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Fonzie of the Week #20: Kung-Fu Jesus

February 5th, 2010 2 comments
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“Do to others what you would have them do to you.”

-Jesus of Nazareth, Matthew 7:12 (New International Version)

“Frank Mir had a horseshoe up his ass. I told him a year ago. I pulled it out and I beat him over the head with it. […] And when I get home tonight, I’m going to drink a Coors Light. That’s a Coors Light because Bud Light won’t pay me nothing. And hell, I might even get on top of my wife tonight.”

-Current UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar

I’m so stupid. For 30 years now, I thought I had a clue what Jesus was all about: doing unto others, loving your neighbor, all that crap. But it turns out I was wrong! As reported in the New York Times on Tuesday, a number of churches across the country are taking advantage of the growing popularity of “mixed martial arts” and incorporating the sport into their ministries, mainly because it attracts young men who otherwise wouldn’t attend church. As Brandon Beals, the lead pastor at Canyon Creek Church, puts it: “Compassion and love — we agree with all that stuff, too. But what led me to find Christ was that Jesus was a fighter.”

See? Jesus was a fighter. And to think all these years I had him incorrectly pegged as a longhaired pacifist “Prince of Peace.” Can you imagine? I bet Jesus would pull a horseshoe out of my ass and beat me over the head with it for getting him so wrong. And so, in recognition of his uncanny ability to attract the extremely desirable young male demographic (WAAAAY harder than say, walking on water or returning from the dead), Kung-Fu Jesus is Fonzie of the Week. Spoiler Alert: “Strip Clubs” and “Beer Pong” may be next in line if I continue to use this criteria for selecting Fonzies.

Here’s the thing: I understand churches using pop culture trends to attract young people. I was once a card-carrying Alt-Rock Christian Teen. Church is where I learned to play the electric bass and where most of my friends went to skateboard – hell, I was actually on a church Judo team. But I’d like to think we drew the line at bloodsport (Judo isn’t as violent as you might think). And we never kidded ourselves that Jesus would have actually been into skateboards, judo or rock music. It was just what the kids were into, so the church gave us a safe place to do those things. And if they snagged a soul for Jesus in the process, so much the better.

What’s most frightening to me about this particular from of Christian bait-and-switch is that it’s fooling these young men into thinking Jesus was a badass when by all accounts Jesus was actually kind of a wuss. Don’t get me wrong, he’s possibly the most influential person to walk the earth in human history, but the most violent he ever got was throwing a temper tantrum at some money changers. We’re talking about a guy who willfully submitted himself to crucifixion without fighting back and who is literally responsible for the saying “turn the other cheek.” The more I think about it, the more I realize that Jesus generally fit more of a stoner mold: wearing sandals everyday, turning water into wine (sort of like making a bong from an apple), magically making enough food to feed the masses (munchies)…you get the idea. Something tells me that Jesus would have hated Ultimate Fighting but that he would have LOVED Ultimate Frisbee.

What’s really scary about this whole Jesus Fight Club phenomenon is not so much that a bunch of young holy rollers are beating the crap out of each other, but what it means for the culture at large. Think about this for a minute: these guys are managing to make white male American Christians, who were already a pretty troublesome bunch, even more frightening. That’s not easy. What’s more, the poor women who are bound to fall for these guys are screwed. And trust me, these guys are going to be good girl magnets. It used to be that you had to look outside the church to find yourself a bad boy. Now the pews are stocked with blood-smeared kickboxers that you can actually bring home to meet Mom. Hallelujah!

Ryan Dobson is a pastor and a fan of mixed martial arts. He’s also the son of James C. Dobson, who founded Focus on the Family, a crazy right-wing political organization masquerading as a religious ministry. Dobson the younger was quoted in the Times article as saying “The man should be the overall leader of the household. […] We’ve raised a generation of little boys.” I’m not sure what a man’s supposed role as his home’s dictator or a “generation of little boys” has to do with mixed martial arts, but the article certainly seems to imply that Mr. Dobson thinks teaching our young men how to kick the shit out of each other is a good first step towards remedying the problems facing modern Christian men. This can’t be good for their wives, especially if they aspire to more than barefooted pregnancy. And maybe it’s just me, but last the last time I found myself captivated by two men fighting inside of a ring, I was actually a little boy. I’m pretty sure suiting up and hopping into the octagon isn’t going to make me mature any faster. It might make me more apt to beat my wife when she challenges my authority as supreme ruler of our home, though. Way to go, Pastor Dobson!

"Buddy Christ"

I’ve strayed from the point. Despite the inherent dangers of arming evangelical Christians with a deeper understanding of the martial arts, I still think the idea of Kung-Fu Jesus is pretty cool. But keep in mind I’ve also awarded Fonzie of the Week to a computer virus, a Peanuts character, and that guy on the Monopoly box, which is to say: people who don’t actually exist. I think it’s sort of spooky that in his 1999 movie Dogma, Kevin Smith made a joke of the ridiculousness of the Catholic church making over the image of Jesus into “Buddy Christ.” It seemed so absurd at the time. Eleven years later, it still seems absurd, but for vastly different reasons. Sigh.