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The Confessions of a Cage Fighter: Masculinity, Misogyny, and the Fear of Losing Control

Before enrolling in divinity school, I was a cage fighter—not a full-time cage fighter, not a world-famous cage fighter, not even a person for whom cage fighting paid the bills, but a cage fighter nonetheless.  Now, before I go any further, I need to be more careful with my vocabulary or else I’ll risk losing credibility. You see, real cage fighters don’t like to be referred to as such; we prefer the term mixed martial artist. And we prefer that our sport go by the name mixed martial arts or MMA instead of “cage fighting.” There is a long, sordid history behind the sport’s various name changes, and it has everything to do with public perception, influential politicians, and corporate cash (Amy Silverman, Phoenix New Times, February 12, 1998). (But then again, what doesn’t?) Given my history of participation in and love for the sport, my ears perked up last year when MMA arose as a topic of conversation in my theological ethics class.

During the course of our class discussion, one of my divinity school colleagues referred to a recent New York Times article that describes the way a number of churches throughout the United States are turning to mixed martial arts as a way to draw men into their buildings (R. M. Schneiderman, February 1, 2010). Some churches train fighters to compete, while an even greater number of churches host gatherings for men at live fights. On top of this, clothing companies such as Jesus Didn’t Tap and websites like AnointedFighter.com market themselves to a crowd of Christian fight fans—a crowd that might be called a niche if it weren’t already so big.

To some Christians, this new MMA movement represents an expression of real, natural, God-given masculinity. One captain for this team is Seattle megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll, who in the film Fighting Politics says, “I don’t think there is anything purer than two guys in a cage. [. . .] As a pastor and as a Bible teacher, I think that God made men masculine. [. . .] Men are made for combat, men are made for conflict, men are made for dominion. [. . .] That’s just the way men are made.”

And yet, not all Christians are so keen to adopt MMA as a spiritual discipline. Many people are repulsed by Driscoll’s comments yet respond to his sophomorism in kind. Take for example, the responses I heard from some fellow students during the course of our class conversation. “That’s the church of the rich,” one person stated from behind his Apple laptop. Not to be outdone in terms of ersatz answers, another student chimed in, “I’d say it’s the church of the bored.” That is the way these conversations tend to go—like two pugilists past their prime, both sides dance around one another, trading harmless jabs and failing to deliver a decisive blow.

In this essay, I hope to take a different tack altogether. I do not intend to make a case for MMA Christianity but neither do I seek to dismiss its representatives as unworthy dialogue partners. I do not think that mixed martial artists must be transformed into good Christian hipsters before they can teach us something about masculinity. Rather, I believe that MMA can make a substantial contribution to the conversation on masculinity. Therefore, in what follows I am going to consider MMA on its own terms; I am going to take its self-descriptions at face value. I am—in all charity—going to attempt a sympathetic reading of MMA.

In doing so, moreover, I will engage selections from The Confessions of Saint Augustine in order to ground my sympathetic reading of MMA theologically. By putting MMA in conversation with the Bishop of Hippo, I hope it will become clear that the sport does not shore up the particular notion of masculinity that Driscoll and others like him imagine it does.

The Fighter’s Body

According to MMA fans, masculinity is deeply connected to the body. For example, in the video clip, Driscoll makes disparaging remarks about the “fat guys” who sit on the sidelines and critique the sport. The implication, of course, is that the fit guys in the cage are the real men; true masculinity is revealed in the fighter’s body. A simple glimpse of a boxer or a wrestler—these guys are extraordinary physical specimens—reveals thick necks, tree trunk legs, v-shaped backs, even strong jaw lines. No doubt about it, so the argument goes, these are the archetypes to which all men ought to conform.

Furthermore, this emphasis on the relation between masculinity and embodiment seems to be a Christian one. After all, flesh and blood are central to our faith.

And yet, for all of MMA Christianity’s insistence on the centrality of the body for adequate conceptions of masculinity, my experience as a fighter taught me something entirely different. You see, far from acknowledging myself as a living body, success in MMA required that I ignore this fact, that I (somehow!) try to forget that I am a body.

It started in training. I had dozens of training partners who never competed. Their only job was to beat me up as I prepared for the fight. I would spar for a nonstop, ten-minute round, where every minute, a fresh, rested training partner would come in and lay a beating on me. Though exhausted, I would try to give one back. The point, of course, was that when fight night came, the real thing would actually be easier than the hell I had put myself through at practice. And after each training session, far from feeling angry with the people who had just pummeled me, I sincerely thanked them for helping me train, for making me a better fighter.

What was happening along the way, however, was nothing less than being schooled in how to ignore my body. Perhaps you’ve seen the T-shirt slogans that bark with false bravado, “Pain is just weakness leaving the body.” That was my attitude toward training: ignore the pain, redefine it, explain it away—it’s not real, it’s for my own good, it’s not a message from my body; it is just something in my “mind” (whatever that means).

A similar thing would happen on the night of the fight. The adrenaline dump that you get before a fight is incredible. Even after having fought for years, including for a number of large promotions, on fight night the same thing always happened: I got jittery, and my jaw would chatter. When that adrenaline first hit me, I found it difficult to make a tight fist or take a deep breath—both of which are somewhat important for a fighter to do. Early in my career, I came to dread this feeling before the fight. But over time, I learned how to deal with my hormones, how to talk myself out of the message they were trying to send me.

During the fight, I had to ignore not only my body but my opponent’s body as well—which is to say I had to ignore him. After taking an opponent down to the ground, I would hit him until he decided it wasn’t worth it anymore and gave up by tapping out. Some opponents were more stubborn than others and thus needed more convincing than others, but I always vowed to never hit them any more than I needed to in order to get them to tap out—witness the triumph of rational morality, or to use the language of Jus In Bello, “proportionality”!

After the fight, my whole body ached. If it were a quick fight, I would usually feel better in a few days. But if the fight lasted all five rounds, it would be a good week before I felt like getting out of bed. To cope with the pain, I would drink at night—not a lot, just enough to take some of the sting out. On the really bad days, I would pop a few pain pills—again not a ton, just enough to mute some of the pain.

In all these ways—in my training, in the moments leading up to the fight, in the fight itself, and especially in the days following the fight—the way to excel as a fighter was not by living as an integrated human body, but rather by (somehow!) detaching my “self” from my body. So I agree with the MMA Christians in their insistence that any account of masculinity must also offer an account of embodiment. And yet, I simply observe that the successful mixed martial artist must subscribe to a false account—one in which pain is not real and in which human beings are somehow outside of or apart from the body.

And now it seems appropriate to ask what account of masculinity requires a man to forget his body? The answer can only be that it is not a Christian masculinity but a Manichean masculinity. The Manichees, a sect founded in the third century by Mani and depicted by Augustine in his Confessions as a popular movement during the mid-fourth century, believed that this world was a fusion of divine spirit and evil matter. By this account, it was only through the spirit’s escape from the vile material realm that it was able to reach the transcendent world. Augustine describes his time among the Manichees like so:

I fell among a set of proud madmen, exceedingly carnal and talkative people in whose mouths were diabolical snares and a sticky mess compounded by mixing the syllables of your name, and the names of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, who is our Paraclete and Consoler. These names were never far from their mouths, but amounted to no more than sound and the clacking of tongues, for their hearts were empty of the truth.”[1]

Having joined their ranks, Augustine soon subscribed to a variety of otherworldly philosophies:

I derided your holy servants and prophets. Even as I laughed at them I deserved to be laughed at by you, for gradually, little by little, I was being lured into such absurdities as the belief that a fig wept when plucked, and its mother tree too wept milky tears. Then, I was told, if one of the saints ate the fig, it would be absorbed by his digestive system and then when he belched or groaned in prayer he would spew out angels, or even particles of God [. . .] I believed, poor wretch, that it was accordingly a higher duty to show mercy to the fruits of the earth than to human beings.”[2]

Now if that didn’t make much sense to you—and it shouldn’t—Augustine’s experience as a Manichee can be described as follows: after falling in with a crowd whose hyperspirituality caused them to paradoxically become “exceedingly carnal,” Augustine developed a disregard for the human creature that was ultimately evidenced in some rather absurd practices. Or again, as a result of accepting a false description of the human body—one that mistakenly taught the separation of human spirit and flesh rather than their interwoven and mutually constitutive nature—Augustine also came to adopt a false way of being in the world. Thus, both his flesh and spirit suffered, or in his own words, he became “misshapen.” This description rings as true of some twenty-first-century hypermasculine Christianists as it did of fourth-century Manichaeism.

Any Christian account of masculinity must take our embodiment seriously. Violence will result whenever we forget that God created us as flesh and blood, that God came to earth in flesh and blood, and that the flesh and blood of Jesus is now present to the world in the church’s sacraments.

Self-Sufficient Masculinity or Utterly Dependent Homoeroticism?

In the film Fighting Politics, Mark Driscoll describes MMA as something “purer [. . .] no bats, no sticks, no help, no team.” It is important to note what is going on in this description of the sport, because as with all interpretations, the description reveals as much about the subject as it does about the object being described. To put it plainly: Driscoll is at least mistaken (if not willfully and, therefore, culpably, incorrect) in his assessment that there is “no help” and “no team” in the sport of mixed martial arts.

In addition to fight preparation, my teammates were critical components of my success during the actual fight. On fight night, one of my most important teammates was my cut man. This was the guy who, between rounds, tried to get the cuts on my face to stop bleeding into my eyes. Being able to see my opponent was absolutely critical, and for that, I needed my teammate, a cut man. Moreover, I would have been no good without my coach. He was a skilled veteran who helped to make subtle corrections to my strategy during a fight, and from his privileged angle, he offered a vantage point on things that I could not see. But even my cut man and coach were not enough; as a fighter, I also depended on my water boy, the teammate who assumed the rather unenviable tasks of holding my protective cup before the fight and rinsing off my mouth guard between rounds. Without any one of these teammates, there is no way I would have stepped foot into a cage.

Now, if Driscoll has seen even one fight, as he claims, surely he would have noticed these people—trainer, coach, cut man, and water boy. They are hard to miss. So why doesn’t Driscoll see them? Why does he insist that the fighter has “no help”? Why is his description of MMA so clearly deficient? Quite simply, he hasn’t been trained to see these other people. He has been trained to see two guys beating each other up, and so that’s what he sees.

And perhaps this is the main reason that I bristle when Driscoll begins to opine on MMA, because he is the type of fan that fighters despise. If you go to any live event, you will know why: the fans are there for blood. Well, more accurately, they are there to get drunk, whistle at ring-card girls, and bullshit about why they would fight if some circumstance outside of their control were different. But mainly, they are there to see blood. If you can count on fans yelling anything during a fight, it is the cry, “Elbow him! Elbow him!” An elbow that is delivered properly can be much more destructive than a fist. One well-timed elbow can end a fight—or a career. By their cries, many fans make it clear that they are there for one reason: to see someone get hurt.

Fighters regard these types of fans as—to borrow a term from the armed services—chickenhawks. A chickenhawk is a person who endorses war with all the belligerent bellowing of a drill sergeant, yet when the time comes to enlist, they are nowhere to be seen. So the MMA churches and their MMA pastors can rail all they want against the “fat, lazy” men who critique MMA, but I, as a former fighter, have a great deal more respect for the person who is willing to interrogate my sport for the well-being of its participants than one who, from an equally distanced vantage point, deceives himself into thinking that he is a fighter and speaks so self-assuredly about what MMA is.

There is something even more obviously deficient about Driscoll’s description of MMA and the infatuation with this phenomenon among some Christian, male leaders. Take a look at the following images.

First of all, here is one popular style of shorts that are worn for training and competition:

Here are shorts on a fighter:

And the following images are of common positions that fighters find themselves in, the full guard, full mount, and two images of the back mount:

As these images illustrate—tight shorts, bare chests, and men jostling with legs and limbs intertwined—MMA is extremely intimate, and the people who participate in the sport must be comfortable in a variety of compromising physical positions. This is not to suggest that MMA is necessarily a site for men to practice their otherwise latent homoeroticism, but certainly, its practitioners must be willing to risk discovering such motivations in themselves through participation in the sport. And if not that, then fighters must be willing to accept the fact that other people may describe it as such. Thus, fighters must possess a certain degree of security with their own sexual identity, courage to allow that identity to be interrogated by the inherently intimate nature of the sport, and fortitude to accept the barbs and jabs of homophobic onlookers. Put differently, this is not the sport that Driscoll should want to appeal to for creating the type of man he is after—MMA requires its participants to get far too comfortable touching other men. His inability to see anything besides the pummeling bespeaks an inadequate character formation.

The cruel detachment with which Driscoll and other Christian MMA fans observe the sport is reminiscent of Augustine’s experience at the theater in Carthage:

I was held spellbound by theatrical shows full of images that mirrored my own wretched plight and further fueled the fire within me. Why is it that one likes being moved to grief at the sight of sad or tragic events on stage, when one would be unwilling to suffer the same things oneself?

[. . . .] At that time I was truly miserable, for I loved feeling sad and sought out whatever could cause me sadness. When the theme of a play dealt with other people’s tragedies—false and theatrical tragedies—it would please and attract me more powerfully the more it moved me to tears. [. . .] I had no desire to undergo myself the woes I liked to watch. It was simply that when I listened to such doleful tales being told they enabled me superficially to scrape away at my itching self, with the result that these raking nails raised an inflamed swelling, and drew stinking discharge from a festering wound. Was that life I led any life at all, O my God?[3]

Some male Christian leaders may think that by hollering about mixed martial arts, they are proffering a form of masculinity that is both more authentically Christian and more interesting than the milquetoast culture of contemporary evangelicalism. And yet, like Augustine at the theater, these men are not calling their followers into reality, but escapism. Their brand of masculinity amounts to nothing more than voyeurism, projection, and self-help therapy. Far from bold, the MMA Christian’s posturing comes off as frightened.

Back in the Cockpit

In the New York Times article, Ryan Dobson, son of evangelist James Dobson, weighs in on the value of MMA for Christian men: “The man should be the overall leader of the household [. . . .] We’ve raised a generation of little boys.”

In an interview with John Piper’s organization, desiringGod, Driscoll speaks in a similar vein, saying,

Guys like David are well known for their ability to slaughter other men. [. . .] These guys were heterosexual, win-a-fight, punch-you-in-the-nose-dudes. [. . .] Young men get married, make money, make babies, build companies, buy real estate; they’re going to make the culture of the future. If you get the young men, you win the war—you get everything. [. . .] If you don’t get the young men, you get nothing.”

This is the punch line. This is the work that Driscoll and Dobson think MMA does for their brand of Christian masculinity—it provides the necessary control. It places men back in the driver’s seat of a world that has been careening out of control ever since we allowed our women to remove their head coverings in defiance of an explicit scriptural command.

How else are we to understand the connection between Driscoll’s comments on violent masculinity and church growth, which flow immediately—almost as a stream of consciousness—from one to the other? This is about controlling outcomes, measuring church effectiveness as defined by bodies in pews, and building the church the same way that billionaires build skyscrapers. What work does MMA do for Driscoll? It keeps him in control—the ruler of his home and the celebrity pastor. (By the way, go back to the beginning of that clip, and make a list of the men that Driscoll names. He left one man off the list . . . .)

But is MMA about being in control? And if not, can it do the work that Driscoll thinks it does?

Certainly it appears that the point of the contest is to dominate your opponent, however, on a closer inspection we can vividly see that the fighter emerges as anything but in control.

As I have already mentioned, becoming a fighter meant being a part of a larger, more organized group of fighters. But some people cannot grasp this. Every once in a while, there is a group of wannabes that shows up on fight night with homemade T-shirts, and a ridiculous team name—“The Buttkicker Squad,” or something equally amateurish. Fight training for these guys consists of watching Jean Claude Van Damme reruns and scrapping in their parents’ basements. One by one, without fail, they get carried out on stretchers, never to be seen or heard from again. Why? Because they thought they were in control. The successful fighters are the ones who are able to submit to the wisdom of a knowledgeable coach and a reputable team. They are willing to be trained.

As a fighter, I relied on my manager to communicate with promoters and to negotiate my pay. I relied on dieticians to tell me when to eat, when to drink, and how long to sit in the sauna on weigh-in days. I relied on fans to buy tickets and cheer for me, so I could prove my worth to promoters and make my way into larger promotions. I depended on sponsors to come through with a few extra dollars that might cover the costs of my protein shakes. I relied on doctors to fix me when I got hurt, and ultimately to beg me—after suffering my sixth serious concussion and enduring months of temporary paralysis on the left side of my body—to stop this nonsense while I still had some brain left.

The Fighter’s deep dependence on others reveals that MMA is not the grand display of masculine domination that some Christian men want it to be. But I do not expect these men to come to this realization easily; letting go of control can be traumatic.  It would take nothing less than a miracle, a new birth, an entirely repentant turn for Driscoll and other Christian leaders to see the folly of their lust for power and to confess this folly to their peers, admiring worshipers, and most frighteningly, themselves. It would be not at all dissimilar from the way that Augustine describes his own conversion:

The things that had been my cronies of long standing, still held me back, plucking softly at my garment of flesh and murmuring in my ear, “Do you mean to get rid of us? Shall we never be your companions again after that moment? Never, never again?” [. . .] I could not bring myself to tear free and shake them off and leap across to that place whither I was summoned, while aggressive habit still taunted me: “Do you imagine you will be able to live without these things?”[4]

But of course, Augustine does turn toward the God who is revealed in the crucified Christ, a Christ who has been completely humiliated and dominated by his Roman executioners, and in that turning, Augustine is freed from his addiction to control. The first words of Book IX of Confessions burst forth with new life: “O Lord, I am your servant.”[5]

Repentance is never impossible for those who genuinely seek the Lord, because, quite simply, repentance is not an act of man but of God. Therefore, no matter how deeply deformed by violence a person has become, no matter how addicted to worldly power, no matter how enslaved by concepts of manhood that violate the very body of Christ—God is still greater than all these sins. A rebuke is an invitation to surrender to God and a promise that God will transform even the vilest misogynist. As Augustine says, “By your sheer grace and mercy you melted my sins away like ice. Is there anyone who can take stock of his own weakness and still dare to credit his chastity and innocence to his own efforts?”[6]

Promise Breakers

I have tried to give an account of masculinity and mixed martial arts that doesn’t exclude the sport’s enthusiasts from dialogue, and that is because I think MMA has picked up on something good with its insistence on embodied masculinity, its description of intimate masculinity that borders on homoeroticism, and its exemplification of the fighter’s utter dependence on his gym and complete lack of control over outcomes.

And yet, a curious futility emerges when the practice of MMA is observed: the body is rejected, some fighters and fans do not interpret intimacy in the sport, and the observation that the fighter is not in control seems lost on almost everyone involved. Just like the state that defines peace by waging  perpetual warfare, freedom by separating and isolating neighbors, and equality by ignoring obvious disparities, MMA is powerless to produce what it promises, because it does not possess the proper means to bring it about.

Of course, there is no reason to expect that observing MMA’s powerlessness to develop Christian disciples will dissuade some churches from bundling so-called men’s ministry with MMA. The sport is hot right now, and MMA is an effective “outreach” tool, so it will remain in churches for the foreseeable future. Idols may be powerless to form faithful Christians, but as fund-raisers and recruitment tools, they are effective as hell. This is what happens when, in the words of Stanley Hauerwas, the church tries to “make the Gospel intelligible to the world rather than to help the world understand why it cannot be intelligible without the Gospel.”[7]

Faced with the growing popularity of the Christian MMA movement, the church must return to its source of life and proclaim a masculinity rooted in the self-giving and Other-receiving perichoresis of the Trinity[8] and revealed in the flesh and blood of the God-Man whose strength is made perfect in kenotic weakness. Only here, I believe, can the church’s men find courage to resist therapeutic misogyny and church-growth schemes; only here can we begin to become true disciples who, with Augustine, joyfully proclaim, “You touched me, and I burned for your peace.”[9]

[1] Augustine, The Confessions, trans. Maria Boulding (New York, NY: Random, 1997), 42.

[2] Ibid, 50.

[3] Augustine, Confessions, 38–39.

[4] Ibid., 166.

[5] Ibid., 170.

[6] Ibid., 34.

[7] Hauerwas, “Preaching As Though We Had Enemies,” First Things, May 1995, http://www.firstthings.com/article/2008/09/003-preaching-as-though-we-had-enemies–9.

[8] See Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1996), 128.

[9] Augustine, Confessions, 222.

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Matt Morin :
Matthew Morin worships with Milwaukee Mennonite Church. As a former lightweight champion and current father of two, he can assure you that cage fighters are absolute pansies compared to people who change diapers, pull all-nighters with sick children, and climb mountains of dirty laundry. His other reflections on churches and MMA can be found in his 2011 The Other Journal essay “The Confessions of a Cage Fighter.”
  • Anonymous

    Wow it’s amazing how much Driscoll sounds like Nietzsche in talking about supposedly “masculine” values. It makes me wonder about the connections between neo-Calvinism and ubermensch “masculinity.” Is there something about neo-Calvinist theology that makes neo-Calvinists attracted to what is essentially a Nietzschean morality?

    • Jthornton

      Morgan, I like your association of Driscoll with Nietzsche – it rings true to me.  Let’s see . . . I can think of another guy who dressed his Nietzschean philosophy with Christian language and tried to pass it off as masculine, clean, healthy fun.  He was popular in Germany in the 30s and 40s.  

      As far as the connection to neo-Calvinism, I wonder if it is a preoccupation with ordered hierarchies that is attractive to both.  Neo-Calvinists seem to like ordered hierarchies and the Nietzschean hierarchy of predator-prey is about as simple as you can get.  Thoughts?

      • Anonymous

        Yeah the thing that the complementarians would probably like for us not to recall is that for much of the past 500 years the argument was made that God had ordered the human race into hierarchy of masters and slaves. The slave trade was a thoroughly theologized practice; it was about helping people who God created for other people to rule over to avoid being left to their debaucherous barbarism. There’s a lot more Biblical support for the master/slave hierarchy than the gender hierarchy. There’s certainly not much support in the Bible for abolitionism.

        I think the attraction for neo-Calvinists is to a God who’s wild and politically incorrect. There’s something really ballsy about a “Because I said so” God who’s not supposed to make sense and who burns people eternally for slighting His infinite honor ever so slightly even once. I wonder if there were hyper-masculine Iraqis who worshiped Sadam Hussein for the same reason. It’s the same kind of attraction that Moloch must have held for the ancient Canaanites or Thor for the ancient Vikings. YHWH could almost be that kind of God, but you definitely have to get rid of the suffering servant motif and replace the femmy Jesus who reclined on the breast of “the disciple whom He loved” at the Last Supper with the “prize-fighter” Jesus that Driscoll superimposed onto the text of Revelation.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=8622251 Matt Morin

      I like your connection between MMAsculinity and the ubermensch, but I also think that Driscoll et al more accurately fit the description of the Last Men– those nihilists who Nietzsche pillored in Thus Spoke.

      “The earth hath then become small, and on it there hoppeth the last man
      who maketh everything small. His species is ineradicable like that of
      the ground-flea; the last man liveth longest… They have their little pleasures for the day, and their little pleasures
      for the night.”

      All of this talk about building companies and church networks — in fact the whole fetish with ‘leadership’ and ‘management’ itself– is nothing more than an attempt to make the world small and fill it with pathetic little pleasures. (Or as one corporation puts it, “Our mission is to put a can of coke within arm’s reach of everyone on the planet!”)

      Listen to Driscoll in the second clip again, “All the innovative dudes are at home watching football, or they’re out making money, or climbing a mountain, or shooting a gun, or working on their truck.”  To men who pursue these little pleasures with single-minded commitment (I call it ‘the crapitific vision’), Driscoll promises that they will find all of them at his church AND a conveniently small Jesus to baptize their petty ambition. Bonus!

      “We have discovered happiness,”—say the last men, and blink thereby.

      • Anonymous

        I guess I’ve made Nietzsche too small myself. I was just going for the guilt-by-association dig, but maybe Nietzsche made some useful observations. So what is the appeal of complementarianism and neo-Calvinism for middle-class America? There are Mark Driscolls popping up all around me in northern Virginia. It seems like these days they skip over having little churches they have to tear down and build bigger. These days they start out with stadiums.

        Why is this happening? What I cynically tend to believe is that it’s because “family values” is a lot more self-validating and easier to live up to than “love your neighbor.” Just keep your dial tuned to family-safe, kid-friendly Christian radio, keep your kids away from dirty things like sex, drugs, (and unassimilated brown people), and then you can go to heaven and continue your gated community lifestyle up there.

        Is this an accurate portrayal of what’s going on? And if so, how in the world can the middle-class be rescued from its self-idolatry? If not, is there a kernel of legitimacy to the gospel of Mark Driscoll that needs to be considered and reappropriated?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=8369552 Abigail Goring

      What about Divine Command Theory? Standard neo-calvinist doctrine, a view in which there is no moral law that can stand over the most powerful being in the universe, and no claim that weaker beings can ever have on their creator. It’s about as authoritarian as you can get, and tends to sound pretty nihilistic to those of us with other perspectives on morality.

      Also, in general accepting double predestination tends to involve squelching a lot of our intuitive judgments and moral emotions related to the stereotypically feminine virtues of mercy, kindness, etc.

      Also keep in mind that it’s easy to draw analogies between God’s authority over his creation and that of human authorities over the rest of us. Some faith traditions are quite explicit here with doctrines like the Great Chain of Being, while others will actually use God’s authority as an argument against loyalty to any mere human rulers, but as an anarchist and a feminist I tend to be a bit suspicious of all monotheism because I wonder if you can ever truly keep the two completely separate.

    • Jason

      Morgan, I believe that you are correct in pointing out the connection with Neo-Calvinism. Let’s not forget Calvin’s “Geneva” – which led to the murder of Servetus, for which Calvin was either directly or indirectly complicit. 
      When your concept of God is directly attached to the attribute of sovereignty, that word has a way of being defined by the world in terms of power and hierarchy. Rather than defining God’s sovereignty by the revealed Christ (lovingly sovereign, servant king), the language takes on the character of power/control of others. Therefore, one only submits to those he or she cannot conquer, but the desire is to be a conqueror so others submit to you (women, children, & weaker men). It is the “will to power” of which Nietzsche speaks.  Or, if you will, it is just another form of the “Gentile’s seeking to lord power over others” that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 20.  And we are reminded from Jesus in that passage – “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and seek and save the lost.”

    • Jason Panella

      Are we talking about neo-Calvinism (Kuyperian) or “New” Calvinism? I think there’s a big difference. I’ve always lumped the Driscolls of the world in the latter camp.

  • http://destroyideas.blogspot.com destroyideas

    It’s amazing how much of Christian discipline in the New Testament is focused on humility, serving, loving, caring, compassion, harmony and being made perfect in weakness – giving up one’s self to the Church and to the Lord. Letting go of the world to embrace the Kingdom of Heaven.

    And then the Muscular Christianity types insist all of this is feminine, and real Christian men need to be proud, leaders, rough, tough, abrasive and strong. It’s the entire opposite of Christ and his commandments. It’s … well … anti-christ.

    In 2003 when Wild At Heart was making its rounds in men’s Bible studies, I stopped reading the book and left the group when the author got to the part where he said everyone looks at Jesus as a nice, caring, gentle man, and that he didn’t want that as an example. He wanted William Wallace. I was appalled. He straight up said he didn’t want Jesus as his example, but William Wallace.

    But Christ is our example. The Muscular Christianity guys say we need to punch people out who offend us – Driscoll even joked about beating up pastors in his church whom he later fired – but Peter tells us that “Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. … When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats.” (1 Peter 2)

    Peter goes on (in the next chapter) to say that everyone should be “harmonious, sympathetic, loving, compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil for evil or insult for insult. Instead, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”

    All of these traits are belittled by men like Driscoll as weak and feminine.

    • http://www.pastormack.wordpress.com Mack

      I dealt with some of these issues on my blog at:

      I used Volf as well, but in a different way.  Driscoll and the renewed version of  muscular Christianity represent little more than misogyny baptized.  At best, it is a form of Christianity that is unable to recognize that simply because the gospel emerged in the culture of the pater familiaris, it does not follow that all Christian families must look like good Roman families (no matter how much Paul assumed this structure himself – he couldn’t have done otherwise).

      But I have to sympathize with Driscoll and some of this crew to some extent.  Coming out of a fundamentalist background, I was drawn to John Eldredge and his brand of sweaty strong Jesus when I was in college.  And he still has a point: many of the Christians I grew up around were, frankly, little more than awfully nice.

      An interesting development in evangelicalism seems to be a kind of hyper-masculine pacifism.  Could not the attitudes of Hauerwas and many of his fanboys (a term used very intentionally) be described as violent?  In my experience, yes.  They are certainly willing – in the name of Jesus, as violence is often done – to do violence in print and speech to opponents.  This may be overplaying the hand, but I think at least part of the appeal of Hauerwas’ theology is that it frees up a kind of theological testosterone, and gives many aspiring young radicals a place to let out their aggression in a way that would make their – equally masculine? – Jesus smile.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=8622251 Matt Morin


        I’m curious what you mean by Stanley’s tendency to “do violence in print and speech to opponents”? What, on your account, is violence? Do you have a particular example to share? In fact, do you have a couple examples to share, since you speak both of the “attitudes of Hauerwas” and “Hauerwas’ theology” as violent?

        I do ask these questions as a challenge to your assertion that Stanley tends to “do violence”– but I intend my challenge in all charity. Thanks.

        • http://www.pastormack.wordpress.com Mack

          The best example that comes to mind is the review of Jean Elshtain’s Just War Against Terror that appeared in First Things (co-written with Griffiths).  This could be perceived as an extreme example, and to be fair I have at least heard rumors that Hauerwas regrets this exchange.  In her 2nd response, Elshtain wrote of the “violence of the pacifist temperament,” a concept I have found interesting ever since.  I am open to the critique that my “account” (ah, a word that drips of seminary training) of violence is imprecise. I believe there is a case to be made that violence is not merely physical coercion, but can extend to harm done in other arenas (we speak, for instance, of “emotional and psychological abuse”).  Government is essentially violent in the sense that you are forced under threat to do any number of things you would not otherwise do (like drive under 55).  I would say that, for an academic, open character assassination is close enough to a kind of professional violence that it least makes me questions a purported commitment to suffering, non-nonviolent love.

          I think the larger point is the aggression engendered by Hauerwas’ (mostly male, in my experience) fan club.  I don’t think it’s too far of a stretch to see a kind of hyper-masculinity at play there.  The ease with which those with whom one disagrees are dismissed (be they Reinhold Niebuhr, or Tillich, or anyone branded ‘liberal’ or ‘Constantinian’) and the rhetoric used (see J. Stout’s article on ‘The Rhetoric of Excess’) strikes me as intellectual machismo run amuck.  I came to this conclusion during my time at Duke while watching master’s students with no other arena in which to compete verbally jab, bob, and weave while parroting everything they had been taught in an attempt to out-Hauerwas one another.  There is a lot of verbal sparring in seminary culture that has more to do with machismo (of either sex – see Harvey Mansfield) than we care to acknowledge while smoking our pipes and wearing leather-elbowed blazers.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=8622251 Matt Morin

            Mack, please don’t think that my failure to respond over the course of the past week is an intentional slight. I do think that your definition of “violence” begs for more precision, as does your use of the term “hyper-masculinity.” Without further clarity, I see no way for meaningful engagement.

            I am not entirely sure how to square your lament of the “verbal sparring in seminary culture” with your pointed remarks about “smoking our pipes and wearing leather-elbowed blazers.” Would the latter– on your account– be an example of the former? Did you just commit violence? Moreover, referring to the Elshtain exchange as an example of “open character assassination” seems to me a less-than-fully-charitable description; could it also be “Rhetoric of Excess”?

            I make no claim one way or another as to whether your words were in fact violent or excessively rhetorical. I just want to know if you think they were. I do not even know what excessively rhetorical means; we are all (always? only? ever?) performing, right?

          • http://www.pastormack.wordpress.com Mack

            Perhaps aggression is a better term than violence, though I’m not willing to give it up entirely.  If there is such a thing as “institutional violence” then I think that verbal or written violence is possible.  Some of the comments below about manly pacifism get to the point I am trying to make: that the reassertion of pacifism (however termed) seems to be done, in many quarters, with a kind of aggression that is not too distant from the Driscolls of the world.  A peace ethic, or non-violence, or pacifism seems odd coming from the forked tongue (or keyboard).

            As far as treading close to my own critique, I’m not sure if one  can generically assassinate the character of the all the leathery elbowed.  It was only meant to be an offhand comment about graduate student fashion.

            I’m hesitant to keep responding to questions for clarification, because if Duke taught me anything it is that one can deconstruct ad nauseum.  If you’ve been around Duke for more than 6 months and can’t sense that Hauerwas – in writing, thinking, and style – does not have a level of influence significant enough to speak of a “Hauerwasian theology” than I fear for your powers of judgment.  For instance, when I was there, the Socratic club did a series of lectures on Duke theology in which Hauerwas lectured on himself!  I’m not saying his is the only voice at Duke, not by a long shot, but it might be the loudest. 

            You fear for me what I fear for Hauerwas – except I think my worries have substance.  To be clear, I love much of his work, and I’ve been influenced by “Hauerwasian” theology to a great extent.  This past July 3, I even used the term “resident alien” in my sermon.  His work calling Christians to be about the Church first, rather than the state, his insistence on keeping Christian language Christian, and his work on suffering have all impacted me greatly.  But as Stout argues in Democracy & Tradition, I fear for the great deal of influence he has over young pastors and theologians.  His description about the dangers of the State is dead right, but I am concerned much of his work – whether this is a good reading of Hauerwas or not is a fair but separate question – will lead the church to less engagement with the world rather than more, or, if you prefer, inadequate engagement.  Of course, I’m saying nothing new.  But more than a few young clergy are reading Hauerwas and going into the local church charged up to be more prophetic than pastoral (this is where the “manly pacifism” comes in – especially when the first move is to take an American flag out of a church full of veterans), and are doing great harm to their churches.  I prefer Willimon myself, when it comes to the question of application, because Willimon has to filter all this through a church that exists somewhere other than his head.

            And as for cheap shots…did you ever read that review I mentioned? 

    • ExpendableCrewman

      But the whole point isn’t, or at least shouldn’t be, that one side or the other is “anti-Christ.” The problem with both Driscoll’s hyper-masculine fetishization of violence and also the “milquetoast evangelicalism” mentioned in the article is that each emphasizes one aspect of ideal Christianity to the exclusion of all others. They create a false dichotomy. Jesus wasn’t/isn’t an asskicking superhero; neither was/is he a passive shrinking violet. He has elements of both in his character and draws on each aspect as appropriate in different situations, in accordance with the perfect will of his Father. The challenge for the Christian, male or female, is to do the same. Introducing gender politics into the discussion through use of the words “masculine” and “feminine” merely muddies the waters.

      Driscoll’s activities may be a great strategy for getting male butts in the pews, but as an ethos it’s extremely suspect. That said, it is valuable for us to recognize the validity of SOME of the reasoning that led him to take this approach in the first place.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=8622251 Matt Morin

        I think your first paragraph is very well said. Thanks for putting it so succinctly.

  • Mikaila


    Thank you.  This is such a rich exploration of MMA, Augustine and the current MMA + Christianity trend. What a breath of fresh air to read your paper, which you have obviously poured a great deal of time, intention and reasoning into! As a 25 year old woman I am fascinated to read about MMA (which I was not really aware of before your article, other than the stereotypes you mention at the opening). Although I wasn’t aware of Mark Dricoll’s support of tieing MMA to Christianity I am aware of his theology.

    I have often been frightened by what I hear of and from Mark Driscoll, as his theology seems to tempt our deeply held insecurities, and play off of our basic human desire to be in control. You have shown beautifully how sharply Driscoll’s arguements and theology as a whole diverge from the foundational teachings of Jesus. Thank you!

    I’d also like to share one point of concern with you. In your article you use this phrase:

    “[Driscoll’s integration of MMA and Christianity] places men back in the driver’s seat of a world that has been careening out of control ever since we allowed our women to remove their head coverings in defiance of an explicit scriptural command.”

    Your point is well taken. I agree strongly that by incorperating MMA into his theology Driscoll is continuing to attempt to regain the controll that once accompanied strict gender roles and a male dominated society.

    However, I would caution you in making this point by referring to the complex tradition of head coverings. You are likely much more familiar with Christian history than I, so it may be that you are reffering to an explicit scriptural comman within the Bible. However, I interpreted this statement as referring to the tradition that some Muslim individuals and communities participate in.

    Although I don’t know the details of the Koranic statements regarding female modesty, I do know that this tradition is extremely complex. I also know that there is great diversity in how Muslim men and women express their sentiments regarding modesty throughout the world. There are Muslim men and women who see head coverings as a deeply spiritual and individual statement. There are also Muslim men and women who do not agree with the custom.

    My point is that given the diversity of opinion within Muslim and Christian communities and the American people at large we can no longer afford to allow this topic to be portrayed as “simply gender oppression” or “simply individual expression”. You have so diligently examined your main topic that the paper seems to lose some of its power with a cursory statement like this, even though it is not your main focus.

    Thank you for your words. I am eager to share your article with friends and family.


    • Abykale

      “I have often been frightened by what I hear of and from Mark Driscoll,
      as his theology seems to tempt our deeply held insecurities, and play
      off of our basic human desire to be in control.”

      Hi Mikaela. While I don’t mean to pick on you, it startled me a bit to to hear the word “our” in that sentence, coming from another woman. Because it’s only *men’s* desire for control that he is appealing to here; in fact what complementarians like him offer women is the opportunity to *relinquish* control in exchange for security. And while not all women react to his sort of teachings with the claustrophobic panicky feeling that I do, I doubt as a whole that we find the deal offered us to be quite as appealing; or at least, what appeal there is lies in the satisfaction of having done something hard and painful that you know is pleasing to God.

  • Hannah

    Thanks for this wonderful essay. I notice in your bio that you’re currently worshipping with Mennonite congregations, and I would be so interested to hear about whether the anabaptist tradition has informed your views on masculinity and fighting.

    For instance, people seem to equate “pacifist” with “wimp” – and it’s often a feminized term. What does a masculine pacifism look like?

    Ok, so maybe I’m just asking for another, related essay. Great work on this one.

    • http://feraltheology.wordpress.com/ Logan Mehl-Laituri

      yeah matt, i’d love to hear your thoughts on a masculine pacifism  :)

    • http://brianzahnd.com Brian Zahnd

      What does masculine pacifism look like? Stanley Hauerwas — the bricklayer cussing theologian from Texas.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=8622251 Matt Morin

      Thank you Hannah.

      I prefer the term “peace ethic” to pacifism– in ordinary use, the latter frequently connotes a failure/refusal to act and is thereby a negative concept. (Not necessarily negative in the sense of “looked down upon” but negative as in “the absence of.”) But if peace is ontologically prior to violence, or if violence is characteristic of nothingness, then then it is indeed violence that is the negative concept– the void, the ruin of creation. Then it is pacifism (or the peace ethic) that is positive and those who practice an ethic of peace are caught up in positive action– the re-creation of the cosmos. As I have learned from worshiping from many Christians and friends (including MCUSA), an ethic of peace goes well beyond questions of military service. An excellent read for congregations on these questions would be Elaine Enns and Ched Myers’s two-volume “Ambassadors of Reconciliation.”

      Women give birth, so I don’t think feminized means weak. And it is in our weakness that Christ’s strength is made perfect, so I don’t think that weak means weak.

      I don’t have a clue what “masculine pacifism” means, so I can’t begin to say what it looks like. I fear we might be trapped by the term and ought therefore to reject it. Christians pray for “the peace of Christ”, not “masculine pacifism.”

    • Shibui

      Hannah, for your “model” consider the trilogy from the Sermon on the Mount as described in Walter Wink’s books — the turns-the-other-cheek, go-the-second-mile and give-away-your-coat admonitions.  (One of my Sunday School class member called them as the “Be a Doormat for Jesus” verses!)  When seen through the lens of Jesus’ day culture and mores, you realize they are consistently interpreted wrong (at least as I am persuaded) and have to do with phenomenal personal strength and surety, whether you are male or female, bonded or free, young or old.  Check Wink out.  It really is exciting!

      There’s your “masculine” pacifism… for better, your strong pacifism.

  • guest

    Well said.

  • Jthornton

    This article is awesome.  I had no clue about the MMA Christian connection and am grateful for your discussion about it.  After hearing Driscoll’s discussion of the importance of using MMA to attract young men into church, I was left thinking “Well, wouldn’t free beer and sex also get them through the doors?” I think you summed it all up well with your statement “Idols may be powerless to form faithful Christians, but as fund-raisers and recruitment tools, they are effective as hell.”  Amen Brother.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dstolpe David Paul Stolpe

    Funny how Driscoll says that the real men of the Bible weren’t singing love songs to Jesus and then in the very next sentence he starts talking about David.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=8622251 Matt Morin

      Exactly– that was Kerry’s first response! Happy birthday David.

    • http://twitter.com/jb00m Jordan Balint

      And even more with the David example, how about his friendship with Jonathan? I mean, you don’t get much more mushy than that…to the point that its sometimes interpreted as their being lovers.

    • http://www.facebook.com/alex.the.red Alexander Floyd Pettengill Jam

      What about David and Bathsheba… great role-model of masculinity there…

    • Jasmine Wilson

      Not to mention, God didn’t let him build the temple because he was a man of war. 

      • Ruach34


  • Kruppe

    Interesting article. The connection that people are seeing between Muscular Christianity and Nietzschean ideals seems plausible, especially in light of alleged connections between sponsors and neo-Nazi groups (like the Hoelzer Reich clothing controversy). In my view, Driscoll et al are just baptizing the parts of culture that they like.

    While I do think casual MMA fans and Joe Rogan perpetuate the stereotype that a great fighter will have a body like a Greek god, the history of MMA shows otherwise. Royce Gracie defeated fighters at the first UFC events even though physically he was one of the smallest and weakest. Then there was the heart and determination of Kazushi Sakuraba who made a career out of fighting much larger and more physically gifted men, often winning through grit and technique (and honestly, a bit of insanity). The triumph of the “average looking body” is found in none other than Fedor Emelianenko, who looks like a pudgy bald guy, yet was the most dominant mixed martial artist ever. So yes, while many MMA fans and pundits, including people like Driscoll, see the embodiment of the male in MMA, there are many examples from MMA itself that undercut this.

    I wonder what your thoughts would be on the burgeoning movement of Women’s MMA and how that might relate to your overall article, particularly the differing views/receptions of Gina Carano and Cris Santos.

    • http://www.pastormack.wordpress.com Mack

      Don’t forget about Roy Nelson…oh, wait.  Haven’t you ever seen statues of ancient Greek athletes? It’s not like Americans invention the notion that the male body should be fit and muscular.

  • chrishaw

    Thanks for writing this Matt. Some other ground to cover on this topic–a conjecture of mine–is the connection between economics and tap-out fighting. I have a strong hunch that the “pureness” Driscoll is circling has much in common with the ostensible pureness of laissez-faire, dropped-rules, no-regulation, freedom-from-religious-and-moral-hinderances, business-is-business manners of capitalism. Everything lends toward a seeming rawness–with the most basic form of completion in tapping or blacking out. While I acknowledge the deeper disciplines of the fighter, this no-holds-barred is what the chickenhawk wants to see. A brutal knockout–no, a bloody thrashing .

    Though, like capitalism, if we look underneath the show, there are many rules and regulations that are vigilantly obeyed. Some holds actually are barred. Sorry.
    Another angle is discussing the art-imitating-life, life-imitating-art mimesis cycle. I wonder how many folks have invented their existential crisis through Fight Club. (“Oh yea, I guess my bourgeois comforts deep down make me want to cage fight.”) Its hard to say how many folks would would be using fighting as a solution, were they not told the problem in this manner. It is not obvious to me that this desire for a bloody domination is as self-evident or natural as Driscoll posits–nor, even more importantly, that just because it is latent in men, that they should make a sport of it.

    Lastly, another area of focus is the echoes we get of Roman gladitorial games here. It does not seem to trouble or temper the minds of the Christians admiring the MMA brawl that the early Church found it a problem to enter the Coliseum and appreciate its games. If one holds the dubious position that the early Church had a
    stronger purchase on the gospel, a more common error in these evangelical circles, why no recollecting this well known
    problem? One among the Calvinistic flock has outlined in passing the early Christian problems with the blood of the arena: Leithart’s Defending Constantine. Leithart also discusses here how these bloody fights acted as a reenactment of their culture’s founding murder. All societies reenact their founding murders–even Christian ones with the Eucharist. The recollection of the bloody “price paid” serves to unite people around something. But, given Christianity’s explicit depiction of this founding murder as evil (Christ’s), its retelling served to cease sacrifice and Coliseum participation.

    That’s just a few more hooks to hang some thoughts on. Thanks again.

  • lucky penny

    Thank you for this essay, and for bringing this surprising issue to light — I look forward to other things you write.

    tricky stuff, this Christianity.  It seems to me that the more time I spend meditating on Christ and His stated purposes, the less current culture and my own life seem to shore up.  With the complete exclusion of Christ in his dialogue about the church and masculinity, how is Mark Driscoll even considered Christian?  It seems to me that his is a religion of Man (and ONLY Man) onto which he has badly photo-shopped the face of Jesus.  I’m also afraid that his followers may be in for a bad surprise when it comes time to meet Jesus — I don’t think He will be quite what they are expecting.  He certainly isn’t what is being modeled.

  • http://www.voicegrace.blogspot.com julie

    Thanks for writing this, very insightful.  I’m not a Mark Driscoll fan having lived under similar ridiculous teachings about masculinity (and femininity) which was not fun to say the least…

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  • Grigoro

    One could make the same reflections about Judo, or skating, ballet, each with its own representation of  power and haptics, some involving women as well. The arguments seem to me kind of mundane, despite the quotations. Who is troubled by common-day gladiators/ definitely ‘others’, being wroshippers of God when they’re only the visible tip of the iceberg, and the undersee part has little to do with Christiandom…

  • Micah Sparacio

    I appreciate this piece.  I was raised a pacifist and have been doing MMA for the past 2-3 years and agree with most of your major points.   However, I think your piece would have benefited from two things.  1)  a fuller articulation of how you envision Christian masculinity, embodied  2) an acknowledgement of some of the virtues of MMA:  i.e. that for many man it is their first exposure to discipline, skill acquisition and same-sex respect …  all things which the man we follow and worship embodied and which many modern men are completely displaced from.

    at the end of the day, modern men have been displaced, and i’d rather see those of us who care about these issues focus on offering positive visions for Christian masculinity.

  • Natasha

    I just ran across a link to your article over on the 42 blog. Very interesting! :) 

    • Natasha

      (I mean your article is very interesting- just to clarify)

  • TheSquirrel

    Thank you for the article. The news that churches are using MMA to lure men in reminds me of a story my former pastor told many times and quite proudly: some unnamed pastor is asked by a colleague why he doesn’t let his church form a rock band. “It’ll really bring in the kids.” And the pastor says “sure, as soon as we build the bar and hire the dancing girls!”

    And somehow these (as these insecure boys see them) fight-to-the-death matches are okay?

  • Guest
  • http://lisadelay.com/blog Lisa Colon DeLay

    Matt. This is one of the most thoughtful and potent pieces I’ve read in a while. Truly. Awed. and honored to have read it.

  • Jasmine Wilson

    Matt, thank you for your article. Driscoll and Piper have frustrated me for years with their hyper-masculinity and the type of ecclesiology that creates. I was in a class of 12 students who were interested in pastoral ministry, 8 of which were women, and one of the mentors’ wife said that women shouldn’t be lead pastors because America is in trouble and is becoming a matriarchical society, and one indication of that is all the female-laden churches. So upsetting that women in particular have internalized this, and think they are just the baby-makers. Piper has a two minute clip where he addresses women in the church, and out of all the things he could use that two minute to say, he decides to tell them to stop watching soap operas and raise their babies well, praying them into church leadership. So many things are assumed in that stereotype, it’s quite horrible. 
    I noticed in your bio it says that you are a member of a Presbyterian church, but you worship with the mennonites and are interning in Milwaukee? I am currently going to Calvin College and feel strongly pulled by Reformed theology, and I’m interning at a mennonite church in Chicago. I’d be interested in hearing your assessment of the two denominations and their compatibility, particularly when it comes to pacifism. 

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  • Shibui

    Matt, yes, thanks to that physician concerned about the health of your brain. From this piece, I would say your brain survived very well!  Your structure, your creative thinking, your lines of argument, your writing: All give perfect setting to the words of someone who knows first hand and who moves his perspective to look too from a Divinity School viewpoint.  If this by chance originally was turned in for one of your courses, you better have gotten an A!

  • http://twitter.com/prchrbill prchrbill

    MMA fighting doesn’t embody Christianity.  It embodies the sinful depravity of men that beat each other senseless for no reason than to win, strut around the ring and wear some other man’s blood as some sort of olympic medal.  Real men pray.  Real men weep.  Real men laugh.  Real men love.  Real strength is standing in the middle of diversity and taking it on the chin because you will not lash out in anger because of your faith being hated by those that mock you.  

    Real men love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it.Driscoll continues to lose any credibility as a Pastor and ‘bible teacher’.Get a real job and act in a way that actually is representative of how Christians are suppose to live in this world, wise as serpents gentle as doves.  


    • 808punch

      First off, your view of the sport is ignorant and judging! Is that REAL MEN?? I’m a professional MMA fighter and I am all of those things that you mentioned REAL MEN are. I don’t mean to be rude but your sidelined view of this sport is very inaccurate and I would encourage you to look a little deaper into it

      • 808punch

        To be clear my first comment was towards prchrbill

  • Nick Coombs

    Bro, sorry to derail the love train but I can’t help but disagree with this article. 

    I think you’re taking Driscoll’s comments and his enjoyment of a sport to places it need not go. Regardless of the theological reasons to be for or against MMA (which I think is a gray area, and 1 Cor. 8 would provide a good Biblical approach to dealing with it) I’d like to respond thoughtfully to some of your assumptions.

    1. The first video – lets take it in context (and I haven’t seen the documentary but I can gather Driscoll’s argument in this short clip) – Driscoll is arguing for the legitimization of MMA as a sport. He’s not claiming it as a ‘spiritual discipline’. To then make a whole point because Driscoll mentioned ‘fat guys’ in passing, and using it to put an argument in Driscoll’s mouth and rebut that ‘argument’ is a terrible way to debate. Driscoll is clearly using hyperbole to encourage the men who participate in MMA that its legitimate, and giving a humourous jab to those who take shots without getting in the octagon.

    2. I thought your point about the fighters body and your own anecdotal experience was a valid point. It comes under the broader theological thought of how to treat our bodies as Christians – not something I’m going to get into here.

    3. Again, in your second point, the assumptions you draw from Driscoll’s comment are pretty ridiculous. I have no doubt Driscoll has seen the ‘team’ aspect of MMA. You deduce from his comments that he thinks there is no team involved – again, you’re taking his exact words completely out of context. He’s taking about the purity of the sport. The essence of fighting one on one as opposed to participating in a team sport like football or basketball where you can effectively be a ‘passenger’ while other team members do the hard work. In MMA you’re locked in a cage and have to survive. To take from Driscoll’s comments that he’s one of those fans that ‘are there for blood’ is to take his comments in a completely opposite direction to what he was saying. Its clear from his comment he’s a fan because of the purity and essence of the battle. He’s quite clearly more thoughtful as to why he enjoys MMA than just bloodthirsty. He’s thought through the meaning and principles of the sport, values them, and therefore values MMA.

    4. The pictures you show and the argument about homoeroticism was surprising and I think more revealing of your own attitudes than Driscoll’s. In watching MMA I had never thought about these positions/shorts in a sexual context, and I highly doubt any average MMA fan does. There clearly is a context behind these moves and its for the purpose of battle/fighting/competing. To over-sexualise them is, I think, just a product of the sexualisation of our current culture. Like I said, I haven’t heard any MMA fan talk about shorts or martial art positions in a sexual way, nor have I heard Driscoll say anything similar, so you’re again, creating your own argument and pushing it on Driscoll. Do we throw out football, basketball, rugby and just about every other contact sport because there is physical contact that, devoid of its context, would be seen as sexual? Of course not! Its a sport, a competition and some bodily positions are the means to an end – winning. While these positions, out of context, seem erotic, they are a part of a greater purpose that promotes Christian virtues – courage, resilience, persistence, strength of will, resolve, hard work etc.

    5. Where does Driscoll ever mention anything about control? In the second video Driscoll is again being the Driscoll we have all come to know – a direct, hyperbolic, strong-willed communicator. He uses the Biblical examples of men to show a toughness about them. Of course Driscoll isn’t propagating the actual, literal killing of people. He’s trying to promote in Christian men, the virtues of toughness (appropriate against sin, heresy etc.) and boldness (necessary for proclaiming truth, denouncing sin etc.). You try to cut him down by claiming he didn’t mention Jesus – he didn’t need to, because his point was about the toughness of men in the Bible – which Jesus personifies in taking on the cup of wrath in our place for us. Driscoll is trying to encourage men to take the lead in churches because currently churches are 60% female and the men that do attend usually don’t participate. In contrast, you make a massive judgment call and pronounce that he’s after control? That is a big leap.

    6. Finally, and I think the most unhelpful and unnecessary comment you made was to suggest, (because of Driscoll’s morally neutral enjoyment of a sport and his promotion of its foundational principles), that ‘it would take nothing less than…a new birth(!)…for Driscoll…to see the folly of their lust for power’. Are you really willing to make that claim? You’re suggesting Driscoll needs to be regenerated (and is currently unregenerate) because he enjoys MMA and wants men to be tough and take responsibility? That’s what it comes down to, because all the judgments you made about his and others intentions/desires (‘lusts’ as you put it) are purely that – your judgments.

    I get that you’re trying to show MMA doesn’t have as a significant place in Biblical masculinity as you think Driscoll and others think it does, but surely that could’ve been done without the blatant out-of-context assumptions and moral judgments. Along with that, you could’ve engaged with what Biblical masculinity really is, rather than shooting down anyone who’s trying to encourage men to be tough (lets remember – its toughness against sin, folly, heresy etc. that he promotes, and stop kidding ourselves that he’s literally wanting men to hurt people) and take responsibility. I agree with ExpendableCrewman that we need to be both tough and tender, courageous and humble, but just because a guy has gone into bat against one of those sides (that is clearly missing from the church) doesn’t mean we should shoot him for it.

    For Jesus.

    • cjk

      Nick thanks for the push back, I didn’t write the article but I really did enjoy the article and I think the elements of the article and the comments that have ensued should be argued.  These are very important issues.

      It is Friday night, and I need to get a life and not be commenting on an article, but quickly my one reflection to your last point is that the author throughtout the article clearly is arguing that Driscoll is NOT endorsing MMA because of a “morally neutral enjoyment of a sport.”  I’m not sure what a “morally neutral enjoyment of a sport” would be, first of all, but from Driscoll’s comments and films he endorses MMA (like other things he has endorsed over the years that personify real men and mocking those who don’t fit that mold) because it displays a pure essence of masculinity, not a some casual thumbs-up to a benign cultural past time.  That MMA would personify a pure Christian masculinity is highly problematic in orthodox Christian anthropology, so problematic that the author went through the trouble of explaining why it is also gnostic.

      • Nick Coombs

        Hi cjk,

        By ‘morally neutral enjoyment of a sport’ I mean to say that enjoying a sport (in this case MMA) which is morally neutral doesn’t reveal the heart of a man. All Driscoll did in the first video is argue for the legitimisation of MMA as a sport.

        I agree that Driscoll shouldn’t mock a man for not being into MMA or anything else morally neutral, but we should acknowledge that for what it is and not what it isn’t. It’s excess and hyperbole. I don’t think he is claiming that to be a man you need to like this stuff, he is clearly (esp. in the second video) trying to promote some missing values within the church, that of men that are strong leaders. To expect him to encapsulate a doctrine of masculinity in a short 3 minute clip is ridiculous, he’s just arguing for one part of a greater whole. MMA embodies a small part of what it is to be a man – that of strength, persistence, courage etc. like I mentioned. He never says MMA personifies ‘a pure Christian masculinity’, he says that MMA is an expression of something deeply ingrained in men – the desire for combat, dominion etc. I would agree that this is in every man, but of course it doesn’t look like punching each other in the head, it looks like laying our lives down and doing the right thing even if its hard. Just because the analogy doesn’t tie in in all areas (I don’t think Driscoll would claim it does), doesn’t mean we should throw it all out.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=8622251 Matt Morin



      Thanks for your response. I
      believe that the Church’s inability to articulate– in grammar and behavior– a
      word on gender that is both faithful to its resurrected Lord and loving to all
      (but especially LGBTQIA) persons is a tragedy for which our generation of
      Christians will someday be required to give an account. So while this virtual
      medium is woefully insufficient when compared to face-to-face conversation, it
      is better than nothing—and I am both glad and grateful for the chance to talk
      with you. Although I might caution you against the language of “derailing
      trains”; the Western world is, by and large, hellbent on identifying,
      torturing, and murdering anybody who looks, walks, or speaks like a “terrorist.”
      Talk of taking out trains could raise a few eyebrows, and when people find out
      that you claim to follow the teachings of a brownish-skinned political
      subversive, you might find yourself in solitary confinement quicker than Bradley
      Manning can recite the Beatitudes.


      Firstly, insofar as you
      claim that I’ve adopted “a terrible way to debate,” please hear this very
      important word: I’m not interested in debate; I’m interested in description. Debate
      is the thing that you do when you want to defeat your opponent by any means
      necessary. (“Did the judges like that? No? Okay, let’s try this. Do you think I
      won the jurors over? I’ll say whatever gets me the win. What did the
      congregation think of my sermon? Not too disagreeable, I hope.”) Description is
      the thing that you do when you hope to make differences clear. Debate conceals
      differences and muddies dialogue until a winner is declared by a council or
      majority vote. Description makes differences plain, and invites people to act
      in light of those differences. Does Driscoll’s account of MMA resonate with you?
      Then go to his church, read his books, and live among the people whose lives
      make such descriptions possible. Find mine more compelling? Then seek out a
      community of people who believe that a commitment to Jesus is necessarily a
      commitment to nonviolence, and thank God every day for the ways in which those
      people are teaching you how to become Christian. I don’t claim to be right, and
      I don’t claim that Driscoll is wrong—but it is obvious that we exist in the
      world differently. And that, I believe, has everything to do with the people
      who have made us into who we are so far.


      I am not going to respond to
      your points in succession because, quite frankly, I do not think that you read
      my essay that carefully. For example, you offer the following summary statement:
      “I get that you’re trying to show MMA doesn’t have as a significant place in
      Biblical masculinity as you think Driscoll and others think it does.” Huh? When
      did I ever indicate anything about “Biblical masculinity”? What is “Biblical
      masculinity”? I most certainly was not making any comments regarding MMA and
      some social construct that you call “Biblical masculinity.”  In fact, I introduced embodiment, intimacy,
      and surrendered living as a way of changing the conversation. I believe that an
      investigation into those words (and the practices that give those words
      meaning) would be much more helpful for making disciples of Jesus than whatever
      you or Driscoll mean by “Biblical masculinity.”


      Come to think of it, you
      didn’t give Driscoll’s words much respect either! Over and over you mention “context”
      and “hyperbole” as a way of saying what he “really” meant. But you have no better
      insight into Driscoll’s mental processes than I do (or he does). It is terribly
      uncharitable to assert, as you did, that “I have no doubt Driscoll has seen the
      ‘team’ aspect of MMA.” Well, you should have at least some doubt, since he did say that there is “no team.” Or do you
      know Driscoll’s words better than he does? You say that Driscoll “mentioned
      ‘fat guys’ in passing”—which to you seems to mean that I should not pay much
      attention to those particular words. Are you claiming that he doesn’t know what
      he just said? That is far nastier than anything I said about him in the essay. You
      say, “to take from Driscoll’s comments that he’s one of those fans that ‘are
      there for blood’ is to take his comments in a completely opposite direction to
      what he was saying.” But that requires you to ignore his comment about punching
      people in the nose—and ignoring is not a good way to talk to somebody.


      Nick, you really should
      take people at their word, instead of making claims that basically amount to: “When
      Mark Driscoll talks about ‘punch-you-in-the-nose dudes,’ he is really talking
      about strong leaders. When he talks about slaughtering people, he actually
      means not slaughtering people. Exegesis
      is complicated, people!” What he meant is
      what he said. If, upon hearing his own words, Driscoll would like to
      correct his statement, then he ought to do so—perhaps it would teach him to use
      more disciplined speech.


      I am not being obstinate
      or nit-picky here. As long as you continue to claim to have a better grasp on
      Driscoll’s intention, then someone else can trump you by arguing for the ‘real’
      context of his words, and then Driscoll can weigh-in about what he ‘actually’
      meant, and then another person will argue that self-opacity makes it impossible
      to ever know what we ‘really’ mean, and around we will go—each person claiming
      higher epistemic ground and imagining that we have command over our words. But
      of course, speech is a public act, and ‘meaning’ therefore cannot be relegated
      to some privileged interpretation. I am all for acknowledging the ways that
      context and hyperbole are constitutive of meaning, but not when those devices
      become ways to explain away words whose meaning lies in plain view for all to


      I didn’t, as you say, “try
      to cut him down by claiming he didn’t mention Jesus.” I merely observed that Jesus
      remains absent from the two accounts of masculinity that Driscoll offered. Am I
      incorrect? Is it unfair to expect a Christian minister to give a nod to the
      Lord of the universe sometime in between degrading women and leading Christian
      men into violence with the justification that “men are made for dominion”? Or
      might he have a difficult time reconciling his call with the fact that Jesus
      was killed by men who fit that very description? Does Driscoll consciously omit
      Jesus from his diatribe because he knows that there is no appeal to context or hyperbole
      that makes “turn the other cheek” actually mean “shatter his cheekbone with a
      knee from the clinch”? (“Jesus was speaking on opposite day. Exegesis is
      complicated, people!”) If so, then good for him—he still approaches holy ground
      with some semblance of proper posture; not crawling, to be sure, but thankfully
      not (yet) in metal spikes dragging a string of foreskins behind him. Strangely
      enough, Driscoll’s decision not to bring Jesus into his whole violent,
      misogynistic, decline narrative may be the single ray of hope in the whole


       You say that Driscoll “didn’t mention Jesus –
      he didn’t need to, because his point was about the toughness of men in the
      Bible – which Jesus personifies in taking on the cup of wrath in our place for
      us.” This, I believe, highlights the most profound difference between your
      account of salvation and discipleship, and that which I have learned from many
      faithful women and men. You believe that Jesus took a ‘cup of wrath in our
      place’; I have been taught—through the witness of Perpetua, Felicity, Lucy, and
      countless other Christian martyrs—that the cup that Jesus drank is the same cup
      that his followers must drink:


      “Jesus said to them, ‘You
      do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink or
      be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’ They replied, ‘We are
      able.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I drink you will drink; and with
      the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized.’”

      -Mark 10:38-39


      Or as Bonhoeffer famously
      put it, “Whenever Christ calls us, his call leads us to death.” Jesus is our
      Lord, our hope, and our peace. If we will not follow Jesus, then we have no
      right to call ourselves Christians.


      As for the phrase “cup of
      wrath,” I am hesitant to say whether or not Jesus partook of that cup.
      Certainly Scripture gives us no indication that Jesus partook of a cup of wrath—a
      cup, yes; a cup of wrath, no mention. What do you mean by saying that Jesus
      took “the cup of wrath”? To what are you referring? You say “the” which means
      that you have a particular cup in mind. Which?


      Interestingly, the cup of
      wrath that we read about in Revelation 16:9 is reserved for “anyone who
      worships the beast and its image.” Who/what in particular is the beast? Well,
      that is quite difficult to say. We do know from Revelation 13:3 that the beast
      is marked partly by its ability to seduce large numbers of people: “The whole
      world was filled with wonder and followed the beast.” How do we identify
      worshippers of the beast? Again, not easy to say except that minimally, the
      followers will be those who are impressed by the beast’s mighty power: “They
      also worshiped the beast and asked, ‘Who is like the beast? Who can wage war
      against it?” Only those “whose names have been written in the Lamb’s book of
      life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world” will be spared the
      cup of wrath. But “this calls for patient endurance on the part of the people
      of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus.” (Rev. 14:12).


      May you and I, and Mark
      Driscoll, find ourselves not among those who “refused to repent and glorify God”
      (Rev. 16:9) but among those who are always being turned (“metanoia”) from
      worldly violence to worship and follow the slain Lamb. Let us be a people marked
      by patience—not the urgency required to manage rapidly growing “church networks”;
      a people marked by endurance—not cowardice in the face of bullies and literal
      bully pulpits; and a people marked by faithfulness to Jesus—not allegiance to Dirty
      Harry and other worldly gender constructs that occupy our moral imagination.

      • Exupernis

        Matt this is so right on. Thanks for writing about how you’ve changed your thinking regarding violence.  As a soldier going through a similar analysis of the violence I’m involved in, there are many thing you wrote here about MMA that seem to cross-over nicely to war.  Of course, I don’t think Mr. Driscoll has put out a clip regarding how war builds young men into dominating, determined and courageous leaders and therefore churches should have war events to capture these young men as they are the future of the culture…if they aren’t dead.  (No I have not googled this, he may put out such a clip).  Thanks Matt.  

    • Zach 4305


      Now someone explain to me how Martial Arts are not Eastern / “Easternism” ?

      Someone explain to me how I was not angry since coming back to Jesus
      UNTIL I started doing some Muay Thai training (Just kicking a long bag
      and a little stance work…) ?

      Why did my language clean itself up (other people pointed it out) UNTIL I found Driscoll’s preaching ?

      He said in the clip that “Yoga and Meditation and Easternism is all opening to demonism” . . .

      “If there’s a spark of divinity within you…” it’s Taoism… “it’s
      about connecting to the universe through meditation, It’s absolute
      paganism, it’s absolute paganism”.

      ” *Cheeky lil Grin* I don’t want ya to be hangin’ out with demons, doing
      demonic worship, being a pagan. I love ya, I just want good for ya,
      that’s all”.

    • Anonymous

      thanks for your response. I practice martial arts and have for about 8 years.  I can tell you that there are times when assuming the “full mount” position etc that I’ve been a bit uncomfortable.  There is an intimacy to that as well as a level of trust necessary to function in a martial arts environment.

      I disagree with Driscoll on male headship issues but I also disagree with those who would assert that there is simply no such thing as masculinity.  I think there is though it is hard to clarify it.  I find that among my liberal friends I get treated suspiciously if I surface that concept at all.  I have a group of young men in my church who fit what Driscoll talks about and there is a feminization of the church that does not respect them.  love to hear more…

  • Akhurricane

    Sounds to me like you should’ve listened to your doctors when they warned you about brain damage! I am curious about your credibility that you mentioned in the first paragraph though, because I can’t seem to find any. I’ve put your name through every major fighter search engine and can only come up with one misspelled name that has an astonishing record of 0 wins and 1 loss. I’m willing to be wrong on this, but it’s not looking good from this point of view.
    Also, I find your homosexual thought process, foul language, non-contextual quotations, and your view of women to be utterly detestable, and feel as though I just wasted precious time in my life by reading your Driscoll hate letter.

  • Donegese

    I just stumbled across this site and found this excellent description of mma and the church.  I was wondering what sports would you consider worthy of pursuit as a Christian Man.  I think that many of the track and field sports, highland games, powerlifting (not bodybuilding) would all be in the right vein whereas sports that’s primary purpose is to take out the opponent is not.

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  • http://valiantforthetruth.blogspot.com Micah Bales

    Thanks for this essay, Matt. I really appreciated reading it. I’d love to connect with you more, but cannot find a way to contact you besides here in the comments. Feel free to drop me a line. My email address is “micahbales” at Gmail.

  • Josh

    Not gonna lie—I have a hard time taking Driscoll seriously anymore.  He seems to have jumped the shark so to speak with all this hooey about masculinity including his chiding of those whom he doesn’t deem as manly.  Ridiculous.

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  • reluctant pacifist

    It is an interesting take on things. Ive been involved since 1995 with mma and muay thai. I never thought I would see a minister giving the thumbs up to mma. The fight itself is a pure form of combat but the business is dirty and full of all kinds of behind the scenes things that are completely unchristian. Not to say that a fighter cannot avoid them. I think the only striking point of this article is the absence of jesus christ as a potential MMA fighter. This speaks volumes. Christ is the example. I cannot see him fighting in a cage. I just cant. But I am not Jesus. I enjoyed the fight and the training. It gave me confidence and security in my manhood that no preacher could ever give me. It changed my life.

     I didnt have to follow some religious gimmick on manhood. When I confronted the demons of insecurity about confrontation, so much of my life fell into place as a male. Males are predatory from the playground to the office to the ring. When you know you belong and can hang, there is little left to scare you into not being a man. You need not hurt things lesser than yourself. The object is to win over things more powerful than you through willpower, etc. 

    I also do not believe that Jesus Christ would serve in the Military as a combatant. I do not believe he could put a bullet through the enemy. he had no enemies. Man created war, not God ( unless you get real about the OT) and sometimes we have to do things that we have to do. It is not a condemnation of a christiant for doing these things but the absence of Jesus on the list of fighters and soldiers is a question people will not answer in my conversations. They explain it in light of ‘scripture as a whole’ to justify the simple question of would Jesus fight or be a soldier and kill. All the other aspects are irrelevant. The kingdom of God is not the Kingdom of Earth. Its a paradox, imo.

  • sicarii67

    It is an interesting take on things. Ive been involved since 1995 with mma and muay thai. I never thought I would see a minister giving the thumbs up to mma. The fight itself is a pure form of combat but the business is dirty and full of all kinds of behind the scenes things that are completely unchristian. Not to say that a fighter cannot avoid them. I think the only striking point of this article is the absence of jesus christ as a potential MMA fighter. This speaks volumes. Christ is the example. I cannot see him fighting in a cage. I just cant. But I am not Jesus. I enjoyed the fight and the training. It gave me confidence and security in my manhood that no preacher could ever give me. It changed my life.

     I didnt have to follow some religious gimmick on manhood. When I confronted the demons of insecurity about confrontation, so much of my life fell into place as a male. Males are predatory from the playground to the office to the ring. When you know you belong and can hang, there is little left to scare you into not being a man. You need not hurt things lesser than yourself. The object is to win over things more powerful than you through willpower, etc. 

    I also do not believe that Jesus Christ would serve in the Military as a combatant. I do not believe he could put a bullet through the enemy. he had no enemies. Man created war, not God ( unless you get real about the OT) and sometimes we have to do things that we have to do. It is not a condemnation of a christiant for doing these things but the absence of Jesus on the list of fighters and soldiers is a question people will not answer in my conversations. They explain it in light of ‘scripture as a whole’ to justify the simple question of would Jesus fight or be a soldier and kill. All the other aspects are irrelevant. The kingdom of God is not the Kingdom of Earth. Its a paradox, imo.

  • Mara

    Very good article.
    I learned a new term: Therapeutic Misogyny.
    And it fits perfectly.
    The way Driscoll tears down women in order to build up men as always disturbed me.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/jeremy.mcnabb Jeremy McNabb

    I can’t anything of substance to the article or the author’s comments. I just wanted to thank him for taking the time to write such a well-written, de-mystifying piece. I loved the church history background as well.

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  • Harry

     I think the most egregious comment is his belief that men were “designed for combat”- and he seems to imply that inflicting violence on another man is approved of by God because that is an essential part of masculinity. He even calls it “pure”, compared to other sports where presumably you don’t beat up your opponent.
     Where’s the Fall in all of this? Do we really think sinless creatures would have any interest in combat? Granted, I think that application of force can be justified, as the Church has taught in her Just War theory (with great contributions from Saint Augustine) though my Protestant brothers here may disagree with me. Still, I think Christians can recognise violence as something that is a regrettable side effect of the fall.
     Also, although I would not hold myself up as a paragon of masculinity for various reasons, it seems bizarre to infer that a real man prefers to hurt other people in order to be comfortable in his masculinity. In fact, I think that men and boys who actually have an aversion to this kind of masculinity will become marginalised and confused by their own lack of interest in what others tell them they should like.

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  • Mindlesscogitator

    The war between good and evil is not one on the battlefield but within our hearts.

    • Mindlesscogitator

      “Won” not one/

      That’s what I get for trying to sound profound!

      Great article!

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  • Brunz Kluns

    My insecurities made me want to test my manhood in my words, in my attitude and in my thoughts. The only motivation to practice MMA/kickboxing was to get rid of my anger and frustration due to my insecurities. Now, thanks to the meditation in The Scriptures I read every morning I understand why I was unsuccessful: trusting in earthly things like machismo, which is the distorted view of males in society.

  • Lourens Grobbelaar

    This is a brilliant read thanks. I remember many years ago watching gladiator and enjoying the action of the gladiatorial fights. And then I realized I was just like the people that watched it in ancient days. I was blood thirsty, even if the action was faked.

    I also love that last quote from Hauerwas. Hopefully we will discover true biblical masculinity instead of turning to modern culture for that. I find myself continually trying to remember that I am a man even if I don’t drink myself in a stupor, swear and tell dirty jokes.

    There is so much more to enjoy about this article but I will suffice with this. As a fellow scholar I am impressed by the academic quality also.

    Greetings and blessings, Lourens Grobbelaar from South Africa.

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  • FG

    I realize this is a dead thread, but I just had to comment after reading this excellent article and especially your fascinating explanation of how this fighting sport requires you to psychologically “separate” from your body. I never thought of this but it makes complete sense.

    It made me think of the things I have learned since I moved to the country. A farmer–one who works with his hands, not always on a tractor–is one of the most embodied people you can find. Jobs like hoeing, splitting wood, carrying & sinking heavy posts, etc, require the exact kind of awareness of your body you describe yourself having to shed in your training–because a farmer can’t afford those five days in bed. (Five days!) If you feel a twinge in your shoulder, you get careful, because you *need* that shoulder. But even further, that physical awareness has to extend to the world around you; you need a feel for gravity, for the strength of the material you’re working with, for the current condition of the soil, for the weather. And a realistic feel for your own strength, no posturing (especially when lifting things), or you will get hurt. But when you do have a feel for all these things you find you are stronger than you knew. I’ve heard city guys describe how skinny-looking farmers can toss haybales around like they’re nothing while they themselves can hardly lift them. I myself am not very muscular at all, but I can split wood better than anyone my size that I know, because I understand the wood.

    So this is the type of body-theology I might offer, if someone really wants to talk about what a “real man” looks like. And yet I hesitate. I’ve felt drawn to the physical work I do and I feel it’s deepened something spiritual in me. On the other hand, I’m a woman.

  • FG

    I see I misremembered about the “five days in bed”; you said that after *five rounds* it too you a week before you felt like getting out of bed. Still the point is true, that a manual laborer couldn’t afford to take that kind of punishment b/c of how it would affect his work.

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