Theology of the Tango?


I kid you not.  I would have thought it was satire, if I did not know better.  It is an old piece from Crisis Magazine, regurgitated, I guess, to capitalize on the  interest drummed up by West’s reply.  From my point of view it could not come at a better time because it is perfect example of how Team TOB USA has wandered off the track and got lost in the wild.  Too much.

In the new covenant, Jesus elevates marriage to a sacramental sign. Marriage no longer simply represents the natural union of man and woman but makes visible Christ’s total and irrevocable gift of Himself to the Church. Just as He gave Himself away to the Church so that He could be one with her (cf. Ephesians 5:31-32), so husband and wife are called to give themselves away so as to image the oneness of Christ and the Church. This self-gift doesn’t happen in some ultraspiritual realm but in the body. Christ said, “This is my body, given up for you.” So, too, man and woman say to each other, “This is my body, given up for you.”

How could this possibly apply to tango? Danced in all its beauty and artistry, Argentine tango expresses the theology of the body: The man gives himself away to the woman, the woman gives herself away to the man, and suddenly the two are no longer dancing as two but as one. Right before our eyes we see union and communion, two and one, giving and receiving. The man and woman are a visible sign of the self-giving union between Christ and the Church.

Despite the many times I’ve been tempted to throw in the tango towel, this is why I continue: Tango is not just a dance, it’s sacramental. It constantly propels me toward my heavenly calling — union and communion with Christ through a total gift of self.

Every time I re-read it I scratch my head.  I am in that sort of surreal state, where I know this stuff is nothing to be surprised at, but then I wonder if the very sense of commonness is an indication that I must be dreaming, or hallucinating.

But my real reason for posting this is the gem of a comment  from Father George Rutler:

I respond to a request that I comment on the religious significance of the tango dance. First, I have found that the “theology of the body” is widely perceived as an unsystematic melange of theology, philosophy, and frail romantic poetry, which can be problematic even in skilled hands and is commonly invoked by people who are limited in their knowledge of the subject, Secondly, I am relatively ignorant myself of social activities which cause perspiration. With those advisories, I think I may assume that all of us are familiar with the Kaiser’s condemnation of the tango in 1913, for fear of its effects on his Crown Princess. More pertinent to the theological aspect, is Pope St. Pius X’s informal condemnation of the tango after he had watched an exhibition performance at the request of Cardinal Merry del Val who thought the Pontiff might approve a sober version of it as choreographed by the Roman dance master Professor Pichetti. The Pope did not at all approve and recommended instead the “Furlana,” an Italian folk dance which goes back to the early seventeenth century in Friuli Venezia Giulia and with which he had been familiar in his youth.

Good thing I wasn’t drinking anything when I read that.  That second sentence is about the best and most concise summary of the situation I have read.

Capuche tip to Terry.

7 thoughts on “Theology of the Tango?

  1. Hopefully I’ll have some time later to get caught up on West’s reply and this post, but for now I’m quite satisfied just seeing the funny picture. “Huh?”

  2. The whole thing reminds me of the “naked” Emperor. No offense Fr. but I’m always shocked by the amount of ink spilled over a topic that would take seconds for a child to discern correctly.

  3. Pingback: Compendium of TOB Posts « Mary Victrix

  4. That picture is destined to be a classic! Very entertaining article. I must add however, that despite the excesses of the claims of some, like Mr. West, Catholics in America nonetheless are culturally and intellectually Calvinist and wouldn’t recognise an authentic Catholic culture if it hit them between the horns. Catholic cultures are infinitely more sensuous (like Tango)than anything most American Catholics can handle.

  5. The tango is a perfectly respectable pastime for a couple dancing alone in their own bedroom (or their own ballroom, for that matter), but do we need to supply them with salivating spectators? The alternative is not Calvinism, as one commenter implies, but the joyful, energetic, non-sensuous group dancing enjoyed by folk cultures all over the world, where “dance” is a sacramental image of society, not marriage.

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