Fight Club

April 6, 2009

Almost everyone likes a really good fight. Especially on Mondays.

I’ve been in one fist fight in my life. Well, one fight with someone who wasn’t my brother. My brother and I would fight, but we knew better than to punch each other in the faces. We’d keep fists and feet for arms and guts and open hands for faces.

Anyway, about the real fight. We’ve already established that I was a wimpy kid. Not exactly a pile of muscles. Kind of nerdy, quiet, the kind of kid who might attract a bully. Which is just what I did in 7th grade.

This guy was a year older than me. Well, he was a year older than everyone. His friends were at least a year behind him. Same with the kids he picked on. You get the picture. He wasn’t a big guy, he could only dominate younger kids. You know the kind of kid I’m talking about. You probably knew one. Maybe you had a bully of your own. That’s it, bring back those memories. Is your face getting red thinking about that childhood bully? Are you getting pumped up thinking about him? Good, it makes the story better.

Anyway, I was not the kind of kid who naturally stood up for himself. I didn’t know any curse words and was not bench pressing…anything. If I were with Jesus when he said, ‘turn the other cheek,’ he would have pulled me up to the front as an illustration of what he meant. “Everyone see this puny, wimpy nerd-boy? See how I can take his glasses and he’ll never do anything about it? See how I can make him punch himself while repeatedly saying ‘stop punching yourself’? Everyone, be like this kid…”

So for a few months, my parents encouraged me to defend myself. And I gradually got bolder in my verbal confrontations with the kid. And then one night, I was ready. This guy was outside next door and was totally asking for it. So I pumped myself up, went outside, and we exchanged some…words. I had every intention of provoking him into a fight.

I had an idea of how things would go. I would win, of course. Teeth, kidneys, fists, knees, groin, foot on head, laughing triumphantly. Glorious. It would look something like this:

…Things didn’t quite go as planned. Turns out I’m not a ninja. I totally forgot my ninja stars. I did land the first contact, in the face, but was outmatched. Not to say I didn’t hold my own. It only lasted a minute, at which time an adult stopped us. He had tears in his eyes, which I contend means I won. Good fight. And he never bothered me again.

I can tell you’re pumped up now!

I started thinking about how Christians interact with violence after our ‘Televangelist Knock-Out Round 1’ on Friday.

Here’s a fact, based on broad assumptions and wild, baseless conjecture: people, in general, seem to be attracted to violence in one way or another. Some enjoy the clash of two athletes in the boxing or wrestling arena or on the football field. Others enjoy a violent mobster movie, or a Civil War reenactment (which are huge here in the Midwest.) Little kids play Rock Em, Sock Em Robots. Even a harmless Pixar movie has some level of violence in it. How else are we going to beat the villain?

And I think people really like ‘heroic,’ ‘righteous’ violence. Stories of soldiers, superheroes, vigilantes, guardians of justice, and the bad guy getting what’s coming to him. We like ‘good’ to win and ‘evil’ to definately lose.

I like a good story or movie, whether it has violence or not. I like plenty of non-violent stories and movies. There are plenty of violent movies I wish I had not seen. But I draw a clear distinction between what I think are good (and violent) movies and the prurient filth that’s being peddled to our teenagers, that amounts to nothing more than smut-laced carnage. I’m looking at you, Saw 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. How many times does anyone need to see the same warmed-over movie with a different number on the title to get the story? Zero, because the only story is how a bunch of hacks tricked you out of your money.

Seriously, between the ‘horror’ movies and the ‘parody’ movies (Epic Movie, Date Movie), there is absolutely no reason to send your teenagers to the theater. Everything there insults their intelligence.

About that ‘turn the other cheek’ verse: Jesus isn’t necessarily talking about violence. He’s talking about being insulted and abused, having your rights impeded. Being slapped is an insulting thing to happen. Like when you’re about to challenge someone to a duel in France, you remove your glove and say, ‘You sir, have insulted my integrity! I challenge you to a duel!’ and then slap him with your glove.

The only thing more insulting then being slapped in the ancient world was to be slapped backhanded. So Jesus is telling people, if someone has insulted them, to turn their face so their antagoniser might give them an even greater insult. Another factor in play was that people in that world were kind of lawsuit-happy. So Jesus is saying, rather than take a matter to court, rather than fight, it’s better to be insulted not just once but even twice. The point is, life is going to insult you. Get over it and quit being a big crybaby about how no one listens to you and everyone is so mean and they don’t respect you. Boooo hooooo!

Some people never learn that, in the church or in the real world. They’re always throwing a fit because of some slight they think must be on purpose from the pastor, or a coworker, or some other person. Jesus would tell that person to have a seat, junior! Jesus got insulted all the time, and no one saw him throwing down in the street with some tool who smudged his new sandals.

Even though Jesus wasn’t talking exclusively, or perhaps even literally about violence in that verse, we know he wasn’t a fighting sort of guy. And so Christians are generally supposed to be non-violent sorts of people.

I sometimes imagine myself facing down someone who intends to do myself and my family harm. In one scenario, I’m a heroic defender. In another, I can calmly accept our fate and assure my family that everything will be all right. I don’t know which one would actually play out.

So…I’ve got a big list of questions. Feel free to answer any or all of them.

Was I wrong to provoke violence with that kid that day?
Were my parents wrong to encourage me to do so?
Have you ever been in a fight? I want to hear about that!

How much violence in entertainment is ‘too much?’ Are we to abstain from violent entertainment altogether? Is violence more acceptable when it’s ‘cartoony’ or just so absurd that it probably could never happen? Like a piano being dropped on someone?

When is it okay to act in defense of ourselves or another defenseless person? And, do you own a gun?

You pretty much know where I’m at. But I’m a dirty sinner, so my opinion probably can’t be trusted. Oh, and we’re definately going on with ‘Televangelist Knock-Out Round 2 and 3’ because it’s not really violent at all, and I find it entertaining. So keep those votes coming in and tune in Friday for that.