Monday, April 07, 2014

Fight church

A Fight Church trailer is getting some buzz in the Christian blogosphere. I'll discuss the pros and cons, beginning with the cons:
i) The clips savor of exhibitionism. Boastfulness. A circus-like atmosphere in the church. 
ii) There's no correlation between moral toughness and physical toughness. Some men have a high tolerance for pain, but they have no resistance to peer pressure. One can be physically hard, but morally soft.  
iii) You don't have to be brave to be a MMA fighter. There are various precautions to minimize the risk of serious harm. That's quite different from being a soldier on the battlefield, where are you are at genuine and grave risk of being maimed or killed. That takes real courage. There's no referee on the battlefield. No tap-out option. 
iv) It's a mistake to equate Christian masculinity with athleticism. One can be a great athlete, but be rotten husband and father.  
v) A pastor who spends a lot of time working out at the gym and practicing his striking and grappling techniques is a pastor who's shirking sermon prep. 
vi) The clip shows a young boy who's being push into a fight against his will. He obviously doesn't want to be there. That's a mistake. 
The trailer represents one extreme. An extreme to be avoided. There is, though, an opposite extreme which should also be avoided.
i) The trailer also has a priest who represents the classic pansy response to MMA. "That isn't love–that's hate!"
Ironically, Fight Church reflects a pushback against that very attitude.
Many critics of MMA are just as critical of contact sports generally. They think its all "violent" and unchristian. 
ii) There are introverted boys who suffer from crippling shyness. This will hold them back from doing some of the things they'd rather do in life. Making a shy boy participate in a sport can force him out of his shell. Shed his initiations. Even if he hates it initially, it can be good for him in the long run. Make him conformable with his own body. Make him comfortable in his own skin. Make him comfortable around aggressive men. Make him comfortable around girls. Bolster his self-confidence. It depends on the sport. 
iii) However, it can undermine his self-confidence if he's doing it to prove something to his dad. Make the old man proud. If he feels he has to earn his father's respect or approval by winning or competing. 
Ideally, an athlete isn't really testing himself against his opponent, but against himself. He's competing with himself. Stretching himself. Discovering his limits.  
iv) In addition, you have many teenage boys who love intramural sports, especially team sports. They need the male companionship and camaraderie. They need the physicality. They need the outlet. In some cases, a team sport is more of a family to them than their real family.
I suspect that for many high school athletes, graduation is a tremendous let-down. Overnight, they lose a support system which they really needed to define themselves and maintain their equilibrium. 
Having a church host sports clubs for high school graduates (e.g. twenty-somethings, thirty-somethings), where they can continue to play the game, isn't a bad idea. Otherwise, we will lose them. 
Let's not make the mistake of overreacting to Fight Church. One extreme doesn't justify the opposite extreme. 

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