Archive for the Randomness Category

WOW… Just… Wow… Read it

Posted in Randomness on May 30, 2012 by jaymallow

I have to say this is the most encouraging, honest, faith-filled thing I’ve ever read. Thank you for so amazingly expressing faith in a fallen world… I am truly humbled…

Jay, I really appreciate your honest expression of thoughts! You are really open and honest with how you are feeling! I am a friend of your parents and we have met at Ivy Creek Church once so you may not remember me. Susan and I served for 30 years in Japan with MTW and I and all three of our kids graduated from Covenant. What you write about the inner feelings and longings of your heart remind me of all of us. In different ways we are experiencing the reality of our situation in life here on earth. What we long for may be different, but the fact that we long for such things that will bring significance, worth, personal fulfillment, security, point us to the uniqueness of what it means to be humans living under conditions that are imperfect. Our aspirations, longings and dreams make us aware that there should be something more, something better, something that fulfills me on a much deeper level than it does today! And the answer to conflicted feelings of sadness and emptiness is not, “Just wait for heaven where everything will be perfect and right and fair and totally satisfying.” While that is the believer’s bottom line hope that may enable him to bear all things, that hope alone may discourage engagement in the world at hand that we live in today. The calling that God has called us to is connected to the hope we gain from seeing the resurrected Jesus because it confirms to our hearts that physical life both today and in the new earth is important and something to be greatly anticipated. God does not look at our world today as tainted, evil and something to be removed from, but rather as something to engage in even though it is a dim reflection of what it will be when perfected. So whether in the military or work field or full time ministry the calling is the same–that is to enjoy this world for what it is now in light of the hopes of the perfect world and to engage in it where God puts us (for each phase of life he places us in) and by playing our part whether small or big, we are in the flow of history towards the grand end, the rebuilding of a new earth and new heaven. In this process we may find ourselves in places that are sad, lonely, hard, undesirable, but two things He will never remove you from; one, His promised presence and caring heart, two, the hope of a future that will fill the deepest longings of the heart I spoke of earlier.
In this process which God designs tailor-made plans for every person, it is important to remember nothing is a mistake and there is something to be gained from every situation we find ourselves in. As such, what you experience these next months overseas will change you perhaps more profoundly than if you stayed in more secure, familiar and normal environment, but if you see yourself in His hands and long to fill his plan for you, then your sense of waste, loss, life out of control can be replaced in a more quiet hope for today, tomorrow and beyond. And as sure as Jesus’ resurrection guarantees that the physical world is important and that He is in control so you can be sure of His presence and purposes for you are His kingdom fulfillment and therefore for your good!

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Back to Blogging

Posted in Randomness on May 28, 2012 by jaymallow

Yeah it’s been a while since I’ve written anything. However, this is me trying to both get back into the habit and letting those who care about me know what’s going on/going through my head.
AFGHANISTAN: So there it is, the big reason and the thing that looms large on my rapidly approaching horizon. I’m going to war and I’m trying to bring my head around all that entails and where I am at presently.
WHERE I’VE BEEN: I think it important to acknowledge what has transpired over the last two years that has lead me to this place both physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I wish I could say that joining the Army was a good decision. I wish I could say that the two words that I feel define my Army experience up until this point weren’t “disappointment” and “frustration”, but those two words aptly describe the totality of my experience with the Army. (Although additional words such as “loneliness”, “boredom”, and “isolation” come to mind as well.) Not only have I had a job that was unchallenging, (I read over 100 books from the library while in class learning my job and STILL graduated top of my class) but I’ve been apart of a section of the Army that really doesn’t have a mission on the present battlefield. We have air superiority wherever we are and missile defense is an afterthought deterrent in most cases. Even worse have been the commands that I’ve been assigned to. I’ve been in SHORAD (Short Range Air Defense) assigned to a HIMAD (Long Range Air Defense i.e. Patriot) Battalion. Meaning for all of 2011 I was apart of a Battalion that was preparing for a Kuwait HIMAD mission. Which means that being apart of a SHORAD Battery we got tasked with the jobs no one wanted. I’ve been apart of a field mess hall competition detail. I’ve done funeral details. (Which honestly I’ve been honored to participate in, but it wasn’t my “job”.) In all honesty I hadn’t done the job that the Army employed me to do until this year (more than a year since being assigned to FT. Hood) with a deployment to Arizona and now Afghanistan. All the while within these commands I’ve experienced what I have to say is the WORST leadership and management I have ever experienced in my now 34 years and numerous jobs. Narcissistic almost psychopathic leadership intent on control and personal advancement. Ineptitude that almost defies logic. Mass punishment where I’ve been punished even though I didn’t do anything wrong. Superior performance (i.e. PT tests) that went unrecognized. The fact that I was promoted only a month before that promotion would have been automatic, yet had been eligible for promotion for six months previous with an exceptional record. And then there was Arizona…
ARIZONA: How to describe a two month dog and pony show… Living in a gymnasium with 70 other people being forced to be in “uniform” 24/7. Eating (horrible contracted) food that had been left out for four hours every night. The constant frustration of a command that put priority and accolades on the Avenger mission rather than your 24/7 radar mission. Spending almost three months with no time off only to return and immediately begin preparing/training for a nine month deployment to Afghanistan.
WHERE I AM NOW: Honestly I’m done with the Army. Re-enlistment is a personal impossibility for me. I’m ready to be done with this part of my life and move on. Honestly I miss being a civilian. I think back to my apartment in California and my life there and I honestly wish I had never left. This is a burden that I bear every time I wake up at 5am to clean my room for daily inspection and then go to inspect the soldiers I am responsible for. This is what I feel while doing PT every morning. And now I’m going to Afghanistan.
AFGHANISTAN: I have to say I’m a mixed bag of emotions when looking forward to deployment. On one hand I have to admit that even though I am proud of my prior service as a Marine in the United States Marine Corps Reserve, and will always consider myself a “Marine” first, the fact that my previous enlistment fell between Iraq 1 and post 9/11 Iraq 2 have cast a pall on my personal view of my service record. We are at war and I now have the opportunity to actually serve my country in wartime in a wartime environment. I now have the opportunity of running a tab with my brother, father, grandfathers, and uncles at the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars). But that does not diminish my trepidation. First there is the “life changing” aspect that I am aware of. I have lived long enough that I know that there are things that change you. One of the things that I’m slowly trying to grasp is that I have already changed. I am no longer the hope filled, faith infused person who left California. For whatever providential reasons God has lead me through a wilderness of disappointment, doubt, loneliness, and frustration. It would be a lie to pretend otherwise. To have experienced the joy and personal satisfaction of attending college at Covenant, only to leave and experience the frustration, alienation, and dissatisfaction with the Army alone would be affecting. To add the experiences that I’ve had over the past two years and already I’m not the same. A part of me is truly fearful that going to Afghanistan will alter me even further. Will I even be “me” a year from now? Or will PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), an injury, or simply the alien experience of Afghanistan change me into something unrecognizable? Moreover there is the pressure of responsibility. I am now in charge of a site in a position that is above my present pay grade. I have to rely on those beneath me to do their job and am responsible for not only their job performance but their health in a stressful environment. This is on top of my own struggles and inadequacies.
If I had to say one thing right now it is that I don’t want to lose more than I’ve already lost over the past three years. I feel inadequate to the task set before me and feel, based on previous experience, set up for failure. Moreover I’m simply tired already, lacking energy to finish well. I WANT to serve with Honor and distinction. I WANT to willingly sacrifice, do well, and come home proud. I WANT to be FAITHFUL. I just fear that who I am will either be lost, or in the end will have little meaning afterward. If the Army has done one thing it’s cause me to lose my dreams. I don’t know who or what I want to be after this, and my greatest fear is that a year from now not only will I still not know how to dream, but that I’ll be paralyzed from dreaming.

X Men First Class has real Class…

Posted in Randomness on June 5, 2011 by jaymallow

X Men First Class is a stunning success for the simple fact that like the Star Trek re-boot it actually pulls of what could have been a disaster. Like Star Trek the preveous series of films in the X Men franchise had hit the bottom of the barrel. As well, X Men comes up against three of the possible pitfalls that come into modern comic book movie adaptation.
First is the presentation of characters: Too many movies simply give the costume, the “superpower”, show some flashy effects; and presume as fans that we’ll simply fall over ourselves because Wolverine, or SnakeEyes, or Deadpool are there live on screen. Even the great Sam Raimi was forced into this by the studio in Spider Man 3.(“Lets have Sandman, AND Venom, AND the Green Goblin!)
Secondly there is the “Nolan” effect: This is where “gritty” automatically equals “real”. Batman works in a “gritty” world because it suits the character, not so other franchises.
Thirdly there is the presumed sequel. Marvel’s movies are dangerously walking this fine line as each of their movies are more and more a setup for Avengers than origin movies in their own right.(You could argue that Iron Man 2 wasn’t so much a sequel to Iron Man but a prequel to Avengers.) We’re given the barest introduction to the character(s) and just as things get established the credits roll.
Given the propensity in Hollywood and even the history of the X Men franchise towards these failures the fact that X Men First Class mostly sidesteps these and gives a great character driven, “bright”, and fully formed movie is commendable. Consider this for a moment, the opening scenes are exactly the same, shot for shot, with the original X Man movie. That in and of itself could have spelled disaster from the start. However this movie “owns” that sequence and makes it work.
What really underscores the excellence of this movie is the outstanding acting by Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy as Eric Lehnsherr(Magneto) and Charles Xavier respectively. Fassbender seethes with anger and wrath as we’re introduced to the adult Eric who has become a Nazi hunter searching for the shadowy Sebastian Shaw who developed Eric’s mutant power in a Nazi concentration camp through inhuman torture. McAvoy on the other hand exudes compassion, and surprisingly, a bit of “coolness” as a swinging sixties ladies man. These two are thrown together as they attempt to thwart a new plot of Sebastian Shaw to ignite a third (nuclear) world war.
It must be noted that the setting of the movie in the sixties is one of the main ways this movie works. The era itself lends the brightness of the sexual revolution, civil rights reform, and “groovyness” yet also presents an ominous backdrop of real threat. This allows for some truly funny sequences in the “recruiting” montage (including an absoulutely spot on, unexpected, and hilarious cameo), as well as communicating the excitement of discovery as these characters discover they are not alone.
Another honorable mention has to be Jennifer Lawrence’s performance as Mystique. Her transition from loyal “sister” of Charles to consort of Magneto is surprisingly nuanced and also offers a window into Xavier’s blindspot’s and incredible nievete’.
As much as X Men First Class is bold to both re-establish characters and give obvious nods to the first three films perhaps the boldest decision is that Magneto actually emerges as the hero/anti-hero of the movie. Surprisingly Eric ends up being both absolutely right and even a little justified in retaliation and his hatred of humans, and Charles is shown to be astonishingly, dangerously optimistic.(ironic that someone who can supposedly read minds could get that so wrong) Even as the movie ends Charles appears to be a little more wiser and dare I say it paranoid.
All this isn’t to say X Men First Class is a perfect movie. There are times when the movie descends into cheesiness and the “evil mutants” certainly fall on the “superpower is character” cheat. (even January Jones’ Emma Frost isn’t presented as being anything more than a collection of “assets” one of which is telepathy) But again it succeeds in infusing the excitement of the original X Man film with great character performances. It also gives a well rounded story that if this was the only “prequel” it would be fine. But let’s hope this is only the beginning, and we get to see these characters again…

Paul movie thoughts

Posted in Randomness on March 19, 2011 by jaymallow

Seeing Paul I was reminded of a Saturday Night Live episode I saw once. It was an old episode probably in the first year SNL aired and Loren actually had to introduce a then little known English comedian by the name of Eric Idle. Loren introduced Idle as a member of a British comedy show called Monty Python who was in the states promoting their new movie called Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Loren then admitted that Monty Python was very influential in his vision of an American sketch show. From that point on the show was actually an interesting study in comedy as Eric tried to do American comedy but came across as way more brash than his SNL compatriots and then attempted to “Pythonize” SNL and everyone admitted that British humor didn’t quite work here. (Though I still put “Drag Racing” as a funny concept, I still say Ackroyd, Bulushi, and Idle dressed as drag queens and racing each other in heels was funny.) In any case the point was made that British and American sensibilities when it comes to comedy don’t necessarily track. Paul illustrates that point as it seems that both Simon Pegg and Nick Frost who wrote the script (and are British) weren’t simply trying to make a sci-fi spoof movie but an AMERICAN one and it shows.

It’s unfortunate that this movie is overshadowed by the two previous Pegg, Frost, and (sadly missing) Edgar Write movies Shawn of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Both Shawn and Fuzz were sublime examples of both comedy and writing. Hot Fuzz really peaked in both regards as literally every line in the movie was either a setup to a future joke, a reference to another movie, or a hilarious payoff. It’s the lack of that kind of singularly British subtlety and restraint that makes Paul feel jarring. Too many jokes are simply crude, and crude in a way that are out of place with what could be an intelligent and heart filled movie.

Perhaps the two biggest examples come in the form of the movies antagonists. One of the great things about Fuzz and even Shawn was that every character seemed to be loved. Probably the best example is Dalton’s character in Fuzz. Here was a character that you knew from the moment you saw him was evil but his “evilness” was loved and played up to the max. (In no small part Dalton’s hamming, scene-chewing performance helped make “Sissy” a villain you loved to hate) But in Paul the “villains” get no love whatsoever. The “red necks” and “FBI guys” are so stupid and so pathetic as to suggest that the writers have never actually encountered either in real life and are operating on a very skewed idea. Even worse is Kristin Wig’s character’s Bible thumping father. This sadly is where a real sense of vitriol gets inserted into the movie where there needn’t be. The “Bible thumper” is quite frankly never presented as a concerned or loving father, and even worse creationism and even Christianity is viewed as ignorant and needlessly limiting. It’s a testament to Wig’s performance that her character isn’t as initially pathetic as she’s written. One would almost think to say to these guys, “You know that you’re trying to open a movie in a country where A LOT of people really believe this?” (The only nod to this fact was a particularly funny line from Paul the alien, “You just kidnapped a CHRISTIAN in AMERICA that’s like the worst thing you can do here.”)

What’s sad is when the movie plays on subtlety it’s actually quite funny. Maybe it’s just that I’m a geek but the scenes where Paul is talking with Spielberg in a massive warehouse, or the fact that the country band in the bar is playing Mos Eisley’s cantina song were the funniest to me. (And yes I did note that I was the only one in the theatre laughing at the latter) Even the more obvious movie references (“Boring conversation”, “Aliens”) were in their own way smart.

Another knock on the subtlety part of this movie was the forced use of Seth Rogan as the voice of Paul. I saw an interview with Pegg and Frost where they admitted they had wanted an “old man’s voice” for Paul and the studio wanted Rogan. (In the words of Zoolander “He’s so hot right now”) It isn’t a stretch to imagine that the duo originally envisioned Bill Nighy’s voice as Paul (Since he had roles in both Shawn and Fuzz) , and I could see him pulling off a better Paul. Much of Paul’s crassness would have been blunted if the audience were led to believe that Paul was an old soul (supposedly he’s been on earth sixty plus years) that had lost inhibitions due to age rather than being, well, Seth Rogan.

Even more disappointing is the fact that there is a heart-felt and all too real story underneath Paul. One of the major points of the story is Frost’s character’s resentment of Pegg’s character’s enjoyment in their circumstances and possibly moving past their mutual best-friend relationship. This has touches of truth in the fact that Pegg has had considerably more success than Frost (Say Star Trek?) and appears to be “going places”. Pegg’s confession that “This was the most fun I’ve ever had…” and the ending “I’m proud of you” hug could have been much more poignant and meaningful if not lost under the morass of inappropriate language use.

On the whole Paul shows more of what Simon Pegg and Nick Frost think of Americans than what they think of sci-fi. We’re at times ignorant, crude, inappropriate, and awkward. In a word we’re not British. It’s sad that they can at once be in love with and knowledgeable about the science fiction that our culture produces and at the same time be so ignorant and unloving.

Three for Three: Thoughts post Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

Posted in Randomness on August 15, 2010 by jaymallow

Part of me is still reeling from the sensory overload that is Scott Pilgrim vs The World. It’s a multicolored, anime inspired, frenetic mess of great characters and biting cultural references. Even more it’s proof that director Edgar Wright is a gifted storyteller and is now three for three in making instant cult classic movies. However I wonder if many watching Scott Pilgrim will see the subtleties of Wright’s genius in this movie.

One of the things that Pilgrim reminded me, and made me appreciate about Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, is that Wright really has a talent for honestly presenting flawed characters. In all three movies none of the characters presented are perfect and their faults are obviously displayed for all to see. Even Hot Fuzz’s loving send up of buddy cop action movies is done with a wink knowing full well those movies weak points. With Scott Pilgrim however, Wright turns his gaze directly at the white hipster/loser geek subculture. Here again there is both a certain love/appreciation and at times a brutal honesty that upon reflection is actually surprising. It’s also that honesty that I think most watching Scott Pilgrim will misunderstand.

The thing that I found surprising about this movie and was subsequently surprised that I was surprised was the fact that for all of the twenty-something angst no one is a victim. Period. In fact Wright goes out of his way in one scene to show Scott’s “rich” upbringing. There isn’t one mention of parental abandonment or a “deprived” upbringing. Rather in contrast everyone is in the situation they find themselves in through their own choices. This is what makes Pilgrim a bit uncomfortable in our modern therapeutic mindset and it’s surprising because it shows that Wright refused to take the easy way out.

It would have been much easier for both the story and the actors if Ramona had simply been naïve and innocent, the victim of evil exes. It would have been easier to make Scott the hapless and put upon good guy who doesn’t deserve all this trouble. But in fact it’s just the opposite. Ramona is a selfish heartbreaker and self admitted bit of a bitch. Scott is also selfish, and pathetic, and uses his “patheticness” as cover for his selfishness. It’s this honesty that is easy to misread as you would think this is a love story. Rather, this is a story of self realization “love” has little to do with it. In fact the difficulty in this movie is that the characters almost run the risk of being too unlikable for you to care about any of them. But there is love behind Wright’s brutal honesty.

Part of what perhaps makes Scott Pilgrim special is that it was both written and directed by someone who obviously has walked in the hipster/loser scene and appreciates the funny/good while acknowledging the negative. There is no romanticism aka Kevin Smith, but on the other hand there isn’t a biting cynicism either. It’s more like someone is saying to the characters, “There’s more to you than this, you can be better than this, just be honest for crying out loud!” Admit you’re selfish, admit you’re selling out, admit you eat chicken parmigiana and aren’t better than anyone else, admit that what every single person who cares about you tells you about you is true. It’s interesting that there is little condemnation for being “yourself” as long as it’s acknowledged and dealt with. What is condemned is a “posing” that thinks a change of scenery, or the “right” person will change who you are.

But of course all this is packed into layer upon layer of cultural reference, sight gag, thumping bass. Like Wright’s previous two movies I’m sure I’ll get more upon subsequent viewings. More laughter and more thought. Which is why He’s three for three.

Review: Green Zone is no Bourne

Posted in Randomness on March 13, 2010 by jaymallow

On one hand it would seem unfair to compare Green Zone with Greengrass and Damon’s other two movies The Bourne Supremacy and Ultimatum, the characters are different and Green Zone attempts to tell a different story. On the other hand Paul Greengrass has stated that his purpose with Green Zone was to make a Bourne like thriller and set it in the Iraq war and the selling point of the movie certainly has been Bourne in Iraq. So I really have no problem contrasting Green Zone with the Bourne films and can say that Green Zone is no Bourne film. Not even close.

Green Zone follows Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller as he at first searches for WMDs in Baghdad in the first weeks of the war and then as he searches for the source of the faulty intel when no WMDs are to be found. That’s really the jist of the plot.

So what makes this not a Bourne movie? Well first there is a surprising lack of action. There are tense moments and the movie moves along briskly but this is definitely more of a “thriller” than a shoot ‘em up war movie. Also while I’ve defended Greengrass’ “shaky cam” in the Bourne movies, with Green Zone it’s almost incoherent. When there is action it’s almost unwatchable at times.

But that really isn’t where Green Zone diverges from the Bourne franchise. Greengrass decided that the best way to get his message across in this movie was to offer contrasts instead of developing characters. Every main character and even most of the scenes are contrasted with each other. Damon’s questioning honorable good-guy soldier is contrasted with Jason Isaacs unquestioning, torturing, Blackwater-esqe special forces guy. Greg Kinnear’s near diabolical administration intel guy is contrasted with Brendon Gleeson’s more knowledgeable and tempered CIA intel guy. The General Al Rawi’s commanding presence is contrasted with the ineffective mostly show presence of Ahemed Zubadai (the guy the US hopes will unite Iraq). Even the seemingly opulent and naive atmosphere of the Royal palace barracks is contrasted with a POW camp that would make a Nazi or Commie proud.(There’s even a contrast of Soldiers guarding the prisoners blithely watching sports while one of their prisoners is dying) Is there a message here? You betcha. The problem is that Greengrass is so obviously trying to make a point with black and white characterizations that the story suffers. He’s making a statement (THIS GOOD!!!- THIS BAD!!! And more often :THIS BADD AND THIS BAD TOO!!!) rather than telling a story. In doing so, the characters loose all subtlety and become caricatures.

Green Zone could have done with a little of Bourne’s universe of moral grayness. One of the things that made the Bourne franchise successful and set it apart in the thriller/spy genre was the moral ambiguity of its characters. Most of the time the antagonists in Bourne (the CIA) weren’t totally evil they were misguided, jumped to conclusions, or overreacted to what might be instead of what really was. Even Bourne wasn’t immune as he ended up finding in each movie that his decisions (as pre-memory loss Bourne or Webb) ultimately were the cause of his suffering. In the Bourne films no one had the whole story and everyone (including the audience) was putting it together, and in putting it together we got to know WHY the characters either wanted to get the whole picture or why they didn’t.

What makes Green Zone disappointing is that the elements are there to follow the Bourne model. If Greengrass had resisted his need to vent a little there could have been a little more mystery and intrigue. Nothing illustrates this more than “Freddy” Miller’s interpreter. Played by Khalid Abdallah Freddy seems to be the only character confused and exasperated by the complex situation. Freddy’s reaction in horror that the US might want to deal with Al Rawi is totally unused. Casting Al Rawi in a less than favorable light could have given a bit of tension that Kinnear’s intel guy might be right and Miller might be wrong. Even still, change one line of dialogue and Al Ralwi (who’s obviously using the American invasion for some sort of power play) becomes a bit more of a manipulator rather than someone who inexplicably gives America a big reason to NOT invade for the promise of support when they do. (If you just said “Huh?” yeah I’m there with you)

Greengrass has stated that he wanted to do a “real world” Bourne movie with Green Zone. Sadly his “real world” is so colored by his political leanings that it makes the world of the Bourne movies believable in comparison. If you want a great Iraq war movie do yourself a favor and rent Hurt Locker. I have no problem with Greengrass expressing himself through film (even though much of what he says is so two years ago) just don’t say it’s Bourne.

MMA Christians and Masculinity

Posted in Randomness on February 7, 2010 by jaymallow

Earlier this week the NY Times put out an article reporting on the “resurgence” of masculine Christianity through MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) church sponsored ministries. After reading the article and some of the responses (here and here)I’ve read I thought I’d share my thoughts.

First thing that struck me reading the article was the “sensational” aspect of the subject material. MMA has been growing in popularity and acceptance as a sport but has yet to shed its violent and unregulated beginnings. Couple that with Christians participating in a “questionable” activity and you’ve got yourself a story. That this is a “movement” I find questionable even given the purported 700 clubs/classes/ministries. (Honestly I wouldn’t be shocked to find out that a lot of that number aren’t really participants but fans of the sport.) Even so, it isn’t shocking that something that is gaining popularity within the culture is finding an expression within the church.

Secondly I think it important to sit back and address what MMA really is. It’s mixed martial arts. MMA isn’t guys with a death wish wanting to beat each other Tyler Durden style, but rather it takes many different forms of martial art and combines them into an effective fighting style. MMA seeks to take the best from boxing, ju-jitsu, kick-boxing, grappling etc. and actually is amazingly malleable to an individual persons physic and comfort. (Historical note: Bruce Lee was actually the first major proponent for mixed martial art training) There is in fact no difference between someone taking MMA classes or Karate classes, or boxing lessons if a person is looking for a means of exercise or personal defense. All of these examples strengthen both the body and the mind and do in fact promote greater self control not less. Any martial art if taught properly teaches that anger in a sparring match/fight is stupid, and that losing control is dangerous BOTH to yourself and your sparring partner. (Personal side note: I’ve seen volleyball matches that were more violent and hurtful in anger and even spite than sparring competitions.) Now when you get into competing on an amateur or professional level the discussion broadens.

A part of the difficulty in addressing issues such as this is an American Evangelical presupposition of evangelistic intent. There is a remaining undercurrent that runs through evangelical thinking that an activity be it vocation, avocation, or hobby is valuable only in its effectiveness or intent in evangelism. The double edge of this way of thinking is that the easiest way to validate an activity is to make it a “ministry” with the intent of “reaching the lost”. The problem that comes in this way of thinking is that an activity isn’t judged on its own merit but on its effectiveness in communicating the gospel. This is where distortion comes into play as sometimes an activity or vocation that doesn’t communicate the gospel is “shoehorned” into doing so. There is pressure to “redeem” an activity in expressly spiritual terms where there might not be an evident immediate spiritual benefit. One comment I read that responded to the NY Times article asked whether churches should “promote” seemingly violent sports such as MMA, boxing, or wrestling. My answer is it depends on what the church is “promoting”. Is it promoting a means of fellowship or promoting a message of the gospel through the lens of the activity? There is a big difference between promoting and supporting Christian members in an activity and promoting an activity as being “Christian”. This difference and pressure in American evangelicalism at least should provide some understanding for some of the quotes in the article. I’m not saying they’re right, nor am I saying that the gospel isn’t being distorted, I am saying that we need as a church to be clear on what the gospel is and what it isn’t. I’m saying that when we are acting to declare the gospel we should specifically do so and that when our actions do not specifically declare the gospel we should be clear as well. Can a professional boxer, MMA fighter, football athlete, soldier, electrician, construction worker, etc., reflect the nature of Christ in their field through their actions and attitude? Yes I believe so. Do these vocations themselves accurately reflect or communicate the gospel or the nature of Christ? The answer is no and we shouldn’t stretch the gospel or the vocation to do so.

Then there is the purported “macho” Christian male movement. On one side I have no idea where this comes from and if this “movement” isn’t yet again the article’s writer attempting to make the story bigger than it really is. On the other side, there is I think a bit that can be learned from even an extreme “macho” perspective in response to Church trends.

Dorathy L. Sayers once said that the church had “effectively pared the claws of the Lion of Judah”. If in her day the claws were pared, today they may be surgically removed. Last year I read an article in which Matt Redmond (Singer/songwriter/worship leader) admitted that even in his worship songs most of the attributes of God that were emphasized or praised were more feminine attributes. “Gentle Jesus meek and mild” has come to personify the whole of the personhood of Jesus in many evangelical minds. For years a God of peace and love has eclipsed a God of justice. Some might call this a “feminization” of God, I rather think of it as a “domestication” of God. In most of the ways we perceive or portray God, God is at best…tame. As God’s primary role has become lover, provider, and promise keeper so to have men’s roles mirrored this trend. I’m not saying that God isn’t all those things, nor that men should not reflect these aspects of God’s character, but where in our modern sensibility is God the warrior, or God the just judge that powerfully executes justice? Where is the God whose power (capability) and goodness make us just a little frightened? I’m indebted to Kevin DeYoung’s message at NEXT 09 where Kevin points out that people were afraid of Jesus. To meet Jesus was to meet omnipotence under control but still experience something of the omnipotent. Are we teaching men not only to be gentle but powerful, to be capable, courageous and confident in their faith? Or as Jonathan Eldridge once put it is the church’s message to men, “behave”? C. S. Lewis in an excellent article entitled “The  Necessity of Chivalry” described the chivalrous ideal of the knight as a man “stern to the nth and meek to the nth” not a happy melding of both. I recommend the article for further reflection but if there is a trend in evangelicalism we would appear to me that we seem to prefer both men (and God in many ways) be “meek” and view “sternness” as brutish. I’m not saying that men shouldn’t be meek but “sternness” also carries with it attributes of God’s character.  Lewis states that the making of a “knight” is art, perhaps what is most needed is an appreciation and reclamation of that art form.

As misguided as the Christian MMA advocates may be in their over emphasis of masculinity I can see how they might hit a nerve especially in the “lost” demographic of 18-35 year olds. Thank God at least they are attempting to minister to/attract these men, something much of evangelicalism has seemingly thrown up their collective hands it frustration or apathy. Much of American Evangelicalism seems content to wait till these men “settle down” and get married to deal with them. This in fact may be the biggest turn off for this demographic, that in many churches there seems to be no role or message for them unless they are married. Much of the message to this demographic can be boiled down to “don’t have sex”, “get married”, and “Why are you so immature?” These “MMA ministers” are at least engaging young men in a way that isn’t immediately condescending and shows them that there is more to being a Christian man than confessing sin and failure. Reaching out through interest at least shows a willingness to listen and minister where guys are at.

Again I don’t think there is a “macho” men’s movement swelling up in the Christian community. In one sense I wish there were because I think there are real theological questions that would at least be confronted. Would I personally participate in an MMA “ministry”? I’d probably try it out and perhaps train, but I would probably not fight exhibitionally. Are there deeper questions to both the MMA issue and to what it means to be a Christian man? Absolutely.