(‘And that’s for John the Baptist, you son of a bitch!’)
You’re not really a trend in America unless the New York Times writes a story about you. Sometimes you’re not really a trend even if they do write the story, but that’s a topic for another day. Today we look at this story, in which Times reporter R. M. Schneiderman (who has found the most pretentious way possible to avoid going through life as Ross Schneiderman), visits Memphis, Tennessee to watch the boys from Xtreme Ministries duke it out in local MMA action.
This is something that’s happening a lot now, we’re told. Many evangelical churches “have embraced mixed martial arts,” because they’ve realized that this is something that young men are into, particularly the types of young men who aren’t normally into hymns and abstinence.
According to the article, Xtreme Ministries is “a small church near Nashville that doubles as a mixed martial arts academy,” which makes you wonder why major MMA gyms never double as churches, since it would be a great way for Greg Jackson to get tax-exempt status. The focus on MMA helps these churches rebrand Jesus as more of an ass-kicker and less of a peace-offerer, and that in turn is supposed to help them get more young men in the pews on Sunday.
This isn’t the first such attempt by churches to piggyback on the success of MMA, but this time the Times was along to see what kinds of fighters they’re actually churning out. From the sound of things, Xtreme Ministries isn’t going to challenge Xtreme Couture any time soon. For instance, their pastor and head trainer, John Renken, is quoted as offering this sage advice during a team/flock member’s fight:
“Hard punches!” he shouted from the sidelines of a martial arts event called Cage Assault. “Finish the fight! To the head! To the head!”
This is more or less the MMA equivalent of going to a football game and shouting ‘tackle him!’
Maybe that’s partly why, of the three Xtreme Ministries fighters in action that night, two lost their bouts, and one suffered a broken ankle. A twenty year-old “potential convert” got submitted via choke and then “decided not to return home with the other church members after his bout,” so he could instead go drinking on Beale Street all night.
Now that sounds more like the MMA traditions we’ve observed over the years.