Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Day The Music Died

What did it for me was "Lasciviousness." I might need to explain: not the word so much as the way we used it. I was probably fourteen at the time and had been very well schooled in every doctrine and argument of the church. No kidding: I had read all of Foy E. Wallace Jr.'s books, all three volumes of "Axe at the Root" by Ira Rice, and every Freed-Hardeman lectureship book printed up to that time. I had read scores of debate books and listened to hundreds of sermons by red faced men damning the world and the church for their errors (I tried to sit back three or four rows to get out of the splash zone, but my parents feared that was a sign of backsliding and ordered me forward again). I was ready to face my hormone-laden years with all the pat answers and slogans with which the true church had faced down the devil, Baptists, Democrats, and Elvis over the last several decades.

Until a kid at school asked me a question. He had noticed that I had Dared to Be A Daniel; I was a true pioneer of the faith, a martyr for the cause of Christ. He could tell all that because I didn't dance. While the rest of the gym class skipped and toed their way into the arms of Beelzebub, I had a note from my parents allowing me to sit -- and sit in judgment -- oozing pure righteousness from every pore. While the rest of my peers folk danced their way right into the fiery pit where they would forever dance on the hot coals of their own sins, I was all right with God. I told my friend that I didn't dance because the Bible said not to. There was even a word in the Bible for dancing: lasciviousness. My friend asked me for some materials on the subject and boy was I ready! I showed up the next day with three tracts against dancing I'd grabbed from the church's welcome table (yes, we had three tracts on the subject at our welcome table...), all of which used extensive arguments about how dancing led to pregnancy, liberalism, alcoholism, and car wrecks. We had been warned, for the Bible railed against lascivious behavior and the word "lascivious" meant "dancing." I knew that for sure because I had been told it time and again and it was in the tracts, too.

My friend had the gall to question my definition of the word "lascivious" so I trotted off to my father's huge library and pulled out all the Greek books and thesaurus's I could find. I poured over them for days before the music died: Lascivious didn't mean dancing. It wasn't even mentioned in any of the definitions. I searched for days, but I didn't dare ask anyone at church about it because asking questions was a sure sign of imminent perdition. Right after this, we had a youth rally (old style, where red faced preachers yelled at us between songs sung out of Sacred Selections...) where lascivious and dancing were equated constantly. My faith was breaking.

I knew something that didn't fit with what I had been told. More followed. I can remember being taught that the Bible was a simple book: if you just read it, you would understand it. The reason other churches didn't do as we did? They didn't believe the Bible! Simple, really. We even made fun of churches that had educated preachers because you didn't need any education to understand the Bible.

And then a friend asked me a question. Is it a sin to drink a beer, even if you don't get drunk? I assured him that it was a terrible sin and went off to get the most firepower I could (but not firewater) to prove the point. One of my main sources was a book called "The Bible, The Saint, and The Liquor Industry" by Jim McGuiggan (one of the finest men I know, by the way, and none of what happens next should indicate otherwise! It isn't his fault I'm an idiot). He dissected the words for wine and drink to the nth degree; so much so that my head spun with the complicated nature of the whole subject. My belief that the Bible was a simple book died that week. Without a ton of knowledge and wisdom there was no way to get out of those words what Jim did. And that was just the beginning. I found that the more I read, the more complicated some things got. I ended up having to say with Peter that some things Paul wrote are just very hard to understand. I had to admit to people that I wasn't sure what Ezekiel had in mind sometimes and I didn't have a moment to moment timeline of what was going to happen when the world ends (although that filmstrip, "The Day Christ Came Again" was a real cracker, wasn't it?).

Now I am 48 and hurtling down the track towards 49. I am less certain of many of our arguments than I used to be. I listen more and argue less. I do a lot of shrugging and saying, "I really don't know." But one thing I know: the more these old weights drop off me the clearer I see Jesus in scripture and in life. The less I fight with other believers -- including my own brothers -- the more time I have to act like Jesus. I haven't arrived yet -- far from it -- but I have found the journey a wonderful thing.

For the less I know, the more I know. The less I see, the more I believe. The less certain I am, the more trusting I am. In my weakness, His strength is a thing to inspire awe.

[Cheerio, my friends. I leave Friday morning on a cruise to celebrate our 26th wedding anniversary (thank you, Jesus!). We will return, the Lord and Carnival Cruises willing, on the evening of July 9th. Sad to say -- but true -- I won't be thinking of you very often, but when I get back I'll think about you extra hard, okay? You can always listen to my lessons online at www.rochestercoc.org. Until then, may grace and peace be with you, especially when certainty can't be]


At 6/28/2005 09:18:00 AM , Blogger don said...

Patrick, I listen to American Family Radio and National Public Radio. My car speakers are terribly confused. And I have found out the same thing--the older I get, the less answers I have, but somehow, the answers I HAD seem less and less important.

Have a great trip!

At 6/28/2005 09:39:00 AM , Blogger David U said...

PM, it is uncanny how those of us who grew up in "the church" have similar stories.....almost to the point of being able to script it.
Especially those of us who grew up, as you say, in the Taliban wing of our fellowship. I thank God on a regular basis for people like Jim Woodroof and Craig Jones who showed me Jesus.

My list of absolutes has shortened greatly over the years, but the ones I still have I feel stronger about than I ever did before!

Have a great cruise brother! We expect to hear ALL about it when you get back. Oh, and happy anniversary! That is AWESOME!

Your friend and brother,

At 6/28/2005 09:54:00 AM , Blogger TCS said...

Now don't Lasciviousness (dance) around the subject. Your problem is that you are saying the music died and it obviously was already dead. Instrumental music that is.

And I am not sure everyone knows how a filmstrip can be a real cracker. But my Austrialian Brother-in-law helps me with that one.

David is correct in that we share so much (weird) similarities. I am 13 years younger than you but had the same experience... although I am much slower and dumber, I was in college before I realized that the miracle in John 2 was not that Jesus had make them think it was alcoholic wine when it was not. Because Jesus wouldn't make alcohol.

Thank you for another lesson.
Have a great cruise... already listening to you on-line.

At 6/28/2005 10:16:00 AM , Blogger Keith said...

I bet there's not a CofC in the country that was built in the 50's and 60's that doesn't have that same tract rack on the first wall to the right after entering the mahoganny double doors with the diamond shaped glass inserts at eye level.You had a welcome table...not sure that's scriptural. I will take with me from this blog to listen more and talk less. Good stuff. Have a great boat ride with the Mrs.

At 6/28/2005 11:22:00 AM , Blogger Billy D said...

Great post Patrick. Interestingly enough, apparently my church grew too. We now have dances for the parishoners with modern music and DJs and the like.
I remember questioning the nuns when I was a kid, and if you didn't phrase the question properly, to make it innocuous enough to let them know you weren't questioning the "authority" you'd get a whack with a ruler and some penance time.
I'm glad to say those days are gone for good.
Have a great and safe trip sir. And have a dance for me. Happy Anniversary!

At 6/28/2005 01:09:00 PM , Blogger MomInStands said...

I have a confession to make to all:

When I visit a congregation from time to time that still has those tracts up on the wall... I politely act like I am SO INTERESTED, that I just grab handfuls of those little ones, and then distribute them to those hungry little trashcans around the corner!

Hope I'm forgiven for that!
Thanks for the time and energy you spend on your blog.

At 6/28/2005 04:40:00 PM , Blogger Dee O'Neil Andrews said...

It's hard for me to even think about all of those things from the long ago past (in my life), much less "talk" about them with anyone because I have some very painful memories about many of them, still.

I grew up in a little town in West Texas where politics were strident when it came to electing the local school board. Neither the Baptists nor the Church of Christ believed in dancing, while with the Methodists, pretty much anything went. So, the school never had dances, but Jr. & Sr. banquets instead. "Mixed bathing (!?!)," translated swimming, was another big no-no.

However, once in a while there would be a private dance around town that most all of the high school students would be invited to. One Saturday night when I was a sophomore in high school I had a date and toward the end of the evening we went inside the big "barn" where such a dance was being held. We didn't dance at all and only stayed about 10 minutes at the most, but my dad knew there was a dance in town that night and questioned me about it when I got home.

I admitted that I had gone out to it for just a few moments without dancing, but he was very upset with me that I even went there and made me go forward in church the following morning to "confess" what I had done before the entire congregation.

Before I was grown and left home, I went through several even more awful times than that because of rigidly held, what I considered even then (to myself, of course) highly mistaken "beliefs." And, I wasn't a bad kid, in any way. In fact, I was in the National Honor Society and was the Valedictorian of my class when we graduated.

I thank God that my dad in later years came to be a totally different and loving Christian father who I drew very close to in the last eight years of his life, after many years of me being actually afraid of him (until after I was 40).

As I say, these things are hard to talk about, but I strongly believe we MUST talk about them so as not to let that kind of past ever repeat itself. I have dear Christian friends who were driven from "the fellowship" permanently for "offenses" of that kind. God forbid I ever have that attitude toward any person on this earth.

Y'all have a great cruise! And, we want to hear all about it when you get home.

At 6/28/2005 06:43:00 PM , Blogger Laurie said...

Hey Patrick. You at times bring up some very painful memories. I remember "dance" class at school and not being a strong enough Christian to not dance with my peers. I thought during the whole time, if Jesus came right then I was going to hell and would be the first one there. Believe me, there wasn't much lasciviousness going on in a jr. high gymnasium as we all tripped over our feet and attempted not to look as if we liked any guy that we were forced to dance with. (not sure how the guys felt, but suspect it was similar) I digress from lasciviousness to point out that as I grew up the church had less hold on me and the world had more I will admit. However, I suspect if there had been an ounce of kindness in the church, it would have had a greater impact. I am pretty sure though, that my church history is shared by many more than I think. After reading another person's post here on this comment page it is clear that though I don't like to discuss it, it bears some discussion. Can I just say this...you post made me say OUCH!

At 6/28/2005 09:00:00 PM , Blogger Stephen said...

Thank you for the wonderful thoughts Patrick! I have been on to Tim Kraus to post to the InfoCommons of Conneaut Church of Christ while I am at camp but alas I can barely encourage from here. The thoughts you and others (such as Jared Cramer) post have been major helps as I have tried to think of different devotional presentations whilst at camp.

And yes, the question for this librarian has been: "And you didn't go into ministry why?"

Have fun with Kami on the cruise!

At 6/29/2005 12:26:00 AM , Blogger Kari said...

I'm not sure if I should be laughing or not, because it's so true! I mean, as silly as it seems now to look back on things like that; it wasn't silly to you then.
I'm reading a book called The Poisonwood Bible. Albeit I'm not very far into it, I'm getting the impression that the main character (a Baptist Missionary in the Congo) is similarly minded to your youth. When his children sit around and say things like "I was pretty sure he was a sinner because...." it made me wonder about the difference between judging someone and intervening. Surely God doesn't want us to just sit back and let those around us live in sin, no? So when exactly do we step in without that element of judgement that we shouldn't posess? Even more importantly, how do we win souls over without turning them away first?

At 6/29/2005 09:13:00 AM , Blogger don said...

After reading the post and comments, and being largely in agreement with most of them, I do have to put in a thought that goes against the grain.

My brother is a dj who does weddings, high school dances, etc, and recently invited me to come help at one during a trip back to my hometown. It was my old high school. I quickly agreed.

MOST of the dancing was quite harmless, and was done more in groups than in pairs--just fun stuff. However, there were several songs to which the kids did pair up, and the moves were nothing short of having sex with your clothes on. These are NOT your old high school sock hops.

Before you simply say that it is harmless fun, I would suggest you go see a high school dance in it's entirety. Not many things shock me, but this came awfully close.
And I'm not saying these are evil kids, bound for hell. They are mimicking (sp?) the moves they see on videos, and they do it very well. I cannot imagine being one of those kids, and leaving the dance with my date not expecting to carry the moves a little farther than what we did in public.

Anyway, just another angle worth some thought. Patrick posted recently about not going to a car wash with his son because the girls had not so much cotton on as you would find in the top of an aspirin bottle, and needing to take a stand. I promise you, given the choice between having my kid see the bikini clad car washers and the moves I saw that evening, I'd take the car wash, any day. MAYBE our parents weren't so far off base...

At 6/29/2005 10:48:00 AM , Blogger PatrickMead said...

Don, You make a good point about some of the dancing out there. However, we can argue against it without having to lie about what words mean. Neither do we have to overstate the evils of dance by equating all dancing with what you witnessed at that school (and what is available to view on MTV or BET anytime). My father wouldn't come to see my daughter (aged six) do the Highland Fling at an international flair because dancing is dancing is dancing....

By the way, I still don't dance and I still stay away from alcohol. I just have better arguments for why I do what I do and don't attack and shred those who can't buy into my -- ahem -- wisdom on these matters.

At 6/29/2005 11:33:00 AM , Blogger don said...

Patrick, I know the point of your post was just that, and I agree. I still bristle at the arguments I heard growing up against the instrument in worship. While it is accurate to say the 1st century (and beyond) church had no instruments (a capella- "from the chapel", loosely), the arguments that were (are) used to show that it is sin are mostly contrived, contorted, and bogus. I just noted the conversation listing to port, and had to trim the sails a bit. The refusal to take part in highland dancing, or school gym class does seem to be a knee-jerk reaction. You can fall off the cliff from either side.

At 6/29/2005 01:48:00 PM , Blogger CL said...

Great post Patrick, thank you for sharing this. God bless!

At 6/29/2005 01:49:00 PM , Blogger Kirsten said...

After reading this post and all the comments, here is what I think sums it up so well (from Don) "You can fall off the cliff from either side." Amen to that.

Patrick - another good one! Thank you!

Have a wonderful time on your cruise with Kami! Hoping to join you on the next one in January :-)

At 6/29/2005 02:27:00 PM , Blogger DJG said...

Wow, your last three paragraphs brought tears to my eyes....it just feels so good to know that there are others who can so beautifully describe what I have been through. It is like finding out you are not the only alien on the planet!

As for Don's comment, I am going to have to agree. I was always the one who said there was NOTHING wrong with any kind of dancing. When I was a junior in high school I went to a Homecoming dance with the man I later married. When we slow danced suddenly the word lasciviousness did apply, and I am talking about me, I don't know what he was feeling!!!

Everything is permissable for me, but not everything is beneficial I Cor.6:12

Oh! and have a great time on the cruise! You can blog from there...$0.65 per minute!!

At 6/29/2005 02:34:00 PM , Blogger PatrickMead said...

I'm not sure my thoughts are worth 65 cents a minute! I can still remember offering my dad "my two cents worth" and him telling me I was over charging!

At 6/29/2005 06:06:00 PM , Blogger Joshua Haley said...

"I listen more and argue less. I do a lot of shrugging and saying, "I really don't know.""

It sounds like you have time to ridicule and damn my beliefs, equate them to foolishness, and categorize every 'concervative' Christian into one category, the "stupid, irate, and hateful" category. Nice Job sir. You have gracefully accomplished what you have condemned in your post.

At 6/29/2005 09:55:00 PM , Blogger PatrickMead said...

God bless you anyway, Joshua.

At 6/30/2005 08:43:00 AM , Blogger David U said...

PM, feel like you are at the OC lectures again? :) Deja Vu, huh?

Keep washing feet brother!


At 6/30/2005 08:56:00 AM , Blogger don said...

Joshua, I just read the post again, after reading your comments, as I thought I must have read a different post than you did. Not once did I find the word "concervative" (or "conservative", if you want to spell it correctly), nor did I find "stupid", "irate", or "hateful". His post was not about your beliefs, it was about the use of contrived, pat arguments which are not in the Bible, literally, to defend those beliefs. Read his reply to my post about the dancing, and please open your eyes. He is saying that we don't need to add words to the script to defend what the Bible actually says.

Please don't add the words "concervative, stupid, irate, and hateful" to a post that didn't have them.

At 6/30/2005 05:09:00 PM , Blogger Joshua Haley said...

Don- It's a good thing I have you around to tell me what Patrick really meant. Pat- He will.

At 7/01/2005 11:09:00 AM , Blogger David Ray said...

Regarding the OC lecture being discussed and those there who have been called "stone throwers," I was there during the entire conversation. I can tell you they were not stone throwers, only Christians who asked Patrick to do what he was supposed to have preached on (i.e., give an answer -1 Pet 3:15), which he wouldn't. I too had some questions to ask him, but having heard his patronizing remarks, with complete unwillingness to answer questions regarding his sermon (which was really more of a stand-up comedic act), I realized it would've been futile.

At 7/01/2005 02:08:00 PM , Blogger David U said...

Patrick doesn't need me to defend himself.....and he has nothing to defend. I was there at the OC lectures and too witnessed the whole ugly scene. My guess is that the reason nobody else attacked him was because the last person who was speaking angrily with him got escorted away by Shon Smith. He DID preach on "giving an answer" from I Peter 3, it was just not the answer some wanted to hear. Patrick proclaimed that JESUS is the answer. Is there any other?
The "patronizing" remarks were words like "God bless you" and "Go with God". It was a foot-washing if I ever witnessed one. He was living the sermon he had just preached....you treat people, even those who attack you, as Jesus would. The lecture was powerful, but his LIVING witness to the power of Christ living in him was even MORE powerful. It was a blessing to all of us who saw it.

At 7/02/2005 10:24:00 AM , Blogger David Ray said...

The person asking the questions was not escorted away...Patrick was. And, if you'll read my comment again, you'll see I didn't mention anything about "defending" (in the negative sense that you presented it), only answering some questions regarding his "sermon." This is the very teaching of 1 Peter 3:15 - always being ready to give an answer. From the beginning the questions were not difficult, and each question was directly related to the things that Patrick had said. Patrick's replies that you mentioned were in direct response to the questions being asked. They were not "foot washings" as you called them, but evasions of the questions. I thought it was sad that, had I known nothing about 1 Pet 3:15, I would still no nothing of it after the presentation (other than "Jesus says hi!"). Then, after hearing his responses to questions about his presentation, I still would know nothing of this verse. I would, however, have forty something jokes with which to entertain the congregation during my next sermon.

At 2/02/2006 01:52:00 AM , Blogger Matt W said...

Really enjoyed reading this entry tonight. Well stated. I know this entry is a bit old, but I somehow happened upon it. I will be back to read more soon.
-Foy E's semi-reluctant-great-nephew,
matt wallace


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