The First Church of Toxic Masculinity

It’s no surprise to anyone, or at least shouldn’t be, that fundamentalist Christianity is often home to a particularly toxic, violent version of masculinity. These days, many churches are actually incorporating Mixed Martial Arts fighting into their “ministry,” urging men in their congregations to kick the shit out of each other for Jesus.

The notion that MMA and Christianity are compatible bedfellows is loosely based on the ideology of Muscular Christianity, a mostly-male, Victorian-era movement that linked the gospel with physical and mental toughness. Two leaders of the movement – Charles Kingsley, a clergymen and scholar, and Thomas Hughes, a celebrated Victorian era author (and boxing coach) – sought to counter the perceived feminization of church and to attract men to the faith…

Like their Victorian forefathers, these organizations champion sport as a way to attract young men to faith in an age when the decline of church male membership has been well-documented. Yet MMA religious communities have refashioned Muscular Christianity to a new level of high-octane biblical masculinity.

“Jesus Didn’t Tap,” they proclaim, referring to the act of submission…

It’s this perception of “Jesus as fighter” that is at the heart of the Christian MMA ethos, one eagerly embraced by Mark Driscoll, a well-known, US-based evangelical pastor and MMA supporter.

“I don’t think that there is anything purer than putting two men in a cage…and just seeing which man is better,” Driscoll said … “… and as a pastor, as a bible teacher, I think God made men masculine… Men are made for combat, men are made for conflict, men are made for dominion.”

And then they wonder why those men who are formed in such a vile ethos commit violence against their wives and children.

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  • daved

    Because nothing says “I’m a Christian” like concussion-induced brain damage.

  • John Pieret

    Bah! MMA is for wimps! They should give ’em all swords and tridents and do what the Romans did … fight to the death! Or, maybe even better, have the same manly contests the early Christians had … bare handed against hungry lions!

  • http://composer99.blogspot.ca composer99

    So… violent competition and dominance-posturing is the way to show God’s abundant love for His creation?

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    And then they wonder why those men who are formed in such a vile ethos commit violence against their wives and children.

    That’s the fault of liberals, feminists and evolution. (Or “neopaganism” if you’re Catholic.)

  • Larry

    So, Charles, do you like movies about gladiators?

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    composer99: Ya gotta be cruel to be kind. In the right measure, of course…it’s the very design…

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    “I don’t think that there is anything purer than putting two men in a cage…and just seeing which man is better,” Driscoll said …

    Ohhhkay…

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    The first rule of Christ Club is you don’t talk about Christ Club.

  • http://artk.typepad.com ArtK

    @Raging Bee

    Buff, handsome, sweaty, half-dressed men at that. I’m sure that Driscoll gets very excited thinking about it.

  • tsig

    So when Christ said turn the other cheek he was referring to slapping someone across the jaw.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    I wonder how much of this nonsense is fed by the confluence of athletics and Christian evangelism. Mixing one’s religion with the priorities of team sports — disregard for intellectual matters, groupthink, tribalism, glorification of winners and contempt for everyone else, etc. — seems like an easy avenue for toxic attitudes to flourish with little or no moral restraint.

    Whatever happened to the kind of Christian who used to say that winning games and beating your enemies were worldly concerns that should be forsaken in favor of higher spiritual, intellectual and moral pursuits? Where’s that mind-body dualism when we need it?

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    So when Christ said turn the other cheek he was referring to slapping someone across the jaw.

    Or on his/her ass.

  • CJO, egregious by any standard

    This is so stupid. I mean, if you can take one thing out of the gospels, it’s that this guy, ostensibly with super-powers sufficient to thwart any violence against his person if he so chose, willingly submitted to a violent and degrading execution in order to save the world. He sure as hell did “tap”.

  • busterggi

    Dammit, now I want to watch ‘Brain Dead’ again, “I kick ass for the lord.”

  • sinned34

    Apparently Mark Driscoll didn’t notice that women compete in MMA as well. In my opinion, the women’s fights have been the most exciting and interesting ones on the last couple of UFC fight cards.

    Oh well. “Thank you Jesus for helping me kick that guy in the face.”

  • samgardner

    “I don’t think that there is anything purer than putting two men in a cage…and just seeing which man is better,”

    Umm, purely idiotic? purely brutal?

    Do they put them in cages when they’re chess players, too?

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Who could forget Jesus’ immortal words in the Sermon on the Mount:

    “Blessed are the Brazilian jiu-jitsu artists…”

  • Synfandel

    A new commandment I give you: Beat the snot out of one another.

  • http://artk.typepad.com ArtK

    … one eagerly embraced by Mark Driscoll, a well-known, US-based evangelical pastor and MMA supporter.

    Shouldn’t that be: “Mark Driscoll, a well-known, disgraced evangelical pastor…”?

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    “Jesus Didn’t Tap,” they proclaim, referring to the act of submission

    Then how did the Romans nail him up?

  • kenbakermn

    So, teaching violence in the service of religion – what could possibly go wrong?

  • anubisprime

    Well where would CDD be if it was not for christian ‘lurve’!

  • bmiller

    Pin this steroid, for this is my body.

    Drink this protein shake, for this is my blood.

    Anabol and Amen!

  • bmiller

    Composer99: So… violent competition and dominance-posturing is the way to show God’s abundant love for His creation?

    Have you ever READ the Bible? That showdown with the Priests of Baal was the first CAGE MATCH!

  • magistramarla

    This reminds me of the reports I saw a few months back about some fundi churches in the south that were raffling off guns and hunting paraphernalia to attract more of the males in the area to church.

    They were aiming at the Duck Dynasty fans.

  • dingojack

    “Jesus Didn’t Tap,”

    But you should’ve seen him (non) Tango!

    Dingo

  • http://drx.typepad.com Dr X

    @13,

    Well, they’ve got denial and anger down pat. Now they’ve got to work on bargain, depression and acceptance.

  • culuriel

    When I see a Christian beat up a lion, I’ll be impressed.

  • eric

    “I don’t think that there is anything purer than putting two men in a cage…and just seeing which man is better,”

    That last word is the key indicator of dysfunction. Many people enjoy martial arts for both the competitive and health/fitness aspects. But only the crazies think it somehow makes you “better” in the way these idiots mean it.

  • xuuths

    Sheriff to deputy in Superman 2: “You gotta kick ass if you wanna be a peacemaker.”

  • caseloweraz

    Raw Story: It’s this perception of “Jesus as fighter” that is at the heart of the Christian MMA ethos…

    Is this a trend? I mean, we have Glenn Beck’s movie, the Christmas card — plus the other indicators mentioned upthread.

    True, the movie and the card show Santa as the fighter. But they still paint Christianity as needing to be defended by violent means.

  • http://skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

    You’ve gone Full Macintosh there at the end, Ed.

    Whether violent sports/games leads to domestic violence, I don’t know. I do have some sense of what sort of evidence we’d need to see.

  • caseloweraz

    “Jesus Didn’t Tap,” they proclaim…

    He might well have tapped a keg, if cold beer had existed in those days. He was, after all, referred to as “a gluttonous man and a winebibber.”

  • caseloweraz

    Mark Driscoll: “Men are made for combat, men are made for conflict, men are made for dominion.”

    I wonder how these guys would do combatting the elements — as in mountain climbing.

    There is a “Seven Summits Women Team” whose goal is to conquer the highest peak on each of the seven continents. They started in 2008 with Everest, and just recently completed the quest on the Mt. Vinson Masiff (16,076 ft.) in Antarctica.

  • Goblinman

    “Jesus Didn’t Tap.”

    So, I’ve never been a Christian, but that seems like the exact opposite message of the Jesus story.

  • Lady Mondegreen (aka Stacy)

    Whether violent sports/games leads to domestic violence, I don’t know. I do have some sense of what sort of evidence we’d need to see.

    Good thing Ed didn’t suggest that they do.

    Jesus cages fighting Christ but you need to work on your reading comprehension, Reinhardt. Here’s a start: listen to what people actually say, rather than what you imagine they’d say based on the script in your head.

  • http://skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

    Ed makes a clear connection between the MMA ethos and “those men who . . . commit violence against their wives and children,” Stacy. That is, between a spectator sport featuring consensual interpersonal violence and nonconsensual criminal physical abuse. Perhaps I’m daft at reading, but the connection seems tenuous from where I’m sitting, here in my living room, watching reruns of classic boxing matches.

    Perhaps the Kennedy School of Reading Comprehension can clear this all up. What is the true relation of MMA to domestic violence, and what is the evidence therefor?