Several weeks ago, I had an extensive phone interview with a reporter from the New York Times about the growing popularity of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) in the wide and nebulous net of “evangelical churches.” The reporter had come across one of my previous blog entries and contacted me.
The NY Times article came out today (February 2, 2010). You can click here or the image above to read the full article.
My hour interview was reduced to basically one quote:
“I don’t live for the Jesus who eats red meat, drinks beer and beats on other men.”
Let me clarify since I have a feeling I’ll be getting my share of visitors over the next couple days who have no idea who I am or the context behind that one quote. But first, some initial thoughts:
- I don’t have anything particularly against MMA. It’s an exciting sport and just generally, I’m a sports fanatic which basically means I enjoy all competitive sports – perhaps with the exception of curling.
- I acknowledge that it’s a legitimate sport and while I’m not really into MMA and UFC, I occasionally watch it on TV. Umm, but I still vote boxing > MMA. Pacquiao > St. Pierre.
- I don’t even have problems with churches that have ministries around MMA – especially as a means of connecting with men. OK.
- Thinking of creative ways to bring more people to your church so that they might become followers and disciples of Christ? Great.
- I personally wouldn’t endorse an MMA ministry at Quest Church even if we have numerous dudes that love MMA. They get together for the big matches and often invite me to join them. When I go, I ask them to refer to me by my MMA name: Ragin’ Asian.
What I have a problem is when we have Christians, churches, and pastors who now begin to blur the line in the equating of MMA to Jesus; That we somehow speak with great conviction that Jesus would have endorsed MMA or other forms and expressions of the growing hyper machismo culture.
In an earlier post, I shared much of my thoughts and I still stand by them. Men and women are different. I get it and in fact, I embrace it and celebrate it.
And I also get it that there’s an issue with men in the church. Statistically, only 40% of folks in the church are men and there is also the issue of fewer men actively serving and leading within the church. As a result, some even see the “emasculation” of Christian men as one of the largest threats to the evangelical church. Really?
Emasculation as one of the greatest threats? We’re focusing on genitalia here and not the heart?
The issue isn’t emasculation and it’s not solely with men. The issue is with both women and men that simply need to grow up. But since we’re focused on the topic of men, I wholeheartedly agree:
There are many men that simply need to grow up, mature, be responsible, and take their faith in Christ…to heart.
There is an issue but aren’t we overreacting and going to the other extreme – and consequently and possibly, further away from Jesus. We do need to address the absence and silence of Christian men in their marriages, families, churches, and society. But here’s my question: Who exactly are we listening to as role models to shape our identity as MEN? While important aspects such as pleasure, protection, and provision are alluded to by the larger pop culture, it is often distorted. In addition, what it will NEVER do is speak to the spiritual aspect of those responsibilities and privileges.
So, what does it mean to be a Christian man? If we’re not careful, we’ll end up just being dudes who are rude and crude.
We drink beer, eat red meat, smoke cigars, swear like Christian sailors, insult boy bands, watch Ultimate Fight Club Championship, drive Hummers and four wheel trucks, pisseth against walls while standing up, be obsessed with Jack Bauer, hunt bears, etc. I do all of these things – with the exception of hunting bears. But are we reducing the definition of following Jesus to these external stereotypes?
Seriously, I personally don’t care what you eat, drink, hunt, or watch as long as it isn’t porn. I know Jesus wasn’t a pushover but to reduce Christ into our pop culture images of manhood seems wacky – theology and bible exegesis gone bad. Rather than focusing on external appearance, shouldn’t we focus on our “heart, soul, body, and mind”?
While there are clearly stories about Jesus’ “toughness” [Jesus topples tables and whips moneychangers in Mark 11, Matthew 21, and Luke 19/20], I also seem to remember that:
- Jesus washes the feet of his disciples
- shows compassion to the poor, lepers, and paralytics
- feeds the hungry and heals the blind and sick
- pursues justice and loves mercy
- embraces the women and children, marginalized, and scandalized
- demonstrates amazing grace to the prostitute woman in John 8
- enters Jerusalem riding on a donkey to the shouts of Hosanna
…and eventually goes to the Cross to die for humanity.
Who do I live for?
I live for this Jesus!
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