The New York Times has an article on “fight nights” at congregations in Brazil. While I know little about Brazilian culture outside of ministering alongside an immigrant church that was primarily Brazilian for three years, I feel confident saying that pairing fights with worship is pretty theologically slippery.
The relationship between violent specactles and Christianity is checkered but two instances are clear:
- The cross subverted the violence and the spectacle nature of the Roman arena against its authorities,
- The martyrs throughout subverted the violence and the spectacle nature of their executions to portray faithfulness
- …but these fight nights? No power is taken from the fighting, only parallel messages to spiritual warfare. The fight provides the context for the message, but the fight itself is not critiqued.
Of course, sometimes theological purity isn’t desired; what is desired is to grow a church or movement. In that case, is it effective? Without question:
Reborn in Christ is among a growing number of evangelical churches in Brazil that are finding ways to connect with younger people to swell their ranks. From fight nights to reggae music to video games and on-site tattoo parlors, the churches have helped make evangelicalism the fastest-growing spiritual movement in Brazil.
There have been a long line of churches using culturally relevant events to bring crowds together. These break into the echo chambers and cause people to wonder “why would a church do that? Huh.” which is great. But I think if you are gonna do that, be prepared to critique the negative aspects of the culture, showing how it falls short of true satisfaction in the Gospel, instead of celebrating it by screaming on fight nights.