Evangelical Protestants & Social Dancing

As I was following the thread on Protestants and alcohol, I began to recall my own experiences and interactions with various Evangelical Protestant friends and acquaintances.

Virtually ALL of the Evangelicals that I have ever known were staunchly opposed to what I call the “big three”: smoking, drinking, and** social dancing**. * (Evangelicals seem to be fine with square dancing; this is NOT what I am talking about.)*

I have started this thread to discuss opposition to social dancing, which includes any type of ballroom dancing as well as “free-style dancing”. I’d like to learn more. Please share your thoughts.

Yep - but don’t forget playing cards and watching TV/going to the movies.

There isn’t much to learn. The basic theory is that If it can lead you down the road to sin, then it’s bad to do it. End of story.

For many Fundamentalists, dancing automatically opens the door to sinful lust. I was raised fundamentalist and even swimming between small boys and girls was forbidden for the same reason, they even have a special name for it, “mixed bathing”.

Of course I am no longer a Fundamentalist, and I think a lot of those rules are silly.

Drinking is OK within reason, but being drunk is forbidden.

Smoking cigarettes is not technically a sin, but addiction is. IMHO with all we know about smoking, those who smoke are suicidal, and suicide is a huge sin. You can’t go to confession when you are dead.

Besides cigarettes make you stink to high heaven and harms those around you, especially those who have asthma, emphasema, or COPD. :bigyikes:

I’m from an Evangelical Methodist Holiness denomination, the Evangelical Congregational Church which was first organized in Pennsylvania in the late 1700’s to early 1800’s. (There’s also an unrelated denomination with that name in New England). I also attend an E Free church.

Growing up in that church in the 1970’s and 1980’s, social dancing like high school dances were considered fine, as was moderate, thoughtful tv watching, going to movies, playing friendly card games without any gambling involved, and wearing jewelry.

I’ve read most of the earliest books available on the EC church, some of which are out of print but obtainable. When I started to read them in my early twenties, I was initially surprised to learn that things like jewelry wearing used to be discouraged in the EC church. I believe social dancing was also discouraged, but the local EC farm folk attended the PA German square dances (which are actually still popular around here in PA Dutch country). TV and movies would not have been invented yet during the period of the writing of the older books on the Albright Brethren/Evangelical Association/Evangelical Congregation Church, but I knew many wonderful elderly lifelong EC church members when I was growing up, and they watched some TV and went to movies with care as to the family-friendly content.

Besides the Christianity Today article by Jennifer Tait mentioned in the other “Protestants and Alcohol” thread, she also wrote a book called The Poisoned Chalice: Eucharistic Grape Juice and … (sorry, I forgot the rest of the subtitle:o) which looks like it will discuss some of the thought process behind the behavioral prohibitions in the early Methodist Holiness movement. I’m curious to read the book when it arrives here.

I wandered around in the Protestant world for awhile. Returned to the Catholic Church about 20 years ago. Some of the conservative churches I attended were so stridently anti- dance that you got the impression they didn’t so much believe that dancing led to sex but that sex led to dancing.:smiley:

Abidewithme: Is the church you are in similar to the Church Of The Nazarene? That was the first church I remember being taken to. And they also have Wesleyan roots. With a holiness influence. It was a Nazarene summer camp I went to when I was only 9 and had to swim separately from the little girls.

They had a lot of rules in the Nazarene Manual similar to the Methodist Discipline. Not just drinking, dancing, and smoking. Movies were forbidden too, as was make up and “gold and costly apparel”.

What about break dancing?

Hi Chayla,

I belong to the Assembly of God denomination. The following is the link to the AOG postion on social dancing.


Here is a small excerpt from it:

***"…the New Testament is filled with cautions about the emotions and passions that are part of any physical contact between the sexes. We are specifically warned to flee temptation, especially lust and sexual temptation (1 Cor. 6:18, 1 Tim. 6:9-11, 2 Tim. 2:22)

While many couples who engage in social dancing never delve into immoral behavior, 1 Thessalonians 5:22 says we are to, “Avoid every kind of evil.” The best way to avoid evil is to avoid those temptations that can easily lead to the evil. Some have claimed that public social dancing is a better alternative than couples isolating themselves and engaging in petting and other intimacies. But rather than discouraging sexual intimacies, social dancing makes physical intimacies more attractive and inviting. The Assemblies of God has historically opposed social dancing because it can potentially lead innocent people into temptation and sin.

However, refusing to dance does not by itself keep one from immoral behavior. If the heart is set on doing something wrong, no precautions or rules will help". ***

Some AOG teens go to dances anyway, but I think the majority don’t. A friend of mine in high school was the son of the local AOG pastor and is now a pastor himself. He was allowed to attend the homecoming dance and had a good time socializing with everyone but didn’t dance out of conviction. Most non-denominational Christians that I know tend to allow a few social dances but they come with a healthy dose of chaperones and are held in the school gymnasium or similar venue where everyone is together and chaperones intervene when they see a couple embracing each other too tightly and are reminded to “leave room for Jesus”, lol.

In essence, it is similar to the stance on alcohol (in my opinion) in the sense that it can lead to drunkneness so therefore is not worth the risk. Likewise, dancing is believed to facilitate sexual misbehavior, so to speak, although there are those who still do it. I don’t think that stance gives young Christians enough trust that they will do the right thing, but that is the reason behind it.

Yes, it’s very similar to the Church of the Nazarene in many ways. When I was in elementary school and high school, of my best friend went to a Church of the Nazarene, so we often went to each other’s churches. I went with her to a Nazarene summer camp, too, but we all–both sexes-- were allowed to swim together. I remember another girl stole my favorite belt from me while I was changing clothes!:mad:

I’m 47 and I live in the Northeast, so I don’t know if the relaxation of prohibitions that I grew up with was a matter of generational differences or regional differences. I used to go on summer work camp projects where I met teenagers and adults from all over the US and Canada and from many different denominations, and I only remember a few teens from churches with the older clothing and entertainment proscriptions. Even with those, all the boys and girls and adult leaders went swimming together in lakes and rivers. We all got along warmly and made real friendships, despite the differences.

There can be no rules other than set being led by the Holy Spirit here,

For women especially, dancing can be an alternative to gym sessions, or even done in the gym, or the swimming pool, as I have seen it, a very useful form of exercise, but that kind of dancing is best done in single-sex environment.

Any dancing that involves dancing with a partner to whom one isn’t marriage or engaged such as ballet or involves much removal of clothing, has got to be sinful. This is going to include much of the dancing you see on TV, like ice-skaters who dance with almost no clothes in promiscuous fashion,

I’d say that much dancing is sinful, or just decadent and a waste of time, but who am I to condemn certain types of formal traditional dances requiring bodily agility? Exercise is always good and very necessary, but the manner of the doing needs to be born in mind.

Obesity is a dreadful sin and if it takes dancing to keep the flab off, then so be it if done in a modest way.

The pentecostal church of god that I grew up in was totally against dancing however I went to my prom and danced any way with my Fathers permission Now I go to plenty of dances when My parish has them.

It is not just Protestants. There are plenty of big-name Catholic figures who have spoken out against dancing.


I grew up Pentecostal. I know things were stricter in the past, but honestly, for most churches, social dancing is not much of an issue anymore.

I went to prom 2 years in a row. I graduated in 2008 in a rural community in the South. I took a date and danced some (I’m not into dancing anyway). My mother and some other family members (all devout Christians) would probably have been disappointed if I didn’t go and had the “experience”. They felt the same way about the girls in my family as well.

So, from my experience, dancing in and of itself is not seen as the problem anymore for many Pentecostals.

It has more to do with the overall environment. Going to shady nightclubs would probably be more disappointing to Pentecostal parents because those kinds of environments are steeped in occasions for sin.

So, kid going to high school prom OK. Deacon in the church owning a night club 2 towns over from the church not OK. (Yes, that last one really happened :D)

We grew up not dancing. I was Conference Baptist, and my husband was Assemblies of God.

The problem with dancing for Evangelical Protestants is that most dancing is done in places and at events where alcohol is served, and many Evangelical Protestants didn’t (and still don’t) go there.

Also, much of the “modern” dancing meant rock music, which was also something that was frowned upon. The first “contemporary Christian musicians” (e.g., Randy Stonehill, Larry Norman, etc.) had a dreadful time gaining acceptance, and local contemporary Christian musicians were often escorted OUT of churches that they tried to enter. I was there. I remember those times. They were awful.

In case you’re wondering, all the wedding receptions I ever attending in our Conference Baptist church, including mine, were alcohol-free. Even the wealthy people in our church held their children’s wedding receptions in the church fellowship hall. The wealthier people had more and fancier food than regular folks, but there was no alcohol. And of course, no DJ or band, and no dancing.

And these receptions were delightful. I think it’s tough on families to have to put out thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars for a reception with food, bar, and music/dancing. We had great fellowship with all our guests, and the reception only lasted about an hour–back then, weddings weren’t an all-day thing for invited guests like they are today. I actually hate going to weddings now because I know that I’ve killed an entire day just standing around in dress clothing. Ick.

However, some Evangelical Protestants did learn how to dance. And ballet was always allowed, so a lot of families got their little girls (and sometimes little boys) involved in lessons.

My husband and I never learned to dance, and it is a social skill that we regret not learning. A few years ago, we enrolled in Arthur Murray and tried to learn some basic ballroom dancing, but I had a terrible time. I just couldn’t get it. The instructor would show us how to do a maneuver, and I could not imitate it. I just couldn’t translate what he or she was doing into my body!

Even the simplest steps were beyond my capability, and it was frustrating for me and my more-graceful husband. Some of the problem had to do with my osteoarthritis in the knee–just doing those simple steps truly HURT me, and I was terrified that I would twist something or fall and sustain a more serious injury. But some of the problem was because I simply don’t have a “dance sense.” I play piano for dancers, but I can’t do what they do. I think that “dance sense” is something that is developed as children grow up, and since no one in my family danced, I didn’t develop that sense.

It’s like “card sense.” Neither my husband and I are capable of learning any card games–we’ve tried! But we don’t “get it.” And yes, you’ve guessed it–we grew up not playing “sinful” cards!

So I gave dancing up. I was very disappointed, because I was hoping to at least learn enough to do a real “dance” at a wedding reception (which is the only place we ever have an opportunity to do a waltz, since all the nightclubs do nowadays is rock music). But it is not meant to be in my case.

My husband has continued to learn ballroom dancing with his ice dancing partner. They take classes off ice. He is much more coordinated than I am, and better at picking up the dance steps.

And both of my daughters can dance. My younger daughter is not very good at it and her husband doesn’t dance at all and has no interest in dancing. But my older daughter is very good at it after many years of ballet training. She can learn ANY dance, and enjoys going out dancing with friends.

So the cycle stopped with our daughters! :):slight_smile:

And interestingly, the lead adult character in my skating novels is an expert ballroom dancer. I think it’s wishful thinking on my part, I know. He’s also the best shot in his organization! Sooooo cool!

Great discussion. When did other Protestants, besides Lutherans, begin using the name Evangelical?

Interesting tidbit here: when introduced, the waltz caused scandal in Europe!!!

*“Also, the Viennese Waltz allowed the couple to dance at their own pace and to follow their own steps. This is very much different from the norm wherein communal dance sequences were performed. Before the advent of the waltz, the Master of Ceremony in a given ball would have a pre-set pattern that all the dancers had to follow. This didn’t give dancers much leeway or variety when it came to dancing.”

“Before the 19th century, it was forbidden for male and female dance partners to have any contact with other parts of the body except for the hands.”*


Post #163 in this thread : forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=885707&page=11
contains an excellent summary of the history of the Evangelical Protestants.

I hope you will check it out and read it.

You can also visit the website of the National Association of Evangelicals : nae.net/

2 Tim 4:5 “But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”

euaggelistēs (Gk) is found three times in the NT and refers to those who are heralds of good news that are not apostles.

It’s integral to every church.

Yes, all Christians are called to be evangelical.

But there is a specific group of Protestants called “Evangelicals,” and they are the fastest-growing group of Christians in the U.S. (and I’ve heard some stats that say fastest-growing in the world).

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