A Contra Dance Parable

BY JOE BROWNSBERGER

This piece is part of syndicated series in collaboration with Yale Logos for Lent 2021. You can read the original piece at https://www.yalelogos.com/home/a-contra-dance-parable.

Jesus said to the crowds: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a great contra dance in an enormous hall. As the guests filed into the hall, the musicians struck up the tune and the caller began calling out the steps of the dance. A few people took to the floor, and seeing them, many others soon joined them. The dancers all adhered to their place in the dance, moving according to their part and the directions of the caller. When one would make a mistake, the caller would call out a new step that incorporated the mistake into an even better movement. The dancers laughed and talked as they swung around each other.

“However, some of the guests stayed by the snack bar, eating cookies and grapes and drinking lemonade. One of them thought, ‘I already know how to dance, I don’t need to learn. Besides, look at all the types of people dancing! I know them—they aren’t the brightest of folks. If I join them, it will look like I am one of them!’

“Another looked at how fast the dance was going, how intricate it was, and how hard everyone was breathing. She said, ‘Look at how hard this dance is! I will never be able to learn it—it’s useless to try. Besides, it looks so strenuous, it would take so much effort—I’m better off here, conserving my strength.’

“Another guest, his hands full of potato chips, never really noticed the dance—he was too busy paying attention to the pot-luck desserts.

“Lastly, one of those there said to herself, ‘Look at those slavish people—they have to follow the caller’s every word. They cannot do as they want, they cannot be what they want; they each have to take up the part assigned to them. But I, I am free to do as I want. I can move whatever way I want, not bumping into anyone, not having to touch people’s sweaty hands. I can dance here all by myself, without any caller.’ She did, in fact, try to dance alone in a corner, but soon she felt ridiculous and gave up, joining the others by the miniature cupcakes.

“All too soon the dance was over, and the musicians packed away their instruments. The dancers all went together into a great dining room, where there was plenteous meat and casseroles and beer. They needed it—they had worked up an appetite. But those who had stayed by the snack table left the hall, and the doors locked behind them, and they went away through the cold night to watch TV by themselves in their houses, and there was wailing and gnashing of teeth.”

Joe is a Senior at Yale studying Physics & Philosophy.

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