Mark Driscoll, the prominent West Coast mega-church minister at the helm of Mars Hill Church is getting some tough publicity for his approach to disciplining his members. But its an ill wind that blows no good as the hype brought his interesting take on MMA to my attention.
Driscoll is not only an outspoken advocate of MMA, he's also very well informed. Check this ~10,000 word piece he wrote in November. Not only does he make a case for combat sports as part of a Christian's life, he also outlines the rules, history and ethic of the sport:
Today, there remains much controversy around the sport due to what I believe are two primary reasons. One, many people simply do not understand the rules in place to help make MMA safer for the athletes. Two, it's a new sport and will take some time and the kind of exposure that main events on FOX will provide to quiet some critics.
Some Christians will vocally declare that we must reject MMA. Sometimes it's because they simply do not understand the nature of the sport and misperceive it, and other times it's because they are pacifists theologically who don't condone violence in any form. Their picture of Jesus is basically a guy in a dress with fabulous long hair, drinking decaf and in touch with his feelings, who would never hurt anyone. The problem is that Jesus probably had short hair (1 Corinthians 11 says it was a disgrace in that day for a man to have long hair), was in good shape from a labor job and lots of walking across rugged terrain, and upon his return will come again not in humility but rather in glory.
Of course he's also got some concerns that strike me, as a non-Christian, as rather eccentric if not deeply ignorant:
Additionally, some argue that we should reject MMA because some aspects of the sport stem from Eastern religions and philosophy. Indeed, this was some of the pushback on my recent post on yoga, "Christian Yoga? It's a Stretch." To this I would agree on a certain level. I would not encourage anyone to study under a teacher who, in addition to combat techniques, was also pushing non-Christian philosophies and Eastern spirituality. As stated earlier, MMA involves a host of various combat traditions, including disciplines such as wrestling and boxing that do not have roots in Eastern religion. Further, as I stated in the yoga post, it's wholly acceptable for Christians to engage in the physical aspects of stretching, including yoga-type stretches, without engaging in the practice of yoga itself as it's been understood and practiced for thousands of years. My further caution was to not use the word yoga since it has such religious and cultural background that is antithetical to Christianity. Similarly, one can practice combat sports and learn various techniques without immersing oneself in the philosophy and culture of such activities.
More after the jump including Driscoll using quotes from prominent fighters to cement his stance...
He also quotes from several MMA fighters who are practicing Christians including UFC light heavyweight champ Jon Jones, legendary veterans Ken Shamrock and Matt Lindland and Ben Henderson. Here's some quotes he runs from Henderson, who fights for the UFC lightweight title at UFC 144:
"Through music, that's one way I like to proclaim my faith. I try not to be overly pushy, but let people know. . .I'm not the best at converting people, but what I can do is live my life a certain way. . . I don't do the club scene, I don't go to bars. By people seeing that, that affects them in a bigger way than me talking about it.
"Before all my fights, the only thing I pray for is strength and honor. . .I'm not one of those guys who is about the violence and. . .idolizing the lifestyle of money and fame. A lot people, when they fight, they're afraid of losing. I realize there's something more important in my life. So I don't fight to not to lose, I fight to win."
But rest easy, he's not saying that a good Christian HAS to cage fight:
Not everyone should participate in MMA, watch it, or even enjoy it. The Bible doesn't command us to, and God's people are free to operate according to conscience on this matter.
Now I'm not bringing this up so we can hate on Mr. Hill or his faith, I just found it to be an interesting perspective on MMA. Tread lightly in the comments. We'll have the ban hammer ready and we're not very forgiving.
The discussion should be limited to the context of the piece, ie how people of faith reconcile their fondness for MMA with their beliefs. Any attempt to steer the discussion into one of the actual or relative merits of any particular faith or lack of faith will result in a swift banning.