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The Happy Hopper: A Fantasy in One Act
Transfiguration ^ | 10/08/2005 | The Rev. Canon John Heidt

Posted on 10/11/2005 5:47:14 PM PDT by sionnsar


Last Wednesday morning, finding myself with some extra time on my hands, I started surfing the internet in search of off beat religious cults. Before long I happened to come across the web page of a group called “The Waltzers”, a rather obscure sect whose devotees are apparently scattered in small national groups throughout the world. Having no international organization, each group tends to be a law unto itself, but is united with other groups through bonds of affection and a common history.

Cult members claim that they originally broke away from the early Celtic Church over the issue of liturgical dance. Some isolated parishes in Northern Wales apparently developed the practice of dancing in the aisles during the offertory, a custom which, though innocent enough in itself, was stamped out for the sake of unity, once the Council of Whitby agreed to integrate the customs of the Celtic Church with those of Rome.

But not everyone was willing to conform, and before long dissident groups of liturgical dancers spread throughout much of Europe. Never completely accepted by most other Christian bodies, these “Worshippers of the Great Dancer”, or “The Waltzers” as their enemies scathingly called them, remained on the fringe of Christian orthodoxy. Yet, in spite of their small numbers, the cult exerted a far greater influence than its size would suggest, especially in the former Christian West, so that even today the spectacle of nuns pirouetting down the aisle of Canterbury Cathedral is a clear sign of their continuing influence upon the more conservative churches.

The meaning of legs

Dancing in the aisles however, has not brought these “Worshipers of the Great Dancer” to the attention of the Christian world nearly so much as a bitter debate now going on within the cult itself. Officially the sect has always believed that the battle for justice in the world will be won or lost over our attitude towards legs. And you cannot doubt the sincerity of their belief when, in local assemblies or at major rallies, you hear congregations belting out hymns like “Lord of the Dance”, nor can you fail to sense their enthusiasm as members of the cult offer special thanks for human legs and, in their “Prayers to the Great Dancer”, remember those missing one or both of these essential limbs. At their dramatic initiation rites who can fail to be moved when they see sponsors enter the assembled crowd carrying a new member above their heads, and then, at the solemn moment of affirmation, suddenly remove their support so that the initiate lands with a thud upon his feet only to walk triumphantly to the altar unaided, as the congregation sing “Stand up, Stand up for Jesus”?

Should there be any doubt as to why God created legs, their three fold purpose was once clearly stated at the beginning of the cult’s “Dancing Ceremony”, in which two of their members are joined together into one dancing partnership. In this important rite, their original Prayer Book asserted that legs are given firstly for the utilitarian purpose of walking in the fear and wisdom of The Great Dancer Himself. Secondly, legs are given for the safety of society, making it possible for men and women to jump out of danger and leap over obstacles. And finally, legs are given for the joy, comfort and mutual support that come from dancing together. So it had been believed for centuries. However, in the Prayer Book of the wealthiest and most influential branch of the cult, this threefold purpose of legs was omitted. And apparently it was in this branch of the cult that the trouble began.

One Legged people demand their rights

Until quite recently all cult members assumed that the ability to walk on two legs was normative, part of the order of creation itself, given to human beings by the Great Dancer Himself. But now, for the first time in history, one legged people have challenged this traditional attitude towards legs. Unable to walk themselves without artificial support, radicals began their attack by first arguing that the cult’s original Prayer Book discriminated against one legged people in claiming that walking was the primary purpose of legs. “Walking has no more to do with legs than jumping or dancing”, declared one of their leaders, and then added, “It is no accident that their God was called ‘The Great Dancer’ rather than ‘The Mighty Walker.’” Leaders of the cult, not knowing how to answer such seemingly rational and sincere criticism of their traditional beliefs, quickly and quietly revised all their Prayer Books to make the joy and pleasure of dancing rather than the utility of walking, the primary purpose of legs.
This was not good enough, however. For many one legged people dancing, after all, is just about as difficult as walking. Why then limit personal joy, pleasure and comfort to dancing? Why not include hopping, a pleasure much more easily attained by one legged people? Indeed whatever use of legs helps bind one legged people to each other in some kind of permanent relationship is just as good as any other. So they argued, and the more militant among them went on to insist that there was no real difference between those who had two legs and those who had only one, but simply a difference in life styles. Insisting that one-leggedness was just as normal as two-leggedness, and that hopping was as good as walking, jumping or dancing, they urged all one legged people to declare publicly their one-leggedness by getting rid of every kind of artificial support. In parades and rallies one legged people threw away their crutches and tore off artificial legs in public protest against the pediphobia of an establishment which had forced them to act as though they really had two legs. Unable to walk or jump alone, they learned to lean upon one another for mutual support. They found comfort and pleasure in a new form of intimacy that soon became known as “The Hop”, a kind of dancing far different from that of two legged people but perhaps for that very reason all the more deeply felt and appreciated.

In response to conservative opposition, one legged people soon insisted that they were not responsible for their condition. “We did not choose to be one legged”, proclaimed the head of “Hopping with Jesus”, a society organized to defend the rights of one legged people in the traditional churches. “Some people are just born that way, and others lose a leg through no fault of their own.” Defenders of one legged people have even suggested that there may very likely be a “hopping gene” yet to be discovered. Acceptance, not blame, is what is needed, defenders point out. “Where in the sacred books of ‘The Waltzers’ is hopping condemned?”, asked one of the more liberal leaders of the Waltzers in a recent interview. “And even if it were”, he went on to say, “ancient writings, no matter how holy, cannot be taken so literally. After all, the Waltzers wrote these sacred books and they can rewrite them.”

A new inclusive language

It is believed that members of the cult have become so embroiled in this debate that they can think of little else. Many argue that if one legged people are not responsible for their life style, the cult should be blessing rather than condemning those who want to lean on one another for the rest of their lives. Part of their mission, they proclaim, is to prove to the world that people who can only hop are just as normal as those who walk and dance. The name of God, they insist, should be changed from “The Great Dancer” to “The Happy Hopper”, and they themselves should no longer be called “Waltzers” but “Hoppers” or perhaps “Limpers” - though some suggest that this is in itself demeaning. The cult, they go on to say, needs to appoint as their leaders and ministers one legged people who publicly refuse any support from such instruments of compromise as crutches or artificial legs.

Traditional practitioners of the cult agree that the Great Dancer loves everyone, whether they have two legs, one leg or none at all. And they point out that God is called the Great Dancer because the joy of dancing is the ultimate goal of human companionship. Nevertheless, they continue to insist, legs are primarily made for walking and two leggedness is the norm, built into creation itself and upheld in their sacred writings. The Great Dancer heals the lame; he does not claim that lameness is just as good as walking. Therefore, only those who have the capacity to dance on their own two feet should preside at the worship of the Great Dancer.

So far the conservative position still holds sway officially, but some say that this is only because most of the cult’s leaders are still bound up in primitive ignorance and superstition. In practice it seems that most cult members are doing whatever they please. What will happen is anybody’s guess. One thing is certain however; the current fight over the nature and importance of legs is the most critical issue the cult has ever had to face in its fifteen hundred year history.
Will the debate about legs finally destroy this venerable cult, and what will happen, I wonder, should these worshippers of the Great Dancer ever become embroiled in debates about homosexuality or the ordination of women?

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant
Hat tip to The Waffling Anglican for noting this!
1 posted on 10/11/2005 5:47:16 PM PDT by sionnsar
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To: ahadams2; Fractal Trader; Zero Sum; anselmcantuar; Agrarian; coffeecup; Paridel; keilimon; ...
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2 posted on 10/11/2005 5:48:14 PM PDT by sionnsar (†† || (To Libs:) You are failing to celebrate MY diversity! || Iran Azadi)
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To: sionnsar

What a wonderful metaphorical story.

3 posted on 10/11/2005 10:06:53 PM PDT by Between the Lines (Be careful how you live your life, it may be the only gospel anyone reads.)
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