I’m going to take a second and beat the proverbial dead horse that is the Harlem Shake one more time. In saying that, it really IS amazing how quickly trends come and go now in our quick-paced culture. Nevertheless, I want to respond to a couple of questions and reactions from the Christian community on the latest Internet meme. The first strong reaction that I saw was in the comment thread over at More Than Dodgeball on THIS POST. If you scroll down, you’ll see where my fellow youth pastor friend Geoff Stewart posts a great response to a concerned reader. A few days later, I had a student send me THIS POST over at Christianity Today asking a few questions about the craze. Though I don’t agree with everything said in this particular article, I do find it helpful to think through the background and implications. Lastly, I had a beloved church member inquire about our youth ministry’s participation in the Harlem Shake. My church community keeps me sharp! I asked this member’s permission to post my response in blog form with some editing, while protecting their identity. For what it’s worth, here it is:
“The Harlem Shake is simply an internet craze that hit two weeks ago where people post 30 second videos of themselves doing crazy stunts and dances to a song by the same name. Hundreds of youth groups across the country did the Harlem Shake and posted it to YouTube. At YouthQuake, we believe in a “theology of play.” Our Wednesday Night service is geared in such a way to reach students all over our community. Understand that I have students from all kinds of backgrounds, many of which are filled with hurts, wounds, and brokenness. Sometimes just a few minutes of laughter is more healing to the soul than anything else. And we stand by that. Our “fun/game element” only takes up about 5% of our service, the rest of which is centered on live worship, teaching, & small groups.
We recorded the Harlem Shake video 3 weeks ago as a short segment before our service. Before recording it, we made a point to say that there was no scandalous dancing allowed. If you watch the video, you’ll see the students merely jumping around with a variety of different props. The point of this was not worship, but a quick introduction before worship started. Our kids were encouraged to post the video on their Facebook/Twitter and almost 30 students did just that. We amounted 2,000 video hits over that weekend alone. The best part was that students used it as a way of inviting their unchurched friends. They would post the video with a tagline like, “THIS IS MY CHURCH!” We see it merely as a “hook.” We’ve had several new visitors since then that have come in some part because they saw the YouthQuake Harlem Shake video. Now, they’re being exposed to the message and hope of Jesus! That’s what it means to use social media as an avenue for the glory of God.
When faced with issues of culture, we have 3 options: 1) REJECT, 2) RECEIVE, or 3) REDEEM. Some issues of culture need to be outright rejected because it clearly conflicts with biblical standards or spirituality. Some issues can be received with no violation. However, lots of issues can be REDEEMED and used to the advantage of God’s kingdom. I would point to Titus 1:12 as an example when Paul quotes a Cretan poet to make a point. Cretans were known as greatly immoral people and pagans, yet Paul REDEEMS the statement to make his point to a particular audience.
This is the case with the Harlem Shake. We chose to redeem the dance as a way of students inviting their friends to YouthQuake to eventually hear the gospel. When it comes to issues of culture, we need not let Satan claim fun, modernization, or creativity. We serve a fun, creative God, so if anyone has a claim on joy, progress, modernization, and creativity, it’s the Church. It’s vitally important that we learn to engage culture thoughtfully and redeem it for the glory of God.”
What do you think? Is an Internet craze like the Harlem Shake to be rejected, received, or redeemed? What are some other examples of culture that might be redeemed for God’s glory? I’d love to hear your responses!