Jul 26, 2009

Those Wedding Dancers..and The Spiritual Experience of Young People


Deacon Greg pointed me to the Today Show interview of the runaway viral video of the couple who danced down the aisle with their wedding party. Over at Facebook, I've seen a mixed bag of responses to the video from people who think it was awesome to others who found it disrespectful and even others who suggested that their marriage might not last because they're not pious enough!

Oh p'shaw!

None of these responses hit the mark in my opinion. Some people are projecting their own spiritual experience onto others here. Many paint younger people into a corner and expect them to conform to THEIR vision of what ritual is. Young people, in my opinion, seem to be striking back and saying that they have their own thoughts on the matter and that maybe we need to look more carefully at this to see some deeper wisdom in this?

The bride suggested that they do this because “I danced growing up and was a dancer through college and loved dance as a way to express yourself and share joy. So it was something I always thought about doing.”

Dancing as a way to express yourself and share joy...

While slightly self-indulgent to be sure, there's a lot of deep seated meaning here. God created her as someone who is to be loved and she is expressing that--perhaps unconsciously--and also expressing how much she loves her friends and secondly I found the moment to also express how much her friends love and support her and her groom as well.

Here's the failure of the day. WE'VE secularized it...not them. From the Today Show's article:

The 28-year-olds floored their wedding guests by having their whole bridal party — including seven bridesmaids, five groomsmen and four ushers — boogie down the aisle in a choreographed dance more at home in a Broadway musical than in a somber church. (Emphasis mine)


Um...my church is hardly somber, first of all. Contemplative at times--but not somber, even at funerals. So let's just point that out.

However, I'm also not dumb enough to think that my church is the norm. I'm sure there are some that are really boring and staid--and therein lies another assumption--and one that the young people pictured took a lot of pains to avoid.

Church is supposed to be joyless.

Clearly these people did not want a joyless wedding and often the young think that they simply need to jump through the motions of the religious ritual to get to the party. These people smashed that myth--the wedding ceremony IS the PARTY. In fact it's the most important part of the party.

What if we felt that way every time we did ritual? What if we looked forward to the Eucharist with that much joy each week? More importantly, do we ever feel that enthusiastic about our own participation in parish life or even just attending mass at any random church?

I think if we're honest, we don't or it's rare--reserved for high holy days like Christmas or the Easter vigil (and that's a lot more sedate than what was expressed by the couple) but not for a random Sunday in "ordinary time."

Our assumption is that if it doesn't correspond to our usual experience of church it can't possibly have any spiritual meaning.

But perhaps the question goes deeper...

What these young people are expressing is very spiritual. In fact it is very spiritual and so alive with the joy that God has given to them in the love that they share now in marriage and that they have cultivated with their friends that they can barely contain it.

Our job is to awaken them to that fact. If i were the presider at the wedding I would start out with the following words:

"Clearly the Holy Spirit, the spirit who dances, who animates us into existance, clearly that spirit is alive here today! Clearly the love that is already being expressed by Jill and Kevin for each other is alive. Also the love that has been shared over the many years by their parents and their families and friends who have danced with them through life, that love has brought them to today--the wedding day. And here's the most important thing for all of us, not just Kevin and Jill, but all of us, need to remember. The love that is expressed by them for each other reflects the love that God has for each one of us. And because God has this great love for us, the greatest love, the love that forgives us of our faults, the love that Jesus shows us by becoming one of us and then entering into the experience of our own human death and going beyond that experience into new life, a love that is completely unselfish and in fact, self-emptying--that is the way God loves us.

Kevin and Jen, today as you come before us in marriage, know that this love you feel for one another is not merely self-indulgent but rather it compels you to understand just how much God loves you both. As a husband loves his wife so too does God us in the same way. Kevin would do anything for Jen and Jen loves Kevin so much that she cannot help but express that by dancing joyfully. And that is contagious! God too, always wants to go that extra yard for all of us and in your marriage may you continue to be aware of that same joy and see God in the love that makes you dance!

Amen?"


(a h/t to the good deacon and to the Today show for the pic)

6 comments:

Jamie said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I've been battling crumudgeons on a forum about this incident and about contemporary masses. Some think this is an example as why marriages don't last. In another thread someone said, "Who said mass is supposed to be fun??" I say who said mass is supposed to be boring. It's a celebration!!!

joan said...

Totally wrong. You need to read the catechism.

Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus said...

Amen. And again, I say: AMEN.

god googler said...

Joan--

In particular what did I overlook in the catechism? Because I think you are being condescending is assuming that I haven't read it (especially since I hold a Master's Degree in Religious Ed and use it constantly)

Kraft said...

Thanks for the different look at it.

Personally, I do feel that something this would be better placed at the reception, but overall, because I would hate for the most memorable moment in a wedding ceremony, by design, was the processional rather than the exchange of vows.

Young myself (24), I admit that my ways of experiencing spirituality may or may not be the same as the generation before; however, I think there is something to be said in light of balancing personal experience and show of joy with the liturgical design of a ceremony (granted, this wasn't Catholic, but let's be honest, it's close enough liturgically for this point).

To that end, the recessional would, in my opinion, be a more natural place for a personal show of joy.

TTTime said...

I wrote about this over at your friend's place (the Deacon's Bench), but I'll provide a truncated version here.

I think much of the analysis on this whole thing is misguided out of the gate, because it views the dance sequence as having authentic motivations (in either direction -- spiritual or secular).

That's not what it is. Rather, it is ironic, first and foremost. Irony is its defining character. In this regard, it's very much of its time.

It is irreverent. I don't mean in a religious context (though it may well be). I mean it is irreverent in the context of expectations: It is purposely incongruous. That is its very reason for existence. It is literally meaningless, and thus frivolous.

Reading anything more into it is to imbue it with meaning it does not actually possess. This dance sequence is not intrinsically about "expressing joy." It's merely about irony, of a type that is deeply embedded in our modern, media-savvy culture.

I expound more at the other site if I haven't proficiently explained my point here. Thanks for providing a venue for commenting...

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