You want church porn? I’ll give you church porn. And it won’t be naked ladies pretending to be angels, either. Carnal? Oh, yeah. Knowledge -- well, they say so but it’s only of a certain kind. It works within a particular circle of people. I suppose I can’t get off the hook -- I like rodeo. I’d be interested to know how rodeo and cage-fighting compare in attendance in Great Falls -- both of them much promoted and popular. The cowboys and football players are also claiming Jesus, mixing competition with Christianity. It’s pervasive. God, the coach.
Here’s the link for the movie: “Fight Church.” Not Brad Pitt stuff. Documentary.
They have a little legal prob with the NY state legislature -- which was refusing to legalize MMA, the fight organization. Therefore this problem is about Sin, not Evil. Sociologically, they are NOT on the same wavelength as a bunch of legislators, who are likely to be lawyers. Check out the fans. I don’t think that anyone on the scene is really aware that the phenomenon of empathy means that when the combatants go after each other, a faint reproduction of the fight is happening in the nerves and muscles of every person there. Watch them flinch and weave in their seats. It’s more powerful than playing computer combat games.
Like boxing, MMA devolves into black against blonde.
Racism IS Evil.
One pastor says, “This gives a level of excitement beyond any other sport.” Soon he’s wondering whether kicking someone in the face is, um, “spiritual.” Isn’t it more like the Roman gladiators? But we love the emotion of it -- Russell Crowe surviving tigers. In fact, we love emotion in a pornographic way, feeling it secondhand. How is all this fighting different from jihad? Consider just about the most addictive drug there is: adrenaline. Nero knew.
I’m not out of touch with reality enough to think that boys don’t “grapple.” But then these guys move on to big guns. Do you really want a five-year-old, a twelve-year-old, trying to control an assault weapon? Do you want him to think that if he can’t, he’s an (ick) girl, a coward? A warrior ethic is taught by a huge dad who smacks a little kid for not being tough? Brass casings from a gun pelting the kid in the face because his protective goggles are up? What about his eyes? Where’s dad? If the kid goes blind, will he just throw the weeping boy out on the street? Probably. The kid believes that.
What about the dynamics between a kid who’s traumatized and crying and the father who MUST have a winning kid? What about small towns where local high school athletes are pushed to extreme fighting in back alleys so adult men can bet on the outcome? And maybe a few drunks and certainly a lot of alcohol will be involved. What they THINK they are doing is not at all what these “fighting pastors” are doing, though I don’t know what that really is either. Esp. when it’s girls getting bloodied by girls -- domestic violence anyone?
These guys are really into the porn of the Demon -- the Gates of Hell. Here’s where the Devil comes "into" his own: bedtime wrestling, tickling, controlling. You’ve seen it, I’ve seen it. It turns sexual so gradually that no one can quite believe that it has slid into rape. That’s not love.
Trash talk is trash talk, even if you mention Jesus. “We don’t use trash talk,” says the fighting pastor wearing a windbreaker with an acronym on it: “P.I.M.P.” Using Peter as a justification for a sword completely ignores Peter as the guy who blunders, who can’t walk on water, who DENIES Jesus because he’s afraid. These fight guys hop all around, picking up phrases. They are ORAL thinkers, not print folks. In fact, they are physical strategists, a useful skill but not for theology.
So then the movie turns to a conflict -- “disrespect,” “insulting my wife,” so one of these fighting pastors goes on crusade. The difference from a street fight is that “I have trained responses.” Privilege, status, “I’m better than you.” It was the wife-insulter who won the fight. Hmmmmm.
Nice to see these families bring their little kids to see Daddy get beat up. If the worst happens and Dad drops dead, at least they were there. Oh, yeah, the kids will like the flashy near-naked ladies, too. And seeing Daddy almost kill his opponent. So the next day, the pastor says, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing.” Right.
They’re doing it for the institution: the church, their pastorate. It’s show-biz, a power base. And an income. And in the case of some of these guys, an inherited pass-along, Game of Thrones style. (Hey, I’m the one who complains about denominations turning “pink,” not Commie pinko but mommie pink, girly pink. Soft.) Increasingly this is mocked in the larger culture, drowned in the constant stream of suffering so vivid on the media.
But hard can be mocked as well. (Game of Thrones again.) Sooner or later someone brings a knife to the fistfight, a gun to the knife fight, a dragon to the gunfight and the A-Bomb nukes the dragon. And anyway, we’re all discovering that a tiny smoked bat on a stick can kill more efficiently and cost more than any guerrilla king in the jungle, all the while mixing sex with violence. The blood oozes out your eyes without even a wound.
The people gathered into “fight churches” do not belong to mainstream denominations. They’re rather pentecostal in the generic sense, a little like snake-handlers, hooked on adrenaline. There are vulnerabilities built into every religious system and in Christianity many of them have to do with the old patriarchal impulse re-surfacing, displacing Jesus’ compassion, consolation, and healing. They are “Old Testament” Christians. What holds them together is the fact of family: the basic attached mom-and-dad pair plus child. With this as its core, “Christianity” can travel anywhere there are traditional families. Systems based on a landscape or a specific ecology can’t do that.
No wonder they are so terrified of any departure from that Trinity of mom/dad/child: same sex marriage, childless marriage, single parent marriage, daughters instead of sons, people who never marry. In a poverty-limited place the mother -- who is assigned the role of the family “Jesus” in terms of compassion and forgiveness -- may be a drunk or just gets into the car and drives off. (Mama Absconditus.) Or maybe it is the father who can’t earn money, beats his kids instead of using his strength to make things, and destroys even the saintly mother.
I read something the other day that suggested in a world without fathers, it’s easy to imagine God is dead. But then what do you do with the Mother, since she’s supposed to be the Mother of God. Must she simply grieve forever? There are places where that’s exactly what the mothers are doing -- grieving for the men and boys. Are there Christian congregations for them? Ask Pope Francis, who constantly confronts the women of South America who hold up photographs of their disappeared loved ones.
Congregations are open to the culture and draw like-to-like. These tattooed, Mohawked, bleached, and belligerent men with guns tucked into the back of their belts were there already. To draw them into a group that uses Christian metaphors for the Great Mystery is to at least give them a handhold in a whirling world. But advocating rage and violence, even caged, is a deadend. They are neither fish nor fowl. Neither swim nor fly.
The larger culture will tolerate them until they begin to look like a threat, or the women among them say, “No more.” Then they will either have to give up the Christianity or the combat because it threatens the family, which is Evil because it threatens the survival of the species. Threatening one part of society or even threatening one religious system is merely sinful, maybe illegal. But they did finally legalize MMA in New York.