Saturday, February 03, 2007

shake those Harding hips

I just got an email from a friend and fellow Harding alumna with these links:

http://www.arktimes.com/blogs/littlerocking/2007/01/review_robert_randolph_at_sear.aspx

http://www.markaelrod.net/2007/01/27/robert-randolph-show-mayhem

See also Malibu Librarian's post, which has several additional links as well.

Ah, I remember me a time when I joined a very subversive conga line during a TMBG concert in Benson Auditorium. Yes, and sure enough, the conga line, or perhaps it was the equally subversive performance of the song "S-E-X-X-Y," got them never invited back. Bloody miracle they were invited in the first place, not being country singers. And doubly miraculous that they came! But of course no good deed goes unpunished, not even might-be-giants'.

Unfortunately for me, this little story of my alma mater, like most I suppose, leaves not just the warm fuzzies thinking of all those innocent little undergrads shakin' their hips on the Benson stage to the greater glory of God, but leaves me with a little tingly feeling of dread and dismay as well. It's not that I'm surprised by the rank hypocrisy of a school that forbids dancing while simultaneously endorsing the overblown spectacle of euphemistic choreography dubbed "Spring Sing" every year. No, that's just to be expected; part of the quirkiness of Harding life.

It's the appearance of "CABs" [Campus Activity Board] in special uniform green T-shirts that bugs me. College students deputized to enforce the kyriarchy's arbitrarily decided standards of morality. Can we think of any precedents for this move toward empowering young people as a police force against their peers? Hmmm...Dolores Umbridge's "Inquisatorial Squad" comes to mind, as do more obvious historical examples, and none of them are at all positive. Does Harding really want to be teaching its students that the most moral way to relate to the other is as adversary, watch dog, policeman? That the path to Christian living is marked by a readiness to use force in order to ensure conformity? That control over others is the moral goal of any pious Christian? That other people simply cannot be trusted to exercise good judgment over matters such as how to properly move their limbs?

CAB, IS, or any other acronym you care to add, it doesn't matter. The creation of any such organization, and the lessons it teaches, are the same, no matter what the ostensible moral concern to be enforced is. Sure, quibbling over dancing is nowhere near the level of moral seriousness that, say, racism is. But empowering one subset of people over another within a general population teaches the pernicious lessons of moral superiority, endorsement of force as a moral means to an end, and the disrespect of others.

Shake your booty down to the floor, y'all. If dancing is all it takes to be subversive, well, start small. Sooner or later your moral senses will escape the appalling damage being done to them and you'll wake up to the issues in the world that are really worth fighting for.

13 comments:

Malibu Librarian said...

Well said.

Chad Gardner said...

Excellent post.

Chad Gardner said...

I also cry when I think of our conga line getting shut down at the TMBG concert...

R-Liz said...

I thought "JH" over at Elrod's site said it well with:

"Is it me, or has the alma mater been (d)evolving into a sort of self-parody over the last few years?"

You state the ridiculousness of it all nicely, and quite objectively. I roll my eyes and, again, wonder what the hell I was thinking going there.

JTB said...

You know, having actual human beings as students seems to be such an annoying problem. They're so, you know, unpredictable, with the free will and all that. Perhaps Harding should consider investing in a student population of programmable robots, and then instead of having to negotiate "no dancing" clauses with the bands they hire, they could just include a command in the brainy works of their robotkids. And presto! A student body with perfect moral behavior and no desire to rebel whatsoever. Worth looking into. I wonder why God didn't think of this in the first place, anyhow? Would've saved the trouble of incarnating, and dying, and all that...

Martin said...

I shamefacedly showed this business to my better half... and then spent about two hours trying to explain how dancing at a concert could even be an issue. She was loving it. Someday soon I will have to share with you our scandalous dancing pics from NYE.

JTB said...

I find that many people outside the Harding/CofC circle find our little corner of Christendom bizarre and fascinating. If you don't mind being on temporary display as an escaped religious-circus freak, it can make for hours of fun conversation...

I owe you a bottle of Scotch...where to send it?

Justin said...

I'm not sure if I'm noticing anything significant or not, but it seems that there are three or four male dancers on stage for a little while, then, within seconds of the first female dancer hitting the stage...security.

I wonder if there's any corollation here. After all, men shaking their hips is one thing; it reminds everyone of what we have, which we should be proud of. But women shaking their hips? That's just obscene. What if one of them shaking causes me to lust? Then what?

Look, there's a great chance that it just took a few moments for Burks to communicate his ire to some crony, who communicated it to security, who communicated it to the dancers on stage. Though this seems unlikely, since the cardinal rule of any HU concert is 'Don't Dance.'

Perhaps more likely...a student security officer wasn't able to summon the gumption to interfere until there was someone on stage he felt sufficiently more powerful than. ie, woman.

Whichever way I think about it, I find myself back at the deep-seated chauvinism that requires women to be responsible for the thoughts thought about them, or that places them on a power heirarchy equal with children...a deep-seated chauvinism that, unfortunately, pervades my alma mater.

J. Brent Bates said...

Justin,
I had a very similar thought to yours. But I wonder if an even more threatening issue here in this southern conservative Christian context was not just a woman dancing, but a white girl dancing beside (and touching) an African American. In my experience racism was an equal (if not an even deeper) problem among my peers and others at Harding than inequality of the sexes. (NOTE: I AM NOT SAYING THAT EVERYONE AT HARDING IS A RACIST, but that it was a very real systemic problem.) I think this episode triggered not just the fear of sex, but the fear of sex exacerbated by racial fears.

JTB said...

Justin, a commenter on Chad Gardner's blog noticed the same thing: that it was only after girls started dancing that CABs and security went into action to herd people offstage. It's true, but I hadn't noticed that myself-- sometimes I'm just really bad at being a feminist. Brent's observation was something else I wouldn't have put together, and pretty damn sinister it is too. I don't know if one could make an airtight argument for it as a motivation, but I will say that the symbolic fear of a society out-of-control evoked by images of white women consorting with black men seems to me to be very similar to the fear at work in this incident. Why is dancing such a scary scary thing? Well, not because dancing is, but because it is symbolic of refusal to conform, of disdain for "order", of celebration of the body and of pleasure, and--at least in the rarified community of Harding--of blatant disregard for authority. A society out of control indeed.

hermit greg said...

You can send martin's scotch to me; I promise to take very good care of it.

Amy said...

Since no one has said it yet, I guess I'll be the one. "Everybody cut, everybody cut...now I'm gonna cut...footloose!"

Martin said...

And I'll chime in:
She's maniac, maniac... on the floor! And she's dancin' like she's never danced before!