The Music and Dancing You Choose
1-3. (a) In what way is it true that the Creator has built music into our natural surroundings? (b) Give examples to show that the Bible speaks with approval of dancing.
MAN’S Creator built music into human surroundings. Not just the clear, flowing tones that spring from the throats of birds, but the gurgle of brooks, the whisper of the wind in the trees, the chirp of crickets, the croak of frogs and the calls of many others of earth’s creatures—all of these have a musical sound to them. Not surprisingly, then, the development of musical instruments dates all the way back to the dawn of human history.
2 Dancing, too, has an ancient history. In Israel, Moses’ sister Miriam led the women “with tambourines and in dances.” Also, after God helped King David defeat depraved enemies “the women began coming out from all the cities of Israel with song and dances.” It is evident, too, that Jesus Christ approved of dancing, since he mentioned it as a part of a proper celebration in his illustration about the prodigal son. Jesus spoke of “a music concert and dancing” being arranged when the prodigal returned. The Bible shows that some dancing was by individuals or by groups of men, or of women.—Exodus 15:20; 1 Samuel 18:6; Luke 15:25.
3 Does that mean that all music and dancing are necessarily good? Or do you need to be selective in the music you listen to and the dances in which you might engage? What can help us to determine? How much does it really matter?
CHOICE IN DANCING
4-6. (a) What could make some dances objectionable for Christians? (Colossians 3:5, 6) (b) Why have certain modern dances been compared to ancient fertility dances?
4 There is a wide variety of dances—from graceful waltzes to lively polkas. There are Latin-American congas, rumbas and sambas, also merengues, beguines and bossa novas, many of these having an African background. There is also rock ’n’ roll, as well as more recent dances. Is there good reason why you might have objection to certain of these dances?
5 There is if the dance arouses you sexually and brings a temptation to commit sexual immorality. It could cause you many problems.
6 Ancient fertility dances, for example, were designed to incite sexual passions, and certain modern dances have been reminiscent of these. Some years ago Time magazine observed:
“The Twist at first was an innocent enough dance . . . But the youngsters at [a certain New York nightclub] have revived The Twist and parodied it into a replica of some ancient tribal puberty rite.”
7-10. (a) If a person shared in such dancing, on what basis might others be attracted to the individual? Would you want to attract persons of the opposite sex on that basis? (b) Even in ballroom dancing, why is caution needed?
7 Many dances in recent years have been variants of the Twist. The dancers do not touch, but the hips and shoulders may gyrate in sexually suggestive ways. A young person’s passions may easily be aroused by watching a body perform these gyrations. A girl, for example, may not think anything about it, simply being caught up in the movements of the dance. But she shouldn’t ignore the effect on onlookers, and on what they might think of her, as this letter to the editor of the New York Times Magazine observes: “Let’s hope that the young (and not so young) bodies of our Twisters are lying, that their minds do not behave inside the way their pelvises and pectorals do outside.”
8 Even though you have no wrong motive, if you participate in such dances you would be wise to consider the kind of attraction you may be to other young persons. For example, are they attracted to you on the basis of the sexual arousal they get from you, a type of arousal they can get from persons who dress in tight clothing, and gyrate their hips and make various erotic gestures? Do you want to attract someone simply on that basis? Or do you want the kind of person who likes you for what you are? for the things that you feel are important in life? for your conversation? Are you interested in someone who takes pleasure in doing things for you, or only in what he can get from you?
9 Even ballroom dancing, which emphasizes foot patterns accompanied by graceful movements of the body and in which partners hold one another, may sometimes be sexually stimulating due to close physical contact. So, if you participate in such dances, considerately recognize the possibility that your partner could be stimulated improperly even though you may feel that it is not close enough for you to develop sensual pleasure from the dancing.
10 It’s a fact that most dances cannot be classified as either proper or improper. Many of them can be done either in a decent, proper way, or in a way that violates the counsel of God’s Word to behave in a clean, wholesome manner.
CHOICE OF MUSIC
11, 12. How does music exercise power? Cite examples.
11 Just as with dancing, care and thought are also necessary in your choice of the music you listen to. Why? Because music has power. And, like any other power, it can serve for good or for harm.
12 Where does music’s power come from? From its ability to cause a certain feeling, mood or spirit in people. Music can relax and soothe, or refresh and enliven. You can almost “feel” the difference between a vigorous march and a soft serenade. Music can stir every human emotion—love, tenderness, reverence, sadness, anger, hatred and passion. Throughout history men have recognized music’s power and have used it to move people in certain ways. For instance, part of the triumph of the French Revolution is frequently credited to what one writer calls “the bloodcurdling call to arms” of the song La Marseillaise. And schools often have their “fight songs” used before athletic contests.
13-16. (a) How is the counsel at Proverbs 4:23 related to one’s choice of music? (b) How can music be a “catalyst,” and sometimes with lastingly harmful results?
13 In the Bible the heart is closely associated with emotions and motivation, so God’s Word counsels: “More than all else that is to be guarded, safeguard your heart, for out of it are the sources of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) Since music’s emotional power is a fact, our guarding our hearts requires being selective about the music we choose.
14 True, music’s moving effect is only temporary. But it is often long enough to give a decided push in a certain direction, or to lower resistance to a certain attraction or temptation. If you studied chemistry in school you learned about “catalysts.” You learned that the combining of two or more chemicals can often be achieved only by using some other ingredient that, in effect, brings the chemicals together. That ingredient is a “catalyst.” Now, we all have certain weaknesses and wrong inclinations, and so we feel tempted at times to do certain things that are wrong. Suppose circumstances come up that encourage you to do a wrong act. Music can be the “catalyst” that will cause desire and circumstances to combine—resulting in something you may afterward seriously regret. On the basis of her studies, one researcher for a government commission studying pornography said:
15 “Music, by playing on girls’ emotions to arouse love and affection, frequently serves as a catalyst for love and thereby a stimulus for sexual arousal in the adolescent female. . . . The music surfaces this feeling.”
16 Yes, the impulse that music supplies, though temporary, may be all that is needed to trigger you into a course or way of life that is itself long lasting or that produces results that are. So, is it not worth your while to use discernment where music is involved?
THE PROBLEM OF DECIDING
17, 18. By listening to a piece of music, how can you determine whether it is something that is good for you or something that is bad?
17 Actually, no one can provide you with a list that immediately identifies what music is good and what is bad. The reason is that among practically all kinds of music there is none that can be stamped as “all good” or “all bad.” You have to use your mind and heart for discerning the individual value of certain music, and be guided by principles such as those already considered. And your choice tells others something as to the kind of person you are.
18 “Does not the ear itself test out words as the palate tastes food?” asked Job long ago. (Job 12:11) So, too, your ear can test out music. Even without the words, you can often tell what kind of mood or spirit a piece is designed to produce, what kind of conduct it encourages. That was the case with the music that Moses heard on coming down from Mount Sinai and approaching the Israelite camp. As he said to Joshua: “It is not the sound of the singing over mighty performance [a victory song], and it is not the sound of the singing of defeat [a mournful singing]; it is the sound of other singing that I am hearing.” The singing actually reflected wild and idolatrous immoral activity.—Exodus 32:15-19, 25.
19-22. (a) Against what do those who like classical music need to be on guard? (b) As to the effect of some jazz and rock music, what facts deserve thoughtful consideration?
19 Consider more recent examples. Classical music, for instance, generally has a dignified, sometimes majestic sound. But while much of it may have a rather noble effect on one’s thoughts, some of it deals with and even glorifies the sordid or selfish side of life. It is worth remembering that many famous classical composers lived immoral, even dissolute, lives. And though they generally wrote for an audience that supposedly appreciated the “finer things of life,” it is almost unavoidable that some of their warped outlook and warped emotions would show up in some of their music, with or without words. So, if we want to guard the health of our minds and hearts, even so-called “serious” music cannot be accepted without question.
20 At the other end of the musical spectrum from classical compositions we find the syncopated jazz and rock music. Even here one finds some music that is melodic and moderate. But some of it is wild and strident. That is why musicians themselves distinguish between jazz and rock music that is “soft” and that which is “hot,” “hard” or “acid.” You should be able to tell what kind of conduct the music is promoting—your ear, your mind and heart should tell you. The words or the tone of certain music is sometimes so obvious that people easily associate it with certain types of conduct or kinds of persons. The Bible, for example, speaks of the “songs of drinkers” and the “song of a prostitute.” (Psalm 69:12; Isaiah 23:15, 16) What about today?
21 If, for example, you read in the newspaper about a music concert or festival and the report tells of people screaming, girls fainting, the use of drugs and of the police having to be brought in to keep the theater from being wrecked—what kind of music would you think was involved in the performance? If you hear of a popular young singer or musician dying of an overdose of drugs—what kind of music would you think he or she specialized in?
22 You probably know that many young people are drawn to rock music because they believe that its lyrics describe the realities and problems of the world around them. Perhaps more than any other form of popular music, rock music tries to put across a message: on the problems of growing up, the generation gap, drugs, sex, civil rights, dissent, poverty, war and similar topics. It tries to express many young people’s discontent with social injustices and their ideas for a better world. But what has been the general effect? What has it done for most young people? What real solutions have its philosophies brought them? If such music is designed to bring realities into focus, why is so much of it drug-oriented, some lyrics being understandable only to those who take drugs? These are questions to consider.
23-25. (a) In connection with music, what is the point of the counsel at Ecclesiastes 7:5? (b) Whom should we consider when choosing music and dances? Why? (1 Corinthians 10:31-33; Philippians 1:9, 10) (c) So why is our choice as to music and dancing no light matter?
23 So, your choice of music is no light matter. You can let others decide for you simply by going along with the crowd, choosing what is popular, what has mass appeal. Or you can think for yourself and use care in selecting, guided by the enduring and superior wisdom found in God’s Word. Ecclesiastes 7:5 says: “Better is it to hear the rebuke of someone wise than to be the man hearing the song of the stupid ones.” The “stupidity” the Bible talks about is no mere mental dumbness but means moral stupidity, following a course that can only bring future trouble.
24 You may feel that you can listen to music containing some words that go contrary to what is true and right or that has a sensual, wild sound to it, and still not be affected. You may feel similarly about the dances you dance. But what kind of influence are you on others? Do you feel as the apostle Paul, who said that he was willing to forgo even such proper things as eating meat if thereby he could avoid becoming a stumbling block to others? With what kind of persons does the music you choose identify you?
25 Your choice, then, of the music to which you listen and the dances in which you might engage shows whether you are simply interested in a “good time” or in a good life, an everlasting one in God’s favor.
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Dancing has a long history