05 February 2010

Share Your Faith Question #4: Reaching Out (With Fists)

Christian mixed martial arts t-shirt from Jesus Didn't Tap

How far would you go to attract new people to your congregation? Would you embrace (a legal, regulated, popular form of) violence?*

Some churches have.

A piece in Tuesday's New York Times reports that in order to reach men ages 18 to 34, "whose church attendance has been persistently low," some evangelical Christian churches have turned to "mixed martial arts---a sport with a reputation for violence and blood that combines kickboxing, wrestling, and other fighting styles."

This popular, MMA-based programming (which can include everything from "fight night television viewing parties and lecture series that use ultimate fighting to explain how Christ fought for what he believed in" to live fight events hosted by churches) is necessary, pastors argue, to combat the "feminized" atmosphere of church, which they believe alienates young men. "Promoting kindness and compassion at the expense of strength and responsibility," they say, is what keeps men away; using mixed martial arts allows them to "inject some machismo into their ministries [...] in the hope of making Christianity more appealing."

Men, the piece says, are responding to this ministry in ever-growing numbers. Through it, one tells the reporter, he "realized that a person can fight for good."

This week's question: Have you ever felt distanced from church because of your age or gender? Do you think congregations should be free to use unconventional (even non-religious) outreach tools to draw in people who wouldn't otherwise be interested in attending their services?

Comments are, as always, most welcome!

*Mixed martial arts fighting is legal in 42 states.

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