The New York Times published an article recently about the rise of Mixed Martial Arts being used as an outreach by evangelical churches for men. I know that guys like Mark Driscoll are all over this and that men are drawn to MMA and that God is using it. I am not going to lie to you, I enjoy a little Fight Club and some MMA myself. However, I am concerned by some of the statements that I read in the article. Here a few of them:
- “Compassion and love — we agree with all that stuff, too,” said Brandon Beals, 37, the lead pastor at Canyon Creek Church outside of Seattle. “But what led me to find Christ was that Jesus was a fighter.”
- These pastors say the marriage of faith and fighting is intended to promote Christian values, quoting verses like “fight the good fight of faith” from Timothy 6:12. Several put the number of churches taking up mixed martial arts at roughly 700 of an estimated 115,000 white evangelical churches in America.
- “The man should be the overall leader of the household,” said Ryan Dobson, 39, a pastor and fan of mixed martial arts who is the son of James C. Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, a prominent evangelical group. “We’ve raised a generation of little boys.”
First, I agree that the church has “wussified” men. We have cut men’s legs out from underneath them and have asked them to be “nice”. We want them to share their “feelings” and hold hands, yada, yada. Second, I agree that we must change the way we do things and bring masculinity back to the church and help men to embrace who they are as men: leaders, strong, and kind.
However, I grow concerned when we begin training men in the way of violence. This is in such contrast to the life of Jesus that we will be doing more harm than good. Jesus is not the feminine, blue eyed, long haired pretty boy but a rough necked, back woods Jewish carpenter. He was strong. He had convictions that he was willing to die for. He also displayed compassion, grace, restraint and kindness. We must realize that kindness is very different from being “nice”. Being “nice” means that you are a push over. You are a doormat that people walk all over. Being kind means that you are strong enough to tell people what they need to hear and how they need to act with honesty, compassion, and gentleness. It means that you can love well in spite of the potential of loss.
Jesus demonstrated ridiculous amounts of restraint. Have you ever wondered what it must have been like to be in possession of the full power of God? Jesus could have wiped out his enemies with one fell swoop. He did not. He held back. He taught the value of restraint and that in his restraint there was great power. It was in his restraint where he chose to bear the cross, “scorning it’s shame for the joy set before him.” Jesus did not need to beat the tar out of someone to prove he was a man.
He did it by being strong in the face of adversity. He did it by standing up to the imperial and religious leaders at the cost of his life. He did it by choosing to live a life of obedience to his father. He did it by demanding respect through his words and deeds.
So, we raise a generation of Spartan-like boys into Spartan-like men for Jesus. What does this get us? It gets us men who subdue their wives through anger and rage. It gets us men who do not understand kindness but only power. It gets us men who are willing beat their opponents into submission through violence as opposed to loving well with powerful kindness, compassion, and mercy.
Finally, I would suggest that the MMA Church take some time to study and understand the ramifications of their actions in light of Matthew 5, I will quote it below (oh and this is Jesus speaking, just saying):
1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
13 You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
17 Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
21 You have heard that it was said to those of old, You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, You fool! will be liable to the hell of fire.23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison.26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
27 You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery.28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
31 It was also said, Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
33 Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God,35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.37 Let what you say be simply Yes or No; anything more than this comes from evil.
38 You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
43 You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.