Modern Evangelizing

In the There’s-something-new-and-strange-everyday department, churches have moved into an odd area of recruitment. Mixed Martial arts. It’s a low brow, low blow (pun intended) way of bringing in young members to the faith, that might not be attracted to religion in the first place.

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.

This is religion at it’s weirdest, yet most understandable. If you’ve ever attended a church service where the minister was required to preach a sermon, it always seems that he or she picked some current topic of interest and tied it to the bible, Jesus or some theological point. There is always this desperate sense that we common folk won’t buy into it unless it’s made relevant to our day to day existence.  We are talking gods, and spirits and demons and all sorts of esoteric, counter-intuitive concepts in religion, after all. So it’s really not too odd to see Jesus compared to a fighter, especially if it’s marketed to the fighter in us. He gets compared to salesmen, lawyers, politicians and even criminals everyday, so a fighter is no stretch.

That’s the nice thing about religion. If it happens to be your job to justify it to people for whom skepticism is a function of human nature, there is an infinite supply of analogies and metaphors that can be summoned up at a moment’s notice to convince the believer that the religion du jour you’re selling is relevant to their everyday needs.

However, what really struck my eye was this:

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.

Are they serious? Feminized? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, since religion has always been a patriarchal institution, relegating the “feminine side” to the women, whose role has been historically limited to obsequious service and reproduction.

Oh, wait.

“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.”

Looks like it never went away.

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8 thoughts on “Modern Evangelizing

  1. There’s a crazy guy in Philly whose kung fu school allegedly teaches some shit about summoning spirits. Now THAT’s crazy. In fact, I encountered a lot of crazy when I studied, so I guess this is a perfect fit. Besides, this shit goes well with violent meatheads. Look at all the god crap in football and the military.

    Btw, do you think that bit about being feminized is code for gay, as in making boys gay? His ilk believe it’s a choice, after all. Is all this kung fu fighting to help stave off the gay? They better not get into jujitsu and other forms of grappling then. You never know where that’ll lead.

  2. As I read this, I had a vision of the preacher sermonizing on David and Goliath and then bringing in a professional cage fighter and asking a nine-year-old neophyte martial artist to fight him. “Don’t worry, son. As long as you truly believe in God, you’ll beat the snot out of this 220 pound mass of trained muscle.”

    After the little boy gets beaten to a pulp, the preacher says, “He didn’t believe enough!”

    And I agree with Philly. Feminizing may be code for gay. And the radical religious right insists that gay men recruit young boys into the homosexual lifestyle (otherwise, who would make that ‘choice’?). So I guess they see the ‘generation of little boys’ as being fodder for the ‘homosexual agenda’.

  3. do you think that bit about being feminized is code for gay, as in making boys gay?

    The thing about the church being too feminine has been a concern for several generations. If you go to many Protestant churches, you’ll find that the pews are filled by far more women than men. I don’t know what the situation is in the Catholic church, gender-wise; I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s similar, if not quite as extreme as the Protestant cases.

    Mega-churches (most of which are Protestant) have deliberate strategies geared toward attracting and keeping men. The idea is that if you get the men, they’ll bring the wives and kids with them. Experience has shown that appealing to women attracts other women and their kids, but rarely brings men. Also, unless adult males are visibly involved in the church, teenage boys tend to drop out at the earliest opportunity to do so.

    • Ah, well I do remember a few months ago I wrote something in response to a church having football services and it was justified by pointing to the lack of men normally.

  4. Should have added this to the previous comment: James Twitchell discusses the feminization of North American churches and how mega-churches get around that in his book, Shopping for God. It’s a phenomenon I’ve also observed personally in the eastern, southern and midwestern USA, as well as central and western Canada.

  5. If you’ve ever attended a church service where the minister was required to preach a sermon, it always seems that he or she picked some current topic of interest and tied it to the bible, Jesus or some theological point.

    plus

    some ministers who fear that their churches have become too feminized

    equals

    Eddie Izzard!

  6. So does this mean I can expect a roundhouse kick to the face next time I piss off Jesus?

    Most martial arts schools which try and meld Eastern tradition with Christianity fail royally – I like to shows people this video to exemplify just how amusingly shite they can be. The only scary Christian martial artists I can think of off the top of my head are Royce Gracie and Chuck Norris.

  7. The irony in all this is that in its early years, Christianity was pitched towards women. Convert a woman to Christianity and she will try to raise her kids as Christians.

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