The title? That’s a direct quote.
It was stated by a man I’ve known since I was in elementary school. He also worked with my dad for twenty-some plus years and, to this day, they remain training partners. Anytime I’m back home in the fine state of North Carolina, I’ll hang out with them in a gym they fondly refer to as “The Dungeon.” It’s called the dungeon because it’s old, small, has few machines, lots of free-weights, and big boys (with even bigger girls) far less concerned with circuit training and fashion apparel than with getting huge and ripped. It’s a sight, that’s for sure. The owner, one of my favorite human beings in this solar system, is a “born-again Pentecostal.” In the eighties, he took every kind of steroid he could swallow, consume and inject, but now “plays it straight for the Lord.” He also plays, on the gym’s stereo no less, his share of incredibly bad Christian music.
I guess you call it music.
Anyway. It’s a bit unnerving except when I can convince him to break into the slightly more tolerable genre of Christian hard-core. You know how it goes: sXe, jXc, hXc, whatev’, I’m talking Straight-Edge for Christ! The Triple X with JXC! “Doing it for the kids!”
Yeah . . . it’s a bit ridiculous, but after all these years I still can’t help but floor-punch to Strongarm.
My dad and mutual friend in question are what you might refer to as ‘muscle-heads.’ Old school power-lifters. For these guys and gals, it’s a way of life (and for those who infuse it with Jesus, like the owner of the gym, the dynamic becomes even more interesting). My father has had five shoulder surgeries because he thrashed them bench-pressing insane amounts of weight. He’s a beast. Further evidence that I was totally adopted.
That’s all beside the point.
One day in the gym a colleague of mine, who happens to be a rockin’ feminist anthropologist at Elon University, was narrating the story of one of the old-school, hardcore, steroid-induced, semi-professional bodybuilders who had recently been in a bad accident and, because of it, “found Jesus” (don’t ask where–I’m just speaking the language). Several weeks passed and he started to recover. During his time in the hospital, one of his friends had, apparently, comforted his girlfriend/partner/mate/significant other a little too much. I don’t know the details, but what I do know is that this Lou Ferrigno wanna-be didn’t like it. So, he did what any person who was 245lbs with about 9% body fat would do–he put the guy through a wall.
He drove the man through an apartment wall into another person’s living room. You have to admit, that’s some pretty impressive strength.
Scary, but impressive.
As the anthropologist/bodybuilder was relaying the story I asked, “I thought you said he found Jesus?”
My father’s friend, and longtime workout buddy, quickly responded, “Just because you love the lord doesn’t mean you can’t knock the hell out of somebody.”
There was a brief momentary silence that was almost immediately interrupted by my genuine laughter. Tears were almost rolling out of my eyes.
I mean, come on . . . it is kind of funny.
It was stated with such sincerity and conviction–as if I were crazy to even pose the question as to what Jesus had to do with this sort of situation. Plus, to be honest, I just had no response. I face, almost on a daily basis, some of the most ridiculous things to ever come out of a person’s mouth in my classrooms (look for a top-ten post on this one pretty soon), yet, in this case, I didn’t even know where to begin.
In one sense, I was blown away because his response to me sounds like the kind of dribble that gets Mark Driscoll aroused.
Yet, I find myself friends with a person I would never in a million years bestow with such a horrible insult.
So . . . I laughed. But I followed my laughter saying, “Well, you know, Jesus did teach peace, forgiveness, and love of enemies. It’s kind of the core of his teachings. Maybe this is one of those instances where following Jesus demanded a slightly different response than putting another human being through a wall.”
This man who has been a Christian of some stripe his entire life, whom I’ve known since I was a little kid, looked at me and said, “The guy #@$-ed his girlfriend while he was lying in a hospital. He’s lucky he didn’t kill ’em. I bet if he hadn’t found Jesus he would have killed ’em. I think that proves he’s come a long way.”
The owner of the gym, though none too happy with the curse word employed in our mutual friend’s justification for violence, agreed. “It’s true,” he said, “He’s come along way. Had it been a few months early, it would have been much worse. Really, it would have been bad.”
Well . . . praise Jesus for small victories, I guess.
About the Author
Tripp York teaches religious studies at Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk, Virginia. He is the author of more than half a dozen books including, Third Way Allegiance, The Purple Crown, and Living on Hope While Living in Babylon. He is the co-editor of the forthcoming three-volume collection called the Peaceable Kingdom Series. An actor and a lighting designer, Tripp also surfs and spends his weekends shoveling elephant and giraffe poop.