The Truth, Mainly - 04/08/1996

Holy Macarena! Dances are coming! Dances are coming!
by Leon Satterfield

I don't want to unduly alarm anyone, but a major cataclysm is coming a week from Thursday.

On April 18—the day, you remember, that Paul Revere warned us "The British are coming! The British are coming!"—Baylor University is going to have the first school-sanctioned dance in its 151-year history.

A dance!

So what's the big deal, you ask?

The big deal is that Baylor is Baptist. For centuries Baptists who danced were buying one-way tickets to hell. And in just ten days, they'll be dancing at Baylor, the epicenter of Baptistdom.

The only consolation is that it will ruin a scurrilous joke:

Q: Why don't Baptists mate standing up?

A: Because someone might think they're dancing.

That's a Methodist joke and I was first scandalized by it when I was growing up a Baptist in my hometown in Southwest Kansas. Methodists there danced, so they thought it was pretty funny that Baptists didn't.

When you older sister was in first grade back in the late 1930s, she wanted to be Shirley Temple so she took tap dancing lessons. When our alert Baptist preacher got wind of it, he told my mother she was packing my sister's bags for a one-way trip to hell. That ended the lessons. I don't know how it is now, but when I was growing up, you had to be tough to be Baptist.

Today's libertine youth might imagine that we resented such restrictions, but we didn't. We were less interested in being good than getting caught being bad, so we were grateful to be among the few who'd found out about dancing in time to avoid fire and brimstone. But it was a shame about Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and Shirley Temple. Seemed like nice folks.

And we figured not dancing gave us another leg up on Methodists. We already had the great advantage of total immersion instead of that pansy sprinkling they called baptism.

Methodists thought we were all wet about dancing too.

"Nobody goes to hell for dancing," they'd tell us. "Didn't King David go 'leaping and dancing before the Lord,' and didn't he praise God because "Thou has turned for me my mourning into dancing'?"

"Yeah, sure," we'd say, "but that's Old Testament stuff."

"Well," they'd say, "doesn't Jesus say in the New Testament that when the prodical son came hom, there was 'musick and dancing'?"

Methodists always thought they were so smart in those little theological disputes. Then we'd nail them good with our all-purpose rebuttal:

"There ain't no John the Methodist in the Bible," we'd say. "Ha, ha, ha."

They couldn't do anything but roll their eyes.

Just like they rolled their eyes when we told them they'd go to hell for going to movies on Sunday or playing with devil cards instead of Rook cards.

I never knew why for sure. It was clear why dancing was bad: When Salome danced, she got the idea of asking Herod for John the Baptist's head on a platter. But I didn't remember anything in the Bible about playing with devil cards or going to Sunday movies. I just knew that Methodist kids, when they weren't dancing, did both those things. Who needed more evidence than that?

We weren't supposed to drink beer or go inside the pool hall either. The pool hall was full of bad influences. That usually meant Catholic kids. They not only shot pool, they played snooker. They'd drink a little wine on Christmas too, and maybe even a whole bottle of beer on a hot day.

(After I went away to college and enrolled in Dirty Rotten Secular Humanism 101, I took up snooker and cigars and beer, even though I hated the taste. I had to drink it because it made me dance a lot better.)

At least the Methodist kids back home didn't drink. One of them a pool table in his basement, though, and he claimed it was all right because it wasn't in a pool hall. But we knew better and we'd quote John the Baptist at him.

"Repent ye," we'd say, "for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

"You know the trouble with John the Baptist and all the rest of you?" the Methodist kid would say. "You been eating too many locusts."

Then he'd laugh and do a little dance right in front of us.

Anyway, it'll be the end of the world as we know it after the great seismic shift on April 18 when Baylor begins to dance. Oh sure, the AP reports the Baylor president says there won't be "any obscene or provocative kind of dancing"—no "lewd gyrations, excessive closeness or inappropriate music." And a dance called the Macarena "may have to be modified to eliminate hip movements."

The Macarena!

I don't know what the Macarena is, and I don't want to know. I may be a degenerate backslider, but I've got enough residual Baptist in me that I'll never dance the Macarena.

But probably some of my Methodist friends could show me the moves.


Lincoln English Professor Satterfield writes to salvage meaning from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays.

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