I did a lot of stupid things when I was in college. I still do. I also did a lot of things that no doubt made my Savior weep. And I still do. Thus, I can completely identify with the mindset that would motivate a college student – or a person of any age, for that matter – to make a silly video, emulating a popular movement known as the “Harlem Shake.”
Yet all this doesn’t diminish the sadness I experienced when I saw a video of students from my alma mater participating in the erotic dance in a very public venue on campus. There was bumping. There was grinding. There was silliness and revelry – all classified by many Christians, no doubt, as simple and innocent fun.
What’s the problem with a little bit of fun, anyway? No one was harmed. There is a time for everything, after all. And anyone who would find fault with it is simply a puritanical prude. Besides, there is context to the occasion; it is participation in a wider cultural experiment and pursuit. It’s innocent.
Never mind the other errors of such thought-processes, I think this definition from Susanna Wesley – mother of John – enunciates the pitfalls of this minimalist mindset the best:
Take this rule: whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off your relish of spiritual things; in short, whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself.
It seems to me that the “Harlem Shake,” however innocent it may appear to some, doesn’t pass Susanna’s criteria – which, I should hasten to add, seems to be a good paraphrase of Philippians 4:8 – on any level.
Of course, to a large degree, I don’t necessarily blame these young people for the behavior. Young people, to a great extent, are simply living as good as they’ve been taught (and putting into practice what the older generation would love to do in theory – were they not too self-conscious). They’re a reflection of where we are as a people – a people who have not been gripped by the grace and love of Christ to the point that we want to live entirely by His Spirit rather than our flesh; a people who have forgotten that we’re participants in a “great controversy” where Christ is waiting for us to testify unequivocally that He is a God who not only is love but a God who is powerful enough to transform us into other-centered, self-denying people.
In fact, I don’t blame anyone. I simply look in the mirror and say, “Lord, forgive me for my rebellious heart – and change me from within.”
We are here on this earth, after all, to live selfless and other-centered lives – a goal that I fall far short of all too often.