Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What would Jesus say about MMA? An introduction

On November 12, 1993 a new sport burst on to the American scene, which was bathed in blood, testosterone, and physical violence. With its fights to the finish, its no-holds barred rules, its bloodied and battered contestants, and its showcase of shocking real life brutality, it not only gained a rabid following among martial artists and fight fans, it also rapidly acquired a reputation for violence and inhumane brutality, viewed by some as nothing less than “human cockfighting.” It was not just the bloody slugfests which played out on the canvass inside the steel cage otherwise known as the “Octagon” that shaped perceptions of it being nothing more than primitive violence, it was many of the fighters themselves which contributed to this perception. Large thickly muscled men, covered in tattoos, sporting menacing glares, and taking on names such the “Axe Murderer,” “the Dean of Mean,” and “The Baby Faced Assassin” underscored its image of violence. Of course, the sport is called Mixed Martial Arts (otherwise and hereafter referred to as MMA) and it is wildly popular, financially lucrative, and what is more, its here to stay, having carved out a powerful marketing niche among young males between 18 to 35 years of age.

Not surprisingly, given its violent nature, accompanying its rise in popularity is a chorus of critics. These critics raise ethical questions about the sport, arguing that it glamorizes violence, it subjects participants to extreme and unnecessary physical risks, and it leads to a number of undesirable unintended consequences, not the least of which is a growing class of violent criminals who are becoming more sophisticated in their attacks on law-enforcement personnel. Given the apparently violent nature of the sport and the host of ethical questions which it generates, it might be surprising to some that a number of MMA fighters (Quinton Jackson, Matt Hughes, Rich Franklin, etc.) and now an MMA apparel company (you probaly wouldn't believe it unless you saw it for yourself, enjoy! http://www.nosubmit.com/) self-consciously and explicitly identify themselves as both Christian and proponents of the MMA industry. Immediately, such a congenial alliance between apparently disparate and unexpected parties prompts an intriguing question: what would Jesus say about MMA?

In a series of articles I plan to address this question from a number of angles including Jesus’ explicit prohibitions against taking vengeance on others, against unrestrained anger, as well as his undeniable calls for promoting peace and loving one’s neighbor. The question which we will particularly aim to answer is whether one can participate in a sport which intentionally seeks to inflict physical damage on an opponent and still maintain a valid claim to be a follower of Christ.

In the course of these articles, I don’t want to simply be answering my own questions about the ethics of MMA, I want to hear from you, and try to address questions which you may have as well. So please, come back and join me in discussing what Jesus would say about MMA.

1 comment:

Vic said...

This should prove interesting!