Church Fight Clubs Spark Controversy - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

From Anchor Tony McEwing

Church Fight Clubs Spark Controversy

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If your particular brand of Christianity includes the biblical principle of turning the other cheek, you may find a trend among some of the country's churches disturbing. In an upcoming documentary "Fight Church," filmmakers take a fascinating look at the practice of religious institutions creating fight clubs in an effort to boost membership. We're not talking about the relatively innocuous notion of high school wrestling coaches teaching students a few new hard-to-escape from holds. This can be hardcore, beat the hell out of your opponent (no pun intended)  mixed martial arts and more. And yes, people can and do get hurt.

And while it may sound crazy or at least contradictory to many, it apparently is happening all across the nation. Pastors punching other pastors in the face and kneeing each other to put more people in the pews for whatever messages they preach from the pulpit.

The documentary is directed by Bryan Storkel and Academy Award-winner Daniel Junge who say they were absolutely shocked to find out just how prevalent this unorthodox method of evangelization is. As far as they know, hundreds of churches in the nation do it--maybe more. And according to the directors, beyond the hundreds of churches that boast organized or informal fight ministries, there are apparently many more that include some sort of mixed martial arts as a component of their men's program.

Pastors who defend the practice will tell you that nowhere does the Bible specifically prohibit sport fighting.  They hold up Biblical heroes like David and Samson as examples of brave fighting men. One supportive pastor even states emphatically that mainstream Christianity has feminized men, while another defender exclaims tough guys need Jesus too. Still another one proclaims proudly, "We'll just be a couple of God-fearing men punching each other in the face."

While I'm not opposed to churches coming up with innovative ways to increase membership, I'm not sure encouraging members to beat the crap out of one another is a great way to go. There are reports of kids being pressured to fight even though they are not only reluctant to do so but are actually frightened. And again, people can and do get hurt. It seems to me, ideally, church should be the one place where you can escape brutish and bullying behavior.

The majority of the churches featured in the documentary are from an evangelical background. And I should point out that the Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention have both condemned the fight ministry concept.

Tony McEwing co-anchors FOX 11 Morning News at 4:30 am and provides news updates for the Emmy award winning Good Day LA, broadcast weekdays from 7:00 - 10:00 am. He also co-anchors the FOX 11 10 am News and the FOX 11 News at Noon.
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