You’re the devil in disguise
Oh yes you are….. (Elvis Presley)
I know now, at least I think I know now, the story I was told as a young fella was just an old wives tale prompted by our fixation with being frightened and at times being the one who does the frightening. The story goes like this, and my guess is you may have your own version of it: There was a dance hall in Cavendish Street in West Belfast open for business all through the sixties. It was by all accounts a popular spot, especially on a Friday night. Given its location, all of the clientele who frequented it knew each other, if not well, certainly to see. One night a tall very handsome man that no one had ever seen before showed up at the dance. It was hard not to notice him. Tall, jet black wavy hair, slicked back, great smile. Girls swooning, the lads threatened, everyone was talking about the stranger. On top of his striking good looks it was not long before his fast moves on the dance floor were inviting comment. There was no shortage of girls willing, indeed hoping, to dance with him.
They say poor Maureen Rice never got over it. It was late in the evening that she ended up in his arms dancing. The lights were dimmed, the music slower and it was a close dance. She thought he was handsome and charming. Later she said she thought he was a bit strange but that was probably more to do with what happened. I am sure you know what’s coming, as there are variations on the story all around the country including out at the Hell Fire Club. At one point she looked down at his feet and at the end of both neatly pressed trouser legs was not the polished shoes that she expected but to her horror two cloven hooves, almost concealed, but not quite. It is the last thing Maureen remembers. Her blood curdling scream everybody else that was present will never forget. As all attention focused on the young lady stretched on the dance floor the tall dark stranger disappeared.
Just then the Lord himself appeared in a blinding flash of light
And shouted at the Devil, get thee hence to endless night. (Chris de Burgh)
This story is from a different era. It is from the backdrop of hell fire and brimstone. It is from a time when some priests preached about the evils of dancing from the pulpit, and playing cards was asking for trouble from the demonic forces. When it comes to dances there were priests who went around telling ‘courting couples’ to leave enough space between each other for the Holy Spirit. How the world has changed. These days we do not speak like that to each other. The devil is rarely spoken of and in many ways this is a good thing. It is good that we do not speak in some of the ways we did about evil or the devil. In the past, talk of the devil was often on the level of
parody and ridicule. In some ways this rather silly way of speaking about the devil may have suited both him and us.
Here’s a question for you: did you ever dance with the devil? What would dancing with the devil actually mean?
What I mean when I speak like this is those times when we diced with spiritual danger. Those times when we were flirting with death, but more the death of our soul.
To dance with the devil is to put human approval before being right with God. To dance with the devil is to embrace the dark behaviour even though we know that it takes us away from the light. To dance with the devil is to press the self destruct button. To dance with the devil is to ignore the warning signs, signs of fear and the ensuing lack of hope. To dance with the devil is to squander time. To dance with the devil is to waste your talent, sometimes in simply not using it. Yes, the dance, even with the devil will have its appeal but this dance will not lead to happiness. In this sense this is not anti-dance, but rather a cautionary tale reminding us we have a responsibility regarding where the dance goes. Perhaps a reminder that the feet of the Lord of the Dance are pierced.