Son of God. Prince of Peace. Son of Man. Cagefighter? While the first three masculine titles given to our Lord Jesus are biblical and sufficient enough to express the wonder of Jesus, the last title seems to be ever-more increasingly projected onto Jesus by evangelical churches which have long struggled with the over-feminization of the church. Any brief inspection of some of evangelicalism’s top blogs seem to tout Mixed Martial Arts as the next great out-reach strategy for men. Forget Promise-Keepers, let’s have a fist, iron, and blood.
On the Sojourners blog, a blog I disagree with 99% politically and theologically, Eugene Cho draws our attention to an article written in the New York Times over the growing popularity of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) or more commonly known as Ultimate Fighting Championship and various other leagues. Like myself, he condemns the sport.
Now, permit me to speak on this topic. In a former life, I was a proud and militant pacifist. I would have argued that to equate Jesus with any type of struggle or legitimating of defense would have been heretical. I was wrong. And so is this position casting Jesus into a male-affirming machismo injecting repressed masculinity with capricious sport.
It has been suggested that evangelical male fascination with cagefighting is simply allowing men to tap into their inner masculinity and thus celebrated as a recovery of biblical manhood. While gender distinction and masculinity are to be applauded and upheld as biblical statutes, current attitudes amongst evangelical men suggest that men have taken their divine mandate to protect and twisted it into a carnality salivating with brutality. Cagefighting and warring are not synonymous. Cagefighting is sport, drawing upon the unbridled angst of man which seeks to overwhelm his opponent through unhealthy submission (or unconsciousness). Warring is the act of protection and defense and entails, in its proper execution, honor and restraint.
Jesus was fully man and fully God. The Chalcedonian definition is two natures, one person. Let that be sufficient in all its simplicities and complexities. To propose, as one very popular evangelical preacher has done, that he could not worship a Jesus he could beat up is pure nonsense. The vision of Jesus presented as a warrior in Revelation is not sufficient evidence to base one’s desire for a combative life. Yes, Jesus was no doubt a rugged man well acquainted with the difficulties of nomadic life, but this same individual wept (John 11:35). Jesus never waged malevolent war over the grounds of blood-lust with earthly enemies; instead, he rose to challenge and combat far superior Powers which rage against each of us in constant tumult to devour (1 Peter 5:8). This enemy, interestingly, is not of flesh (Ephesians 6:12).
Am I making too much of this sport? Perhaps. But, I cannot understand the virtue of a sport which images the graphic and brutal aspects of human behavior.
[…] Mere Orthodoxy also has a response called, Jesus is a Warrior, But Not a Cagefighter. […]
I agree with your distaste for it Andrew. What I’m wondering is what tidy rationale separates it from boxing, rugby, football, etc. Any ideas?
Fantastic question and one I have fearfully been anticipating. However insufficient my response is, I would have to reduce the issue down to one of degree. I suppose we should ask what the intent is on sports such as boxing, rugby, etc. If the end goal is the maximization of points, then that is one thing; if the end goal is defeat by means of injury, that is a whole other project to be concerned with. Your question, however, forces me to be consistent with my principle and thus, I would place boxing in the same category, too. I hope that helps.
When I read the title, I was sure you were referring to THIS article by Jonathan Dodson…
“a broken worship leader, a moral failure, a threatened marriage and a leadership crisis… [[walking out]] the restoration process, we agreed we needed to start a Fight Club…”
Amazing. Two TOTALLY different takes on the same phrase. Amazing what “Babel” can do to twist words and thoughts into different meanings…
I am a fan of Dodson’s article, and of John Eldredge’s “Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul.” You’ll find it at the top of my “Top “X” Books That Will Change Your Life” list at Goodreads:
Wild at Heart does promote manliness in the face of a feminized culture, but he definitely doesn’t seem to go for “cage fighting.” I think Eldredge is pushing for a Jesus-like MAN – one who has phenomenal power, not based in the flesh, but flowing from the Spirit. Sure, physical strength is valuable, and it should be honoured as a true aspect of manliness. But making men into rage machines doesn’t seem to be the logical result of the Gospel. A quick search yields:
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” Mat 5:5
It doesn’t say weak – it says MEEK. I think the best way of translating meek is “of broken will.” If we are “of broken will” – we are ready for unlimited power from Jesus. That’s what he was talking about when he said “tell this mountain to move in my name and it will be done for you.” Let’s just tell those cage matches to go jump in the sea.
CAVEAT… just like evangelizing in bars or on the streets – we should not fear to reach people in all kinds of sport. Let’s just show them true power when we share our treasured Gospel, not a twisted derivation.
Jeremy raises a good question. Let me see if my ruminations might help you Andrew. Rather than place the difference between cage fighting and rugby (or any sport involving physical conflict/combat) in degree (opening the door to the notorious slippery slope) consider locating the difference in anthropology.
A sport that demands (or even allows) combatants to respect each other as human beings and does not ask them to violate the dignity of human being is in accordance with the nature of man.
A sport that demands combatants to debase one another and disrespect, and therefore dehumanize, their opponents is not in accordance with the nature of man.
I agree completely with your argument. Proper grounding in anthropology is more satisfying than the slippery slope. Thanks for the touch-up!
I like it too Tex, although with my limited exposure to it I don’t know of any debasing inherent to cage fighting. Are you thinking of the way its done on TV or any fighting that is so violent?
I don’t think violence between humans is necessarily debasing (thus, sports like football and rugby are allowed on this principle). However, violence with the aim of subjugation of another human being is debasing as it is an attack on their freedom and self-determination—essentially aiming to enslave or dominate another individual. Thus, on this principle, sports like football and rugby make the cut while cage-fighting does not.
I agree that subjugation of another human being is debasing, but how does cage fighting involve subjugation? Is it the fact that the participants “submit” to end the match? (I think they do this? Or is there also a ref?) This seems like superficial subjugation if subjugation at all. To me the aims seem identical to the aims of boxing or any other sport, but the means more intense.
all I can say is I will not be responsible for my actions when I see this movie! LOL:) I will try to be a good girl *thinks about it for second* NAH ha ha ha ha!
This comment was originally posted on Eclipse Movie
What is superficial about physical subjugation in arena sports (cage fighting, boxing, pro wrestling)? If you mean that it is short-lived (the length of the match) and not a lifetime of enslavement, that is a fair point. However, the length of the period of subjugation doesn’t seem to be relevant to the discussion…is subjugation not superficial only when it is long-lasting?