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February 2, 2010 / Katie

Jesus Was Not a Fighter and Love is Not a “Feminine” Action

Melissa at Shakesville has a great post up called Prince of Peace? My Ass! about a church near Nashville that combines worship with mixed martial arts. Here’s the NYT article:

Flock Is Now a Fight Team in Some Ministries

A quote from the article:

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.”

But the problem is, Jesus wasn’t a fighter. Jesus was firm and demonstrated anger on occasion, but he saved those for rare instances (and firmness and demonstrations of anger do not equal violence, or being “a fighter”). Most of the time he was compassionate, respectful, encouraging, and loving.

This is part of a larger movement of churches who are trying to become more “macho” because they are afraid the church has been “feminized.” I have a couple things to say about that.

One—it is useless to talk about the feminine/masculine dichotomy here. What did Jesus stand for? What did he live for? What did he teach us with his words and his actions? What qualities did he have? If we name some of these things as goodness, truth, compassion, mercy, unconditional love, gentleness, faithfulness, humility… then who cares if these traits are “feminine” or “masculine”? Gendering these things is problematic in the first place. Jesus never once made a distinction between how men and women should act. He said to love one another. He didn’t say “women, you’re free to love one another completely, but men, as you love others, just make sure that you don’t do it in the same way the women do.” Assigning gender to behaviors that boil down to basic human decency is a useless and disgusting waste of time.

Two—There are problems with the church, yes (can I get an amen on that folks?) but being “too feminine” is NOT one of those problems. The kinds of problems our churches face are not that we are being too kind, too compassionate, too loving. Our problems are things like our leadership being obsessed with power, being unable to keep clergy from engaging in sexual misconduct, excluding those who are seen as different, and exploiting resources. Every hour a church wastes on worrying whether it’s “macho enough” is a precious moment lost in which we could have done some justice, righted some wrong, lived into what it means to truly love.

So what’s all this really about? All this panic about churches not being macho enough boils down to misogyny, that strange combination of fear and hatred for women and any qualities or actions that the culture decides to describe as “feminine.” And that is not the gospel. In fact, given that Jesus was pretty radical for his time in his relationships with women—counting them among his closest friends and disciples—this is an anti-gospel. It is not good news, it is bad news. It is not liberating news, it is oppressive news. These folks are worshiping an idolatrous image of a violent, “macho” god that doesn’t much resemble the God of love and unconditional acceptance that Jesus embodied.

As Melissa points out at the end of her post:

This version of Christianity is not merely one of the most aesthetically objectionable I can imagine from a social justice standpoint, it’s also incredibly dangerous. The toxic mix of a religion inextricably linked with physical aggression, war rhetoric, white male supremacy, a masculinity defined in contradistinction to anything viewed as feminine, and everything summarily dismissed as feminine that is remotely associated with compromise and tolerance—that is the stuff of fascism; that is the stuff of crusades.

As for me, I will continue to follow the Jesus attested to in the Christian Scriptures—the Emmanuel (God With Us), the Wonderful Counselor, the Prince of Peace.

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3 Comments

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  1. Cleric at Large / Feb 2 2010 9:43 pm

    I… gah… ack!

    Thing is, I get the desire to find a more embodied expression of faith. An incarnated physical discipline is part of what is lacking for me in the inherited Church… but… mixed martial arts? I don’t know squat about martial arts, but it seems like that’s as egregious a misrepresentation of those disciplines as it is of Christianity.

    • Katie / Feb 2 2010 9:52 pm

      Good point, I didn’t even touch on the cultural appropriation involved in these mostly white churches doing this mixed martial arts thing.

  2. Sixwing / Feb 3 2010 3:52 pm

    Being both a martial artist and a Christian, this irritates me to no end, and I should probably take the long and ranty rant to my own blog. *s*

    But! BUT!

    Thank you, for pointing this out. That doesn’t look much like my God. And that gendering things like love (seriously!) is ridiculous, and perhaps a mark that the person doing the gendering has not got the foggiest clue about love.

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