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"Church Girl", Pentecostal Push Back, and 21st Century Sanctification

Liberation or Lies?: An Analysis of Beyonce's Song "Church Girl"

#Churchgirl #Beyonce #Renaissance #TwerkingChurchGirls #Sanctification #Churchhurt #deconstructingChristianity #reconstructingchristianity #decolonizingtheology #dance #clubbingandchurching #churchlife #clublife #doublelife #pentecostalism

Let's Talk About Church Girl.

I will start by saying that I grew up in the periphery of pentecostalism in the 80’s and 90’s. I wasn’t quite a church girl. My parents were church rejects from the apostolic movement. Back then they would have been called backsliders, as they both were going through their own versions of deconstruction and questioning of the church and christian faith (and maybe some backsliding too, but that’s for another time). I rarely went to church with either or both of my parents, and I was often dropped off and picked up, along with my brothers. When my maternal grandmother was alive, I went with her, but she passed away when I was 9 years old (RIH Evelyn). I guess my mom thought it was still important for us to have some sort of faith foundation, even though she was uprooting and restructuring her own.

So, as I said, I am not sure I qualify as a real church girl. I am not a PK (preacher’s kid), nor was I part of one of those churches that had 3 services on Sunday and several throughout the week. (I technically qualify as a PN, preacher’s niece, as I have aunts who are in ministry as well as other extended family). I went on Sunday and some Wednesdays for bible study, mostly to socialize with my first cousins and other church kids, and of course, children’s church as pretty fun.

As I write about Beyonce’s new song “Church Girl” from her latest release, “Renaissance”, I thought it would be important to disclaim that I am not really a church girl by upbringing. But, although I didn’t get heavily involved in church until I was a full grown adult, I believe that there was a period in my walk with God where I would have qualified as being part of her target audience for this song.

I have never blogged about Beyonce nor her music before, and I want to say at the outset…that if you are reading this expecting me to break down her supposed connections with the illuminati and all the demonic symbolism in her art, you have come to the wrong place. The truth is, I don’t know much about the illuminati, and I am not knowledgeable enough, I am extremely skeptical about the impact (not the existence) of the illuminati, and mostly I just don’t care.

I do, however, believe that Beyonce is intentional and deliberate in the messages she expresses in her music. Her music has and always will have a wide spread, global impact, and it’s discussion worthy on the basis of both its artistic merits and philosophical propositions.

“Church Girl” struck a nerve with me, and got me contemplating my own experiences with church, dancing, and sexuality. So I want to share some thoughts on my interpretation of this song, as well as some critical analysis of its ideas.

Let’s start by listening to the song, and make sure you pay close attention to the lyrics!

First Impressions

The main theme of this song, or at least my personal take, is that “Church Girl” is an anthem for women to embrace their freedom to dance, and to express their sexuality through dance, while at the same time embracing their spiritual selves and religious beliefs. In Beyonce’s mind, there is no cognitive dissonance between clubbing on Saturday night, and churching on Sunday morning. She has given voice to a hidden (or maybe not so hidden anymore in these 2020’s) stream of thought with some people in church….that it’s okay to both party and serve the Lord…to be saved and sexy.

Oh, But There is a Problem!

Now, if you are in fact, a church girl (or church going person), especially of certain denominational persuasions, you know that Beyonce’s “Church Girl” is more than a provocative or liberating statement…it is outright rebellion against the religious status quo.

This may be hard to believe for some of my younger millennials and gen- Z’ers, but those of us who grew up anywhere near the church in the early-late 20th century will tell you that for a very long time, many churches taught that dancing was a sin.

Let me say that once more.

As a pentecostal, we were explicitly taught that dancing was a sin, and that if you dance (in a club, at a house party, a block party, on Tik Tok or anywhere else) you were going to go to hell.

Sit with that for a minute and let me elaborate on the seriousness of this teaching (and let me also note that it most certainly still exists within the holiness movement). It was not just that dancing in a party setting was wrong. It wasn’t that only certain genres of dancing were wrong. It was that dancing was of the devil, and it was ALL WRONG. Listen friends, liturgical dancers and mime ministries were not prominent before the mid-90’s. Modern dance and creative movement expressions were not encouraged within most church denominations. I know this is hard to believe, and I didn’t do any scholastic research to certify this, but my observations over the last few decades confirm this to be pretty close to accurate.

The only kind of dancing that was allowed in church was holy dancing, shouting, praise break dance. Never mind if your boobs and butt were bouncing- they have prayer clothes for that, sometimes. (And, of course, it would be instructive to point out the origins of shouting in church as coming from traditional African religion, with dances that had some sexual overtones built into them, depending on the dance; but nobody was talking about that back then.) As long as you are holy dancing for the Lord, completely covered up ,you were in the holy will of God.

Did Somebody Say, "Holy Will"?

Speaking of God’s holy will…Beyonce was clever enough to sample some church music to drive home her message in “Church Girl” even harder. She sampled a Clark sister’s song called “Center of Thy Will”. This song was written by Twinkie Clark, and you can hear the unmistakable timbre of her voice in the intro to “Church Girl”. If you’ve never heard “Center of Thy Will”, take a listen right here…

In Beyonce’s mind, she is laying down a theological plumbline. She is not just saying that it is permissible or acceptable for church girls to turn up with thot-like girations in the club on Saturday night. Beyonce is saying that it is God’s will for them to do so. It’s a strong statement that is seemingly trying to free women from religious dogma that demonizes both dance and sexuality.

I don’t think Beyonce could have been more adamant and open about the message she is sending here.

Bible Battles and Beyonce Blasphemy

Is she right, though????

Look, I will say this. If, when you listen to this song, you cannot get past the explicit lyrics and the open calls to twerk through the night (with ‘dem tig ole’ bitties, no less), you won’t be able to process Beyonce’s message, nor will you be able to find any redeeming elements within it. Many devout christians will understandably condemn this song as blasphemy- on the surface it's just too much.

But as for me… I wanna talk about how this song is reflective of my own evolving theology and understanding of “God’s holy will”. This song is also a great teaching tool for exploring the significance and practical implementation of sanctification for our current generation- for both men and women. Here are a few propositions that I would like to submit to my readers…

#1- Dancing is not, and never has been a sin

#2- Expressing sexuality through dance is not inherently evil

#3-You can live a faithful christian life, and also enjoy dancing nightlife

Everybody Dance, Now!

Let’s agree right here that there is abundant theological support throughout the scriptures for dancing as a form of praise to the Lord Exodus 15:20-21;Psalm 30:11-12; Psalm 49:3-4; Jeremiah 31:12-13. I will not make much commentary on these references, and obviously there are many more (totally google-able), but I want to talk a little about David in 2 Samuel 6:14-17…

“14 Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the LORD with all his might,

15 while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

16 As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart.

17 They brought the ark of the LORD and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the LORD.”

I am not making the case here that David’s story means that overtly sexual dance such as twerking and droppin' it low are acceptable in the eyes of God. But it is clear that David was caught up in a rapturous state of joy and euphoria as he danced before the Ark of God. The Ark of God was no place to be found naked. One of the rules of the temple, when the high priest ministered before the ark of God, was that the priest had to be fully clothed from head to toe and had to have on UNDERWEAR. The garments that the priest had to wear were specific to his role, and the prospect of being naked before the presence of God, improperly dressed, or not clothed in holiness, was a matter of life or death.

But here is David, the man after God’s own heart. He started off in the appropriate attire (albeit Kingly robes, not priestly- he was not a priest). But as he experienced the joy of God’s presence being brought back into the camp of Israel, he lost all sense of dignity and royal decorum. Even his queen was appalled by this display of immodesty both in clothing and behavior. Sometimes we forget that in God’s original plan, nobody was wearing clothes. Mankind was naked and unashamed before God (Genesis 2:25).

“Okay”, you might say, “But how do you explain the sexual part? David was not being sexual. He was praising God, even if he was immodest and undignified. How do you defend the sexual nature of Beyonce’s lyric?”

I am definitely not here to defend anything. But I want to point out that the bible itself does not have any prohibitions against celebrating or highlighting sexuality. The bible, and more accurately, the historic christian faith, has parameters within which people are to engage in sex. God created sex, and therefore sex is good.

There is an entire book in the bible that celebrates sexuality and sensuality- Song of Solomon. Many people try to dismiss the sexual storyline within this poetic book, by saying it is an allegory about Christ and His Bride. Well, to that I say….”yes, and…”. Of course there is allegorical value there because everything in the scripture points to Christ (as he explained both to the Pharisees in John 5:39 and to the two men on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:27), AND main pictorial language used to express this allegory is the sexual intimacy between a woman and her Husband.

Selah. (Ponder that)

Turn Up at Cana (John 2:1-12)

Let’s shift a little bit and discuss Jesus at the Wedding at Cana- His first recorded public miracle. But before I dive into that, I want to encourage you to take a deep dive into the gospels and the parables of Jesus. For a substantial sample of these stories, Jesus uses marital language as a point of reference, to describe the nature of His relationship to His church. I will digress from that and only add that, even though marriage for the most part has been screwed up in how it has been carried out in human customs of various cultures, Jesus had an original intent, and got to the heart of what it is really about- fidelity, intimacy, joy, and love.

But back to Cana. Most of us are familiar with the story of Jesus turning water into wine. And I know this is a short passage, but have we ever stopped to consider what was going on at this wedding? This was the wedding feast. It was a party, and you can rest assured, there was dancing. There was also drinking. Of course, the Jews observed very distinct customs when it came to their weddings, but I think it is safe to say, based on John 2, that there was a serious party going on. Dance was one notable way that ancient Jewish communities celebrated the joining of two lives. Now, nobody is arguing that they were twerking. But they were expressing a celebration of a union that involved sexuality. We should pause here to note that every culture does this in different ways (more on that in a little bit).

They also drank wine at the wedding at Cana. So much wine, in this case, that they ran out, and Jesus made them more. Some people say Jesus made “new wine” that would not have gotten anyone drunk. I just think that requires such an unnecessary hermeneutical stretch. Is it possible that there are rare occasions that call for a celebratory dance and drinking of wine?

I do not know the answer to this question. But I do know that Jesus could have said to them, “y’all have had enough wine, I’m not making anymore.” But he didn’t do that. The scripture seems to suggest here that there is at least one occasion in which Jesus thought that partying (dancing and drinking) was appropriate. In fact, it’s not hard to find allusions to feasting throughout the bible. Let’s be real. A feast is not a feast unless there is drinking and dancing (think family cookout). Let’s not drown ourselves in pseudo-spiritualization of things that God created for us to enjoy. Obviously, it would be unwise to say that we can drink and party as much as we want whenever we want (“And do not get drunk with wine, in which there is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, Ephesians 5:18). What we are aiming for as Kingdom people is MODERATION.

A Time and Place for Everything…

(Ecclesiastes 3)

“(verse1) There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every matter under heaven…….(verse 4) A time to mourn and a time to dance.”

Here’s our boy Solomon once again, the wisest man who ever lived (except for the living Christ). Look, I think his message is pretty clear here. There is a time and place for everything. Dancing to relieve stress or express joy or just to have fun with friends is not evil. It has its place, and as Spirit led people, we are to discern when, where, and how we are to express ourselves (and more accurately, the life of the Lord) through dancing.

I want to say this to my church girls who turn up on Saturday night and go to church on Sunday morning, maybe feeling a bit ashamed:

You are free in Christ. Live your life and have fun, but don’t forget that your body belongs to God, and that you are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Live a Spirit led life. If you like to go out with your girls and dance, practice moderation in all things. I say this as a 45 year woman who has messed up in the area quite a few times (every now and then I come out of my troll cage to survey the outside world LOL), and the Holy Spirit has had to bring correction to me.

It’s not the dancing that is wrong.

It’s not the glass of wine that is wrong.

God is not a prude, nor is He seeking for you to live a boring life.

But restraint and moderation are the mark of godly women. So, when you go out, just ask the Lord to help you make decisions that will bring Him glory- in EVERYTHING you do.

A Biblical Critique of Beyonce's Message

Now, are my above comments an endorsement of Beyonce’s song, “Church Girl”?

I am not endorsing or condemning this song. I am observing and analyzing the message in the song. And with that said…

I also want to challenge some of the ideas within the lyrics of Beyonce’s song. I do believe her message will resonate with so many church girls, but I also believe that we have to understand the truth about ourselves, what our liberty truly means, and how we should be prayerful, sensitive, and discerning in how we express our christian liberty. So to this end, let’s isolate some phrases within the song that are problematic for people who endeavor to follow God…

#1- “Nobody can judge me, but me”

This is false. No believer in Christ can state this affirmation and not be checked by the Holy Spirit and the witness of scripture. Jesus Christ is the judge of the living and the dead, and we will all give an account to each and every word we have spoken, and each and every deed we do in our bodies. Our bodies are not our own. Our lives are not our own. We belong to God. Oh, yes- we are free indeed, but our freedom is not a license to engage in idolatry.

Ecclesiastes 12:14 “For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing,

whether it is good or evil.”

2 Timothy 4:1-2 “I solemnly exhort you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the wor…”

Matthew 12:36 “But I tell you that for every careless word that people speak, they will give an account of it on the day of judgment.”

II Corinthians 5:10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”

Romans 12:1 “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”

I Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a [a]temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from [b]God, and that you are not your own?

No further commentary here. The scripture speaks for itself.

#2- “I was born free”

Nope. Unfortunately human beings were not born free. Because of the fall of humankind, we were born under the bondage of sin. What is sin? Sin is idolatry. Sin is when we put something in the place of God and worship it as God- be it the knowledge of good and evil, as Adam and Eve did in the garden of Eden, or be it pleasure, pride, success, greed, war, power, people, and innumerable amount of other things that become worthless when not under the submission of Almighty God. The most deceptive idol that is being worshiped in today’s modern times is worship of the “self”. We have this belief that we control our own destinies. We believe we have the power to self actualize, if only we think the right thoughts, say the right affirmations, love ourselves, and put ourselves first. This is a far cry from a balanced and healthy form of self care. It is self obsession- my thoughts, my feelings, my dreams, my goals, my aesthetics, my style, my followers, my brand, my business, my legacy, and the list goes on and on. We think we are free to do and choose what is best for us, the whole time we are in bondage to the very things we claim are setting us free. We are driven by the desire to be seen as free and powerful, but most people are far from it- full of fear, numb from trauma, apathetic to the future, and controlled by their past. No wonder we need to club, drink and turn up on the weekends LOL. But here’s the thing…

Only Jesus makes people free.

We are not born that way.

We must be born again.

John 8:36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

II Corinthians 3:17 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

I Corinthians 6:12 12 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.

Galatians 5:13-14 13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh ; rather, serve one another humbly in love.

14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Romans 6:22 “But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.

Acts 13:38-39 38 “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.

39 Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin…”

One more...

#3-”Now spend that cash a little harder and she might let you dive in the water”

No, Ma'am. It seems like we went from dancing to sex work within a matter of minutes. Actually the more I listened to the song, I started to think this song is about an actual stripper who is also a church goer. (I also wondered if she was referencing her husband Shawn Carter in some of the sly, teasing lyrics, but Imma leave that alone LOL). In the beginning of the song, I’m thinking this is about just a regular everyday church girl who likes to hit up the club sometimes on Saturday night. Maybe she feels judgment or condemnation because most churches still don’t approve of club life. But in the second half of the song, it takes on the tone of someone who is working as a stripper and going to church regularly. In both scenarios, Beyonce is saying that this church girl is not trying to “hurt nobody”, she’s just “doing the best she can”. Ey, look, I can relate to that sentiment quite strongly. I don’t think God is condemning it either. But there is a stark distinction that must be made between a woman who is going out dancing to blow off some stress and steam, and a woman who is doing sex work, and trying to follow Christ at the same time. Now, it’s easy to just be a “church goer” and engage in any profession you desire. But to follow Christ, being an exotic dancer who allows some men to “dive in the water” (presumably have sex in exchange for money), is not feasible…

Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

I Thessalonians 4:3-8 “3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister.The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8 Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.”

Do you see how this is idolatry? When there is something that I have to have, or have to do, so bad, that I am willing to violate the ways of God to do them or obtain them…When I make myself subject to another master, no matter who or what that master is… I have fallen away from my first Love.

To all my church girls who love to dance, and love Beyonce’s “Church Girl”... Listen, God knows that women’s bodies have been over policed by the church for generations (I have an aunt who was dismissed from a church service once, when she was a young girl, because she had open toed shoes on. It is this kind of heavy handed overbearing, and ungodly commandment keeping that causes extreme backlash responses like the one found in the message of “Church Girl”) . Church Girl sounds so liberating at the onset because it seems to be screaming “ I can love to dance/party and love Jesus too!”, which is true. BUT, to what extent can I engage in this activity without disgracing my holy temple in which the Spirit of the Lord Jesus resides? See, while it is important for women and girls in church to have the volition to make their own decisions about how they want to move their bodies, we still have a covenant with the crucified Lord, and we should make it our aim to honor Him in all we do.

So here is my final encouragement and admonishment about “Church Girl”...

My Sisters, my Brothers, my Friends.

Follow Christ!

Practice moderation.

Have fun and enjoy life. (suffering is certain, but so is JOY!)

For Goodness sakes- DANCE!

Follow the Spirit and Discern, discern, discern!

Love you all!

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