Monday, February 13, 2012

"Jesus Didn't Tap" and Muscular Christianity

I was confused about a bumper sticker in my apartment complex parking lot (say that five times fast) that says, in red text, "Jesus Didn't Tap." Luckily, Google provides the answer:
"Jesus is the only one that truly didn't tap. They say, 'Oh, he was nailed to the cross so he couldn't tap.' Well, you can verbally tap, you can verbally cry, 'I quit! I give up!' That's not what he did. He got crucified for all our sins."
That's Jason Frank, who used to be a Power Ranger but now found God. Well, a particular aspect of a particular God: as the article on this movement puts it, this is Jesus the ultimate fighter.

Now, I was tempted to say that this is an aberrant reading of Christianity, a very Texas reading of Jesus; but it's not so new. And, to be fair, I've only seen the one bumper sticker here, so it may not be all that popular--or overt, at least--in Texas.

(And I'm also tempted to say that this is a fun new/old way to get people to spend money on clothes with logos.)

To put this in its proper context, I think we need to look back the Victorian notion of "Muscular Christianity," which was a movement/mode of thought arguing that Christians needed to get buff for God.

No, that's a terribly facile way to describe it; in fact, one positive way would be to say that Muscular Christianity was about re-thinking the physical as a field of spirituality--that the world wasn't just a honeytrap to lead us to sin but could be about joy and pleasure.

(The negative flipside of this would be the terrible social Darwinism of the time: if you're spiritually saved, you're not materially poor; and if you're poor, just go and die already.)

I'm not an expert on Muscular Christianity, but I do think it's somewhat telling that many of the Victorian and Edwardian followers focused on team sports and non-winnable sports (calisthenics), whereas today people like Frank focus on individual sports, like MMA fighting and boxing.

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