The start of football season prompted me to visit several sports websites to get an idea of how the putative “experts”expect my favorite college and NFL teams to fare this year.
(Not particularly well).
What struck me is that almost every one of the sites I visited has some sort of photo gallery of cheerleaders, often ranking them not on how well the squads perform their sideline routines, but how “hot” they are.
If that is what cheerleading has come to for many, if not most, male football fans – ogling the young women between plays on the gridiron field – that raises the question:
Can a young woman be, at once, a faithful Christian and a cheerleader?
Ariann Denison believes so.
She was a Miami Dolphins cheerleader from 2005 to 2009, before becoming the squad’s choreographer. She also owns a dance studio that not only offers classes in ballet, jazz, tap, lyrical and “pro cheer,” but also a liturgical class that combines dance with Christian music.
Ariann says that her background as an NFL cheerleader and choregrapher, and her position as owner of a successful dance studio, has given her the opportunity to share the Gospel with young women who may think that cheerleading and following the Lord are mutually exclusive.
“My testimony shocks them,” she told The Good News, a Christian newspaper. “I tell the older girls that I didn’t have my first drink until I was 25. I never went to a club in college. And I kept myself pure until marriage.”
And like the dance students taking Ariann’s “pro cheer” class, there are many young women throughout the country who aspire to be cheerleaders at the high school, college or even professional level, but who refuse to compromise their Christian values.
Indeed, there are more than 500 Christian cheerleading camps and clinics around the country. The girls that attend the camps learn all the yells, the stunts, the acrobatics, the dances that are taught at secular camps.
The difference is that Christian cheerleaders are not about wearing skimpy costumes and performing bump-and-grind dance moves that are more appropriate at a strip club than on a football sideline.
Christian cheerleaders, as Ariann Denison attests, are not offended by male sports fans who think them “hot.” But those young women know they are set apart not by what can be seen on the outside by their male admirers, but what God can see on the inside.