Tuesday, 24 January 2012
The Gethsemane Blog
A while back I critiqued Mark Driscoll, Pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA when he wrote a blog entitled A Christian Evaluation of Mixed Martial Arts. I'm not anti-MMA but I differ with Driscoll on his view of MMA and the goodness of it. He believes it is a sport that can be redeemed (though he never really explained how when he proposed this notion and I'm still hoping to hear the view). Today I came across a video of Driscoll in an interview about MMA which focused on the nature of men and conflict resolution.
I'm not interested in discussing MMA here but in the issues brought up in Driscoll's points for why MMA is good (from the perspective of a Bible teacher).
Driscoll states, "I don't think there is anything purer than two guys in a cage... and just see which man is better."
It's bothersome to think that the most pure sport or (as will later be discussed) conflict resolution method is men fighting each other inside a cage. Another bothersome aspect of this statement is that men are being deemed better than one another based on how good of fighters they are. Pay no mind to character, integrity, faithfulness to God, ability to entertain (for sports), or ability to resolve a conflict peacefully (a goal for all Christians it would seem if we value Romans 12:18 and Hebrews 12:14). If this is what Driscoll is saying then he's way off base. However, maybe all he is saying is that cage fighting is the most primitive form of sport/conflict resolution and that one man is simply a better fighter than the other. That I'll agree with. It's my hope that all he meant was the second interpretation because if we're talking about Christian purity then this is not the most pure sport or method of conflict resolution. To be clear, I'm not condemning MMA as a sport.
He then states, "God made men masculine and he made humanity male and female and men and women are different... men are created for combat, men are made for conflict, men are made for dominion..."
Driscoll implies that women are not made for conflict, dominion, or combat. This is a difference between the two. I won't discuss dominion here but suffice it to say Driscoll and I disagree that men alone have dominion (in marriages, church, or over creation). Conflict is a good thing since there are differences and since there is the presence of both good and evil in the world. Since there is brokenness due to sin and things must be fixed there is thus a need for and inevitability of conflict. Too often we see conflict as a negative when it's very often a positive. I believe both men and women are too engage in conflict. However, I don't believe we were created for conflict but rather to live in the love of God. Conflict is a result of sin.
I also don't believe men are made for combat. Nothing in scripture leads me to believe that one of God's purposes for creating males was that they would fight one another. Humanity was not meant to be a cosmic episode of Battle Bots. Men combat but that doesn't mean they were created for that purpose and it doesn't mean God wants them to combat in any way they see fit. The way God's people combat in this broken world is through the Word of God and prayer according to 2 Corinthians 10:3-4. The Apostle Paul teaches that "...our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:12). We weren't made for combat but we engage in combat while in this world. However, according to Paul we don't combat humans made of flesh and blood and we don't do it with weapons of man or in the way that those of the world do it (and if you've ever seen a Bruce Lee movie you know fists are weapons). For more on this see my article How and Who Christians Fight. Like conflict, combat is a result of rebellion against God and not a result of God's will and work.
The Mars Hill Pastor goes on to say, "...you can put them [males] in the worst public high school and tell them that they need to just be into their feelings and talk about their feelings and cry a lot and finger-paint their inner life, at the end of the day they're still gonna want to throw down and when they go to recess two guys are going to go at it and see which one is the dude. And that's just the way men are made."
It's interesting that Driscoll stages his hypothetical men in the worst public high school. Odds are it's in a bad part of town where violence, poverty, racism, poor education, and other evils thrive. Of course boys in those places want to fight! It's all they know (and I know that because I live and work with them). Regardless, that doesn't mean that fighting is the best or even a good form of conflict resolution. If it is then we need to support it more often and on bigger scales. That means we invest more in wars and teach all our children how to fight as warriors. If we carry Driscoll's logic which says that men are created for the sake of combat to it's end we end up with a barbaric being. Sadly, this could result in the earth being filled with violence as in the days of Noah (Genesis 6:11-13). That's a lot of progress lost.
At this point in the interview we have to enter the realm of conflict resolution because Driscoll is no longer talking about mere sport, according to his illustration, but about conflict and the nature of men (but not women because they weren't created for conflict or combat). With Driscoll's way of conflict resolution counselors can trade in their degrees for black belts. At this point we also have to determine that Driscoll isn't merely saying, as optioned before, that one man is simply a better fighter but that one man is simply a better man. "To see which one is the dude" is to imply that one is a man (because he can fight and win and thus is superior in combat for which he was created) while the other is more like a woman (who does not combat due to not being created for it). This, in my opinion, can easily lead to putting women below men in value.
Recognizing and talking about our feelings (especially to the point of emotional breakthrough which causes crying at times) and being able to communicate our inner-workings is healthy! Ask a counselor! It's horrifying to know that Driscoll is a pastor of thousands and he doesn't value these skills. Instead of embracing simple and healthy ways of life he jabs at them in jest. In his own evaluation of MMA, Driscoll mocked the picture of a Jesus who is in touch with his feelings in order to demean pacifists. Not only does Driscoll prefer violence (be it controlled) over proven methods of counseling that help individuals recognize their issues and communicate well in order for reconciliation to happen but he dislikes these methods so much that he mocks a Saviour who would employ them. For Driscoll, being in touch with one's feelings is a negative thing. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt but I don't know how else we are to understand his statements.
I don't want a Saviour who is out of touch with his feelings. Nobody should. That's an unhealthy and out of tune person. Jesus isn't unhealthy or out of tune. He knows this creation and he knows himself. He has to be in touch with his feelings. We know Christ is a compassionate person who doesn't mask, avoid, repress, or have ignorance of his feelings because the gospels repeatedly show him crying for others, being sensitive to children, even sweating blood like sweat over difficult situations. Not only that but he speaks boldly, is angered, and overthrows tables in righteousness. This is a man not acting out of unjustifiable or unexplainable rage but a man who understands and is in touch with his inner workings, his feelings. Driscoll can have a saviour who is disconnected from his feelings all he wants but he won't have the Jesus of the Bible if he does.
To finish his above statement Driscoll says, "So either allow that in a way that is violent and inappropriate, which is what a lot of guys do through criminal activity, or we put it together as a viable legitimate sport and let men be men and do what men do and let the other fat lazy men sit around and criticize them while watching."
Here's the problem with this philosophy: For the sport to be legitimate it must have regulations and those regulations, according to what I've seen, won't be ones that most of the boys in the worst public school will be able or willing to submit to. In that case, we still have the same problem on our hands of people having conflict and no means to resolve it, except violent and illegal activities. What's more, because of this world Driscoll has created, MMA is much larger and thus fighting is promoted heavily all around them and with the bad education they receive at their school all they know is that fighting is the answer to their problems both on the streets and on television. The celebrities are fighting as much as their friends, enemies, and families. The people in society such as pastors who are to be helping to pull these young men out of their cycles and subcultures of darkness aren't doing that. Instead, those people are teaching them that a great way to resolve conflict and live into manhood is to beat other men in a controlled environment to (hopefully) the point of knockout or a begging of release. Without healthy introspective skills and the attempt to reconcile and find peace over finding dominance through violence there won't be any progress.
I work with counselors and at risk homeless youth. I see the fellas who invest in combat for conflict resolution and who don't know how to be in touch with their feelings. They are dangerous, unhealthy, and often hopeless. Part of our work is to help them become self-aware so that they can recognize their feelings and communicate those feelings well. We work hard to establish healthy practices of conflict resolution which don't employ violence (since it obviously hasn't helped them thus far) but allow them to confront their enemy lovingly and respectfully in peace. When we do this and when the guys we work with adopt the teachings and practices we provide for them they begin to thrive. They begin living healthier lives and having healthier relationships. They get in less trouble and begin to build a future for themselves and those around them.
It's true that physical exertion can help in times of frustration but we don't need to beat each other up for that result. We can run, lift weight, use punching bags, and invest in other activities that don't harm our neighbors. Even wrestling and certain forms of martial arts can provide this help without demanding we cause damage to the flesh of those who are flesh and blood.
All of this leads me to believe that Driscoll's favored form of conflict resolution is counterintuitive to the reconciliation ministry of Jesus Christ. Fighting is typically devisive. It pits people against one another with the goal of one person defeating the other, often through knocking the opponent unconscious or forcing him to beg for a release from the pain being inflicted upon him. Jesus is not concerned with defeating those who are against him but with reconciling them to him. This is why he forgives and suffers. This is why he dies. This is why he picks up a cross instead of a sword and why he tells us to do the same. We need to be reconciled to God and to one another! When we have conflict with one another or have been sinned against we have models for resolution provided by Jesus in Matthew 5:23-26 and 18:15-19. Granted, these are mostly models for believers who have conflict with believers but it would hardly make sense to conclude that we should set aside our peaceful means of reconciliation for those outside our fellowship or to suggest they use other means to reconcile with one another.
I may be fat, lazy, or a woman according to Driscoll's interview* but I can live with that if it means I'm investing in the ministry of reconciliation in a way that doesn't harm my neighbor or demean the qualities of healthy people. "Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you" (2 Corinthians 13:11). Let's be in touch with our feelings and tell or youth that self awareness and communication create a better future than beating each other up inside cages.
*This was pointed out to me by a tweet from Greg Boyd.