There’s been a lot of talk so far this year about the church and mixed martial arts (MMA). The New York Times had a story in February, “Flock Is Now a Fight Team in Some Ministries,” which read, in part,
Recruitment efforts at the churches, which are predominantly white, involve fight night television viewing parties and lecture series that use ultimate fighting to explain how Christ fought for what he believed in. Other ministers go further, hosting or participating in live events.
The goal, these pastors say, is to inject some machismo into their ministries — and into the image of Jesus — in the hope of making Christianity more appealing. “Compassion and love — we agree with all that stuff, too,” said Brandon Beals, 37, the lead pastor at Canyon Creek Church outside of Seattle. “But what led me to find Christ was that Jesus was a fighter.”
With all this talk about MMA in the church, does anyone else see what I do: MMA is the most homoerotic sport I’ve ever seen.
I was a classics major in college. There I learned that it was a long-held conclusion in the academic community that the athletic games of ancient Greece were highly homoerotic. Men raced and wrestled naked and greased in front of adoring fans. (Interesting historical fact: before the invention of jock straps, a wrestler would get his penis out of the way by securing his foreskin to his torso with a large safety pin — OUCH!)
Sexuality — and homosexuality — was a overt part of ancient Greek society. That same society founded Pankration at the first Olympic Games in 648 BC. The original MMA, Pankration was a mixture of boxing an wrestling carried out between two naked, greased men. It was outlawed by the Christian Byzantine Emperor Theodosius I in AD 393, and it was the only event of the ancient Olympiad not reinstated in the modern Olympics in 1896.
I’m not the first person to see the homoerotic nature of MMA. A couple years ago in OUT Magazine, Mark Simpson wrote, “Fight Club: How Gay Is MMA?” His conclusion: MMA is “gay porn for straight men”:
In the octagonal UFC cage set up over the Bell Centre ice hockey rink — octagonal perhaps because it better affords multiple viewing angles than a square boxing ring — Mac Danzig is still on his back; his sweaty, pumped, almost translucently white torso is flushed with the auburn heat that auburn skin produces when it is aroused. His panting, fetching head has been pushed up against the cage by redhead Marc Bocek’s energetic pounding, as if the cage were in fact a headboard. Bocek isn’t making love, however, or at least not the vanilla kind. He’s hammering the living daylights out of Danzig, stoking the crowd into ever-higher waves of frenzy. Although the Octagon is right in front of me, I’m watching all of this on one of the giant screens overhead: MMA is mostly a horizontal sport — one that requires multiple zoom lenses and a big TV to enjoy properly.
Websites abound for gay fan clubs of MMA, something you won’t find in the relatively non-sexual sports of football and baseball.
So it is, of course, ironic that the churches and pastors who are touting MMA are doing so in order to inject some masculinity into American Christianity. What they seem to be missing — or maybe just what they refuse to admit — is that they’ve chosen the one sport on the American scene that is highly sexually charged. And the sexuality in MMA is not hetero.
Of course, conventional wisdom has long held, with lots of anecdotal evidence to back it up, that we preach most fervently against the very sin that we are struggling with.