Son of God. Prince of Peace. Son of Man. Cagefighter? While the first three masculine titles given to our Lord Jesus are biblical and sufficient enough to express the wonder of Jesus, the last title seems to be ever-more increasingly projected onto Jesus by evangelical churches which have long struggled with the over-feminization of the church. Any brief inspection of some of evangelicalism’s top blogs seem to tout Mixed Martial Arts as the next great outreach strategy for men. Forget Promise-Keepers, let’s have a fist, iron, and blood.
On the Sojourners blog, a blog I disagree with 99 percent politically and theologically, Eugene Cho draws our attention to an article in the New York Times on the growing popularity of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) or more commonly known as Ultimate Fighting Championship and various other leagues.
In a former life, I was a proud and militant pacifist. I would have argued that to equate Jesus with any type of struggle or legitimating of defense would have been heretical. I was wrong—and so is this position of casting Jesus into a male-affirming, machismo-injecting, repressed masculinity with capricious sport.
It has been suggested that evangelical male fascination with cagefighting is simply allowing men to tap into their inner masculinity and thus celebrated as a recovery of biblical manhood. While gender distinction and masculinity are to be applauded and upheld as biblical statutes, current attitudes amongst evangelical men suggest they have taken their divine mandate to protect and twisted it into a carnality salivating with brutality. Cagefighting and warring are not synonymous. Cagefighting is sport, drawing upon the unbridled angst of man which seeks to overwhelm his opponent through unhealthy submission (or unconsciousness). Warring is the act of protection and defense and entails, in its proper execution, honor and restraint.
Jesus was fully man and fully God. The Chalcedonian definition is two natures, one person. Let that be sufficient in all its simplicities and complexities. To propose, as one very popular evangelical preacher has done, that he could not worship a Jesus he could beat up is pure nonsense. The vision of Jesus presented as a warrior in Revelation is not sufficient evidence to base one’s desire for a combative life. Yes, Jesus was no doubt a rugged man well acquainted with the difficulties of nomadic life, but this same individual wept (John 11:35). Jesus never waged malevolent war over the grounds of blood-lust with earthly enemies; instead, he rose to challenge and combat far superior Powers which rage against each of us in constant tumult to devour (1 Peter 5:8). This enemy, interestingly, is not of flesh (Ephesians 6:12).
Am I making too much of this sport? Perhaps. But, I cannot understand the virtue of a sport which images the graphic and brutal aspects of human behavior.