Berean cogitations

Friday, September 29, 2006

Using hula to teach about God's peace?

In times past, I've expressed concerns about the increased use of hula dancing in church services. The motive is supposedly to praise God through the use of hula. At the risk of being labelled a legalist though, I have some problems with this approach. As I've mentioned before, when worshipping God, I think it's important to focus our attention on the Lord and to avoid tactics that draw attention to the performers. There's nothing wrong with using dance troupes or flashy performances per se. There's nothing wrong with having musicians or worship leaders, nor is there anything wrong with appreciating someone's talent. Certain types of performance, however, tend to draw attention to the human performers. When it comes time to worship, those things must be set aside and our focus must be on the Lord himself.

Recently though, I heard someone say, "If the pastor is preaching about peace and serenity, then why not have hula dancers in the service? After all, hula is all about peace and serenity." I'm sure that many Christians would not in agreement, but I would like to dissent. Here's why.

First, is there really any benefit to dancing serenely when the pastor preaches about peace and serenity? Such an attitude implies that people find it difficult to grasp such elementary concepts. It also implies that we should act them out on stage to help people understand. As a church teacher and a former educator, I'm all in favor of educational tools. However, I think that this tactic is truly an insult to the intelligence of any discerning adult.

Second, I don't think there's any connection between the peace of God and the serenity of hula music. Music and dance can be peaceful insofar as we find them to be soothing and pleasurable. The peace of God is dramatically different. It's the type of peace that one encounters amidst the raging storms of life--the calm assurance that one feels when everything seems to be going wrong. It's the peace that assures us that God is in control, even when someone has lost his job or is dying of cancer. This is the peace that surpasses all understanding, and bears only a superficial similarity to the tranquiliity that one might experience from music and dance.

Finally, even if hula were a useful pedagogical tool, I don't think that would justify its use in worship. As I've often said, worship should always direct one's attention to the Lord. We can certainly have musicians and worship leaders, but they must always be careful to avoid drawing undue attention to themselves when performing. I doubt that the congregation will be focused on the Lord when you have a visual hula treat on stage -- even if the hula performers are modestly dressed and not dancing suggestively. It's naive to think that people will be looking at the dancers and say, "How great, how mighty, how wonderful is our God!"

So why is hula becoming so popular in our churches? I think it's because people have lost sight of what worship is about. Many believers evaluate worship based on how much they enjoy the music -- or worse, how much they enjoy the light shows or the MTV-style multimedia productions. True worship, however, is not for our enjoyment. It is about focusing on the Lord God himself, dwelling on his majesty, power and love without any regard for our own pleasure. The Almighty deserves no less than that.