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.
“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.