About a year ago, I wrote a yet-to-be published book called Blessed are they that Hunger-A Christian Responds to the Hunger Games. My first chapter, called “We Hunger for Kindness” is about the violence in The Hunger Games trilogy. I explore the violence in today’s culture and its increase in today’s sports.
I end the chapter with a discourse about Mixed Martial Arts or MMA fighting, also called cage fighting. At the time, I viewed this as the pinnacle of violence in sports. I also included an excerpt from an article about a fight club on the East Coast that uses MMA fighting as a way to reach people for Christ. I had a hard time reconciling this violent sport with Christianity. After all, it was Christ who said,
But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. Matt 5:39
You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. 48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. Matt 5:39-48
I was confident in my evaluation of the sport in my book.
My confidence dissolved one hot summer’s night while I was hanging out at a local restaurant with some friends. It turns out my hometown is a base for one of the most famous MMA fighter’s in the world and his team of fighter’s who are well on their way to world fame as well. That night the team was hanging out at the same restaurant I was. There was a lot of buzz among my friends about the famous fighter and one by one they were introducing themselves to him and getting their pictures taken with him.
I sort of knew who he was, but obviously wasn’t a fan of the sport at that time. I didn’t make any effort to go out to meet him. I happily stayed close to my friends and had some interesting discussions with them. One of the friends I had made that night, left me with her valuables and as time passed I noticed she wasn’t anywhere to be found. We were getting ready to take a group picture, and I was concerned about being responsible for my friend’s possessions. I noticed that the friend she had come to the restaurant with was out on the patio sitting with the famous MMA fighter. I went outside to see if she would take back her friend’s stuff. I chatted with her for awhile and all of the guys thought I was pretty cool for watching her stuff and bringing it to her friend. I realized my back was to the famous guy and thought I was being rude so I extended my hand and introduced myself.
I’m not sure what happened in that moment, but sometimes I am kind of a soul reader and I sensed a deep sensitive soul. He was interested in my involvement with the group I was there with and I told him about my “Hunger Games Book”. I asked him about his career and how well he was doing. When he told me he was #2 in the world, he seemed a little offended that I didn’t know. This was embarrassing so I bowed out of the conversation and went back to my friends inside the restaurant.
When I got home, I googled the famous fighter and a few weeks later started following him on Twitter. Little by little I got more interested in the local team of fighters and started following most of them on twitter as well. I received a tweet once that said-Facebook where you learn to hate the people you know. Twitter-where you learn to love the people you don’t know. I guess that is what happened. The guys were funny and interesting and I became a fan. I started watching the fights and only saw one that was gruesome and it didn’t involve any of our local fighters. The guys from our local team appear to have a philosophy of get the job done without too much damage to yourself or your opponent.
I have had a few more opportunities to meet members of the local team and recently attended a press conference promoting a big fight that will be held here in town in a few months. I got my picture taken with one of the guys at the conference. So now I am a fan of a sport that only a year ago I condemned. Now I see the sport as more than just a sport, but people dedicated to an art and to fitness and to each other. In becoming a fan and communicating to the team, I have added more followers on Twitter and have had opportunity to promote my pursuits. It has been an interesting lesson in humility and judgment.
As Paul said in ‘1 Corinthians 9:22