Pugilistic Pastors

The fascinating documentary 'Fight Church' asks: Are Christianity and cage fights compatible?
Pugilistic Pastors
'Fight Church'

Alissa's note: thanks to Mark Moring for this guest "Watch This Way" post!

I find it a fascinating coincidence that Fight Church, a new documentary about preachers who hold “fight clubs” at their houses of worship, was released on Netflix less than 24 hours after controversial pastor Mark Driscoll resigned from Mars Hill Church.

Driscoll had drawn criticism for his loose tongue and penchant for tough talk, including revelations that, while trolling online as “William Wallace II,” he complained that America is a “pussified” nation because its Christian men aren’t manly enough.

Christianity Today referred to Driscoll as “Pastor Provocateur” in a 2007 profile, and noted (metaphorically) that “he’s still brawling today.” His comments in a 2009 documentary called Fighting Politics kept that reputation intact: “I don’t think there’s anything purer than two guys in a cage—no balls, no sticks, no bats, no help, no team—and just see which man is better,” Driscoll says in this clip. “As a pastor and Bible teacher, I think God made men masculine. . . . Men are made for combat, men are made for conflict, men are made for dominion.” He argues for letting “men be men, and do what men do. And let other fat lazy men sit around and criticize them while watching.”

Such machismo is echoed by some of the pastors in Fight Church, a compelling look at the world of cage fighting “ministries” and the preachers who engage in it. Exhibit A is John Renken, aka The Fighting Preacher. A former MMA (mixed martial arts) professional enamored with The Crusades, Renken believes he is “literally ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Watch This Way
How we watch matters at least as much as what we watch. TV and movies are more than entertainment: they teach us how to live and how to love one another, for better or worse. And they both mirror and shape our culture.
Alissa Wilkinson
Alissa Wilkinson is Christianity Today's chief film critic and assistant professor of English and humanities at The King's College in New York City. She lives in Brooklyn.
Previous Watch This Way Columns:
July/August
Subscribe to CT and get one year free.
Read These Next
close