred

    I got the P-funk backwards? This probably helps to explain why I dance like that …

  • gazould

    I was a student at Fresno Pacific Universiy in California the year they lifted the dancing ban. Until then, we would have formal dinners as a school event, then everyone had to step outside the venue, then step back inside for a completely independent dance that was not related in any way to the school-sponsored dinner. I think that kind of dishonesty is what finally convinced the school to change the policy. But the school did lose donors–seriously, people stopped giving money to Christian education because students were allowed to dance on campus.

  • Ron

    Bummer, shaq from brookline beat me to one of my favorite jokes (although I must say he didn’t deliver it as well as I would have).

  • Luke Francl

    Billy Graham and Wes Craven went to the same school? Weird.

  • derek g

    Heard the same joke in the form of a riddle:
    Why won’t southern baptists have sex standing up?
    It might lead to dancing.

  • Joe Taylor

    I think Messiah now allows dancing. They’ve also had some secular rock bands in for concerts–Wilco, Aimee Mann, Counting Crows.
    Pop quiz: Name a decent Christian rock band.

  • Falstaff

    Pop quiz: Name a decent Christian rock band.
    Hmm… does U2 count? How about Live or Social Distortion?