A good film keeps your brain churning after the credits roll, sets off conversations and debates between friends, and piques your curiosity to research further on the topic. Fight Church, a documentary by Academy Award winner Daniel Junge and Bryan Storkel, does those things by posing a single question: Can you be a pastor and a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter?
The film introduces viewers to four muscled pastors who are MMA fighters, with all but one starting MMA training ministries at their churches. They argue that the sport’s popularity creates a way to introduce the gospel and that MMA is comparable to other competitive sports like wrestling. Yet even as they tell the camera that they’re fighting solely for the glory of God, the film cuts to cringe-worthy scenes from the cage fights: a fighter pounding another man’s head, limbs twisted in unnatural angles, flecks of blood flying from a fighter’s face.
Fight Church provides a variety of perspectives on the controversial topic, including an older pastor lobbying to keep MMA illegal in New York, a burly pastor from Tennessee with a handgun tucked in his jeans complaining that “mainstream Christianity has feminized men,” and a former MMA fighter who felt convicted that training others to knee opponents in the chest contradicted his faith. They all show an earnest devotion to the Word of God but come to different conclusions.
There’s an interesting overlap between the two communities as a number of the top MMA fighters, such as Jon Jones and Ben Henderson, are outspoken Christians. Fight Church pastors often use illustrations from the cage in their sermons—our lives are a fight, we must persevere, and Jesus didn’t tap out.
In a pivotal scene, two MMA-fighting pastors battle it out in the cage, complete with skimpily dressed ring girls and the usual pummeling and grappling. Although the two pray for each other the next day at church, it’s uncomfortable to see two men who claim to be shepherds trying to destroy not the wolves, but each other.
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David Suchet Handout
In the Footsteps of St. Paul
by Megan Basham
There’s something quintessentially British about the BBC documentary In the Footsteps of St. Paul, recently released to DVD. Hosted by actor David Suchet (best known to mystery-lovers as Hercule Poirot), the two-part series tends toward a chipper, well-mannered tone. While acknowledging hotly contested controversies surrounding the apostle, the film shunts them away with a quick question or two and a polite, Well, there you are, cheerio!
For example, Suchet deals with arguably the most contentious issue contemporary society has with Paul’s writings—his directives that women are not to serve as pastors or preachers—by speaking to a single authority. After she puts forward the view that Paul was simply making allowances for the male-dominated culture of his time, Suchet thanks her warmly and moves on without challenging her assertions. Likewise, the film accepts as fact the supposition that Paul believed Christ would return in his lifetime.
But while Suchet may not exhibit the investigatory powers of his iconic Agatha Christie character, he makes an amiable guide as we follow Paul’s journeys, sometimes seeing the remains of the actual roads the apostle traveled. These parts of the film may inspire Christian viewers to consider anew the man who wrote most of the books of the New Testament.
One particularly poignant moment comes when Suchet points out that while Paul’s beliefs and life purpose changed immeasurably after his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus, his essential personality did not. Saul of Tarsus was an intense, passionate, deeply driven man. Paul the slave of Christ remained all this, yet became much more.
There is something wonderfully comforting in the fact that God saved the soul of the man but then worked through his existing personality, molding and harnessing it for His own means. It brings to mind C.S. Lewis’ observation that no real personalities exist apart from God who frees us from bondage to sin to be our truest selves. In the Footsteps of St. Paul demonstrates how this truth operated in the life of Saul of Tarsus and, by extension, all Christ’s followers.
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by Sophia Lee
112 Weddings is an HBO documentary that may scare single people away from marriage—until their God-given desire to love and be loved prevails.
Filmmaker Doug Block shoots weddings on the side. Over a period of 20 years, he has shot 112 weddings, getting intimate access to ordinary individuals experiencing the most extraordinary day of their lives. In 112 Weddings, Block revisits some of these couples and asks: So how’s your happily ever after?
We first meet Rachel and Paul, married for 13 years, who on their wedding day locked glistening eyes as they stood before the officiate. They say their marriage is great—but it’s hard to understand them because they’re constantly talking over each other.
Jenn and Augie, married eight years, share the typical troubles: losing sleep over a new baby, a layoff, days-long arguments. Augie says sometimes he wants to leave—but just for a week and then come back. As he speaks, Jenn sits a foot away and wipes tears from her cheeks.
Block (who’s been married 28 years) interviews divorced couples, too. One couple split up after 19 years when one day, during a couples therapy session, the wife discovered her successful, slimmed-down husband had been cheating on her. Another divorced screenwriter calls his ex-wife a “horrible wife” who was “abusing her antidepressants.” Then he backtracks: “No. I’m sorry. That was me.”
Some couples, like Janice and Alexander, didn’t actually marry. Instead, they had a “partnership ceremony,” in which they swore “unconditional love” without the legal “possessing.” Janice claims she would love Alexander even if he ran off with another woman. Alexander, however, is not certain his love is as unconditional as hers. And then there’s lesbian couple Anna and Erica, who say what they have is special because “when you make the decision to stay with somebody forever, you really want to work on it.”
112 Weddings can be emotionally draining, and it’s no wonder Disney movies always end with a wedding. Happy weddings are easy. Happily ever after is complicated and messy.