Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Some Concerns About the UFC

A couple of years ago I went on a mission trip to India and came home with some sort of horrible illness. I wound up in the hospital with a 105 temperature, vomiting, and the general feeling that I was going to die. But I got better; after a day or so, I felt like a million bucks when my temperature dipped below 102. I had just enough strength to watch hospital TV and make the occassional trip to the bathroom.

Hospital TV is pretty terrible. There are three channels, and two of them show Bonanza all day. The other channel had the UFC, and I watched it. I like seeing guys beat up other guys, but I'm not so sure that it's something I should like, promote, or even condone.

The early church was adamant that gladiatorial combat was wicked, and certainly any Christian with any spiritual discernment would agree. The UFC is not a no-holds-barred kill fest, but it pushes the envelope of the law and it is brutal, and it is certainly not spiritually edifying, contrary to its popularity amongst many Christians today. I believe that it is a manly flesh fest, and most who watch it indulge in the fantasy that they could whip some tail like the dudes on TV. Of course, some claim that they watch it for strategy or something of that nature, but if you want strategy watch a chess match. It's the blood we like, and the gratuitous beatings.

Some may object that the UFC is simply training for personal self-defense. That's not true. The object of those matches is not to teach self-defense; it's to beat the other guy up worse than he beats you. Some will object and say that this is not the goal of the match, and perhaps they might be right in the first round or so. But if a guy gets behind points wise, he only has one choice in the last round: knock the guy out or put him into such terrific pain that he yields. What is the spiritual value in this? Self-defense can be learned without such sheer brutality, as is evidenced everyday in our military training and in martial arts dojos across the United States.

Just for you pastor/elders out there, I wonder how you equate this savagery with the command for an elder not to be a violent man in 1 Timothy 3:3? Is this the sort of attitude or behavior that we see in Jesus Christ or the Apostles? (I can forsee people trying to equate Jesus' temple cleansing with this behavior. My advice, don't go there; it won't work.) I confess to being perplexed over how such a brutal blood fest has been so easily accepted into the Christian community without much protest. I'd like to hear some opinions on this.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Brad, since you dare to tread here, let me wade out in these waters with ya' brother, as another pastor with concerns...

Thank you Brad, I haven't said anything about it on the several Christian blogger sites I frequent, but in truth, I am concerned. Of course, I gots me own sinz to fuss over, and I anintz bout to open up that can o' worms on someone else's blog I respect, but since ya' did so here, let me tell ya....

It can't be good.

Having said that, I can think of two blogs who could whup me good theologically (probably) that like this stuff, and in a sense, I guess it is a matter of indifference, but...

It can't be good.

It hurts me to think that I might want to say something, but knowing I am such a wretch, and if all these guys got "goin' on wrong" is this "little thing", then who am I, but...

It can't be good.

My concern is that it points to something deeper, not simply violence, but worldliness of the worst sort, lack of dignity and respect for the imago dei, and other stuff that I am concerned we will not address as long as those we respect are doing it, and it doesn't seem to concern them one bit....doesn't that mean I am wrong...well, no it doesn't, but it sure makes me leary of speaking out, and in all candor, I hope those guys don't see our discussion here, cause I don't want to get the beat down (pun intended)...

For me, this is one of those areas that seems to be about Christian liberty, but still, I just have a strong conviction that something is wrong, even if I might not be able to articulate it well...

You got my back?...

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Brad, I do think that people who are initially introduced to this sport might feel like you do. Particularly in the older days of the UFC it might have looked like a “brutal blood fest.” However, there are now over 30 rules that protect the fighters and the sport is legal. There has never been a serious injury or death in UFC. I think the more you watch today’s matches you will realize that MMA is quite sophisticated. There are many fighting styles that involve a lot of strategy. Honestly, I didn’t have a clue about the many ways you could submit someone before I watched UFC – and that comes in handy no matter who you are. I think it is fascinating.

What about motive? I think it is presumptuous to assume people watch the sport to “indulge in the fantasy that they could whip some tail like the dudes on TV . . . It's the blood we like, and the gratuitous beatings.” Personally, I cringe when someone gets cut. What I enjoy about the sport is watching a little guy like Matt Hughes out maneuver a large, muscle-bound brawler. BTW, I’ve never seen Matt Hughes knock anyone out. He is a submission fighter that is good at wrestling.

The question we have to ask is this: how far are we willing to go with Brad’s standard? Boxing is out. Football is out. Rugby is out. Hockey is out. What about thumb wrestling?
:-)

All that said . . . I am concerned, with you and JD, about “respect for the imago dei” (JD). This is true for the other sports I mentioned above too.

Sojourner said...

Jonathan,

I'm glad you came over to discuss this. I take a contrary position, and I don't think that your arguments will stand the test, my friend. For one, the "30 plus rules" do not impress me. The matches I saw were fairly recent, and I saw many of them. In fact, I watched the whole reality season where guys battled to see who could join the association. I believe that Matt Hughes was one of the coaches in the season I saw. It was still extremely brutal. If that doesn't qualify as brutal in our understanding, then how will we define it? Only if eye-gouging is allowed?

Further, you argue that it is handy to know a plethora of ways to submit someone. Well...okay. But do we have to sanction this sort of thing in order to learn that? I learned some great submission moves in the military and in some self-defense courses I took, but to imagine that they are "handy" now is fairly deceptive. It takes practice to do that well. And if you imagine that you can do it just by watching the match, then I saw that you are guilty of the fanstisizing that I mentioned earlier.

As for Matt Hughes, he is no "little guy." Plus, he fights in his own weight division, does he not? The guy has muscles popping out everywhere. The muscles he uses when he squints are stronger than my bisceps.

Finally, to put football in the same realm as this MMA, UFC is a red herring. The goals are not the same. The rules are far different, and the lengths they go to protect players is different. Further, I will go ahead and state that I have no problem with wrestling. (The real college and high school kind, not the "Smack-Down" kind.) It is an altogether different thing. It is a completely point oriented system with no kudos for bloody knock-outs. Boxing is quite iffy, but I find it to be on a different tier than this thing we see now.

Now, you have said that it is legal, and it is...in some states. And it is barely legal where it is legal. Louisiana is challenging the right of this MMA type fighting currently. It was on the front page of the Baton Rouge paper last Sunday. They engage in loopholes and shoring up just enough rules to be allowed to conduct business, in my opinion.

At the end of all this, let me say that I have respect for the arts of self-defense, and I believe them necessary in the life of a country and can be helpful to men. My beef is not with folks who know how to fight. My beef is turning this deadly knowledge into a sanctioned sport and watching it as if this sort of behavior weren't supposed to be reserved as a last resort.

As for the imago dei, it should be a concern to you and to those who watch. Matt Hughes is a Christian who submits and beats up people for a living. Now, think on this scenario. If he is fighting a fellow Christian and gets down in points going in to the last round and knows that his only hope of winning is a knock-out or submission, do you suppose he would hesitate to "ground and pound" you to win? If he did, would you think that very Christ-like? Basically, you're either beating a brother down for money or glory or both. I find that unsettling.

Even So,

I hesitate to say that I've got your back because I'm not certain that you really want to be associated with me on this. I'm quite anti-MMA/UFC, male-cockfighting right now. I'm drawing a hard line to see if better arguments can be offered for the Christian condoning of this beating people up for the purpose of entertainment.

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Brad, you and JD raise some very good points on this issue. Let me respond to a few of your points.

(1) “And if you imagine that you can do it [submitting someone] just by watching the match, then I saw that you are guilty of the fanstisizing [sic] that I mentioned earlier.” I happen to work in law enforcement to get my way through seminary, so there is no fantasizing about my interest in submitting people. Furthermore, I have 4 boys that are eager to roll with their Daddy. I have to learn this stuff or I will be in big trouble if they gang up on me.

(2) “As for Matt Hughes, he is no ‘little guy.’" Matt is 5’9 and 169 pounds.

(3) “Finally, to put football in the same realm as this MMA, UFC is a red herring.” Football is one of the most violent sports in the world. To have two men, 200+ pounds each, running at each other full-speed, and hammering themselves unconscious isn’t brutal and violent? That’s to say nothing about injuries involved. I’ll even bet that you cheered the last time your team’s linebacker hammered the opposing team’s quarterback.

(4) “Boxing is quite iffy, but I find it to be on a different tier than this thing we see now.” It has been proven that boxing is more dangerous than UFC. It’s just a fact. Boxing involves being repeatedly hit in the head for 10 rounds, knocked down, only to get up and get beat in the head again until you are unconscious. There have been numerous serious injuries and fatalities in boxing and you say it is “iffy”? I think this is your most serious flaw.

(5) “As for the imago dei, it should be a concern to you and to those who watch.” I agree, but it would be helpful to know how these principles don’t apply to other physical sports you and I enjoy watching. IOW, if you set violence, pride, and bleeding as parameters, then there are a lot of activities that you should not be participating in.

(6) What about Hughes fighting another Christian? I suppose it would be the same as a Christian linebacker tackling the opposing team’s Christian quarterback.

Sojourner said...

Jonathan,

Well, I personally find our verbal bruhaha stimulating. Plus, I think that you live too far from me to come over and put me in a submission hold.

(1) Law enforcement and fathers need to learn how to get criminals under control. You do not need the UFC, MMA to teach you this. Matt Hughes and others are perfectly capable of teaching these things without pounding people to oblivion. Those guys are not fighting for your instruction.

(2) The weight is relevant only as to weight class. Do they, or do they not fight in their own weight class division?

(3) Hurting the quarterback, or anyone else, is not rewarded with points in football. This is a major difference. Personal injury is not the goal in football, it will not give points, and you can play without trying to knock the other guy unconcious. Yes, I enjoy a sack of the opposing team's quarterback.

(4) I am willing to toss boxing under the bus. I have no love for it. Point conceded with this stipulation: the fighting we are seeing now does not have the history of boxing, we do not yet know the longterm effects of such combat. You state that it is "proven," but I'd like to see more evidence. Again, I believe that pugilism can be taught as a self-defense, and that sparring is perfectly acceptable.

(5) You are right to point out that we must have a definition from me to really get somewhere concrete in this discussion. I will attempt to do so here in a simplistic way, and I would love your interaction:

*When a contest has as one of its goals, and can be won through, the dehabilitation of the opponent through knockout or other such injury. This is evidenced by a refusal to wear protective equipment. I.E. Head sparring gear and appropriate gloves and padding.*

(6) I can hardly believe that this is offered as a serious argument. The "ground and pound" is far different from a quarterback sack. The purposeful injury of the opponent does not have to be the motivation for the play to be successful, and protective steps have been taken to minimize such injury. They wear helmets, pads, and have rules to avoid and lower risk of harm. (Such as the head to head contact rule, no ruffing the passer, no face-masking...indeed the paltry "30" rules of the MMA pale in comparison to the safety rules of football.)

I'll be interested in reading your response. And I'd like to see you address how this MMA style fighting does not conflict with the prohibition of the Pastor from being violent. Again, for clarity's sake, I am not arguing against self-defense. These guys are not fighting for your instruction. (Did I mention that already?)

Anonymous said...

Oh well, one of the guys I was afraid of came over already...thanks for having the gloves on Jonathan...

My son in law is a police officer, and yes, he knows submission techniques, but it still concerns me...if we know these things aren't we more likely to find situations to use them in, don't they move up the scale?..

I mean this: if we know them, and we are confident in our abilites, to the degree that we are confident in them, is to the degree that they move up the ladder of options, and this IMHO, is evil, yes, I just said that...it should always be a last resort, and not to get our way, but I have seen NOTHING but the opposite, it engenders pride masking itself as confidence...I used to be involved in martial arts and also wrestling, and I know, there are huge holes in what I am saying, but since we are all brothers here, I am glad to iron this out further...gloves on, of course...

Jonathan Moorhead said...

I'm in a hurry at the moment, but we can do further research on this tonight since there is a live fight night on Spike TV (8-10 eastern time). I guess I shouldn't ask for your picks.
;-)

Anonymous said...

I don't own a TV...

(/rabid fundamentalist posturing)

Anonymous said...

I was just on a Sharper Iron thread and saw that Phil Johnson, speaking about John MacArthur's views on worldly things, said this

He was decrying the blithe familiarity some preachers like to display with so many overtly impious fads (South Park, Ultimate Fighting, hip-hop, or whatever). (Emphasis in original)

here is the link for further context

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Brad, it seems like your definition is specifically constructed to rule out UFC. I could do something similar with football: anything that could result in bodily harm, involves physical tackling as essential to the sport, involves dominating an opponent, results in pride, etc.

JD, believe it or not, we only get cable during football season. I am a huge SEC football fan (War Eagle!). Once the season is over, I'll be saying bye-bye to UFC.
Well, if MacArthur said it . . .
I wonder if Driscoll is in view there.

Sojourner said...

Jonathan,

No, my definition was to rule out any overtly brutal contest, it just so happens that the UFC falls into that category.;) I believe that my definition would rule out boxing as well. Besides, my protest was lodged originally against the UFC, which part of the definition do you find to be unfair?

Anonymous said...

I am a football fan as well, as in

Go Gators!!!

It is also an excuse to eat pizza at our favorite place, they have a couple of little TV's and not much traffic....

Anonymous said...

I am a football fan as well, as in

Go Gators!!!

It is also an excuse to eat pizza at our favorite place, they have a couple of little TV's and not much traffic....

Anonymous said...

I am a football fan as well, as in

Go Gators!!!

It is also an excuse to eat pizza at our favorite place, they have a couple of little TV's and not much traffic....

Anonymous said...

See, Jonathan, the beta comments thing is happeneing to me everywhere...

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Brian, I do not disagree with your definition, but it can biblically be expanded to include other sports.

JD, I am so frustrated with this beta thing. I actually just tried to comment on your blog but it won't let me because it won't accept my password. Ugh!

St. Lee said...

So here's my two cents worth. Just as background so that you understand that I have not led a sheltered life and am easily shocked. I spent most of my adult life as what most would call an outlaw biker. Patch holder in a couple clubs (gangs) over the years. I have been involved in plenty of fights and brawls some of them involving knives and guns.
Then God saved me. Everything changed!
About 5 years into this new life that God gave me I saw a portion of a UFC match. I can't quite come up with the right words to describe what I felt. Disgust, horror, dismay come to mind, but don't quite do it justice. I remember thinking "what's next, a battle to the death as the gladiators did, just to keep the fans interested?"
Funny thing though, over the last couple years I have come across UFC matches a few more times, and the feelings of disgust have started to fade. If I allowed myself to, I'm sure I could become a fan. I doubt that this is "God leading". Much more likely, I think, it is me making provision for the flesh.
I am a little worried that this type of violence may be a first cousin to pornography in its effects on the viewer. A little more is never quite enough.
If you read Galatians 5 you find the works of the flesh listed in verses 19-21 and the fruit of the Spirit in verses 22-23. If you had to put UFC fighting in one of those lists, which do you think fits in better?

Anonymous said...

If you read Galatians 5 you find the works of the flesh listed in verses 19-21 and the fruit of the Spirit in verses 22-23. If you had to put UFC fighting in one of those lists, which do you think fits in better?

Indeed...

Anonymous said...

I haven't actually watched a UFC match so I'm posting a little bit out of ignorance here. But your thoughts on the UFC are pretty similar to what I've felt for a long time about boxing.

I just can't reconcile it with a Christian worldview.

Jim said...

Brad & JD,

You have my back on this one brothers! My flesh would love to watch these men pummel each other but my spirit cringes.

Good topic.