Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher


MMA and the Fight Club for Jesus

posted by Rod Dreher

In an effort to bring young men to church, some Evangelical ministries and churches are embracing Mixed Martial Arts. Excerpt:

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.”

I know, I know, it’s easy to laugh at this stuff, or to be appalled that a brutal sport is used to sell Christianity (check out the pious Orthodox Christian who is an MMA star). But do read the whole story. These religious leaders are responding, however clumsily, to a real, felt need among young men. For many of them, church has become effete, something for women, and not a place where masculine virtues are also celebrated, and masculine impulses restrained and channeled for the good. Christianity has become a nicey-nice bourgeois religion; who wouldn’t rebel against that? As one person interviewed in the story puts it, we have legions of young men who were abandoned by their fathers and raised by their mothers, and who are adrift, not knowing how to be men, or to handle their masculinity — and who are being failed by the church.
To be sure, the idea of bringing MMA to the promotion of Christianity is bizarre to me, and I wouldn’t have anything to do with it. But I believe the desire to do so comes from an important place, and that we need to both honor that and to learn from it. Consider this passage from the novel “Fight Club”:

The mechanic says, “If you’re male and you’re Christian and living in America, your father is your model for God. And if you never know your father, if your father bails out or dies or is never at home, what do you believe about God?

How Tyler saw it was that getting God’s attention for being bad was better than getting no attention at all. Maybe because God’s hate is better than His indifference.
If you could be either God’s worst enemy or nothing, which would you choose?
We are God’s middle children, according to Tyler Durden, with no special place in history and no special attention.
Unless we get God’s attention, we have no hope of damnation or redemption.
Which is worse, hell or nothing?
Only if we’re caught and punished can we be saved.
“Burn the Louvre,” the mechanic says, “and wipe your [expletive] with the Mona Lisa. This way at least, God would know our names.”

If religion gives you no way of being male except to deny — as distinct from sublimate — your normal masculine instincts, then many young men will want nothing to do with religion.
As I see it, religion has to find a healthy balance between the masculine and the feminine. It seems to me that in the West, despite the protestations against patriarchal forms in traditional expressions of the faith, our religious practice is highly feminized. In my years as a Catholic, I could never quite figure out why, for all the outward masculinity of our religion, the feeling of it from the inside was almost entirely feminized. The homilies I’d often hear would sometimes drive me to despair, literally, because they never asked us to do anything other than be nicer to ourselves. I think there’s something within men that wants a challenge, something to overcome, something to fight, especially within ourselves. This is no bad thing — but it can easily be a bad thing if it is either denied, or channeled into a destructive expression.
For some reason, this hasn’t been my experience in Orthodox Christianity — and I have yet to figure out why. Orthodoxy is in many ways quite feminine — yet it is also palpably masculine. I’m not sure how they do it, but I can tell you from my own experience, they do it. Frederica Mathewes-Green, the Orthodox convert and writer, has suggested that Western men respond to the focus in Orthodoxy on asceticism, self-discipline and self-overcoming. Orthodoxy is not a religion that wants to coddle you. It does want to comfort you in your suffering, but it also expects you to struggle to rise above yourself. I suspect too that this is one reason why Islam has such powerful appeal to men.
The discussion I’d like to see us have in the comboxes is not to play a blame game on masculine vs. feminine religion, but rather to discuss ways of practicing a healthy masculinity into American religion. I’d especially like to hear from people who struggle with the way masculinity is treated by the churches. What has your experience been like?



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MWorrell

posted February 2, 2010 at 11:14 am


(please hold your rotten tomatoes)
My experience has been that in churches where men are not challenged to lead and embrace their masculinity in a healthy way (not sure fighting for sport counts, but hey), they become passive, and women run the church. By default, the church becomes a feminized environment where men have to act like guests at a wedding. My wife is a former Unitarian Universalist, and I come from a fundamentalist background in which women did everything in the background but men took all the credit.
My current church is very affirming of traditional gender roles, which at first made my wife and I both sick. At one point I walked out into the parking lot in anger and said, “I cannot join this church.” But it just seemed like at every turn we felt led to stick it out, and now, six years later, I finally see the wisdom of it.
I now believe that men and women have somewhat flexible but distinct roles that should be celebrated and affirmed, but not rigidly imposed. Increasingly I see the absurdity of a world contorting itself, its children and its systems in a futile effort to pretend that men and women are interchangeable. They simply aren’t. Why should they be?
The worrisome aspect is that the more our feminized culture seeks to destroy masculinity, the more it explodes out sideways in everything from video games to gangs.



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Jeff

posted February 2, 2010 at 11:30 am


Hi Rod,
I agree that Christian men want a challenge and often do not get it through the church. Some of the more “masculine” traits (such as boldness, courage) are not actively encouraged. One reason why: as the church gets more institutionalized, church leaders do not want people who will rock the boat. This could apply to Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant churches.
Anyone interested in the topic should definitely visit Paul Coughlin’s blog (http://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/PCoughlin/). He has written extensively about this topic.



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Turmarion

posted February 2, 2010 at 11:36 am


Here’s a stab at it: The Western Church (Catholic and Protestant both) has always been very Latin, very Roman, in its focus on rubrics, administration, and rules down to the nth degree. to get a good feel for this, read a Catholic manual on medical ethics written before the Second Vatican Council and marvel at the it-would-be-funny-if-it-weren’t-meant-in-deadly-earnest discussion of baptism of infants in danger of death. E.g.: If you have a deformity where there seems to be a second head, do you baptize both? Is intrauterine baptism acceptable? Is baptism valid on a body part other than the head, if it can’t be reached or isn’t clearly present? You get the idea.
Another example: if you read childhood narratives of Catholics who grew up in the pre-Vatican II era, you see again and again descriptions of elaborate categorizations of level and degree of sins and occasions of sin.
The result of this, I think, is a kind of binary mode of thinking. Either you’re mind-numbingly strict, or you’re squishily permissive. To relax a rule is seen (or comes to be seen) as more or less jettisoning it, so you can’t get any middle ground. Examples would be the moving of more and more Holy Days of Obligation to the nearest Sundays (which makes them less like Holy Days and more like Labor Day) and reducing fish on Fridays to Lent and the number of fast days to two. All this in the name of making things more accessible to people and getting rid of mindless strictness, when attendance rates and personal practice show that such changes aren’t helping.
To relate it to gender, since in such a context (especially given teh male priesthood) mindless strictness tends to be identified with masculinity, you then get a bipolar über-manly or squishily feminine milieu (and I’m not implying that femininity is inherently squishy or silly–I’m just talking about how it’s perceived and tends to be actualized).
The Eastern Church, on the other hand, has always been very Greek in tending toward the mystical. It is strict, but it’s more the strictness of high expectations than of harsh rules. For example, while the Orthodox Church agrees with Latin Church that sins come in different degrees of severity, it has never been much interested in the distinction between venial and mortal sins. In the West, this tended to foster a “well, what can I get away with” mentality. In the East, the attitude is that all sin estranges us from God and we must fight, by prayer and asceticism, to overcome it. Then, on a one-to-one basis, the priest can be pastoral and merciful, or stringent, as the case calls for.
I think, mutatis mutandis, that much of this is true at least of the mainstream Protestant denominations as well, all of which have become equally squishy. Kallistos Ware quoted some Orthodox Bishop, I forget who, as saying that the Catholic and Protestant Churches, from the Orthodox perspective, are really the same, just flip sides, x and negative x; whereas the Orthodox Church is something else. In many ways, I’d tend to agree.



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Trobius

posted February 2, 2010 at 11:42 am


My sons and I have been going to a karate class off and on for three years at a local Baptist Church. The angle is that is low commitment and the focus is away from the Eastern spiritualism that is in a lot of martial arts. It has been nice to learn some skill without having to make it a life commitment. And the Bible lessons inbetween have been sound.



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Jim

posted February 2, 2010 at 12:32 pm


If religion gives you no way of being male except to deny — as distinct from sublimate — your normal masculine instincts, then many young men will want nothing to do with religion.
Butching up Jesus to appeal to the MMA crowd: nothing like Therapeutic Deism because it feeds a need of young white males. Pay no attention to the fact that the actual justification for reconceptualizing religious practice is, above, that if you do not serve young males’ normal “fight-y” instincts, they won’t come. And that is sufficient justification. I eagerly await the approval of “Death Metal Jesus” on similar grounds.
Unreal.



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John E - Agn Stoic

posted February 2, 2010 at 12:52 pm


Looks like everything old is new again…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muscular_Christianity
Muscular Christianity is a term for a movement during the Victorian era which stressed the need for energetic Christian activism in combination with an ideal of vigorous masculinity



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Jon in the Nati

posted February 2, 2010 at 1:09 pm


My church doing something like this = me finding another church



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Your Name

posted February 2, 2010 at 1:13 pm


To be sure, the idea of bringing MMA to the promotion of Christianity is bizarre to me
Hmm. Another home for Tim Tebow after the Argonauts cut him.



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dson

posted February 2, 2010 at 1:19 pm


What a joke. This just shows how insane organized religion is. To use violence to bring people in to hear the love of Jesus. And they wonder why nobody is going to church anymore. Duh.
dson
fromnowtozen



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Rod Dreher

posted February 2, 2010 at 1:24 pm


Butching up Jesus to appeal to the MMA crowd: nothing like Therapeutic Deism because it feeds a need of young white males. Pay no attention to the fact that the actual justification for reconceptualizing religious practice is, above, that if you do not serve young males’ normal “fight-y” instincts, they won’t come. And that is sufficient justification. I eagerly await the approval of “Death Metal Jesus” on similar grounds.
So, because you think these young men are foolish for having a need for healthy masculinity, you’re willing to write them off to the church? How uncharitable. As I’ve said in this post, the idea of MMA For Jesus strikes me as bizarre, but I’m more favorably disposed toward these Evangelicals who are at least trying to respond to the crisis of masculinity these young men face than I am towards other kinds of church people who either deny that it’s happening, or who take a snide, dismissive view of it. There really is among no small number of people a contempt for masculinity. You can despise it all you want, but it won’t go away, and if it is denied, it will manifest itself in ugly, destructive ways (and those who will be damaged by it are women). Or, you can try to figure out some kind of way to sublimate the masculine instincts, and to direct them in ways that build up the individual characters of men, as well as their families and their communities.
But first you have to recognize that it exists. The MMA For Jesus people may strike many of us as ridiculous or even offensive, but they wouldn’t be succeeding if they weren’t meeting a real need. Rather than mock them, why don’t we try to find a better way of addressing the need the MMA folks have identified?



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John E - Agn Stoic

posted February 2, 2010 at 1:44 pm


Or, you can try to figure out some kind of way to sublimate the masculine instincts, and to direct them in ways that build up the individual characters of men, as well as their families and their communities.
The original goal of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA):
Founded on June 6, 1844 in London, England by George Williams, the goal of the organization was putting Christian principles into practice, achieved by developing “a healthy spirit, mind, and body.”
This sort of athletic activity has a long, even honorable, history in Evangelical Christianity.



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Andi

posted February 2, 2010 at 1:57 pm


MWorrell,
My church, a member of the reformed tradition, is similarly supportive of “traditional” gender roles. This has been hard for me, a woman, to understand. Why shouldn’t I be invited to participate in certain leadership roles? But in my new members class, it was explained to me in a very interesting way: our church does not exclude women from participating in certain corporate roles, but it highly ENCOURAGES men to participate. Our church is trying to right a wrong – the wrong is that men have not been required to lead or take responsibility. Our church aims toward high expectations, similar to the Orthodox high expectations that Turmarion was referring to. No man is required to do this or that, but it is expected. Men are supposed to step up and lead at my church – to pray, to volunteer, and to care for their families. The result? happy children, healthy families, and TONS of men! It’s beautiful.
And I’m just speaking to Christians here, but it is my conviction that Christian churches shouldn’t be straining and searching and trying to find ways to include men. They should be searching the Bible to find the key to organization, and then teaching that way. God created men and women – if we believe that the Bible is His guide for our lives here on earth, why would we assume that the way family and church roles are explained in Scripture would not be the most healthy model for our families and churches?



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Peter

posted February 2, 2010 at 2:00 pm


The challenge is seeing if a church can be both “muscular” enough to attract men, but “feminine” enough not to subjigate women. Some churches–the Catholic church comes to mind–succeeds at neither, many would argue. Critics of the Orthodox Church would say it succeeds at being muscular, but at the expense of women.



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ScurvyOaks

posted February 2, 2010 at 2:24 pm


Ps. 144:1: “BLESSED be the LORD my strength, who teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight:”
[OK, now cue up the religion-is-responisble-for-most-of-the-world’s-violence shibboleth.]
In all seriousness, Andi makes a very good set of points. Traditional, reformed churches don’t fit the stereotype of feminized Western Christianity.



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Marc

posted February 2, 2010 at 3:36 pm


I think this is more a symptom of the culture than the church. Masculinity is superflous in modern culture. We don’t need fighters, just lovers. And beside, women can work, raise kids by themsleves, buy the bacon AND fry it in a pan. Men aren’t needed.
Why wouldn’t the church reflect this fact of modern existence?



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TWylite

posted February 2, 2010 at 3:50 pm


Regarding “Death Metal Jesus”: According to Wikipedia, there is apparently a musical genre known as “Unblack Metal”, a Christian version of “Black Metal”, which is usually explicitly Satanic to the extent that any lyrics can be understood at all (and this is challenge in the examples I’ve heard). And if there’s a “Fight Club For Jesus” for the younger menfolk, is there a “Hair Club For Jesus” for the older, follically-challenged guys? Pop culture and religion can be odd enough on their own. They multiply the oddness when carelessly mixed together.



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MikeW

posted February 2, 2010 at 4:13 pm


Maybe Frederica Mathewes-Green has it right, but not when it comes to the particular parish my wife attends It is mostly women, and the attraction to the guys who do attend seems to be more for counter-cultural reasons, than any traditional masculine appeal. I was raised in Evangelical churches growing up and though supportive of my wife’s journey into Orthodox Christianity have discovered that it isn’t a place where I feel either welcomed or comfortable, so like most of the Christian men I call friends, I don’t go to any church.
– Mike



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Joseph

posted February 2, 2010 at 4:35 pm


This stuff has been going on for some time, which I analyze in depth in my book, “Numen, Old Men: Contemporary Masculine Spiritualities and the Problem of Patriarchy”, for those interested in more.



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AnotherBeliever

posted February 2, 2010 at 4:44 pm


I attended one evangelical church as a teenager where there were free Tae Kwon Do lessons for all ages. I tried it out, and might have kept it up, if my brother hadn’t wanted to practice with me all the time. ;)
I’m not sure what the big issue is here. But I’m aware I practically hail from what you could call a “warrior caste,” there are so many military Veterans in my family and among my friends.
Christians aren’t supposed to go around killing and oppressing other human beings. And peaceful resistance, like that practiced by Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King, is probably the only way to really revolutionize a situation. Rather than fighting fire with fire like most violent revolutionaries, peaceful resistance tries to damp out the fuels for the fire.
But I’m no pacifist. Boxing and martial arts (mixed and otherwise) are good outlets for aggression and good ways to stay in shape. I’d take no exception if a member of my family signed up for MMA.



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Rod Dreher

posted February 2, 2010 at 4:48 pm


Yes, Rod does believe in chastity for unmarried men. And women too. Obviously if they do not profess a religion that requires this standard of ethical behavior, one should be understanding, even though one believes it’s wrong. But if they do claim Christianity, for example, then there is no such thing as an age exemption from normative Christian sexual ethics.



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Dana Ames

posted February 2, 2010 at 5:10 pm


Rod,
If you have not yet read Miroslav Volf’s “Exclusion and Embrace”, I would recommend it – might even be germane to your new work position. It’s a book that will be read hundreds of years from now.
Volf’s chapter 4 on Gender is the most sane and spiritual understanding of the current issues around “masculinity and femininity” I have ever encountered anywhere.
I read Frederica’s writing on gender a few years ago, and it just irritated me, though I appreciate everything else she writes. Yes, women don’t serve at the Altar. But women are found everywhere else in Orthodoxy, doing things -like teaching seminarians- that are either forbidden to many Protestant women, or are argued about over and over without resolution about what women are “biblically” allowed to do. In addition, Orthodoxy teaches that men and women are both ontologically human, and some Protestant teaching is highly sketchy about that.
Please get to Volf as soon as you can.
Dana



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Joe

posted February 2, 2010 at 7:41 pm


The “pious Orthodox” that CC referred to is Feodor Emelianenko, widely regarded as the best in the MMA world.
Feodor: “I try to get a blessing before all important things, including my fights. God willing, my spiritual father[Archpriest] Andrei Zinoviev will make the trip [to fight in Thailand] with me.”
Probably the most famous Orthodox Christian in the arena of American sports is Troy Polamalu (Steelers).
Polamalu: “This life that I struggle to live, I try to do so in the eyes of my spiritual father (Elder Ephraim of St. Anthony’s Monastery].”
Each of these Orthodox athletes are in obedience to their spiritual fathers. Their faith and humility informs them as men who happen to be professional athletes.
The Evangelical MMA practitioners seem to be striving to have their faith (and apparently their very manhood)conform to their athletic endeavor.
Big difference.
Living out the Orthodox faith is a life of ascesis, struggle against sin and evil in the world. I remember seeing the back of one of Feodor’s t-shirts that had a drawing of him choking out (with a rear naked choke) a dragon. In the Holy Scriptures, the dragon is a representation of the devil. I’ve got to get me one of those shirts!
Living out the faith Evangelical-MMA style is apparently about being a fighter, becoming a winner by beating or choking out a fellow human being into submission.
Big difference.
Orthodox Christianity has lots fighting words that we live by, for example:
“The true Christian is a warrior making his way through the regiments of the invisible enemy to reach his heavenly homeland.”
— St. Herman of Alaska
“In every battle with the enemy, you must emerge victorious. Either die in the struggle,or win with God. There is no other road.”
— Elder Joseph the Hesychast
Maybe someday these unmanned Evangelical MMAers will learn from the best, Feodor, to learn to fight in an Orthodox manner.



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God's Will

posted February 2, 2010 at 9:36 pm


John Eldredge has written really insightful books about masculinity and Christianity. His book, “Wild at Heart,” was a real turning point for me. It made me realize there was so much more to being a Christian man than just not drinking, not smoking and not cussing. I think churches would be better off using his material than MMA fights to reach men, young and old.
Eldredge helps Christian men understand it’s OK to like movies like “The Godfather,” to get together with the guys at a brew pub, etc. Now, that’s a really shallow, cursory capsule of his writing. It’s much deeper, and he “gets it” that Christian faith is not an intellectual exercise, it’s journey of the heart.
If you haven’t read any of his stuff, Rod, I think you might enjoy it. His web site is http://www.ransomedheart.com.



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B

posted February 2, 2010 at 10:09 pm


This is a perversion of Christianity and the martial arts.
Striving towards heaven and struggling against our own sinful nature is very Christian, and while violent language may be used, it is language meant for an inner struggle, or a struggle against the world – I cannot imagine the Lord wishing us to harm our fellow human beings in any way, shape or form.
The Martial Arts, at least in its traditional form as I know it, is very similar. The enemy may be manifested outside of the self, but the true enemy is within. The struggle against the self for discipline.
But to glorify fighting? To glorify violence for the sake of violence? This is not Christianity, and it is not the martial arts I know.



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mdavid

posted February 3, 2010 at 12:15 am


Rod, The homilies [at Catholic parishes] I’d often hear would sometimes drive me to despair, literally, because they never asked us to do anything other than be nicer to ourselves.
I can relate. I’ve learned tricks to deal with it:
a) lean my head back and close my eyes and meditate
b) stare at my shoes and reflect on how ideas have consequences
c) build networks of like-minded Christians
But it’s safe to say that while I’m a Catholic, I have little to nothing in common with most of my parish from a cultural point of view. Catholics a hundred years ago wouldn’t recognize them as the same religion. Also, I could count the decent homilies over 30 years on a single hand; I really wish they would just skip them and quit trying to apologize for God. When it gets real bad, I explain to my kids why the priest is wrong (using Scripture and Tradition, not personal opinion, as the priest is wont to do!). It’s sad, but fairly educational.



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Cecelia

posted February 3, 2010 at 12:56 am


within the RC Church providing athletic opportunities for young men (and girls) was normal – CYO sponsored track and field, football and basketball starting at about the 6th grade. In some areas those leagues have disappeared because they aren’t needed (recreation and other voluntary associations fill the need) but in many poor urban areas the old CYO leagues still thrive. So the involvement of churches in sport has older origins. The difference is that one did not have bible study class afte basketball practice. I think providing an opportunity to kids to participate in sport is a good idea for its on sake. Kids in general have much need for stuff to get involved with and face it – can’t hurt to direct some of that excessive testosterone constructively. I do have some reservations about the idea that one should sponsor sports as a recruitment tool.



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john

posted February 3, 2010 at 6:16 am


In our church, first you sit still for an hour listening to a Sunday School teacher, then you sit still for 90 minutes in the worship service featuring a 45-minute sermon. Our men tend to be book-oriented types. Not many motorcycle mechanics or welders here. Oh did I mention we are predominantly female in attendance? So to answer your question, I have no answer on how to attract a broader range of men to the church.



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Jon in the Nati

posted February 3, 2010 at 9:08 am


“How is Rod Dreher – who passively aggressively promotes his Eastern Orthodoxy at the expense of Catholicism and Evangelicalism on every other post – allowed to be a part of the NON-Parisian Templeton organization?? Since when did sectarianism replace objective commentary?
Don’t like it, don’t read it. World keeps on spinnin’.
[Note from Rod: Thanks Jon — I took down that post, but will leave yours up so readers will know that the objection has been aired. This blog features my personal opinions, which should not be taken as the opinions of anyone at the Templeton Foundation. I don’t wish to promote Orthodoxy over any other form of Christianity. But there are times when simply making observations about the way Christianity is lived in the world will require making a judgment that one form of it — and not necessarily the form to which I have pledged allegiance — is superior in some way to another. I don’t know why Orthodoxy seems to better accomodate masculinity than the Western forms of Christianity I’ve been part of, but it does, at least in my own experience. Someone whose wife attends an Orthodox parish weighed in to say that in his experience, I’m wrong, and that Orthodoxy is no better than the others. That’s fine with me; I want to learn from others. Rather than whine that I’m being critical of [fill in the blank], why not counter with better arguments and more information. I truly am more interested in learning through these exchanges than I am in practicing any kind of triumphalism, which is, if nothing else, dull. — Rod.]



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Jon in the Nati

posted February 3, 2010 at 3:46 pm


On the note of masculinity (or lack thereof) in modern Christianity, I think that the form of worship in many churches, particularly in evangelical land, doesn’t help one bit.
I speak, of course, of the I-want-to-make-out-with-my-boyfriend-Jesus garbage that characterizes the genre typically known as “Christian Contemporary Music”. Should it really surprise us that men have a hard time getting on board with that? For those of you who don’t know, just take any love ballad and replace ‘baby’ with ‘Jesus’ and you have a hit Christian single.
For more info, click here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81ibVbxkjnA



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MikeW

posted February 3, 2010 at 5:08 pm


RE: Rod’s note
Rod, I do want to mention that I recognized my difficulty with church are more a lacking in me than any problems with church. I often think I was ruined for church at an early age, but that is probably just a cop out. I tend to think any lack of masculinity in modern church simply reflects the cultural trend. For example, there’s been much written about the lack of men teaching in grade school and middle school and how the culture of many schools is to penalize boys exhibiting more typical boy behavior and reward boys who exhibit behavior that is often more typically found in girls. I have two boys — my oldest has always been quiet, introspective and tended to avoid physical confrontation at all costs — and he did quite well in grade school. My youngest boy, in addition to being hearing impaired, was very outgoing and physical and he (and we) had nothing but trouble through elementary school. The one exception was when he had a male teacher.
I’m still not sure what to do about church.
Best,
Mike



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Joe

posted February 3, 2010 at 10:04 pm


This wasn’t the first time that the NYT has written up MMA.
Check out:
‘A Russian Warrior Who Doesn’t Battle for Acclaim’
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/21/sports/othersports/21fight.html?_r=2&ref=sports
Excerpts:
“Fedor Emelianenko has been described as superhuman: as the No. 1 mixed martial arts fighter in the world, he has never been knocked out, and he often defeats opponents in a matter of minutes with a hale of thundering punches, never breaking his stony, stoic air.
“Outside his rigorous training schedule — he spends hours honing various boxing and martial arts styles and runs 10 miles a day — Emelianenko’s life can seem at times to more closely resemble that of a traditional Russian peasant. He reads Orthodox Christian literature and relaxes at a banya, or Russian bathhouse.
“His opponents typically possess a thick layer of macho flamboyance, dyed hair or tattoos complementing a hefty dose of hubris. With his receding hairline, doughy middle and subdued manner, Emelianenko fails to evoke an image of the Russian warrior. He strolls morosely up to the ring, introduced by a crooning Russian folk song about a Cossack fighter whose death is presaged by a dream.”
+ + +
Troy Polamalu: “I love watching MMA. I never miss it. My favorite is Fedor Emelianenko, he’s the best. I also like him because he’s an Orthodox Christian, but the humility that he carries himself with, along with his talent, is amazing.”



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Joe

posted February 3, 2010 at 10:27 pm


“As a parent, I don’t want to talk out of both sides of my mouth; I don’t want to act a certain way and be another way. Not everybody has a material struggle, but everyone has a spiritual struggle. So with my son, it’s important for him to first understand the spiritual struggle and, as a result of that, know how to [deal with] the physical struggles that he has in his life – whether it’s dealing with not enough or too much of something.
“I think talking is overrated. Anybody in the world can talk about doing anything. The hardest thing is to do it. It’s important for my son to understand, for example, why we pray, why we go to church. It’s important for him to grow up in an atmosphere of watching us do it, to understand that nothing is given to you in life. Everything must be worked at in order to be obtained – whether it’s something material or it’s salvation.
“[M]y greatest wish would be for him [his son Paisios, named after the modern Saint] to understand the spiritual struggle and to be a pious Orthodox Christian. That’s what I want for myself, as well. Sometimes parents want their children to be what they never were. And that’s one thing that I am gracious for Paisios to have: that he’s able to grow up in the Orthodox church around monastics and priests that I was never able to experience as a kid – to grasp that, not take it for granted and really culture that.”
Troy Polamalu
http://www.pittsburghmagazine.com/Pittsburgh-Magazine/August-2009/The-Mane-Man/



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Joe

posted February 4, 2010 at 6:56 pm


Fight Line
November 23, 2009
http://www.fightline.com/news/mma/2009/1123/463957/fedor-emelianenko/index.shtml
Fedor Emeilianenko has had a busy year with his personal life. In addition to recently getting married, the WAMMA heavyweight champion says that he has recently accepted religion into his life, and now finds himself deeply implanted in the Russian Orthodox faith.
“It all happened in Nizhniy Novgorod,” Emeilianenko told Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda of his new-found faith. “I was invited to a competition there as well as a trip to some holy sites. After visiting there, something inside me changed. I didn’t just understand, but I actually felt that God exists. A lot of questions that troubled me then were answered. Everything fell into place.”
Fedor credits this understanding of god as the reason he married his second wife Marina.
“For me it is not just a “nice event” in life. People should support their love not only with words. And what could be more serious commitment to the Lord?” he asked.
Fedor also said he gets “blessed” by his spiritual adviser before his fights, and his adviser sometimes even trains with him.
“We run together with him and that’s just the beginning. He goes to the gym with me, trains. He still holds a pull up record in our gym,” Fedor reveals. “But he is a true Christian.”



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Jeff

posted February 4, 2010 at 7:46 pm


As long as Jesus is being proclaimed and young men are being influenced i think this is a great program because it turns alot of heads and it very different.



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Danny Maratas

posted March 6, 2010 at 1:56 am


what’s the connection of MMA to church?
MMA fight diet plan



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Olayiwola Sam

posted March 29, 2010 at 3:45 pm


This is a dangerous way of reaching the boys with the gosple. After this guys have acquired the strength they will be looking for a way of letting out. In this case they become violent like other religion adherents. It resemble the practise among whosippers of god of thunder in africa. Christ must not be debased. Thanks



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Mitch

posted June 10, 2011 at 1:16 pm


I think the gender issue in Western Christianity is mainly because of the fact that starting in the Industrial Revolution men had to work in the factories and mines on Sundays so men couldn’t go to church and women, children, and elderly men were the main churchgoers at Protestant and Catholic churches. The preachers therefore would preach the kind of things women liked, and songs like “O How I Love Jesus” would be typical. Perhaps Eastern Orthodoxy doesn’t have this problem because the Orthodox countries were backward until the last century and their men could still go to church on Sundays. Just an idea.



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dw

posted August 13, 2014 at 2:59 pm


Andi has many good points. Although this post is old the problem is rapidly growing worse.
2 Corinthians 5:14 gives the reason for the Christian life. Today’s religion wants Christ to follow not lead. Hosea 4:6 states that the Lord’s people perish for lack of knowledge. Sadly, true. Christ spoke of service, not entertainment. We have modified His terms. The early church was really not that much different. Folks went to work, assembled when they could, became a family when they lost their pagan families. Our sports, especially the Westernized version of martial arts is much like the gladiator games of Christ’s times. Church historian Eusebius gives an account of an elderly first century Christian killed in the arena for taking a stand against what we are inviting into the Body. 1 Cor. 6:20, “You are bought with a price, therefore glorify Christ in your body.” If our spirit has been purchased we are no longer ours. Our body and Spirit now belong to Him. Christ was rough on the furniture, but I’m not sure He actually attacked the Pharisees themselves. James 1:26-27 give us pure and undefiled religion. That can only come from a heart in relationship with the Spirit. The apostles were definitely “manly” men. Becoming church leaders did not change anything but their jobs. Peter changed his fishing job for church leadership. Not a job for the faint-hearted. We don’t need to introduce “entertainment” we need to return to being servants. Those who sow to the flesh will reap to the flesh corruption. Those who sow to the Spirit will reap of the Spirit. That doesn’t mean asceticism by any means, nor that exercise is unimportant(1 Timothy 4), but we’ve become dangerously more culture and world drive than Word and Spirit driven.



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