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    Dancing deemed immoral by 19th century preachers

    Nineteenth century preachers were divided on the morality of dancing. Many called it immoral, and sought to stop it. British Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) said it would be acceptable as long as men and women danced in separate rooms. American preacher and social reformer Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1997) was more tolerant. Following item is from the Toronto Nation, April 9, 1874.

    If one were to devote a little attention to noting and extracting from newspapers the various opinions which are from time to time given, especially by the “religious world,” on certain subjects, the result would be a compilation more curious perhaps than flattering to the good sense of this nineteenth century. On dancing, for instance, very contradictory opinions have been broached; and our album of clippings would contain Mr. Spurgeon’s approval of the amusement, provided that the sexes danced in separate rooms.

    Then it would record a vehement denunciation—almost an excommunication—launched by a certain Bishop against those who indulged in such a frivolous, yea, immoral, practice; and also a letter from another Bishop upholding and advocating that which his reverend brother denounced. Then, quite lately, we read how the clergy in a Belgian parish called in the aid of the civil power to stop a ball—how the names, addresses, and professions of those present were taken down, and how at every hour between eleven and two the dancers were ordered to desist, and how, like wise people who had come to dance, they insisted upon dancing as long as they pleased.

    We should be sorry to endorse all Mr. Ward Beecher’s opinions, but he certainly made a wise and charitable declaration when, on being appealed for his opinion of dancing, he said that it was innocent where it was innocent, and wrong where it was wrong. Surely there are sins enough in the world—open, gross, and undeniable sins—without new ones being suggested and created where they do not otherwise exist. Thousands of persons are, at any given moment, dancing somewhere in the world. You may possibly be right, reverend brother, in thinking they are wasting time in frivolity; but to by far the greater proportion of them it is a frivolity indulged in with innocence and purity. Why suggest sin? Why wound a tender conscience by making it suspect its right innocently to enjoy life?

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    TAGS: Dance, Morality, Clergy, Religion, Charles Spurgeon, Henry Ward Beecher

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