1971-1972 Good Baptist Boys Don’t Dance

1971-1972 Good Baptist Boys Don’t Dance June 1, 2014

by Bruce Gerenscer cross posted from his blog The Way Forward

Ninth grade school picture, wearing the welfare glasses I got in 1971. It took me all of 4 weeks to earn enough money to get a pair wire rimmed glasses. I was so embarrassed to wear these glasses. Everyone knew our family was on welfare.

It’s September of 1971 and I am fourteen and a ninth grade student at Central Junior High School in Findlay, Ohio. It’s time for gym class and today we are going to square dance. Except I won’t be square dancing because the church I attended, Trinity Baptist Church, considered dancing a sin.

This is but one example of the “sins” I abstained from as good, dutiful Baptist teenager.

In the Fall of 1972, my tenth grade year at Findlay High School, Al Lacy held a revival at Trinity Baptist Church. One night I came under great conviction and I went down to the altar, confessed my sins, and asked Jesus to save me. (generally, children raised in the Baptist church make multiple salvation decisions) A week later I was baptized and not too long after that I publicly confessed before the church that I believed God was calling me into the ministry. I was fifteen.

My life changed dramatically after I got saved. I started carrying my Bible to school and I witnessed to my non-Christian friends. My non-Christian friends thought I had lost my mind and some of my Christian friends did too.

I have always been an all-in kind of person. I don’t do half-way, so when it came to being a Christian I was 100% committed to Jesus. I took seriously what I heard the pastors preach. In my young mind, I saw the pastors as speaking for God. After all, everything they preached about came straight out of the Bible, right?

Trinity was an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church, affiliated with the Baptist Bible Fellowship. The pastors preached against rock music, premarital sex, mixed swimming, going to movies, short skirts and pants on women,long hair on men, and dancing. Remember, it was the early 1970’s and mini-skirts and maxi-dresses were popular and men wore their hair long.

Like a good Baptist boy, I tried to follow the rules to the letter. The pastors at Trinity were against any kind of dancing. In a previous post I wrote about how the no-dancing rule affected me:

I vividly remember ninth grade year at Central Jr High. The Phys Ed teacher decided to teach square dancing. I was all for learning to square dance. This would be my only opportunity to touch the cheerleaders. Unfortunately, Pastor Milioni put an end to my carnal desires. He came to school and made a fuss about the square dancing class. Next thing I knew, I am being forced to sit with the fags (talking as we did in the 1970’s, I do not use such language today) who refused to take Phys Ed. This was a punishment worse than death. (Pastor Milioni also came to my school to complain about the choir singing Jesus Christ Superstar. I had to quit choir)

The school held regular dances, social events that everyone attended, well everyone but this good Baptist boy. I went through a period of time where I was really upset about all the rules and restrictions, so I would stay overnight with a non-Christian friend and I would go to the dances with him. I did this numerous times. I don’t know if my parents ever caught on. If they did, they never said a word.

I came through the 1970’s with my Baptisthood intact. I never smoked cigarettes, drank alcohol, or smoked dope. I didn’t listen to rock music, kept my hair cut short, and I successfully made it through high school with my virginity intact. Not the I didn’t want to have sex…I did…but I was afraid of what might happen if I did, and I didn’t think any of the church girls I dated were “willing.” (I found out a few years ago, after talking to some of the girls I went to church with, that they were more “willing” than this naïve Baptist boy thought they were)

1971-72, was a year I will never forget. How about you? Is there a year in your life that stands out from the mundane and ordinary course of life? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Notes

My parents were divorced in 1971 and both remarried later that year.

I came down with mumps and chicken pox in 1971-72. I also had swelling in my hips and elbows that the doctor called “growing pains.” I have often wondered if my health problems began at this time.

Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network member, Bruce Gerencser blogs at The Way Forward.

Bruce Gerencser spent 25 years pastoring Independent Fundamental Baptist, Southern Baptist, and Christian Union churches in Ohio, Michigan, and Texas. Bruce attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. He is a writer and operates The Way Forward blog. Bruce lives in NW Ohio with his wife of 35 years. They have 6 children, and nine grandchildren.

Comments open below

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  • SAO

    1987
    I turned 25 in a little hut in Haiti, one year after Duvalier got kicked out. I was in the Peace Corps and slowly learning that I wasn’t going to change the world. I wasn’t actually doing that much to help the people I worked with. A new constitution was passed, house elections were scheduled for July, Senate for September, and Presidential for November. In the mean time, everyone seemed to be waiting. International organizations, like the Peace Corp and CARE (I was on a CARE project), USAID (which funded the CARE project), etc.

    When Duvalier got kicked out the year before, it seemed like Haiti would finally be on the road to progress. In 1987, it stopped looking so promising. Volunteers were kicked out of their villages. The Peace Corps came to evacuate me, but I didn’t want to go. I had come to Haiti to make a difference and I wanted to make a difference, other than sharing my dinners with malnourished neighbor tots. So, I talked the driver out of taking me.

    Then, my 2 years was up and I wanted to extent (to get the world saved!) but I couldn’t see the holding pattern changing and I wasn’t 100% sure that the elections in November would actually happen (the army shot up the polls and took over).

    So, I left, feeling ineffective and came back to America with no job prospects, loads of guilt about what a privileged life I lead, when the average kid in Haiti had a stomach swollen with malnutrition. I read the newspapers, which were written by people who didn’t know much about Haiti. One account in the New York Times about Voodou managed to mistake the word for a Voodou priestess with the word for peanut butter.

    After that, it was a struggle to reconcile my natural tendency to see the world as a good place that is getting better and that people like me, who cared could make it better and the stark reality of Haitian reality.

  • Saraquill

    Why was/is dancing considered sinful? I heard about that idea, but not the reasons behind it. The “no long hair on males” is also odd, considering J*sus is often depicted as having it touch his shoulders.

  • lodrelhai

    The explanation we got when I was young was that modern dancing was all about sex (like almost everything else the church tries to forbid or suppress). The touching, the suggestive movements, the rhythmic drive of the music… all of it was basically foreplay.

    Yes, the bible says this person or that one danced with joy before the Lord, but they weren’t dancing *with* anyone, and they were so filled with the Holy Spirit their bodies couldn’t contain it all and had to express it somehow. So that wasn’t really dancing in the modern sense; more like cheering and jumping at a sporting event when your favorite team scores.

  • B.E. Miller

    Yeah, like David danced nekkid.

  • Edie Moore McGee

    And this is what confused me when a rump session of the South Carolina Baptist Convention voted to rid Baptist institutions of dancing back in 1975. I was a student at Furman University, then a Baptist school back then. They not only wanted to eliminate social dancing, but also the fine arts-type dance classes, musical theatre, etc. I didn’t understand how ballet had anything to do with sex.

  • SAO

    Bruce — you were just ahead of the times. Now, in my kids’ school, all the really rich, trendy kids who have glasses, have thick, dark plastic frames. I’m sure they have labels like Ralph Lauren or Chanel and cost around $500. Makes me laugh to think you called that style “welfare glasses.”

    When the trend comes to your area, your grandchildren will ooh and aah over your stylish teen pix, although I have to admit that my husband’s original 70s aviator Ray-Bans now get the occasional ooh and aah from people who are trendier than he.

  • gimpi1

    People once thought this about waltzing, too.

  • gimpi1

    Ballerinas. Tutus. Legs. For some branches of conservative Christianity, that would be enough.

  • Thanks. Ohio still has welfare glasses. They are plastic and metal now, still cheap. I wouldn’t mind plastic frames if they went more with my skin tone. Black frames and red hair don’t go well together.

    My optometrist, a decade or so back, encouraged me to get out of 70’s. 🙂 My frames are much smaller now.

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    You were cute as a bug in that photo, welfare glasses or not. The military gives out glasses just like that. We used to call them BCGs – Birth Control Glasses