This is perhaps the weirdest news story I have seen all year. Crystal Dean, a fitness instructor at a studio called Best Shape of Your Life, is offering a fitness class that as far as I know is unprecedented: Pole Fitness for Jesus. These types of fitness classes are a growing trend in fitness centers across the country but hosting such classes primarily for church goers is a surely a first. Dean offers these classes free of charge on Sundays to women who bring in their church bulletins. Dean says, “God gives us these bodies, and they are supposed to be our temples and we are supposed to take care of them . . . and that is what we are doing.”
ABC News, who ran the story, interviewed University of Texas professor Thomas Tweed who rates the pole dancing classes as “mildly surprising.” He says, “this is just another attempt to think through how to live a full Christian life . . . some people of course would say it’s too vulgar, it’s too crass, it’s inappropriate.” But he says, “I can imagine some Christians saying if it actually brings a husband and wife together as Christians to deepen the marriage bond, that actually it’s okay.”
So what should we make of this story? Certainly we would all agree that the marriage bed is sacred and that there is a measure of sexual freedom within it between husband and wife. We would all agree that fitness is a wonderful thing and taking care of our bodies honors the Lord who gave them to us. But is this an appropriate way for Christians to be taking care of their bodies in public?
To be fair to Dean and Best Shape of Your Life, the classes are only offered to women and the women in the classes are married. It appears that these classes are in no way training for anything these women might do in any public setting. However, what “the pole” represents in this instance is not helping their case as Christians seeking to get closer to God. My problem is that anyone you talk to knows what “the pole” represents. “The pole” represents strip clubs and strippers, two images that I don’t think are honoring to women or helpful with regard to our Christian witness.
Are these women in sin for going to a poll dancing fitness class? We should note that Scripture doesn’t condemn dancing. David danced before the Lord when the Ark of the Covenant was returned to Israel and encourages us to dance in worship of the Lord as well (Psalm 149:3). But does the mode of our dancing matter? I think it does, and I think in this instance what the pole represents is best left alone by Christians holding public fitness classes. The pole doesn’t represent the purity of intimacy found inside of marriage, it represents public nakedness and shame. The pole represents flaunting for all that which God made to be enjoyed intimately inside of marriage between spouses.
Further, it is a little troubling that the women interviewed in this story claim that this fitness class makes them “feel closer to God.” They seem, however, to be grounding that mostly in the Christian music they listen to. To that I say, why not just listen to Christian music? There is freedom in the Christian life and there are things that are sin for some that are not for others (1 Cor. 8). I won’t speak as to whether this would make other brothers or sisters “stumble,” but I will say that this certainly appears to be an instance of failing to live “honorable” lives before unbelievers (1 Pet. 2:12).
So married couples–feel free to dance however you want in the privacy of your marriage, but publicly held, pole-dancing fitness classes can’t escape the public nakedness that they represent. As Christians we should be interested in redeeming the culture. But given what “the pole” represents, holding public fitness classes revolving around it seems like a bad idea.