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!
And if you’re a new visitor to this blog, I hope you’ll take 2 minutes to check out our new initiative to join the fight in alleviating extreme global poverty through One Day’s Wages.
173 Replies to “I don’t live for the Jesus who eats red meat, drinks beer, and beats on other men.”
But watch it. You might get your butt kicked by those guys at Canyon Creek Church. 🙂
funny reading that article and suddenly your name popped up 🙂
I can’t theologize about it right now but something deep in my guts says “wrong” “very wrong” re: this attempt @ the “masculinization” of Christianity. If someone wishes to vigorously contend that I don’t mind as long as you don’t beat me up… wait I know! let’s have a spelling contest!
Thanks for the post Eugene – you have convinced me to take off my old, Mucha Lucha self and put on Christ. But can I still have a mask? All good Christian men need a mask!
keep the mask.
However, I’m not sure there is that big a difference between these fights and porn. Both are about the exploitation of weakness and the celebration of strength, control, domination, and violence.
And Jesus’ whipping of the money-changers has nothing to do with “toughness.”
Thank you for writing those words, Tracy – “Jesus’ whipping of the money changers has nothing to do with toughness.”
That really helps me to make sense of this growing manly-man Jesus movement … yeah, thanks!
I’m sorry, but there is a huge difference between MMA and porn. Your post really leans in an ignorant direction for making such a comparison.
Like most sports you will find plenty of Christians. It isn’t any different than football or basketball.
Scott I would suggest that you re-read this post again cause you just displayed that you didn’t understand it.
uh, lets not forget guys struggling with same-sex attraction who watch MMA, or guys struggling with low views of themselves who may not get turned on sexually by MMA but get turned on emotionally and feel it feeds their masculine identity. if porn is a out-of-Gods-bounds way of connecting sexually then programs that idolatrize a hyper-(false)-masculinity can just as easily be an out-of-bounds way of re-connecting with gender identity. MMA doesn’t have to be about getting off sexually to still be just as idolatrous or just as much as a subconsciously self-appeasing, self-completion tool as porn.
Ah, good point.
Down the road, I think ministries supporting MMA may get a draw back. MMA fighters may end up with long term physical and mental damage. Ive read about ex-NFL player who facing issues due to their physical and mental damage. Some or most have complained about the protective gear not doing enough to provide protection in some areas.
I dont believe the image of Christ through these ministries will look positive on the long run if more MMA fighters end up like some of these ex-NFL players with long term damage physically and mentally.
Just wanted to add, comparing the NFL to MMA may look like apples to oranges to some, but down the road, the results may be similar or worse.
I appreciate your post. Bummer they trimmed you down to an experimental sectarian vegetarian.
“There are many men that simply need to grow up, mature, be responsible, and take their faith in Christ…to heart.”
Agreed. You also point out that it’s not just men – that’s certainly true. I’m rather disturbed when I look at “adults” and just recognize the lack of maturity, especially regarding faith.
However, I do tend to see it more in men. Of course, my experience is limited, and hardly evidence of large scale trends. But it seems like a lot of Christian men I know are terribly “wishywashy” about choices, decisions, and consequences. The reason most often cited? They want to be careful to follow Christ.
I applaud them for trying to figure out what their faith means and for trying to live lives of obedience. But unfortunately, they seem to get stuck in the same places, unable to grow up. Then again, most men I know aren’t exactly the beer chugging types.
I enjoy MMA, and working on my second black-belt, teach an MMA class at my church, but share your struggles with definition of manhood it presents.
Great post! For the record, thought I should note that I (and many of my female Christian friends, single and married) also “drink beer, eat red meat, smoke cigars, swear like [a] Christian sailor, and insult boy bands”.
Your point that the failure of men to lead in church is not about being “masculine” (whatever *that* is) but about being mature, responsible adults is dead on. Thanks.
Eugene, great response and well said. I’m waiting for the church that has stripper night and gambling night because those activities would attract young men also. Throw in some red meat and beer and you’ve got a blockbuster outreach program.
I really like your part about heart focus. The problem with church isn’t that we have emasculated men, the problem is that we have failed to live out the hard sayings of Jesus, such as turn the other cheek, which are much more demanding that punching some guy in the face. That would require some real courage and strength in both men and women.
Chuck – Very well put! I read this post because it was tweeted by a respected friend, but I wasn’t really tracking with it. Honestly, I haven’t run into the masculine Jesus movement, so I didn’t have any real perspective. Your comment, however, really struck a cord in me. In the midst of all our machismo, Jesus enters, becomes the servant, and beckons us to humbly follow. That takes real strength and fortitude. Allowing our reactions to be violent and angry is the truly cowardly way out of any situation. This is why we, as Jesus followers, are different…and I’m all about that kind of strength!
I’m still not quite sure what people mean when they say there is a faliure of men to lead in the church. The VAST majority of pastors, denominational leaders, speakers, writers of theology, teachers, etc are men. I dont get it.
A position of authority does not equate with an ability, or even an inclination to lead.
True leadership builds up the followers and leads to transformation in all who are involved, leader and follower.
In agreement with Eugene, I think giving guys a “christian” reason to fight each other, eat unhealthy food, and drink beer, is not transformative. It just buys in to the culture that gives us a specific picture of “manhood” that emulates the WWF (or whatever pro-wrestling thing is popular these days). It doesn’t transform lives, it just gives men a “Christian” form of violent sport.
Below is a link to an article written by Malcolm Gladwell about violent sports. The subtitle is “How different are dogfighting and football?” It is a good article, and it really made me think about our “manly” sports and our love for violence and the long-term effects they have.
I think this movement needs to, ahem, wrestle harder with passages like:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (2 Cor 12:9)
In many ways, the fact that God is a divine warrior means we don’t have to be.
And as you have been known to say, God is more interested in faithfulness than success/victory. Look at the cross.
like so many things, “whatever has your attention, has you” … it’s not so much that MMA is the villian but rather the obsession that goes with it.
men can talk tough but few choose to actually be tough (like Jesus): pray more, serve often, study the Word, love sincerely… yeah, I know, that doesn’t sound ‘tough’ but it kicks the devil’s butt. try it sometime – it’s way tougher than sittin’ back on your couch, w/ a beer in your hand, screaming at your television!
great thoughts eugene!
Sorry you got cut to a one-liner. I laughed when I saw that in the article – it was so obviously a pull-quote designed to inflame.
Well said. Been trying to put my finger on it, and you have. It’s not MMA that’s at issue – it’s the attempt to glue Jesus onto every subculture. Many think this is a missiology task – we are simply speaking the language of the culture to “by any means win some.” But there has to be some reasonable limit. Paul may have quoted what “some of your own poets have said” on Mars Hill, but he didn’t start a “Jesus is the original and best Epicurean and/or Stoic philosopher ever” study group. Or sell t-shirts.
In the end, these efforts usually become a cheap imitation of the culture and a confusing gospel, custom-tailored to a limited group. Like Christian hair bands in the 80s and 90s. They had a form of rock and roll, but denied it’s power (which I believe was sex, drugs, and hair growth).
Jesus is outside, wholly other, transformational, revolutionary. He could not be comprehended within the religious or political frameworks of His day, and he can’t be narrowly redefined by our subcultures or keen analysis of the church’s current “big problem” that we are trying to fix. He says “follow me,” and moves on.
To reduce this transcendent God to our own subcultures and preferences is obvious idolatry. Less obvious is the long-standing trend of giving up catholicity in favour of the bland buffet of toleration, a trend I touch upon elsewhere in advocating a irenic confessionalism.
I think a lot biblical scholars understand that in Jesus’ cleansing of the temple, the whip he used was not to “beat the money changers” but to drive out the animals that were there to be sold for sacrifices.
To assume that Jesus endorses this kind of violence means we’d have to ignore a lot of stuff he told his disciples.
Thanks for layin it out there, PE.
I’m working on some moves just in case I get challenged…
Thanks for the post. Just wanted to share that UFC stands for Ultimate Fighting Championship and not Ultimate Fight Club.
I do think we need to address the issues and I think you’re right, it’s about the heart, not genitalia.
I do have a problem with MMA being any part of the church, I think it’s totally antithetical to what Jesus teaches about loving your neighbor. When we first moved to Seattle we visited a church (a very large, unnamed church…) and the pastor mentioned that he did MMA and advertised it as a ministry. Clay and I were both so turned-off and didn’t go back, that being a big reason. I have a very hard time reconciling the endorsement of man-to-man violence and the message of Jesus that this church/pastor is giving. If you’re a Christian who feels ok with doing MMA, then ok, but I think it’s stepping way over the boundary lines to bring that within the Church. And I totally agree with you about the whole “feminization of the Church” thing…they’re totally missing the point.
I’m interested in whether you think 40% of people in the pews being male is a new thing. As far as I can tell from the church history I have read this was the case from early on.
I have seen some articles asserting that it is recent around 100 to 150 years ago. I can’t remember where I saw this but it was a fairly recent article.
I think that it is much harder to tell men to step it up and be a real man, father your children, serve your wife, spend your time and money on things that are for others, not yourself, etc.
I really want some Christian leaders to lead from example. I am a nanny for my two niece (2.5 and 1). I do this because it needs to be done. I am not a perfect man, but I try to do the hard work of caring for others, not being obsessive about things that don’t matter.
Karen – that’s what I’ve read too…that women have outnumbered men in church from the very beginning. (I like to think back to who was at the foot of the cross…a whole group of women and 1 man.)
Now, now, Jennifer… just like we cannot assume there were no women or children at the feeding of the 5,000 b/c they were not mentioned, we cannot assume there weren’t more men at the foot of the cross b/c they are not mentioned! 😉
Adam, I would love to read something that actually saying – and somehow backs up – this is a new thing. If you figure out where you read it, please let me know. Thanks!
Well said Eugene. The ‘macho Jesus’ movement is simultaneously intriguing and depressing to me. I like your take on all of this.
I saw the quote, thought to myself, “I’m sure Eugene had much more to say on this,” and I’m glad I followed up. Your points are spot-on.
Working with Marines and Sailors as a chaplain, I definitely don’t present the gospel as something that emasculates. Instead of using popular stereotypes of masculinity, I present a Jesus whose radical love and mission in life and death were so counter-cultural and counter-intuitive that it was insanely gutsy and courageous. And that’s good news for us in a broken world. The gospel and the person of Christ shouldn’t just be used to make us feel better about the things we like to do, but they should challenge us as our hearts are transformed by that radical love so that what we do and why we do them will never be the same. Even if we’re still called upon to put ourselves in violent situations, like my guys are.
What was the theme at this past Midwinter, the Necessity of a NEW LIFE in Christ? Missed you in Denver, but glad to see you’re still fighting the good fight (pun intended).
John Eldridge would hate this…just kidding.
I agree, instead of turning Jesus into a person we can see and follow, we can instead follow his example of being a servant.
I’m not quite sure how I feel about this making the Front Cover of the NY Times.
I love the completeness of Jesus. I don’t want to OVER emphasize those parts of the Bible where Jesus throws down. But knowing we serve a Jesus who both forgives and redeems crooks like Zacheus and runs off crooks in the temple. What a contrast. He shows grace to a prostitute condemned to stoning, and suggest we tie a stone around the neck of child molesters and toss’em in the drink.
Part of the maturity Jesus demonstrates is good judgment.
For clarification’s sake, are you referring to Luke 17:2? If so, I think you might want to read it over again. I don’t think Jesus is suggesting that we tie stones around the neck of anyone. Here you go: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%2017:1-10&version=NIV
Jesus is saying that the consequences of causing others to sin is worse than being drowned in such a way. Unless you’re referring to a different scripture of course. Just thought you might want to take a look.
I think it’s easy for both sides to sit on high horses and take pot-shots at eachother, and for the most part, that’s all i’m seeing from each side.
It takes a lesser man, or a politician 😉 to simply setup a straw-man example and then beat it like a pinata for ~30 comments in their blog, rather than address the core of the trends that we see as struggles and challenges in the church.
From the MMA side of things, I believe a significantly compelling part of their case gets ignored in that many modern churches have done away with the very specific calls the bible makes for men to step up and lead in churches, in marriage and in families. These calls to men are written off in the name of allowing equality for women in the church, which I won’t say is a bad thing, in itself, but the elephant in the room that frequently gets ignored is the fact that now that we have removed the exhortation to men to their roles of leadership in church, marriage, familiy/home and we see the expected trend of men not leading in church, marriage, home/family and the subsequent struggles, we shake our heads and wonder why men aren’t growing up and taking on these roles…
Additionally, MMA is violent, yes, but it’s competition – there are many sports in which the primary objective is to outlast your opponent whether it’s done by endurance or fighting. Should we now avoid anything oriented around football, boxing, wrestling, ice hockey, soccer even?
I don’t think I’d ever go to an MMA event, but what I do see are people who are finding ways to reach out to a group of individuals (men) who on a macro level have a decreasing participation in the church… i wonder if it’s a small minority of the critical respondents in this post who actually take up the reins to lead an outreach ministry rather than to simply criticize…
You can have competition without being violent. In my opinion, the more violent options of sports should be avoided by churches.
Why do we assume that because a church is doing something like the MMA as an outreach that it is a good thing? I know of a church that in an attempt to reach out to bikers, they held a sort of biker rally, and it seemed at the time very successful. But at the end of it all they had a single convert, and they had unknowingly changed the culture of their church so that the kids, many of whom had previously been planning or dreaming of doing missions work and such, then could only talk of buying motorcycles.
We cannot assume that because we label something as an outreach, that it does any good. Or even that it gets good attendance that it does any good. If, perhaps, by having an MMA event gives men an excuse to be violent, even emulates violence because of the competition, furthers an unhealthy perspective of what it means to be a man, and has the same kind of entertainment value that the gladiator rings did from ancient times, then I cannot imagine that it does the men involved all that much good.
A couple posts above, Dave mentioned his tactics for reaching out to marines and sailors that avoids using events like the MMA. I believe that that is the way to go.
Eugene, if Pacquiao stepped foot in the Octagon with St Pierre, he would get destroyed. It wouldn’t even be close.
i was waiting for someone to challenge me on that.
pound for pound?
Yes, pound for pound. MMA guys are much more well rounded fighters. They don’t just use their fists. St Pierre, and many others would just take him to the ground and it would be over.
If you put St Pierre in a boxing match, and boxing only, with Pacquiao, there’s no doubt Pacquiao would win.
Mayweather Jr has talked a bunch of trash about MMA, but you will never see him step in the octagon.
how about herschel walker? 🙂
Haha, supposedly he looked pretty good. Of course he fought a no name. Herschel is a freak though. He’s an amazing athlete, not just for a 47 year old, but for anybody. Put him against Randy Couture, another old fella, and Herschel wouldn’t have a chance.
Herschel Walker also took ballet. Try that for a men’s outreach.
Thanks for your post Eugene. I have actually attended Canyon Creek Church for the past two years, and was surprised and excited to see your quote in the article, and now to read your perspective here.
You said that reducing Christ to “into our pop culture images of manhood seems wacky”. If this happens when a church hosts UFC nights, then I would agree. But I don’t think that’s what these pastors are doing when they say that Jesus was a fighter.
For example, the most recent series at Canyon Creek has been on David, and is called The Ultimate Fighter. But violence (such as with Goliath) has been a very small part of the sermons. As a woman, I’ve grown and been challenged spiritually throughout the series. But this is because most of the message is describing David as a fighter in his friendship with Jonathan, his time as a musician in Saul’s court, etc. All of which are very nonviolent, and is a message that men and women, macho and not, need to hear.
If having UFC fight nights for the community allows people that would not have otherwise heard this message of perseverance and trusting God to come to church for the first time, then I believe these ministries are extremely important.
This is an intelligent woman. Listen to her. It’s her way or the highway.
great to hear from you. thxful that you’ve found a church you can grow and invest in.
and it’s good to hear from a direct member from canyon creek. i’ve honestly never heard of canyon but good to know the depth and substance your church and leaders are pursuing.
we never like to be reduced to a quote.
Very well said Maren!
According to much of the underlying logic in many of these responses, the church might as well offer drug addicts drugs in an effort to attract them to the real message of recovery, violent extravaganzas to attract them to the real message of non-violence, or perhaps a ‘porn night’ to attract them to the real message of respect for women. Yeah, that’ll work. Amazing how loathe we are to let go our sacred cows.
Yay for more ignorance.
What? Please elaborate.
Hmm… Can’t see the difference between MMA and porn? Honest question here, are you being serious?
Of course I can see the difference. But there are also similarities too often ignored. Do you really think Jesus would be okay with either one?
Similarities, yes. But do those similarities make them the same in essence?
Participation in MMA is voluntary. Participation in porn is very often NOT voluntary. The MMA fighters are paid. The women/children in porn are often NOT paid, or receive very little compensation. MMA fighters receive medical care for injuries sustained in the ring, women/children in the sex industry often don’t. An MMA fighter can walk away if they want, a woman/child in the sex industry is often under the control of a pimp and CANNOT leave. There is a HUGE difference in the amount of power an MMA fighter has to control their situation, compared to the women and children being filmed or photographed for porn. HUGE. To ignore this difference is to completely mis-understand the exploitation that happens in the sex industry.
I see the similarities, but the differences are very much larger.
Your points are well taken. I did not intend to imply a one-to-one correspondence between the participants (one voluntary, the other often not) in each “profession.” My concern is in their similarities as entertainments for their audiences. As entertainments, much of the subtleties you point out are lost on the masses in favor of mere imagery. I know a lot of people who watch “the fights” without any interest at all in the personal discipline of the competitors (I acknowledge that many do). Look at the ads for such contests. The promotion of them emphasizes the violence and power, the blood and the guts; they emphasize self-promotion, pride, power, and domination of the other. Watch the audience as they scream for one to pummel the other. Nor does the voluntary participation in intentionally violent spectacle automatically make it okey-dokey for Christians to use such questionable means to spread the Gospel. What does beating the crap out of somebody – voluntary or not – have to do with Christ? I am neither a prude nor anti-sport. I am just asking a few questions along with a whole lot of other people. It surprises me a little that so many here seem to think there are no differences between violent entertainment and the violence associated with porn, or that the differences are “small” and can be ignored. It is ludicrous to believe that regular exposure to such imagery – for adults or children – is negligible in its effects. Especially as it pertains to the following of Christ. It is difficult for me to imagine Jesus enjoying himself at the UFC or MMA.
Ok, go ahead and enlighten me. What are the similarities between porn and MMA? This should be interesting.
If UFC is as bad as porn, then by all means it should not have any place in the church. But that is an entirely different debate. In my own opinion, there is nothing wrong with UFC, but thats just me. If having UFC events and ministries means that men AND women can come together to hang out and have fun and reach out to the community, then I consider that a good thing. Obviously there are boundaries to what a church should consider as “having fun”.
I can only speak from my own experience, but my point earlier was that these ministries are using a hobby and fun event to reach out and bless the community. When it comes down to the actual message that is preached, it is not geared towards men specifically and does not focus directly on violence (but doesn’t exclude it). When its all said and done, the message needs to be about Jesus, and Him alone. Not violence or nonviolence, but Jesus.
But isn’t a message of non-violence an essential part of the message about Jesus? Can you have one without the other?
Thanks for the interesting link. But I still think our willingness to promote and celebrate violence as entertainment (or as an attraction to the Gospel) sends a mixed message at best.
In my opinion, that post/link of yours doesn’t defend your position very well. There is a huge difference between the heroic acts of self-risk and sacrifice shown by the Ryker kid, and the emulation of violence that happens in violent sports. The people in the sports are not fighting evil. Using a limited, controlled, kind of violence, solely to protect other people does not mean that violence is a good thing.
While I agree with your opinion in the article that when Jesus said to turn the other cheek, it was not just about the physical implications, but regardless of that the picture Jesus gives us when he said that is that the person who is struck does not strike back. In violent sports, striking back is the one thing that you do. You cannot leave out the physical, even if it is not the main point of what Jesus said.
It’s a sport. Simple as that.
I played football from 3rd grad through high school. I absolutely loved it. There’s nothing better than throwing a quarterback face first into the ground, or hitting someone so hard that their feet go over their head. It’s a thrill, and it’s within the rules. Honestly, I never felt an ounce of guilt or shame from doing that. I always left it on the football field. I’ve also never gotten in a real fight in my whole life. So much for the violent sport breeds violent people theory.
Same can be said for MMA. They do these things within the rules. They keep it in practice, and in their matches.
These guys show great sportsmanship the majority of the time. They usually always shake hands or hug after a match, and almost always show concern when someone is injured.
People need to do a little research about something before spouting off.
Good to know that the only opinion and experience that matters to you is your own. I suppose as long as you get your thrills within the rules they must be okay. No need then to get into a heavy discussion or think to deeply about what we as followers of Christ think, say, and do (assuming you are a follower). I am sorry you seem to feel that I was somehow being critical of you personally. You apparently have all the answers. More power to you.
I think you’ve misconstrued the tone of Erik’s comment. He wasn’t being combative but simply trying to communicate his thoughts about MMA. There’s obviously deeper layers (which you’ve brought up re: violence) but MMA IS an organized sport.
I took his responses to my comments as condescending and sarcastic. I have been known to misconstrue things before. My last comment to Erik is, upon further reflection, certainly not the finest example of rhetorical non-violence I’ve ever committed to paper (er, screen? blog?). I apologize for any offense.
Organized violent sport is still violent.
That is, I apologize to Erik for any offense.
Thanks, but no need to apologize. I have thick skin. I just don’t quite understand where you’re coming from. And no, I never saw my opinion is the only one that matters or that I have all the answers.
Maybe you didn’t see my question, but what are the similarities between porn and MMA?
So you enjoy hitting people and throwing them to the ground, or hitting them so hard they flip over? I can understand enjoying physical activity and the competitiveness of a sport, but I don’t understand the enjoyment of something that could seriously hurt another person. Its curious to me that those things are what you said you enjoyed, not the competition or sheer physical activity of it. Not to assume anything, why is that? And like the article that I linked earlier points out, sports like boxing and football have strong links with dementia.
Whether you have guilt or shame about it isn’t the point. The sport you played gave you justification for it, so why would you feel those things? But just because you didn’t feel those emotions doesn’t make it good. Just to be facetious for a second, thieves feel justified when they steal. Murdurers often feel justified when they kill. But that obviously does not make it right.
The Romans would have said that the gladiators were, “sport”. Simple as that. But does that justify the violence that happened in their arenas? Today’s football, and fighting matches are not much different than those other than the point is not to kill the opponent but to subdue them. That is definately an improvement, but the similarities are there.
While I’m glad they show sportsmanship, that still doesn’t deal with the question of whether it is right to emulate violence.
In my opinion, Tracy did not spout off, she stated a question.
When you hit someone in a sport you are hitting someone who has consented to playing the sport. Murderers generally aren’t killing someone with their consent, and few gladiators gave their consent either.
I’ve injured and been injured by friends/teammates in practice as much or more than in games. It never feels good to injure someone but it is part of the risk that we all take when taking the field. As long as I’m not injured by a dirty hit I have no ill will towards whoever injured me.
No offense, but I think you miss my point. You said that you never felt guilt or shame for playing in these violent sports. But do we only judge what is right or wrong, or rather healthy or unhealthy from whether we feel guilt or shame about it? I’m not surprised that you didn’t feel guilt or shame for playing because it is socially acceptable in our culture to be violent in sports, even commendable. But that doesn’t make it good. Consent may make something legal, even acceptable, but it doesn’t necessarily make it good.
Injuries happen, whether in violent sports or other sports. But how many serious injuries does it take for us to say that it is too costly and too dangerous to continue? If a majority of boxing and football players develop dementia at an unnatural early rate, when do we say that it’s gone too far? I linked an article somewhere here that shows a connection between boxing, American football, and dementia.
Sorry Dave, I just realized that you aren’t the person who I originally responded too.
No, I never did feel shame. If I felt bad hitting someone in football, then that wouldn’t be the sport for me. You might be reading too much into my comments, but I NEVER got any joy whatsoever in seeing someone injured.
Dave said it best.
For the record, I’m male. Easy mistake. 🙂
Oh boy. It’s football. It’s a physical game. You hit people.
So it’s bad that I hit someone in football? When it’s completely within the rules? That’s just funny.
Then, you go on to talk about murderers in the next paragraph. Wow. I don’t know how to respond to that.
I’m sorry if you can’t handle watching a physical sport. Football and MMA isn’t for everyone. There are sports out there for everyone. Figure skating might be more to your liking, because that’s graceful.
If you can’t get the connection, you never will. Almost everyone here has, even if they ultimately disagree. The point is about the way we use violence of all varieties as a form of entertainment, and whether or not that is okay within the context of being a follower of Christ Jesus, specifically as a form of outreach. Don’t you think, or aren’t you at least willing to entertain, the notion that it just might be problematic for a Christian to engage in violence of any kind, especially as entertainment, regardless of whether or not there are rules in place, or the violence is voluntary. Violence is violence, just as sin is sin, and differs only in degree, not in kind (in my opinion). And the Reverend Cho was wrong about your tone. You are sarcastic and condescending in your responses.
You sound condescending to me, whether you think that or not. Here’s your quote, “If you can’t get the connection, you never will”. Hmmm…
And yes, I understand your point. I just think it’s a reach to say there are similarities between porn and MMA. You seem set in your ways, which is perfectly fine, and I’m set in my ways.
I apologize for coming across as condescending.
If that were a closed case, this conversation wouldn’t be unfolding like it is. There are plenty of us who love and follow Jesus who don’t think non-violence is necessarily essential. John Yoder has pulled me a long way from the Ultimate Fighting Jesus, but I’m no pacifist yet.
I don’t think non-violence and pacifism are the same thing. Non-violence is about doing something, pacifism about doing nothing. Non-violence is about intentional, active opposition to violence and injustice perpetrated by “the powers that be” (whether social, cultural, political, religious, etc…); pacifism is personally refraining from violence without any corresponding opposition to the use of violence by others. Non-violence includes pacifism; pacifism excludes non-violence. My example here would be Muhammad Ali. He was a pacifist who did not practice non-violence. Jesus certainly was a practitioner of non-violence, but he was no pacifist.
I realize that this conversation is far from closed. In no way, shape, or form do I think that my little opinion is the cat’s meow. But I fail to see how one can separate non-violence from the life and ministry, death and resurrection of Christ Jesus without doing violence to the Gospel.
I think you are giving a long history of pacifism short shrift. Pacifism usually is about more than personal rejection of violence. In fact, I would say most of the time pacifism is more than personal rejection of violence.
You are probably right. Looking over my own post, I’m not sure it quite convey’s what I was trying to get at. Rethink in progress.
“There are many men that simply need to grow up, mature, be responsible, and take their faith in Christ…to heart.”
The pecularity of modern American manhood is that it’s defined in contrast to womanhood, which is all backwards. Manhood isn’t the state of not being a woman, it’s the state of not being a boy. How many grown men do you know who obsess over video games or collectible toys? These aren’t even metaphorically toys (like a Hummer maybe), they are *literally* toys.
“When I became a man, I put away childish things”
I like it. thanks Eugene, good thoughts have been provoked.
When I was younger I always thought I would compete in this:
If we are followers of Christ, then what we say and do is part of the message. Isn’t affirming the entertainment value of violence detrimental to our message? Why is violence as spectacle ok while other forms of violence are not? Doesn’t inviting everyone to a slug fest while preaching ‘love one another’ ring hollow in the ears of the “poor in spirit?”
I also wanted to ask folks – especially those who are in FULL support of MMA as a ministry:
1) your thoughts about MMA and women as i hear this is also a growing phenomenon.
2) how about teenagers? would you be ok with churches endorsing, supporting, or even hosting these kind of ministries to attract teenagers?
I’m not sure I can fully answer from an MMA perspective, but I can from a wrestling perspective. Wrestling however seems to be more accepted in the culture. Wrestling is done with kids much younger than teenagers, and we have women’s wrestling as a high school sport in Washington. This doesn’t seem to bother too many people, and I know plenty of Christians involved with wrestling.
Wrestling and MMA are both sanctioned contact sports with a set of rules designed to protect the athlete from serious injury while allowing two athletes to fight for superiority.
There is an outreach program called Greater Gold for kids wrestling. I don’t recall the agre range that is involved, but I think they start pretty young. They’re also sponsoring a women’s self defense class on March 7 at Overlake church, with the proceeds going to fight human trafficking. Check them out at http://www.greatergold.com
Eugene, balanced and yet provocative. I find Chuck’s second paragraph to be spot on. Keep up the good writing.
fighting as a ministry is different than a ministry to fighters.
We already reach out to athletes, addicts, the poor, and other groups of society, in ways ‘aimed’ at them. Those outreach strategies change all the time. but the message of Christ stays the same.
I always appreciate theologians/pastors/spiritualists who have a solid understanding of human psychology, social constructions, and the ways that people interpret culture. With over 4 million women per year being assaulted by their partners, I would say that “toughness” is not the glaring need for any man in our context. It seems to me that “fighting the good fight” is less about men becoming more “powerful in their households” and more about men fighting the urge to harm and learning how to trudge through the difficult part of human experience with enough tenacity and strength to come out with kindness, compassion, and hope.
I get the feeling that this is bait and switch. You bait people with the flashiness of the culture, then once you get them, you switch to God is love.
Thoughtful remarks- thank you. What I have read about MMA and ministries that support it is deeply troubling to me. I agree with many of Tracy’s comments and questions about Christian witness and the significane of non-violence to that witness.
Associating Jesus with this kind of machismo form of sport, entertainment or whatever, is deeply problematic and antithetical to what we know of his life and ministry. Like Tracy said- the episode in the temple cannot be reduced to ‘toughness’- appropriate anger is another thing enitrely.
This is a great article. It makes you think and it brings up what others believe and what your own stance is on these topics.
“Emasculation as one of the greatest threats? We’re focusing on genitalia here and not the heart?” I think often being a guy and being a Christian, largely, is viewed as being wrong BECAUSE the thought is that somehow it emasculates the man. I don’t think that a man becomes less of a man because his heart is bent towards Christ and he softens and changes; I respect that fully. I also don’t think that those should be standards for what a strong Christian man should look like. Some women aren’t overly emotional, some men are perfectly in touch with theirs– it’s about how you’re wired.
Which brings up the last part of that, the heart. In Romans, Paul writes to the converted Jews and believing Gentiles and through the first four chapters, Paul makes it quite clear that the matter isn’t whether the Jews can make a historical claim on God or the Gentiles are more righteous because they came to God on their own, it’s the heart and their faith that makes the difference. The heart matters. No one can be a perfect Christian or a perfect believer. Whether or not believers should hunt, drink beer, be obsessed with certain things or watch MMA is debatable. I don’t personally agree with it, but I don’t find it horrendous.
Overall, we’re called to love. God asks for our hearts and He’s interested with our insides, not the show. If you’re loving well and your heart is in the right place, the rest is unimportant.
I was drawn to this link from the article about these fighters. let me say I agree with you entirely. Since when is it feminine to love people and be charitable. Christ said to turn the other cheek and that the meek shall inherit the earth. I think equating masculinity with violence and God is extremely dangerous. It is ideas like this that kept our women in bondage for centuries and still in bondage in places like Africa and the Middle East. In my opinion Shari’a law was created by MEN of a similar mindset. I think MMA is far from a Christian message. I would be much more excited if there were a men’s church group that focused on men preventing violence perpetrated by our brothers, or a yoga class with a long meditation on the love and charity of Christ. That’s what real men who aren’t insecure do.
“I think MMA is far from a Christian message.”
That is your opinion and you are certainly entitled to it. But that’s all it is. An opinion.
I would disagree with this statement because there are just as many people who love Christ that participate in this sport and promote Christ well as do golfers, baseball players, ice skaters, and whatever else non-contact sport you can think of.
Just because Christian people are involved in it, does not mean that it is something that Christ would endorse.
I bet Jesus would love football, and that can be a violent sport. He’s wouldn’t be endorsing violence, he would be endorsing camaraderie, hard work, adversity, loyalty. I think he would would be quite alright with that.
Nice thought, but how many guys would show up for a yoga class? Not many. How many would show up for an MMA class? Certainly more than an MMA class. Reaching out to more people isn’t a bad thing.
Interesting read. I think Churches which endorse the MMA would give a distorted view of Christ. They want to make him out as some comic book superhero. They better read the bible. Jesus didn’t “dish” anything out, but took blow, after blow, after blow … all the way up the Cross. If a man wants to be a man like Jesus, he better turn his cheek … then the other one. Christ was all about forgiveness, not aggression.
Just out of curiosity, what is wrong with porn? The Bible doesn’t say anything about porn being a sin. Assuming that people aren’t being forced into it, and that people don’t allow children to participate, is it really that bad?
Of course there’s the premarital sex question. But there are a lot of more liberal Christians who believe in premarital sex, so wouldn’t porn be acceptable under this system?
(For the record, I’m against both MMA and porn being used as a means to proselytize. Both should be secular activities.)
See Melissa’s earlier post. There is much evidence to suggest that porn is far from the benign filming of the sexual adventures of consenting adults. Even where there is consent, one should ask what role the culture at large plays in “manufacturing” such “consent,” if any.
There is always an interplay of sex and money in porn, no doubt. Porn is kind of like the gambling industry; in most cases, it’s dirty.
But what if it were clean? I’m sure it’s clean in some companies (or cleaner).
My question is whether it’s neceesarily bad.
Also, lust is a sin. Jesus said.
That’s true. I guess its appeal is predicated on lust.
But do people get lustful when they watch, for example, Gossip Girl?
Could it be a matter of degree?
If I may refer you to a couple of resources that further this particular discussion.
Go to XXXChurch.com. It is a ministry for people struggling with porn, and a ministry to people within the industry. Also, Craig Gross is the founder and he has a few books out and he tells stories of people that he knows in the industry. The industry makes it look glamorous and everybody’s happy, but that isn’t the truth of it. It’s a lie, and it hurts people.
And, I also enjoyed SexGod by Rob Bell. The book isn’t focused on just physical sex and/or porn, but about sexuality in connection with our whole lives. He talks about just how much things can affect us without us realizing it.
There is more, but I’ll leave it at that.
I actually blogged about porn addiction among religious people a while ago:
I agree with you to a large extent. Porn can cause people problems, especially when it becomes an addiction. Some people get destroyed by the industry, the same way people get destroyed in other industries.
I guess my question is this: is it necessarily bad? I think it’s obvious that it’s bad for some, the same way alcohol is bad for some. But can it be neutral in the right hands? Or even good?
What does the Bible say about it?
This is the most ignorant post I have ever read.
Funny, I was thinking the same thing about your post. You must not read much.
Whoops! Wasn’t paying attention to what your post was actually responding to. Apologies, Dave!
Educate me, Dave. I couldn’t find any anti-porn verses in the Bible, which is why I asked.
I guess I can understand why some people are against it. But was/is God against it? Does the Bible say anything about it?
The biggest reason why porn is a sin is because it mocks one of the greatest gifts God gave for a husband (male) and wife (female) to enjoy within the context of marriage.
Satan has done well to pervert and twist God’s original plan for sex to be used to trap and bind people allowing them to think that their bodies only belong to them and they get to decide what to do with it. Which of course is wrong on so many levels.
But its okay to take the body that doesn’t only belong to oneself and decide for oneself to use it to bloody the body of another and in turn be bloodied all for the sake of entertainment, self-developement, etc…? And many here can’t fathom the connection between porn and all other forms of violence? Ignorance runs deep . . .
Mocking? Does porn really mock sex?
I wish I could still find it, but there was once a newspaper survey that showed that people who watched porn were actually better at sex than those who didn’t. The study showed that because porn was so readily available on the web, people actually knew how to, um, get physical with the opposite sex.
Think of it this way. To learn a skill, we usually watch it. Obviously porn can be dangerous when it becomes an addiction, as can gratuitous violence, which may sometimes take place in MMA. But in moderation, can’t it be a good thing?
I guess my main defense is that the Bible doesn’t say anything against it. And since it helps a lot of people, can we see it as at least something that is neutral, rather than bad?
Feodor Emelianenko, widely regarded as the best in the MMA world is an Orthodox Christian.
Feodor: “I try to get a blessing before all important things, including my fights. God willing, my spiritual father[Archpriest] Andrei Zinoviev will make the trip [to fight in Thailand] with me.”
Probably the most famous Orthodox Christian in the American sports areba is Troy Polamalu (Steelers).
Polamalu: “This life that I struggle to live, I try to do so in the eyes of my spiritual father (Elder Ephraim of St. Anthony’s Monastery].”
Each of these Orthodox athletes are in obedience to their spiritual fathers. Their faith and humility inform them as men who just happen to be professional athletes.
The Evangelical MMA practitioners seem to be striving to have their faith (and apparently their very manhood) conform to the image of the MMA fighter.
Living out the Orthodox Christian faith is a life of ascesis, struggle against sin and evil in the world. I remember seeing the back of one of Feodor’s t-shirts that had a drawing of him choking out (with a rear naked choke) a dragon. In the Holy Scriptures, the dragon is a representation of the devil.
Living out the faith Evangelical-MMA style is apparently about being a fighter, showing the world that one is a “winner” by beating or choking a fellow human being into submission.
Orthodox Christianity has lots fighting words to live by..just two examples:
“The true Christian is a warrior making his way through the regiments of the invisible enemy to reach his heavenly homeland.”
— St. Herman of Alaska
“In every battle with the enemy, you must emerge victorious. Either die in the struggle,or win with God. There is no other road.”
— Elder Joseph the Hesychast
Maybe someday these unmanned Evangelical MMAers will to learn to fight in an Orthodox manner like Feodor and Troy.
I have no qualified response to whether it is right or wrong to have churches use mma as a dangling carrot to men to come to their church. I think the end-result is yet to be determined.
However, i find that certain bloggers are using dangerous wording on their interpretation of the sport. I don’t think the word porn should ever be uttered in the same discussion. It’s just simply inflammatory and wrong! I can attest that there are thousands of christians participating in the sport. Umm…i’m pretty sure i can’t say the same thing for the porn industry. You are pointing the finger and condemning a large segment of your brothers and sisters in using the “porn” analogy. And the constant usage of the term violent is missing the point.
Like dave, i wrestled throughout my youth. It taught me discipline, how to take care of my body, and sportsmanship. mma fighters are no different. They train like no other athletes. 90% of these fighters conduct thenselves in the utmost gracious behavior towards their opponents and exhibit the highest level of sportsmanship i have seen in organized sports. HOW does this relate to porn?
Most sports contain a voilent/competitive aspect. Competition in positive and negative form has been with us since the beginning of man. And, it would seem obvious that fighting could be considered the first sport ever. I think that any person, male or female that watches the sport to see blood or injuries has issues completely outside of the sport. I think it is completely naive to assume that life is all about things that are completely passive in nature. Yes, i love mma. But to qualify myself as a non- meathead, i love fashion shows, crying during movies, and furry animals. Take that for what it’s worth.
I think we sometimes overthink things in this world, and if they are for the glory of god! Some thing are what they are, guilty pleasures. I find pleasure in watching well conditioned, trained athletes compete against each other. And without the guilt!
btw: PE, St.Pierre over Pacquiao in a heart beat! : )
your point about competition is well taken, but the problem is not necessarily with the sport itself, but with some of the material out there about ‘Extreme ministry’ and ‘Fight Pastor’ which try to equate or make strong analogies between Jesus’ life and ministry and this kind of fighting. Those analogies are inappropriate and misleading. This is not to say anything intrinsically against the sport or those who watch it. On the other hand, however, I do think what we do, religious, secular or otherwise matters. This may be one form of healthy competition for some, but it should not become an expemplar of masculinity. It’s these messages and their analogy to Jesus which are very problematic.
sam: i agree. i’m not quite sure where the comparisons of porn and MMA came in.
You said, “I think it is completely naive to assume that life is all about things that are completely passive in nature.”
I agree, but you can be active and not be violent. They do not go hand in hand. The question here is whether the glorification of violence is in essence a bad thing. And athleticism is not what is being questioned here, it is the violence. Why is it that so many people want violent sports when there are non-violent and very active sports to be enjoyed? Many people have commented here in defense of fighting as if the opposing opinions were against all kinds of sports, and that simply isn’t the case.
The porn discussion came up, and mostly has been misunderstood. What was meant by the person who said it originally is that the entertainment value of violent sports is similar to the entertainment value of porn. It was not meant to include the treatment of the people involved, only the spectators. As I said above, I agree with that assessment because the fighting turns people into objects used purely for our enjoyment, exactly as porn does with its people. Entertainment fighting turns a person into a piece of meat just the same as porn turns a person into a piece of meat. You can disagree if you want, but I wanted at least to clarify it if I could.
Yes. Thanks for the clarification. Better said than I managed.
I guess that makes any sport similar to porn then. We watch it for enjoyment. Silly argument.
Yes, well said.
While folks are here, please join http://facebook.com/onedayswages
Fighting injustice and bringing compassion to those living in extreme global poverty should be something we can ALL agree and collaborate on.
Point well taken Emily! Why does God message have to be spiced-up for a certain segment of people? The stripped down message of God’s love and devotion to us should be all that matters. Once again, i like mma, but i don’t know how it applies to our saviour?
Saw the one line in the article, knew you were a Covenanter, thought I’d read the rest of your thoughts – and I agree.
I especially like your point that the objective is to grow up.
I know this was not your main point, but I would like to take exception to this sentence:
I understand the freedom we have in Christ, and thus we don’t need Law to decide for us what to eat, drink, watch, etc. But as a pastor I DO care, to some extent, what people are doing as it is related to whether or not they are growing up. Some people can watch MMA, and I suppose others can’t; some people can watch certain TV pundits, and I’m getting the impression that some others shouldn’t.
In other words, “porn” isn’t the only thing we have to watch out for (thought we should INDEED watch out for that).
Something about “whatever is excellent,” etc.
good points. and i concur.
Eugene – Re: the “emasculation” concept – I think the whole hyper-macho male thing in essence takes an inadequate and truncated concept of what it means to be a man who follows Christ, identifies its shortcomings, finds it deficient, and then replaces it with another inadequate and truncated concept of what it means to be a man who follows Christ, declaring this one to be the TRUE image of a man who follows Christ.
FWIW, I hope that someday, there would be an honest and compelling NY Times front page article about Christian men fighting for justice for women. I wrote this earlier but if you’re new, check this out. I can’t get these images out of my mind:
Well, if we reduce our response to a ‘one-liner’ wouldn’t that reduce the danger of ‘pull-quotes’?
In fact the entire ‘performance’ based ministry is more than vile to me…
“Putting the Jew in Jiu-Jitsu”
Can’t decide whether this borders on great distaste or hilarity… Either way, it’s apt 😛
The NYT article and your quote in it prompted me to post this about our MMA ministry. http://whoisgrace.com/index.php?/staff_blogs/view/grace_martial_arts_and_the_nyts/
We definitely dial down the violence at our program. Thanks for challenging me.
Thanks for the link. Good post.
you know, I wanted to bring up the fact that we see these stats (more women than men in church, more women than men serving, etc.) and we automatically see an enormous problem. I think there is a problem, to be sure, but when was the last time people cheered at the INCREASE in female representation and participation in the kingdom? We need to encourage/rebuke young men (like myself) in various ways, but let’s take a minute to recognize elements of progress championed by women in the church. Am I speaking out of place?
Linked here from the NYT article. Agreed with the choir above me that you deserved more than a quote and I’m not that into MMA evangelism.
(Side note – I kind of winced at the article; I work at a student newspaper and I suspect I know how and why the editor and reporter trimmed you down.)
That said, I suspect that churches could do much with athletic-related ministries. Your thoughts?
I really appreciated this article and think you are right on in your diagnosis of the American church and how it relates to men. However, one line you said did make me pause. You said:
“I personally don’t care what you eat, drink, hunt, or watch as long as it isn’t porn.”
I spent several years living in Europe and the European culture is definitely desensitized to porn in many unhealthy and destructive ways. However, I believe that American culture is equally desensitized to gratuitous violence. The thing is, Europeans watch many a movie that would make Americans blush, but Americans watch movies and shows with acts of violence that would leave Europeans sick to the stomach. I personally believe that Christ would be disgusted by the callous attitude that all of us have towards things that are not beneficial. So, yes porn is horrible and destructive, but it is not the only thing that people watch which can be dishonoring to God and destructive to our own souls.
I share many of your concerns about how Christians are trying to bring the Gospel to MMA. Around January 2009 there was a conference here in Portland OR. called ‘Fighting with God’ that featured Mark Driscoll, Darrin Patrick, Ryan Dobson, and a few UFC fighters. The conference was a perfect picture of whats best and worst at the church’s attempt to bring the gosepl to this subculture. Hearing Mark Driscoll walk through the story of the Bible gave me great hope that we can reach non-christian men with the Gospel. Listening to Ryan Dobson made me afraid we were just going to return to the kind of manhood that fueled the rise of feminism. In the end I think if we don’t read our bibles well, and develop a solid and balanced theology, we will just swing from one extreme (passive men who won’t risk for the glory of god, lead their families in a loving sacrificial way, or be willing to fight for the gospel) to the other extreme (overbearing men who abuse their masculinity to serve themselves, dont lead their families in a loving sacrificial way, and wont subject themselves to following anyone but themselves). Jesus is both the strong lion and the weak lamb. Men need to be bold, courageous, leaders, and willing to risk while also being gentle, loving, forbearing, and servants of all. Having a strong, well informed, theology is the only thing that will keep us from falling into the trap of reactionary thinking about manhood, which is core to the whole idea of how to reach fighters. Those wanting to bring the gospel to this community need to think long and hard about their theology of ‘leading’ and ‘masculinity’. Reading Piper and Grudem’s Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood wouldn’t hurt either to see how to speak about these issues in a humble way. Frankly, the attitude that often comes across from the folks talking about ‘biblical masculinity’ in the fight world is arrogant and harmful to their ultimate cause. The 1 Tim. 3 / Titus 1 man is the kind of guy we need to trying to become, and that guy is gentle and a leader. He loves others sacrificially and lives for the glory of god.
I don’t believe Jesus would endorse UFC or MMA. I believe he would reach out to the participants and spectators at these sports but not lace up to compete. Everytime I read about these new ways to attract followers it reminds me of a salesperson’s spiel, that may not be the intent but that is how I personally see it. I don’t begrudge people who watch this sport, I personally don’t because it crosses a line for me, as do dirty play and PEDs in football.
Speaking of football I think the only football Jesus might enjoy would be a familial game on Turkey day. Football is my favorite sport, but the toll it takes on players, the cost of tickets, concessions, advertising, stadiums, salaries, etc could be time and money better spent. How much money is enough for owners and players, how many wells could be dug, mouths fed, medications given, etc? Do I really need to spend 3hrs watching a game or should I actively spend it with my family? So I believe Jesus would not like football.
Well said Eugene!
Thanks for this post Eugene. I feel that men are unfortunately experiencing a lot of pressure these days to figure out what it means to be a “man”. The high demands they feel from both their peers, women, and themselves are a lot. Thanks for the reminder that it’s not about the outer but always about the inner that matters to Christ.
I see MMA as being different in degree, not kind, from other aggressive sports. Football, wrestling and boxing are all channels for the pugnacity that comes with being human, particularly if you’re young and male.
If MMA is a contact point between the church and people who wouldn’t otherwise be introduced to Christ, I don’t see the problem. Are its participants less worthy than the outcasts Jesus ministered to?
Successful contestants who come to Christ can open minds to faith that might not be reached otherwise. I think of NFL players like Merlin Olsen (I know I’m dating myself by using him for an example!), Reggie White and Kurt Warner who demonstrate that physical and mental toughness can go hand-in-hand with Christian faith.
Maybe MMA is a fertile mission field. Who knows?
I know I’m quite late to this party, Eugene, but I wanted to at least share an article I wrote on this very topic in which I resonate with your approach, despite being being both a Bible teacher and one who trains in MMA:
http://jmsmith.org – Disciple Dojo
I understand Eugene’s point of view and agree with him mostly. But I want to ask what are churches like Quest doing about reaching the men who are immersed in this “masculine” culture who see going to church as “feminine.” Many have spoken about true toughness as embodied by Jesus…well, I agree…still the question remains, “how will you reach the men?” I think most churches do a horrible job at it. Instead of simply bashing a ministry that has the right intention but erring on methodology, offer helpful alternatives. How
How would you effectively reach the men immersed in our “masculine” culture?
I think this topic is incredibly relevant today, and getting more so.
At the risk of sounding like a spambot, you should check out a documentary I edited – http://wrestlingforjesus.com/
No, really, you should, and I’d love to send you a copy for free, for you to watch and analyze. There’s a lot there.
I’m not even saying ‘hey watch this and blog about it’ (though if you want to, woohoo!). But But in my experience, the film has sparked incredibly meaningful and interesting conversations about everything from dedication to family to how and why we do ministry, as well as issues like the one your post details here.
I guess you can say I’m sending it to you as my response to this post. And as further proof I’m not a spambot (really!), if you, Eugene, respond to firstname.lastname@example.org, I will send you a complimentary copy. You don’t even have to publish this comment.
I’m done with the desperate ‘Not a Spambot’ attempts.
Thanks for your time,
Marketing Director, Wrestling for Jesus
There’s a sentence in there that is really standing out to me: “Emasculation as one of the greatest threats? We’re focusing on genitalia here and not the heart?”
That, sir, is money. Thank you.
Great Post Eugene
“Rather than focusing on external appearance, shouldn’t we focus on our “heart, soul, body, and mind”?”
Yay! I heart your thoughts here.