Christians and Violent Entertainment

Will SandersChristianity34 Comments

This past weekend I had a wonderful time at the Truth & Love Conference in Dallas, Texas. It was edifying to hear how we, as Christians, should prepare for and respond to the homosexual movement that is overtaking us like a tsunami. There was sweet worship, great fellowship, and engaging teaching. It was also just plain cool to see a man in the flesh that I have listened to for years, Dr. James White. Overall, I think it was a good-sized crowd in attendance. But there were plenty of empty seats. I find myself wondering if some of those seats were empty because of an event that had a full house…

Mayweather-v-Pacquiao-FOXSPORTS-403x403

The boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao on Saturday night was billed as “The Fight of the Century”. The venue, the MGM Grand Garden arena in Las Vegas, has a reported capacity of 16,800. When tickets went on-sale, they were sold-out in less than a minute. On Pay-Per-View, so many people were trying to tune-in that it caused cable outages, resulting in a 45-minute delay of the fight itself. As for the number of viewers:

Despite the issues and despite the $99.95 price being charged by most providers for the HD feed, the fight is expected to blow away the record of 2.48 million pay-per-view buys for the Mayweather-Oscar De La Hoya fight in 2007. (The Telegraph)

SAN JOSE, CA - NOVEMBER 19: (R-L) Mauricio Rua and Dan Henderson exchange punches during an UFC Light Heavyweight bout at the HP Pavillion on November 19, 2011 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

SAN JOSE, CA – NOVEMBER 19: (R-L) Mauricio Rua and Dan Henderson exchange punches during an UFC Light Heavyweight bout at the HP Pavillion on November 19, 2011 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

A lot of people watched this fight, which is somewhat understandable, given that this fight didn’t happen in 2010 due to failed negotiations. There was an increasing demand to see it. But how many Christians watched it?

The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked,
And the one who loves violence His soul hates. (Psalm 11:5)

Boxing and mixed martial arts are sports where the goal, the entire purpose, is to inflict physical damage on your opponent. It is violent, defined as “rough or injurious physical force, action, or treatment”. Can a Christian enjoy as entertainment something that God hates? If you question whether He hates violence, read His words to Noah, “Then God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth.” (Genesis 6:13)

Now I can hear an objection already: what about all of those wars and violence in the Old Testament that was commanded by God Himself? Let’s take a look at God’s instructions for warfare in Deuteronomy 20, “When you approach a city to fight against it, you shall offer it terms of peace. If it agrees to make peace with you and opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall become your forced labor and shall serve you. However, if it does not make peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it. When the Lord your God gives it into your hand, you shall strike all the men in it with the edge of the sword.” (Deuteronomy 20:10-13)

poussin-amalekitesSounds pretty violent. However, it had a purpose– God’s retribution upon evil.

We must see these terrible retributions in their historical setting. The spread of wickedness was so pervasive that immorality, degradation, and barbarity invaded every facet of life. Children were sacrificed to pagan gods. Male and female prostitution took place right in the temple as part of the religious rites. Idol worship was rife and the society wholly contaminated. This evil was contagious and God’s people were in danger of being infected as well. God’s awesome judgement was finally unleashed.1

Though God sometimes commands violence, He never delights in it. Instead, God’s desire is that sinners would repent.

“But if the wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed and observes all My statutes and practices justice and righteousness, he shall surely live; he shall not die. All his transgressions which he has committed will not be remembered against him; because of his righteousness which he has practiced, he will live. Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord God, “rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?” (Ezekiel 18:21-23)

Certainly, what we take in as entertainment affects us, sometimes in ways we don’t realize. What we look at matters. If not, is it then acceptable for a Christian to view pornography?

John-Abraham“The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23)

Of course, other sports have violent aspects to them, such as football. But injury is not the goal of the sport. Christian football fans shouldn’t cheer when an opposing player is injured. In football and other sports, violence is incidental, not fundamental.

fundamental: forming a necessary base or core; of central importance.

incidental: liable to happen as a consequence of (an activity).

1429321Sadly, now that the fight is over, many people are expressing disappointment that the fight just wasn’t violent enough. They paid good money to see some violence, and it wasn’t enough to satisfy their blood lust. This GQ article is at least honest enough to admit it:

A safer boxing is a duller boxing. We’re here to see somebody get their eyes rolled back in their head. When we all talk this morning about how “boring” the fight was, how much of a waste it was, how boxing always disappoints, how The Fight Of The Century was a dud… that’s what we’re talking about. We’re talking about how no one was hurt, [expletive]. We’re talking about a lack of action, where action means someone’s cranial fluid leaking out their ears. This could have been 12 rounds of Mayweather bouncing around the ring as Pacquiao flailed around him, but if it had ended with a flurry of Manny punches that knocked Mayweather’s nose into the back of his skull, we would have cheered and screamed and pounded our chests. We wanted blood. We didn’t get it. So we are disappointed.2

My fear is that a lot of Christians would agree with the sentiment expressed above.

“Whoever sheds man’s blood,
By man his blood shall be shed,
For in the image of God
He made man. (Genesis 9:6)

In-the-Image-of-GodUltimately, murder is wrong because an image-bearer of God is being killed. Is willfully inflicting damage upon an image-bearer somehow acceptable? A person’s permission to inflict harm upon themselves is irrelevant, because we’re not talking about offending them. We are talking about offending their Creator, whose image they bear.

I will close with a quote from a former boxing trainer, and Christian, Gordon Mariano:

The decisive question for Christians is, “What is going to bring in the light and make us more loving, kinder human beings?” On that score, I must confess that upon exiting the arena, I have seldom sensed that a night at the fights punches up our ability to love our neighbor.

Guest Author
Will Sanders

Will Sanders

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Will is a reformed baptist from central Texas who cares deeply for the Church. He looks to educate those in American Evangelicalism of the growing attacks on the faith.


Show 2 footnotes

  1. “Why so Much War in the Old Testament?” Biblica. 26 Dec. 2013. Web. 3 May 2015.
  2.  Leitch, Will. “Was the Mayweather-Pacquiao Fight a Disappointment?” GQ. 3 May 2015. Web. 3 May 2015.

34 Comments on “Christians and Violent Entertainment”

  1. Great article and I agree, why in the world we as believers would enjoy watching others beat the tar out of another is beyond me. Thanks for putting it into words. The UFC seems to be totally acceptable in this era of “rock star freedom rings it’s a about me” Christianity

    1. First off, thanks for chiming in, Daniel.

      I don’t agree with all the points the author made but as I mentioned to Sondra, I think it’s an interesting discussion to have within Christian circles. A conversation such as this is but one way in which iron can sharpen iron (Proverbs 27:17).

      Thankfully, it’s okay (even healthy at times) for Christians to disagree on tertiary matters such as this if it causes us to be introspective regarding our ongoing sanctification and conformity to Christ.

  2. I don’t know if I agree with this one. These are two willing competitors, who have mastered a craft, and put that mastery on display. I think the fact that they embraced at the end kind of goes against the notion of it being senseless violence. To me violence has a victim.

    1. “These are two willing competitors, who have mastered a craft, and put that mastery on display.”

      Could not the same argumentation be used in favor of pornography? Willing participants, mastery of craft, display for money.

    2. I think we would both agree pornography is a sin no matter how you slice it, but we’ve arrived at the main question here. Is boxing violent? I think to have sinful violence you need intent. It is a matter of the heart. An act that we would call violent isn’t necessarily sinful. Take the scripture quoted in the article. The Israelites were committing very violent acts, but it wasn’t sinful when they put the Lord’s enemies to the sword. I won’t speak for individuals but I am willing to bet that boxers in general are not in the sport to hurt someone. No different than any other sport, at least when it is pure without all of the corruption

    3. I’ll copy and paste what I wrote to Daniel: I don’t agree with all the points the author made but I think it’s an interesting discussion to have within Christian circles. A conversation such as this is but one way in which iron can sharpen iron (Proverbs 27:17).

      Thankfully, it’s okay (even healthy at times) for Christians to disagree on tertiary matters such as this if it causes us to be introspective regarding our ongoing sanctification and conformity to Christ.

  3. Having said that…there is a ton of activities surrounding boxing that God does indeed hate, which might make it better for the sport to disappear…but the sport itself I think is fine

  4. Ok, coupla thoughts…

    1) The fight wasn’t a disappointment to boxing fans, it was a disappointment to those who don’t know much about boxing. What Mayweather did was masterful and what Manny did was show himself to be second best. I enjoyed it because it was a treat to see a smart fighter win. Tyson’s three minute knockouts may bring in the masses, but THAT was boring, “dumbbell” boxing.

    2) Let’s dispense with the argument that every single person paid $100 to watch the fight. I bought some peanuts and handed my brother $5. Everyone else at our party brought some food (or drink) and handed him $5. Most movies most people will rush off to see this summer will cost them more. How much are people paying for cable these days? I’d be shocked to find out that a majority of PPV orders for the fight were viewed alone.

    3) I’d have gladly paid a good amount of money to go see Dr. Jame White, if that good amount of money wasn’t also an expensive plane ticket and, what, three days off from work? Plus, I doubt many people had much of a choice to attend the conference but said to themselves “I’d rather watch boxing instead”. So to imply a one for one, even, exchange is rather… uh…. less than the whole truth, don’t you think?

    4) The point of boxing is to win the fight, not do damage to your opponent. Does it hurt? Yes. Does you opponent get hurt (and do you?)? Yes. But the point is to land more punches and avoid being punched. Want to know how I know this? The two guys who just fought in the “Fight of the Century” walked out of the ring with barely a scratch, and probably could have gone another 5 rounds. And yet, one of them clearly won. It’s not a fight to the death. The reason you can win by knockout is because, well, being knocked out is a possibility and once it happens the honorable thing is to end the fight.

    Disclaimer: I can’t speak for MMA or UFC. I’m not a fan of those sports and I don’t know enough to know what the goals and intentions are.

    5) The equivocation with sinful violence is vacuous. Despite the definition from a secular dictionary (Come on Will, you know better!), the actual word of Gen 6:13 means a very different thing. See for yourself: http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/Lexicon/Lexicon.cfm?strongs=H2555&t=NASB

    Cruelty and injustice are the connotation. An unjust person doesn’t agree to rules to protect himself and his opponent before stepping into the ring. Cruel people don’t give each other a break every 3 minutes. It is not cruelty to wear padded gloves, or to prevent hitting below the belt. People doing what was described in Genesis 6 (and elsewhere) don’t respect their opponents, hugging and praising them afterward.

    IMHO: To lump boxing into the broad vernacular of sinful violence is inane, and to be upset with Christians for enjoying a sport is a tired and distracting refrain.

  5. You cannot dictate morality, especially when the object is a legitimate sport you are going to turn more off than you will persuade differently. Let’s focus on winning lost to Christ.

    1. While I do not agree with every point made in the article, I think it’s a very interesting conversation; one as Christians we should be able to have. It’s an in-house discussion, if you will, not an evangelistic discussion.

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