Punching Someone’s Head in the Name of Christ

A week or so ago I caught wind of a New York Times story about the rise of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) in evangelical churches via the Gospel Coalition blog. It’s a fascinating article that raises quite a few questions in my mind. Namely, whether or not violent sports like MMA are appropriate outreach tools.

Here’s an excerpt:

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 sport is seen as a legitimate outreach tool by the youth ministry affiliate of the National Association of Evangelicals, which represents more than 45,000 churches.

Eugene Cho was quoted in the article as the lone dissenting Christian voice saying, “What you attract people to Christ with is also what you need to get people to stay…I don’t live for the Jesus who eats red meat, drinks beer and beats on other men.” He gives a bit more perspective on his comment over on his blog.

I think Eugene has a point: even if Jesus was a fighter, his ministry was marked by love far more than it was marked by machismo.

How do you feel about pairing faith with a sport like MMA? Have you ever been to an event like the one described in the NYT article?

On a sidenote: the MMA as outreach idea reminds me of the Power Team ministry. The Power Team is a traveling group devoted to sharing their testimonies in between ripping phone books in half and breaking out of handcuffs.

13 Responses to “Punching Someone’s Head in the Name of Christ”

  • Sounds like the perfect reinforcement of the “manhood” movement sweeping through evangelical churches, describing the essence of a men as “warriors” and “modern-day knights.” One famous pastor preaches you’re a “sissy” if you don’t like Ultimate Fighting.

    When we begin to re-think these stereotypes, we can start to address the the above situation. But too few are addressing the root philosophy to address the fruit of the philosophy…

  • Teek says:

    I don’t watch or support the fighting because i feel it contradicts Ephesians 6:12 – For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

    Also, the fighters can equal a mixed role model to people and young children. They can show that it is good to stay physically fit, and able to defend yourself and stand upright in the world, and strong. And by the way of their fights and fighting techniques they may even show some child/children something that could save their life down the road. But another child will see ufc and work for the easy life of ego and glory, being surrounded by materialism and lusts. And another child will get in the best shape anyone could ever be in, and just beat people up for fun. A fighting broadcast is lacking in the Glory to God department, but shining in the glory to man one. That’s the plate the fighting is offering, and it’s not one that i could sit at.

    In this crazy age, fighting is a job, like a compost recycler, banker, and politician. There are faithful people in most all job positions in the world, and only God can say where they stand with their faith. But if you are a person on the path of devout faith, taking a job that requires you to go against your faith, decrease it, or form a more socially acceptable version of it, is the wrong way to go. But to each their own, and it doesn’t matter what you do, because no matter what happens, God gets all the glory in the end!

  • jon says:

    Aside from being a Christian I have no desire to see any violence between two men (or women). I understand the desire to reach people where they are for the sake of Christ but aren’t we debasing ourselves when we stoop to the lowest common denominator.

    We can’t be afraid of ‘losing a generation’ thereby watering down the gospel. The Gospel is about redemption and renewal. Christians are aliens in a fallen world. We stand alone much of the time and that is ok. Christ stood alone much of the time even with his own disciples.

    Let us not be ashamed of the Gospel

  • Todd says:

    If one person is saved through this outreach, it will have been worth it.

  • Dan says:

    Jesus showed more courage and “manhood” carrying that cross and dying on it than any professional fighter has yet to demonstrate. Those who complain that modern Christianity has been feminized somehow have missed the point. It takes fortitude to stand in the gap with prayer. It takes more masculinity to forgive and to love than it does to throw a punch. Who among us could stand before the highest religious leaders of the time and call them “sons of perdition” and “a brood of vipers” knowing what the end result would be? Who among us could ask God to forgive the very people who tortured and murdered you as you hung on a cross with nails through your hands and feet? There is nothing lacking in Jesus.

  • African Guy says:

    I think there’s nothing wrong with this concept. We allow our kids to engage in sporting activities outside of the church & then come to church afterwards and feel like we doing great because your child is living a balanced life. I think we need to capture the sports domain as Christians and raise Godly sports superstars. We need particularly Martial Arts because the sport is full of Budhist spiritualism. We need to engage athlets in this sport with Christian values and discipline. The sport is not about violence or attacking people indiscriminately, but about self defence and discipline. Viva MMA!!!

  • Prashant says:

    I agree with Dan.

  • pako? says:

    i love you all… you have a great potential to reason the facts according to the word. i’m sure each one of you gus is an amazing messanger.

    1 cor 9:19-22
    let’s become everything to everyone in order to save some, shall we.

  • Yetty says:

    Let us ensure that everything gives glory to God. He is all knowing God who sees the heart of all in everything we do.

  • tannen says:

    Why the fuss about this? No one had a problem with Holyfield and Foreman being both boxers and Christians, Foreman a reverend, no less.

    I’m breathless with anticipation at the soon to be released boys youth group activities books/blogs/websites, VBS curricula, bonded leather bible covers, precious moments miniature, ring apparel and additional pathetic Evangelica Americana endorsed MMA themed flotsam that will be soon unleashed upon us at friendly neighbourhood Christian bookstores.

    Dale Fincher: well said.

  • Brad Morris says:

    Ps 18v34 He teaches my hands to make war, So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.

    It’s scrpitural


  • Tom says:

    Fighting is a SPORT not a form of aggression hate or malice. The thing is church’s all over the country play football and that sport is just as aggressive. The bible says not to fight flesh and blood but don’t take that out of context it’s saying effectively PRAY YOUR HEART OUT because you can’t fight sin with a punch or round house kick. MMA is not used to hurt people yes people get hurt but did you ever notice 90 % of the time when the fighters finish fighting they hug or shake hands ? that aggression is just hipe to make fights more interesting.