Christians and Cage Fighting, From “Fight Church” to Mark Driscoll

Fight Church is a beautifully-made documentary about why Christian men, including pastors, participate in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) cage fighting.

The film’s narrative is framed by a debate concerning whether or not Christians should support MMA, whether as fighters, trainers, and spectators. But these questions cannot be considered apart from the aesthetics of the film: the slow motion trajectory of fists, kicks, and body slams, choreographed to the romantic ambient score that serves as a soundtrack for the action in the cage.

The film’s style evokes an undercurrent that involves and exceeds directors Daniel Junge and Bryan Storkels’ goal “to tell this entertaining story in a completely objective tone.” Placing their film in context, they suggest that “Like the Oscar-nominated Jesus Camp, the film will present these incredibly provocative characters in an objective and often sympathetic light. We will ask the audience to come to their own conclusions about the connections between religion and condoned violence, as well as explore the growing mainstreaming of MMA in the US, and discuss Christianity in our post-modern society.”

But while documentary filmmakers insist that they are representing  ‘authentic’ reality all the decisions they make during production and in the editing room, whether lighting, soundtrack, camera angles, interview questions…(the list goes on) cannot claim to be made ‘objectively.’ Against the claims of filmmakers like Junge and Storkels to objectivity we audience members need to fine-tune our critical perspective—as participants in visual culture, we need to understand our own culpability the brutality we see in Fight Church, whatever our opinion of the morality of MMA.

To our collective detriment, it has become the default of arenas where ideological conflict and entertainment blur, including news programming, to stage objectivity as simply the presentation of opposing viewpoints.  In Fight Church, interviewees justify their positions for and against MMA using biblical verse, figures, and concepts—one of the most predominant articulated by both camps as being “love.” At the same time, the directors’ presumably good intentions are indexed by the time-lapse close ups of violence in the cage.

The pastors who promote MMA describe it as a “sport” through which to recapture man’s “God given attributes” of “aggressiveness” and “competitiveness”; the “strength to stand up to evil, wickedness, and unrighteousness”; a “warrior ethos”; and, the ability to “be prepared in advance” for a “battle out there” against an “enemy” that is “trying to seek and destroy us.”

While listening to such language, I could not help but think of Mars Hill, the church that remains embroiled in the recent controversy surrounding pastor Mark Driscoll.

Recent media coverage of Mars Hill’s ‘culture’ has focused on the graphically sexist, homophobic rhetoric Driscoll spewed relentlessly, using the anonymity afforded by an online alias, William Wallace II: a portrait in virtual violence.

Whether it is Driscoll or the men who justify the violence of MMA,  the ‘matter’ of violence gets lost in (dis)embodied spectacles, both visual and virtual, that infect cultural imaginaries and affective atmospheres. In their brutality within the cage and online, Fight Church and Driscoll enact what it means to be ‘authentic’ men—pre-emptively on the attack and cynical in their assessment of opponents as they wage violence against them.

At one point in Fight Church, a former MMA fighter-pastor (who we later see puking while training to get back into shape in order to physically defend his wife’s honor after she was slandered by another man on Facebook), proclaims: “I don’t think [MMA] is violent at all and I hate the use of that word the way most people use it—[violent] actually means to violate another’s rights…someone gets raped or robbed, that’s violence. This is two participants entering into a ring or a cage, saying we’re going to test each other today and best man’s gonna win—that’s not violence.”

Making violence a legal issue concerning the right to (certain forms) of bodily autonomy makes sense given the way the fight sequences romanticize the “controlled strength” described by Fight Church pastor Paul Burress and others as a test, mano a mano. The film sentimentalizes individualized competition as the greatest of risks, reinforcing meritocracy as a moral metric in a ‘free market’ system. In this sense, it is no surprise that MMA is rising in popularity—its violence not only symbolizes ‘authentic’ sport, masculinity, and bodily autonomy but viscerally recruits and emotionally seduces regardless of whether we find it right or wrong.

The felt distinctions between repulsion and joy or horror and titillation are far blurrier and more difficult to dismiss in terms of their affective political value than claims to objectivity would lead us to believe.

Preston Hocker (aka “The Pastor of Disaster”) states from the pulpit, with a right eye purple and puffy the day after losing a fight, “in life you have to be willing to take risks, otherwise you might as well just stay home. Sometimes you take a risk, you get hit in the face.” After a boy who loses a fight begins sobbing Paul Burress tells him, “Don’t cry…this is a good experience,” as the camera provides a close up of the boy’s face, red with shame.

Scene after scene in which the frenzy of brute force is slowed for the viewer so that we can witness and linger upon the bending of bodies and wills at leisure, offers up this brutality as safely confined to the cage and stylized to a romantic score. It is an almost pornographic perspective, whereby the violence of MMA is reduced to bloodied faces against a blue mat, screeching ambulance sirens, and tough guys who describe their motive to train in terms of defending their wives and bringing people to Jesus at any cost.

Unfortunately, any physical or emotional weaknesses that index vulnerability or risk outside of entering a cage with body coiled ready to strike is not balanced by the cinematographic artistry used during the fight sequences.

I suggest that, good intentions aside, the aim of providing an objective view of any ‘culture war’ debate, no matter who is participating or what the issue under discussion, cannot help but perpetuate our fascination with, attachment to, and fetishization of, what it means to be ‘authentic’—to scripture, to being a ‘real man,’ or to other beliefs. Our capacity to be persuaded that simply offering ‘both sides’ is sufficient to cultivate understanding inhibits the curiosity we need to have in order to take risks to learn more. Risks like questioning our own beliefs as well as others’ with generosity rather than defensiveness.

As a pedagogical tool, Fight Church raises a poignant question that is among those I consider when I think on the question of what is to blame for the spiritually abusive culture of Mars Hill Church: What is lost when so much value is placed on the artistry of ‘authenticity’ in ‘image’?

Respectful dialogue requires a depth of vulnerability that entails risk, as well as a strength that supersedes the embodied spectacle of black eyes, bloodied faces, and sweaty muscles objectified by the camera’s lens and viewer’s gaze via Fight Church.

In the film (and according to Driscoll) “mainstream Christianity” is to blame for producing “feminized men.” The lack of women’s voices throughout the film leaves an easy opening for critique (much like the doctrine of male headship does Mars Hill). However, rather than linger on the lack of female representation onscreen, I would like to draw attention to what we do learn from one of the few women who appears that isn’t a pastor’s wife or parading around the fight cage, scantily clad, holding up numbers.

Although we never learn her full name or hear her speak, a woman fighter plays a key role in the film’s conclusion. As a victorious Burress preaches on Easter Sunday, he looks down at a woman he calls Linda who bears the searing, swollen black eye of defeat and says,

When Jesus was being tortured and beaten, and he fell down to his knees, he powered back up, and he took it, and the soldiers beat him senseless, and the blood streamed across his face, and he was bruised, he was probably barely recognizable, but he stayed there, he took it, and as he hung on that cross his last words were telling. Forgive them, cause they don’t know what they’re doin’, he said, Father forgive them cause they don’t know what they’re doin’.

As the soundtrack’s angelic choir crescendoes, the camera takes us behind Burress—from this perspective we look up at his muscled posture as he cradles a bible, staring into the stage lights.

In a recent article, director Bryan Storkel admits, “As I’ve attended film festival screenings of Fight Church over the past few months, I’ve been somewhat concerned with how quickly people will often jump on the bandwagon of the fighting pastors and agree with their justifications and methodologies. At times, I’ve wondered if we are helping feed something that I don’t completely agree with…”

If you’re wondering what ‘culture’ led to the rise in celebrity of Mark Driscoll, pay attention to how you feel as you watch Fight Church—the quickening of pulse, tingling of skin, clenching of jaw. Fight Church drives home the message, viscerally, that violence can be justified in the name of religion.

 

73 Comments

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    Non-believers should be careful not to fall into this trap. We can’t beat Christians in the cage. They have nothing to lose, and all is fair in their battles. We also can’t outgun them, and it would be foolish to try. Nobody can win a spiritual battle, and those who take up a spiritual cause are in it to death, which from a religious perspective can be held up as victory. We need to keep this an intellectual contest. In that battle we can’t lose, and the spiritual fighters will have to run because they have nothing to bring to the fight. They want to change the venue to blood in a cage. Don’t give it to them.

  • robert.m.jeffers@lonestar.edu' Rmj says:

    I’m tempted to make some snide remarks about “intellectual contest,” but I’ll content myself with snide observations on my inability to completely eliminate a snide remark.

    What contest is this? With whom? People who disagree with you? You’ll be fighting that the rest of your life, and you never will win. Even an intellectual contest is a never-ending competition. Hang around a few academics long enough, you’ll find that out.

    Battling ideologies is forever. Elevating your side by saying we can’t beat the other side on their own terms just points out the nature of Wittgenstein’s language games: you are all using the same words, but not the same vocabularies. And frankly, all you’re doing in the “contest” is shouting at each other.

    There are far more constructive ways of being. Anything can be justified in the name of a struggle. The harder struggle, which the pastors quoted in the article don’t seem to begin to understand, is with yourself; and I don’t mean the struggle to train your body to be a more efficient and enduring fighting machine.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    I see the intellectual contest as between believers and non-believers, and the basic question is over the reality of Jesus. The Bible seems to be the record of the development of the Jesus story over a few centuries, and actually starting decades after the fact. Believers have a system of belief, and it was developed long after the times that the story is talking about, so that kind of means it didn’t actually happen. I think that has to be the beginning of a discussion of what Christianity is, although I know the contest is far from over. We have to just keep the discussion going until all the contradictions fall away.

  • reido56@gmail.com' Gideon says:

    The quaint notion that athletic competition necessarily trains character, leadership, teamwork, discipline, integrity, fair play, etc. rings more and more hollow as scandals continue to proliferate. For the participants, as well as everyone else involved, those attributes so often fail to translate meaningfully outside that context. Wrestling with temptation actually has little in common with wrestling…

  • aravistarkheena2@gmail.com' Aravis Tarkheena says:

    The opposite is true. The reality of Jesus is next to irrelevant to the believer, and so your imagined “intellectual contest” exists only in your mind.

    Do you really think that if views evolve to the point where the unreality of Jesus is the consensus among historians, it will have any effect whatsoever on the population of evangelical and pentecostal Christians? Because I am nearly certain that it will have none.

  • aravistarkheena2@gmail.com' Aravis Tarkheena says:

    I find the Christian Right’s worship of and obsession with violence bizarre. It seems hard to sustain, even upon the most casual survey of the message of the Gospels.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    They sold their soul to the party of the rich as a reaction to the social changes of the 60s. Seen from that point of view, it all makes perfect sense.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    It is our best shot at undoing Christianity. I know it will take a while, and might change only a few people at a time, but the change will have to come. I can’t imagine the world just continuing on for a million years with such a huge number of people believing in Jesus and his any moment now return.

  • aravistarkheena2@gmail.com' Aravis Tarkheena says:

    They don’t have to believe in Jesus in order to be committed soldiers for the faith, which is as much an ideology as it is a religion.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    The belief in Jesus is how they hook their children. At some point the philosophy will fall apart.

  • aravistarkheena2@gmail.com' Aravis Tarkheena says:

    I just don’t agree with you on this. The philosophy doesn’t require Jesus. You don’t need Jesus to hate homosexuals and believe that women should submit to men.. You don’t need Jesus to believe everyone should be packing heat. Etc…etc…

    What you need is affiliation with and loyalty to the group-think with which you identify. That some of the tropes employed in the group-think are fictional matters not one whit.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    I don’t agree with you either. There are two sides to this discussion, your side and my side. We can ignore the Christian side because they can’t enter into the discussion without screwing themselves in deeper than they already are, so they will just remain quiet on the sidelines.

  • desandberg@gmail.com' WilmRoget says:

    “It is our best shot at undoing Christianity.”

    So at the heart of it is your desire to eradicate something that millions of people find value in. How selfish and violent.

  • desandberg@gmail.com' WilmRoget says:

    Let’s be blunt then – your side is a form of overt prejudice. It dehumanizes much of humanity for the seek of your ego, and basically, as you articulated above, is a construct granting you permission to oppress and subjugate hundreds of millions of people.

  • zinealine@gmail.com' cranefly says:

    It seems completely oxymoronic to me. Not that I would claim non-violence as a uniquely Christian thing, but if Jesus meant what he said, it should be seen as a defining quality at least.

  • zinealine@gmail.com' cranefly says:

    It is a lot harder and a lot less intuitive to oppose violence than it is to support it conditionally. It is so hard to oppose violence that pastors can tell the story of Jesus hanging on the cross, emphasizing his not resisting, not fighting back, “taking it,” and believe that literally that man is God showing us how to act in the face of oppressors, and with their souls depending on it, they can manage to interpret it as a call to arms. That might be what Storkel is realizing in his final comment: That the slightest, worst, dumbest, most circular pro-violence apologetics will work because Christians are looking for any way out of the moral imperatives placed on them by their faith.

    Muhammad Ali was arrested for resisting the draft because he was so strongly, religiously opposed to the Vietnam War. So it’s possible to morally separate sport fighting from real fighting. But if you’re not separating them, you’re not.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    I think it is for the best. Christians are in a state where they believe with almost all their heart, Jesus is the savior, whether he is historically real or not, and they take comfort in comforting each other in the belief. Deep down at least some of them know Jesus is not coming, but for the sake of the group they would never express such a thing. I am trying to help these people see, you don’t have to be Christian. There is a better way.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    Sometimes truth has that effect.

  • pgoff@iupui.edu' Philip Goff says:

    There is an excellent article by Justine Greve in the most recent issue of “Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation” entitled “Jesus Didn’t Tap: Masculinity, Theology, and Ideology in Christian Mixed Martial Arts.” Using a “lived religion” approach, she gets past our claim that these ministries use “folk theology” and instead argues that the fighters experience a close connection between the sport and their religious beliefs. These fighters strive to embody Christian values by the bodily practice of their sport. As she states in the abstract, “Their focus on Jesus at the expense of doctrine does not indicate a lack of theology. Rather, the image of a manly Christ who will not give up represents a strong, assertive, masculine ideal that clearly fits into an evangelical worldview.” I encourage everyone to read the piece for more background on this alternative practice.

  • GMG248 says:

    I also wonder if there is a connection to the medieval practice of the mortification of the flesh through intentionally inflicted pain and injury. This article points to the great mystery of why we humans are so violent and self-destructive. Excellent insights and well written.

  • SWhaption6548@gustr.com' Frank6548 says:

    A sport can be violent but it’s not violence.

    Fight on MMA!

  • SWhaption6548@gustr.com' Frank6548 says:

    Undo Christianity? If there ever was a fools errand….

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    In today’s world the old Christian doctrines might be harming the religion more than helping. Bloodsport might make more sense as the next step in the evolution of the religion. It gives people something new to believe in, and a way to feel more deeply spiritual, win or lose.

    In Jesus’ name get bloody.

  • desandberg@gmail.com' WilmRoget says:

    Oppressors always think that the oppression they wish to inflict on others is for the best.

    “I am trying to help these people see, you don’t have to be Christian. There is a better way.”

    Homophobes say the same basic thing – that “you don’t have to be gay, there is a better way”. You are pedaling the same poison, under a different label.

  • desandberg@gmail.com' WilmRoget says:

    Homophobes say that a million times a day across the internet – you are pedaling the same poison under a different label.

  • desandberg@gmail.com' WilmRoget says:

    Again, Frank, when you call someone a fool, you put yourself in danger of the fires of hell. Besides, the only difference between you and Jim Reed is that the two of you target different groups of people for abuse and domination. You revile GLBTQ people, he reviles Christians.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    The point is you can’t express ideas on the topic, so you have to just express generic support for Christianity. There is just not much that Christianity can say in support of Christianity.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    The problems started with the development of the New Testament. It evolved along with the religion, then was applied backwards to an earlier generation to create the religion. It became a web of arguments (apologetics) that took until now to effectively untangle. Now we can see what the New Testament is, and we can see what the religion is. The religion will fight the exposure, but there is not much they can do in the long run. The current apologetics are pretty transparent, and a shrinking pool of believers will continue to worship at that alter.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    Onward Christian fighters. The beauty of the cage match is in the eye of the beholder.

  • sure6980@yahoo.com' Get a clue says:

    Jessica Johnson, did you see the story Brent Brookhouse did back in May/June on the subject? Misogyny, violence, and ruling by fear are prevalent at these type of churches. The Pastor can run amuck because he is surrounded by yes-men or those of the same mind, feeding their cult of personality with the weak.

  • I have a question as both a woman and a female minister: why are men so insecure in their ability to show honor and respect for each other and for the women in their lives as a way of showing the love that Jesus taught them? Jesus revered and loved his mother and Mary Magdalene was shown great favor by Jesus, and yet I do not remember him being thought less of as a man because he did not brutalize every man he saw who might have slandered them. In fact, he shamed those who would have used violence against a woman or each other for that matter.

    Have American men become so cowardly or insecure or whatever term you want to use because of the actions of women who demonize men as a way to gain power in certain circles and with the help of the media, that men have to resort to this kind of insane brutality and hateful speech to feel like men again? I thought we had moved past that point in our society.

    I was recently watching the series OUTLANDER on television, and at one point the male lead asks the heroine if the feelings that they share between them is unusual in a relationship. She tells him that in a loving relationship not really, but that what they have is special indeed. A little later he is teaching her how to defend herself with a knife from men without any sense of fear towards her; but when she uses what she has learned to defend herself against rape, he is gentle and consoling. In fact, he points out that every man and woman should know how to defend themselves in times of trouble. The male lead in the space of a few moments has taught her to kill and yet was not afraid to be gentle and consoling when she did so. He is protective of her in a way that is neither brutal nor false, but he also accepts that she is strong enough to protect herself if necessary, a fact he admitted later in the show while expressing concern for her safety in the situation they were in. Why do modern men feel that women cannot defend themselves, and that they, using the Bible as a crutch, feel that the modern man can both rape, slander, and abuse a woman one minute while saying that they must be shown they can be defended?

    I am at a loss as to what these types of fighter/preachers think that they are teaching people. If a man is secure in who he is as a man, one minute strong and the next gentle, knows he is capable of providing for his family because he is intelligent and able-bodied, and is willing to treat his spouse with respect for her intelligence and capabilities so they are equal partners in their relationship, instead of slave and master, then why on Earth would he want to subject himself to the kind of brutality that MMA or shows like WWF encourage? No woman thinks a man getting his brains beat out is any kind of a man, and in many cases, certainly not one that they want in their life because most women know that there is a good possibility, especially if the man believes women should be subject to man’s control, that they will be on the receiving end of one of those blows sometime. A movie glorifying this kind of violence or preachers condoning it are not showing God’s truth, and anyone who thinks it is should go back and read The Beatitudes in the Bible where it says the Meek Shall Inherit the Earth, followed closely with the readings about Jesus and the women in His life.

    Rev. Devon J. Noll
    New Word Universal Fellowship Church
    http://www.newworduniversalfellowship.org

  • Jim, for clarification: you believe that all Christians are like the ones who are fundamentalist right-wing Christians who follow the Prosperity, Dominionist, Reconstructionist, gun-toting, hate and war mongering leads of people like Ted Cruz, and as delusional in their beliefs about the teachings of Jesus? You believe if I understand you correctly, that if people understood how Christianity evolved, or any religion for that matter, that they would abandon their faith in God. I am not sure that I agree with you on some of your points.

    First, I know a good many Christians who embrace science and logic and are as appalled as you or I with the current religious climate in this nation calling itself Christianity. These Christians know how their faith evolved, and they understand that application of religious doctrine has to evolve along with their faith. While radical church leaders have led many astray, the vast majority of Christians do not agree with many church doctrine and often just ignore it as they live their daily lives.

    Second, having faith in God does not preclude believing things like climate change, evolution, or treating others without violence as the core of your beliefs. In fact, it is the search for knowledge that gives people a greater understanding of their faith, not the search for ignorance that seems to be what is being shoved down the throats of people of real faith these days.

    Third, forcing your beliefs on another, whether religious or atheistic, is wrong. People must find their own way, and when you think that destroying Christianity is the answer to finding a better way, I wonder why you feel so determined to shove your beliefs on others. You feel that a war of intelligence is one that you will win, but I hate to tell you this: this world evolved because of the work of great men and women in a variety of fields who all believed in God, most of them being Christians or Deists, like myself. They sought out answers to great questions to better understand the world, their fellow man, and God himself. They sought knowledge and they helped us evolve. And they did so all while believing in God, often under the auspices of the very churches you revile.

    Today’s honest Christians still seek knowledge, but they are hidden from media view because of the hateful false preachers who seek power and money over anything else, including intelligence, and they pander to the most ignorant levels of our society to do so. But those who think that words will ever win an argument with a guy holding a gun and demanding you convert to his faith need only look at the videos from the Middle East. Words may serve you in the halls of debate, but in a culture inculcated with violence as a show of faith, you will always find yourself on the losing end, and if the crazies that call themselves Christians today have their way, your words might very well get you killed in the future, right alongside of me.

    Rev. Devon J. Noll
    New Word Universal Fellowship Church
    http://www.newworduniversalfellowship.org

  • SWhaption6548@gustr.com' Frank6548 says:

    Displaying your biblical ignorance again I see.

  • desandberg@gmail.com' WilmRoget says:

    Nope. Your sin is showing again.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    I think you have mistaken my lack of respect for Christianity for me trying to force my beliefs on others and shove things down their throats. I don’t feel I have ever done that. I try to only say things that are reasonable, and sometimes do it with a sense of humor.

    I know all Christians are not like the right wingers. I see Christianity as splitting into two groups. One group believes all the traditional beliefs, like heaven and hell, and belief in the name of Jesus is the path to salvation, and rapture, and all the Bible is true, and some of science can be true, but some of it is overridden by the Bible. There is also the other side, progressive Christians.

    To Progressive Christians, heaven and hell might not be literally true. The Trinity is open for question. The creeds are optional. In fact, everything is optional, possibly even belief in the resurrection and miracles of Jesus. I have been trying to open up a discussion here so that we can find out exactly what progressive Christianity is. What do they believe? There would have to be something, because otherwise progressive Christianity is only a stepping stone on the road to secular humanism.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    The situation you are describing is just one of the effects of living in modern day America. We have been driven into a state where we run on hate. It begins with the class warfare. The rich have been winning and becoming more rich. The gap between rich and poor has grown about ten fold in the last few generations. A few decades ago we were losing our pensions and health care. Then our jobs, and homes. Then our food stamps. The rich keep getting richer. We can’t fight them, so we fight each other for the scraps that they leave to us. They keep us divided through a growing list of hatreds so that we will keep fighting each other, and not them. Women need to get over it. This is nothing personal. It is just us fighting for survival in a world where there is less and less to fight over, so the fight becomes ever more important to us.

  • desandberg@gmail.com' WilmRoget says:

    Your point is not reflective of reality.

  • MMA is a sport, with a greater variety of techniques but no more violent than say, boxing. And it is safer than something like professional football, the long-term health effects (esp. on the brain) we are only beginning to understand. I actually learned a lot about ministry from MMA, as I talk about here: http://seedbed.com/feed/top-5-things-ive-learned-pastoral-ministry-mixed-martial-arts/

  • fiona64@livejournal.com' fiona64 says:

    Sports do not develop sportsmanship; they merely amplify the sportsmanship (or the lack thereof) the athletes already possess.

  • fiona64@livejournal.com' fiona64 says:

    You love watching those guys, don’t you, Frankie? Some of them are pretty hot, amirite?

  • imjessietr@yahoo.com' Kelly says:

    If you’re into that kind of thing, fine. Just don’t slap Jesus’ name on it.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    If that was true, then people would be questioning me about it.

  • SWhaption6548@gustr.com' Frank6548 says:

    Still acting the part of the fool I see.

  • fiona64@livejournal.com' fiona64 says:

    No, that honor belongs to you. Come out of the closet, Frankie. Admit that the reason you watch MMA and WWE is that you think the guys are hot.

  • desandberg@gmail.com' WilmRoget says:

    You are not the center of the universe, and orders of magnitude more goes without involving you at all, than occurs with involving you in any way.

  • desandberg@gmail.com' WilmRoget says:

    “I think you have mistaken my lack of respect for Christianity for me
    trying to force my beliefs on others and shove things down their
    throats.”

    No, it is your presence here, articulating your contempt for Christianity with claims that are based entirely on your ego and your contempt, that indicate you are trying to shove things down people’s throats.

    Your vision of Christianity is extremely divorced from reality. There is tremendous diversity, and even within the two huge categories you’ve outlined, considerable variety.

    For example, there are evangelicals who believe ‘homosexuality is sin’, and evangelicals who do not. There are Roman Catholics who believe church doctrine on birth control, and Roman Catholics who do not.

    ” I have been trying to open up a discussion”

    No. You’ve been posting a lot of false assertions and then insisting that you are correct.

  • SWhaption6548@gustr.com' Frank6548 says:

    Fiona.. Constantly lowering the bar on herself. So sad.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    The discussion I wanted to have is what is progressive Christianity? Is it just something that is different for everyone, and can mean anything you want? If so then it doesn’t really mean anything, other than this is a majority Christian nation and you have decided to join in and be Christian like the majority. All politics or any theologies are acceptable.

    If it is more than that, if there is something that defines someone as Christian (and progressive Christian) what is it? That is what is hard to get to nowdays because all of the traditional Christian doctrines seem to be becoming optional for a progressive Christian in today’s America.

    When I was younger, this was never questioned. I appreciate living in a time when these more difficult religious issues can be discussed, at least can be discussed on RD, at least I think they can.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    I agree.

  • desandberg@gmail.com' WilmRoget says:

    So you recognize the intrinsic flaw in your ego-driven conclusion: “If that was true, then people would be questioning me about it.”

    yet made that assertion anyways.

  • desandberg@gmail.com' WilmRoget says:

    “The discussion I wanted to have”

    The point is that your approach has not been to seek discussion, but to define and revile progressive Christianity. You made false and derogatory pronouncements about this subject you are clearly under-educated about.

    Your premises and questions are derived from your bias and your extremely obvious need to reject and denigrate progressive Christianity.

    You are not fooling anyone.

    “When I was younger, this was never questioned.”

    It may not have been questioned by you, or in front of you. But you are not the totality of all existence, and more things occur without your knowledge or awareness, than occur with your knowledge or awareness.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    You said my point was not reflective of reality. I think if that was true, there are people here who would be happy to rip me apart over it. Even you. You can say a lot of disapproving things, but I don’t see anywhere that you have anything specific to say about reality problems with what I have said, other than you totally disagree with me.

  • desandberg@gmail.com' WilmRoget says:

    ” I think if that was true, there are people here who would be happy to rip me apart over it.’

    And so, you are defining reality, the totality of existence, by what you experience.

    It may be the most of existence simply choses not to bother with you.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    That is true. It is also an opportunity to say things again. I think there are some important things that need to be said. Maybe nobody cares.

    Another possibility is they keep quiet because they know there is a problem, and they feel like if nobody says anything, maybe the problem will go away, or at least the discussion will go away. In any case, discussing it can only make things worse for your side if you have nothing to say. That is why I sometimes repeat things.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    I might be teasing progressive Christianity a bit, but I feel like I am always denigrating Conservative Christianity far more, but that goes without saying.

    I do very much want to seek discussion about what what progressive Christianity is, but if the discussion can’t be started, then the next best thing is to make it clear that they are avoiding discussing exactly what they are. I suspect that is the case because I don’t think it would be easy for them to talk about.

  • fiona64@livejournal.com' fiona64 says:

    Frankie, constantly proving that the bar has been lowered repeatedly on his head since birth. So sad.

  • desandberg@gmail.com' WilmRoget says:

    “I might be teasing . . .”

    That would be deliberately dishonest.

    “I do very much want to seek discussion”

    Well, you are going about it completely the wrong way. Perhaps that is why no one else will respond to you – because you are being abusive, judgmental and fundamentalistic about it.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    I do appreciate your responses. It is often an opportunity to get into areas that are not normally touched in a more one sided conversation. The point about going about it the wrong way is more complicated than what you are saying. Is there a right way? A discussion about Christianity has to be more than just going over the apologetics. It needs to be critical questions about what is behind it all, and if it makes sense. It can’t just degrade into a testamonial. These are the discussions that Christianity normally wants. They want respect, and they want questions that might be too hard to just not be asked.

    I am not really going by RD here, but more by real life discussions. which means mostly with family. This is decades, most of my life. Discussing Christianity is hard, and it seems to go other directions, and it seemed to me like I could never figure out how to ask the questions that were in my mind. So I tried harder. Still can’t ask the questions, so I tried even more harder. Eventually I started to understand, the problem is not me. If I try to ask questions about Christianity, I get pleasant non-responses. After I learned to try hard enough, the responses were less pleasant. Once it got to the point where I was actually saying what I wanted to say, I was talking to a brick wall. I don’t think there is any “right” way to question Christianity, at least not one that effectively does question. You will find yourself up against a barrier that has been constructed and fortified over many centuries.

  • SWhaption6548@gustr.com' Frank6548 says:

    You can’t even be original in your insults. Pitiful.

  • SWhaption6548@gustr.com' Frank6548 says:

    Yeah the barrier you bump up against is the truth. No wonder it won’t budge.

  • fiona64@livejournal.com' fiona64 says:

    I hear your Mommy calling, Frankie. Time to eat your pancakes.

  • SWhaption6548@gustr.com' Frank6548 says:

    The public train wreck continues.

  • fiona64@livejournal.com' fiona64 says:

    Yep. Every time you open your mouth.

    How was brekkie, Frankie? Did mummy cut your toast into little soldiers for you?

  • zinealine@gmail.com' cranefly says:

    Christians are taught that “God is Good.” Both conservative and progressive Christians believe that, but conservative Christians believe that God is only good to them. Progressive Christians see Jesus’ teaching and actions as inclusive rather than exclusive, non-violent rather than violent, and self-sacrificing towards the weakest and least deserving, rather than towards the best and most righteous. It’s often more about how you choose to live than what you think happens after you die. But secular humanism is unsatisfying to many of them because there’s no challenge involved.

    Because “God is Good,” progressive Christians can’t imagine that God is less compassionate than they are. Most of them probably believe in the same basic metaphysics as regular Christians: Jesus, Mary, sacraments, heaven, etc. But they allow people to be complicated and God to be compassionate.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    They believe in Jesus, Mary, sacraments, heaven, but it is not quite the same. These things can be both true and not true if that is what the religion requires. It is a work in progress.

    You have to push them on the metaphysical beliefs, expose contradictions and weaknesses. Then watch their reaction. You will get very different reactions from conservatives or progressives. The conservative reaction might be f off. The progressive reaction might be more to backtrack.

    It’s often more about how you choose to live than what you think happens after you die. But secular humanism is unsatisfying to many of them because there’s no challenge involved.

    Is that a logic trick you are playing there? Secular humanism is about how you live, and nothing after you die. Christianity adds the promise of heaven. They downplay it and can’t allow themselves to think that is the main reason for being in the religion. I think Christianity is evolving. There are probably fewer sermons preached today about the glories of paradise and the horrors of the fire and brimstone than were used to entice and frighten believers 150 years ago.

    The nation is becoming deeply divided both politically, and spiritually. The split between Republicans and Democrats grows, and in parallel the split between progressive and conservative Christians grows. The beauty of politics is it is possible for it to totally change over the time span of one or two election cycles. If you change your position, pretty soon it makes no difference what you said or did or believed before because things are changing. This means the political divide can be healed at some point when that becomes the only option. It might not make as much sense in a spiritual context. A spiritual divide can’t heal the way a political divide can. Of course from a political viewpoint, caring about the spiritual is tied to value of the voting block. If you can find a way to trade up for a bigger voting block, then the older one can be dropped.

  • zinealine@gmail.com' cranefly says:

    I’m not trying to play tricks. My hypothesis is that both progressive Christianity and secular humanism are more about life than death, but that they tend to have characteristic differences in their approaches to life. What secular humanism asks of a person is less clear to me than what progressive Christianity asks. Secular humanism values rationality and prosperity. Christianity values irrational sacrifice and poverty. I don’t have strong metaphysical convictions, but I am very irrational, so the latter appeals to me more, however bad I am at living up to it.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    I guess I was forgetting about the Christians who value poverty.

  • zinealine@gmail.com' cranefly says:

    To be fair, I can see why they would be very easy to forget.

  • SWhaption6548@gustr.com' Frank6548 says:

    Its so easy to expose you for the fool that you are. Pitiful.

  • fiona64@livejournal.com' fiona64 says:

    Hey, Frankie; John Cena’s on TV. I know you think he’s hot …

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    Actually Jesus’ name is kind of a generic thing that everyone can use for whatever beliefs they are in to. Of course that makes it fine what you are saying, because one use of the name is for you to use it as a device to tell others not to use the name for their purposes.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    You don’t need scriptures because a minister can learn what he needs to know about Jesus from cage fights. You can also learn a lot of it from boxing and football. Wars like Iraq and Afghanistan are also great for learning about Jesus, but not so much wars that are too foreign in nature like Vietnam.

  • aravistarkheena2@gmail.com' Aravis Tarkheena says:

    No more violent than boxing.

    ———

    In boxing, if someone goes down, their opponent is not permitted to sit on their chest and beat their faces into a bloody pulp. Indeed, a good ref will call a match in boxing if either of the contestants is shaky on their feet.

    MMA is about two inches away from outright street brawling. It is a disgrace to sports. And the idea that someone would learn about ministry in a religion, whose core principle is non-violence is so demented, it’s hard to know what to say in response, other than “ugh.”

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