Several years ago, I wrote a column about praise dancing. At that time, I saw it as little more than a talentless addition to a religious service that simply served to entertain the predominantly male members who sit in the pulpit. Young, lithe, mostly female dancers, sway, gyrate, leap and kick to music.
I received a lot of emails from readers expressing their opinions in favor of praise dancing. Some people wrote a couple of lines while others wrote entire paragraphs. A few wrote several pages. I am grateful for all the feedback, but I am still not a fan of it. However, praise dancing’s popularity has grown so much that it is now considered a staple of church services and I respect them for it.
Religious services have changed a lot over the years. I remember when women wearing pants to church was a big issue. Now nobody takes notice. That is how a religious service evolves. What was once the unusual becomes the norm.
Recently on Facebook, a video was posted of two sisters performing a popular TikTok dance in front of their mother’s open casket. At the end of the performance, they giggle. Initial reactions from people included a lot of folks being shocked. And a controversy ensued.
Since that video was posted last year, several more have surfaced. The latest involved a trio of females, performing what is now called a TikTok dance for the camera. If dance has become a part of church services, why can’t the same thing be said of funeral services? All I had to do was think about the funeral services held in New Orleans. They feature an entire parade. Jazz musicians play while others strut about. The funeral service is not somber but more a celebration of the person’s life.
The latest video I watched was accompanied by a note that said the girls’ performance was one of the deceased’s favorites. As I watched their choreographed movements in front of the casket, with what appears to be a funeral director standing watch kitty-corner to the casket, I was neither shocked nor surprised. I don’t even find it controversial. At some point, dance is going to be part of religious ceremonies and a funeral is no different from a regular service.
So I’m accepting of this latest form of funeral culture. I will add it to the tradition of folks who pour alcohol onto the ground for the deceased, as well as those who spell out the deceased’s name using quarters. Then you have cemeteries filled with pinwheels, balloons and all sorts of tributes to the departed, which add a festive atmosphere.
Funeral traditions come from activities that make people feel good about the service since the funeral is for the living.