The Theology of Disliking MMA and Enrolling My Son in Karate
Occasionally, I will read about some pastor extolling the virtue and manliness of cage fighting. If you think that getting into a cage with another man with the goal of beating him into unconsciousness or submission for sport is manly, I think that you and I have different ideas about manhood. I am truly concerned about the sort of hyper-manliness that is rolling east from Seattle these days, because I think it is ridiculous, unmanly, and fleshly. I think that it doesn't take the imago dei seriously enough, and while I will defer settling the matter in the Thunder Dome, I will enter the more civil arena of the blogosphere.
Before you read my two cents on the matter, you ought to go and read The Confessions of a Cage Fighter. It is one of the better reflections on the subject of MMA that I have ever read, and the fact that the writer used to be a MMA fighter helps the street cred of the article. It is actually the best take-down of Mark Driscoll style manhood that I have read to date.
Now that I have laid out my disdain for the sport of MMA, let me try and establish my manhood credentials so manly men will continue to hear me out. I spent six years in the military, the Army National Guard to be exact, I have taken self-defense courses, I have engaged in fisticuffs, I can grow a garden, I like to shoot and eat wild game, and I have a wife and two children. There, I'm sort of manly. I also want my son to be manly, and so I let him enroll in karate at six years old. The point of this article is to square that with my dislike of MMA as a sport.
I agree with Mark Driscoll about many aspects of manliness. One, I do believe that the responsibility for protection is a manly art. I want my son to be able to defend his sister if he needs to, and if that means punching someone in the jaw, then he needs to be able to do that. I am not raising a total pacifist; I just do not want to raise a man who beats other men for sport.
I would allow my son to train in the mixed martial arts. I would allow him to get into a ring with another fellow in order to train and spar. I have done this myself. But I have never gotten into a ring or onto a mat where the over-riding purpose was to beat the other fellow into submission. Rather, it has always been to learn the arts of defense and offense should force become necessary. This is a key difference from the goal of a cage match.
If any of my close friends wanted to take a self-defense course with me, I would get into the ring or onto the mat with them and learn from them or from our coach. I would not, however, aim to do them any harm. They may get injured, I may get injured, but that is not the goal. The goal is to learn, not to harm, and that is the difference between MMA as a sport and as a discipline of defense. A soldier trains to fire his weapon accurately in the hopes that he will never have to fire it at another person. A gladiator learns to use the sword in the hopes that he can run his opponent through in the arena. A soldier can be a man whose heart loves peace. A gladiator is a man whose heart is full of murder.
So go and read that article that the Cage Fighter wrote, and think long and hard about why MMA is becoming a popular, even accepted past-time in the church. And yes, I am willing to throw boxing under the bus as a sport for the same reasons listed above.
I am a pastor serving in my hometown of Albertville, Alabama. The greatest evidence of God's grace in my life are my wife, son, and daughter. One look at me and then my wife will tell you that her "yes" was a modern day miracle. Otherwise, I am almost completely mundane.