I wanted to descend from the proverbial mountain and firsthand experience what “lesser mortals” consider so much more appealing than serving Lord Jesus.
First of all, I am impressed by the Salsa Dance company that puts these parties together. A few dance instructors and enthusiasts offer Salsa lessons on Friday evenings, and then after the lessons, there is a party. I was impressed with the welcoming spirit that is so generally common among Hispanics, with the exception of one instructor who would look at me strangely…
It was interesting how some people “sensed” something “other-worldly” about me… A few who asked me what I did for a living, immediately reacted with an “I knew it!” after telling them that I’m a pastor… Maybe it’s the conservative haircut?
At a time when I can barely get my 21-year-old sons to chill with me for 10 minutes, it was interesting to see how some of the 20 year olds gravitated towards me like if I were some sort of Lutheran version of Charles Manson and the Hippies. Of course, whenever younger people find this mid-life crisis, sombrero-wearing Cuban interesting…I’m flattered.
The majority of the people began to really show up after 11:30 p.m. The music was nice. There were a good amount of German-looking ladies that danced like they had been raised on a Cuban cabaret…Their consorts were good dancers too, but they were much stiffer than the Latinized Anglo-Chicks with the loose hips. I must confess that there was something scientifically exotic about those beautiful Anglo girls who seemed to be embodiments of my culture.
I was impressed with the classy spirit of the environment. There was nothing raunchy about the party. Besides the usual dogs searching for new meat, everyone else seemed to be in their best behavior and focused on one thing: fun socialization.
But after a while, I began to truly observe the dancing crowd. I noticed that the majority of the people dancing had blank faces. The music was good and so was the setting…but many people seemed to just be going through the moves. The one thing that struck me was the lack of exuberant joy.
There was a sense of careful happiness in the air. Like your average gym, many people were trying to give off an air of confidence mixed with a distanced attitude. The one thing that was definitely missing was a sense of total surrender to the rhythm…Folks were so concerned with impressing others, that they could not just let go.
Recently I visited the Bhakti Center in NYC, which is the Hare Krishna temple there. It was amazing to see how the people worshiped Krishna. They had such a beautiful attitude of exuberant abandonment to the rhythm! They danced with such joy as they worshiped their god! It reminded me so much of the Ancient Church!
After last night’s experience, I am definitely convinced that the type of mystical exuberance that I so love, cannot be found in Salsa parties…or any other party for that matter.
I believe that the Western Church is missing the boat on this one. People want to experience exuberant joy and a sense of tribal fellowship…but the expectations of the world do not allow for such abandonment and full surrender. The human soul can only experience such exuberant joy when it is worshiping God in a community of God.
Yes, I had more fun with the Hare Krishnas… and it is a darn shame that Western Christians don’t take a step back and recapture the sense of tribal joy that we had in the second century.
I will definitely go back again to the Salsa dance and shake my booty…but whatever exuberant joy I am seeking to experience, I’m going to have to bring it with me.