Footloose Meditation: The Limitation of Legalism

Jerry King
In Bomont, Texas, the fictitious small-town setting of Footloose, dancing is against the law. Under the moral leadership of Rev. Shaw Moore, the town council passed an ordinance forbidding dancing of any kind within city limits.
Dancing is linked by the good Reverend in defensive arguments to drinking, drugs and loose sex. But beneath the surface, dancing is connected for Rev. Moore to his son’s death. Returning from a night of dancing out of town (and likely driving under the influence), Bobby Moore and three others of “Bomont’s Finest” drove off the Potawney Bridge and plunged to their deaths forty feet below. Such a devastating blow is all but impossible to imagine for anyone who has not experienced something like it. But every parent fears getting “that call.”

Wouldn’t you want to construct a legal-behavioral wall to protect those you love from pain, suffering, and death? You would. And we all do. A huge part of what occupies a parent day-in-and-day-out is protection: seeing that your child is warm enough or cool enough, eating well, sleeping soundly, not running in front of moving cars or playing with sharp knives, stop-dropping-and-rolling. But, even as we do our best to guard the ones we love, we know that the day is coming when our child will go out the front door and face the world, beyond our reach. As inevitable as that is, and as much as we try to ready our young one for it, we all know that it will be a risk. The world can be dangerous, and it can be cruel. Kids can make bad decisions and car accidents happen.

But there is no love without risk. No freedom, no life. Adam and Eve tried to avoid the danger of temptation to eat the enticing tree’s fruit by avoiding even touching it (Genesis 3:3), but it didn’t work. Their self-manufactured invisible fence collapsed, and soon the juice was running down their guilty chins.

Rev. Moore is on a fool’s errand in trying to stave off harm by forbidding dancing. The more he restricts, the more his daughter flirts with very real danger. He knows he is losing her, but he cannot see any other way to go.

Thank God for his wise wife, Vi. She sees another way to Ariel’s heart:
Can you find it in your heart to forgive her?
… Can’t you hear what she’s trying to say?

We fearful humans have never been able to pull of either righteousness or safety from the outside, in. No amount of vigilant legalism has ever protected anyone for long. But a trusting heart conquered by love dares to risk because it knows that death never gets the last word.

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Located in Charlottesville, VA, The Covenant School is a non-denominational, private, Christian day school for Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 12. Students benefit from a challenging academic program, visual and performing arts, competitive athletics, and a wide selection of extracurricular activities.