Dancing Jesus icon.
Okay, I can’t get it out of my head. Dancing Queen. This past week, Wade and I watched some escapist fare to overcome the world’s angst over the pandemic, the murders of black people, and who is in the White House. We watched both versions of Mamma Mia! on two consecutive nights. And I listened to my CD of Abba as I did my blog business last Wednesday.
That day’s post quoted my spiritual mentor Henri Nouwen about the U.S. Civil Rights Movement: “It seemed as if nobody could party better than these oppressed people.” That’s true of LGBTIQ people as well. Henri had a taste of that when I once took him to a popular West Hollywood disco, Studio One.
In the middle of marchers dancing during an apartheid protest in South Africa, Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu was asked by a news reporter why dancing was so important. Tutu continued his dancing, gave the reporter a puzzled expression, pleading, “We’ve just got to dance.”
Wade and I watched the fa-bu-lous Global Pride 2020 24-hour marathon this past Saturday that often moved me to tears of joy and gratitude, as well as grief and pain for those who never lived to see it. (An aside I can’t resist: a gay friend of mine had to keep re-taping a McDonald’s commercial because he kept putting too much emphasis on the word “fa-bu-lous”!)
I still remember when I thought I was the only one.
And I remember an early Pride festival in my home city of Los Angeles. Friday night, at the entrance, fundamentalist Christians had positioned themselves with damning signs, including “TURN OR BURN!” which the band just inside the festival fence mocked by playing “Burn, Baby, Burn!” from Saturday Night Fever.
Another aside from “the old days”: MCC founder and Pride activist Rev. Troy Perry liked to explain that fundamentalism was an ideological “ism” that included nothing “mental” and nothing “fun.”
It was the Saturday of a subsequent Pride festival that a friend and church member brought his ten-year-old son along. When I arrived, I noticed the dance tent was crowded with a circle of attendees watching a couple dance in the middle of the tent, clapping their approval to the beat of the music. As I approached, I realized it was my friend’s very white little boy dancing extraordinarily well with a very tall black man. I kidded my friend, “Your son has fulfilled your fantasy of having the eyes of everyone on the dance floor riveted by your dancing skills!” When the father died of AIDS years later, I probably told that story in his eulogy.
I have often taken my emotions into my dancing, whether expressing joy or grief. That’s true of many of us in the Queer movement. My first long-term boyfriend and I used to dance till we were sweaty and shirtless.
A friend who died of AIDS a few years after graduation from Columbia Theological Seminary here in the Atlanta area had a rather traditional Presbyterian memorial service. But at the end, to our delight, he had requested the postlude, “Dancing Queen.” We left with a smile on our lips.
Thanks be to God for all the dancing queens of our lives!
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