Behold the power of Christ, you puny mortals!
The Lord - He doth work in mysterious ways, doesn't He?
Anyyyyyywaaaayyy...just a day after I posted that fundamentalist crackheadedness that was God Vs. Gaga, I came across this item in the New York Times :
"Flock Is Now A Fight Team In Some Ministries"
To wit, the article features how more and more American ministries are resorting to rather, uhhhhh....unorthodox ways to attract people - specifically young men - into coming in to hear the Good News.
Like Xtreme Ministries (I kid you not), a small church near Nashville that doubles as a mixed-martial arts club. It was founded and is led by Pastor John Renken, 42, who also doubles as its coach.
The school's motto? "Where Feet, Fist, and Faith Collide."
If Michael Bay directed "The Passion of the Christ."
"Mr. Renken’s ministry is one of a small but growing number of evangelical churches that have embraced mixed martial arts — a sport with a reputation for violence and blood that combines kickboxing, wrestling and other fighting styles — to reach and convert young men, whose church attendance has been persistently low. Mixed martial arts events have drawn millions of television viewers, and one was the top pay-per-view event in 2009."
"Recruitment efforts at the churches, which are predominantly white, involve fight night television viewing parties and lecture series that use ultimate fighting to explain how Christ fought for what he believed in. Other ministers go further, hosting or participating in live events.
The goal, these pastors say, is to inject some machismo into their ministries — and into the image of Jesus — in the hope of making Christianity more appealing. “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.”
The Macho Messiah
"The outreach is part of a larger and more longstanding effort on the part of some ministers who fear that their churches have become too feminized, promoting kindness and compassion at the expense of strength and responsibility."
Ok, fine. Even I find this a little too gay.
Oh, I get it. Promoting "kindness and compassion" instead of "strength and responsibility" probably makes Jesus a bit of a wuss. Hence, the 'roiding up of the Christ. He is, after all, not just God's son, but the Son of Man, as well.
And let's face it. You can't battle the forces of
I guess some people just can't accept Jesus into their lives if he comes across as a long-haired hippie pushover.
Moving on, the article says:
"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."
Defending the faith with tough love.
To be sure, not everyone is keen on selling Jesus as Rambo: The Gung-Ho God.
"Nondenominational evangelical churches have a long history of using popular culture — rock music, skateboarding and even yoga — to reach new followers. Yet even among more experimental sects, mixed martial arts has critics.
'What you attract people to Christ with is also what you need to get people to stay,' said Eugene Cho, 39, a pastor at Quest Church, an evangelical congregation in Seattle. 'I don’t live for the Jesus who eats red meat, drinks beer and beats on other men.' ”
Jesus not only loves you, he pwns you, too!
While I acknowledge that there are many paths to salvation, I'm just unsure whether these guys are taking things - once again - too literally here.
"Over the past year and a half, a subculture has evolved, with Christian mixed martial arts clothing brands like Jesus Didn’t Tap (in the sport, “tap” means to give up) and Christian social networking Web sites like Anointedfighter.com."
"Men ages 18 to 34 are absent from churches, some pastors said, because churches have become more amenable to women and children. 'We grew up in a church that had pastel pews,' said Tom Skiles, 37, the pastor of Spirit of St. Louis Church in Arnold, Mo. 'The men fell asleep.' ”
"In focusing on the toughness of Christ, evangelical leaders are harking back to a similar movement in the early 1900s, historians say, when women began entering the work force. Proponents of this so-called muscular Christianity advocated weight lifting as a way for Christians to express their masculinity."
Eat his body, drink his - whoooooooops. Wrong Jesus.
As a child, I often wondered: if God was love, why was He always so angry? Unlike the serene Buddha (who isn't technically a god, okay) or the smiling Hindu deities (with the exception of Kali, Durga, and the more bloodthirsty members of their pantheon), one would be hard-pressed to find a depiction of a happy, smiling God in Judaeo-Christian iconography.
God the Father was always so stern, so forbidding, so...distant. A god that inspired more fear than love - just like my own father. Then again:
“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.”
The Old Testament, particularly, was ruled by this ever-furious, vengeful Father, ready to smite anyone down if they so much as said the wrong thing, looked back at Sodom & Gomorrah, or heaven forbid, looked anything like Lady Gaga.
Once more,with feeling.
On the other hand, the New Testament has always struck me as God's New Deal with mankind. At the risk of oversimplifying, it's as though after raining fire, the Great Flood, and 7 kinds of herbs and spices and pestilence upon mankind, God realized that His children were still not drawing nearer to Him. Hence, He must've adopted a new tack, and brought Jesus into the picture. If the Father Figure didn't work, maybe the Big Brother-figure would.
Res ipsa loquitur.
The Messiah came down to spread a new and simpler gospel: "Love one another as I have loved you." A gospel I believe encapsulated the essence of Christianity far more beautifully than the earlier, sterner Commandments set firmly in stone.
This new and gentler God spread His word through acts and service: sermons and talks, healing the sick, raising the dead, the occasional turning of water into wine (whenever He wasn't walking across it, that is). A far cry from the previous Almighty Administration's scorched-earth policy. It was this God, who actually lived among His beloved, practicing what He preached, with kindness and compassion, that I wanted to follow. Not out of fear of eternal damnation, but yes - out of love. JC was, if my childhood hymns were to be believed, not just my Lord. He was also my friend.
The Buddy Christ.
Sure, He could be given to righteous anger (as when He whipped the merchants out of the temple), but on the whole, Jesus wasn't as temperamental or given to hurling bolts from on high as the Father. He was, after all, the Lamb of God, not His henchman. But His strength was of a quieter kind. Not the blustery, show-off kind involving the massive destruction of cities, the gnashing of teeth, and the lamentations of women.
No, Jesus' strength was the kind that didn't need bombast because His strength came from deep within. Truly, this God made Man was the Rock of Ages.
I guess that's why benighted rednecks who believe more in Might rather than Right have a hard time accepting that a pacifist Messiah spreading a gospel of peace and love could vanquish evil and save souls. The very idea that LOVE could conquer all must've sent the single brain cell left in their heads rattling like a dried bean in a tin can.
“ 'This whole generation is raised on the idea that they’re in a culture war for the heart and soul of America,' said Stephen Prothero, a professor of religion at Boston University. "
Hence, we now have Bloodsport Jesus.
So much for the Prince of Peace.
Heaven help us.