"The Sundays when we do the Pole Fitness for Jesus, um, we do the upbeat contemporary Christian music. Um, because, you know, people have to bring their church program to get into the class, um, so we basically are just continuing the whole worship thing." - Crystal Deans
Thus, according to Crystal Deans, who runs the pole dancing studio and started this "Pole Fitness for Jesus" program, this is more than just a form of exercise for the ladies gathered on these Sundays to dance around poles. It is, rather, a continuation of "the whole worship thing." I don't know where Crystal goes to church, but I'm betting that it's a place where "the whole worship thing" consists of showing Jesus how much they love Him through entertaining songs, videos, dramas, and responding to dynamic, relevant motivational messages by some dude or dudette who thinks he/she is preaching the Gospel. I'm betting that the same "upbeat contemporary Christian music" she plays during her pole dancing "worship thing" is what she hears during the "worship thing" at her church. Indeed, that's the only plausible explanation for how she could conclude that they're continuing "the whole worship thing" as they wrap their arms and legs around poles in her studio.
This is what happens when people are led to believe that "the whole worship thing" is about doing things for Jesus, rather than about Jesus doing what He promised to do for them. It's what happens when "the whole worship thing" is turned into fun and entertainment, rather than a holy encounter with our Holy God. It's what happens when "the whole worship thing" centers upon man's efforts to entertain God in heaven, rather than upon our Lord coming into our presence to give us His Divine Gifts through His Holy Word and Sacraments. It's what happens when "the whole worship thing" is man-centered and works-focused, rather than Christ-centered and Cross-focused.
And this is why Lutherans should avoid like the plague "the whole worship thing" being done others. It's a different "thing" based on a different theology with different foci and different expected results. Lutherans have "Divine Service," not a "worship thing." And, if they don't - if their "whole worship thing" is indistinguishable from "the whole worship thing" among others - they should not be surprised if people want to come up with other activities as a way to continue "the whole worship thing." I mean, when "the whole worship thing" is about what we're doing for Jesus, we really can't blame people for wanting to come up with other ways to do things for Jesus - even "pole dancing."
Thus, the sad thing here is not the "pole dancing," per se, but the fact that Crystal Deans and her students have been taught to believe that they're continuing "the whole worship thing" and, as one of the students put it, "coming closer to God," when they dance around their poles. But, again, you can't blame them. That's what they've been taught. Maybe, just maybe, we Lutherans have had it right all along in noting that ceremonies teach and practice informs. And, if we have had that right all along - and we have! - then maybe we should pay careful attention to "the whole worship thing" done among us, lest the people we serve come to believe like Crystal Deans and her students.