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The Hero
‘What about Religion and Fighting?’: A Man Question from Steevo Bristol

“Dude, what is up with all of these MMA fighters giving Jesus the credit for the win? Is this something new?”


Steevo, the first prize-fighters were all regarded as heroes and their contests were considered in a similar light latter attributed to the suffering of Jesus on the cross. The very name for an ancient athletic contest we overlook, as we, as materialistic pleasure and safety seekers think in terms of things and access to things rewarded.

Athlete means “prize-seeker” in the language of the ancient Hellenic pankratists and boxers, which were the counterparts of our current combat athletes.

So, although such men did seek to win prizes [mostly just symbolic laurel wreathes] the event they engaged in was known as an agon, and their preparations for this agonistics, from which we have received the term agony, meaning suffering.

These men were seen as representing the spirit of their community and family as they contended with others, literally before the altars of a pantheon of gods that were considered cruel, not loving like the Jesus proclaimed by current Christian prize-fighters.

Although these contests were brutal and fighters did occasionally die, death was not the intent and since they were intrinsically sacrificial, if a fighter died it was considered a victory for him and the man who he fought against was fined.

Not all heroes were considered ‘good’ some being downright evil, such as a disqualified fighter who tore down the roof over a group of school children, killing them.

The important thing about a hero was that he literally challenged the gods, [1] which, in ancient Hellenic thinking, places Jesus Christ as a hero, who defied the gods of his people’s masters in Rome and likewise defied the priesthood of his own people. Most Christian doctrine places Jesus as a heroic figure, an actual sacrifice, so there is no contradiction in seeing him as an inspiration to athletes or even soldiers. Christianity was originally accepted as the Roman state religion under Constantine based largely on its effectiveness as a sacrificial religion, in motivating soldiers. When this Romanized form of Christianity was brought to 1500s Mexico, and its bloody-handed proponents defeated the Aztecs, who had the most sacrificially-inclined religion and society know to historians, conversion of the Aztec survivors to Catholicism became one of the greatest success stories in Christian history.

Just as the hero-cultists of first century Greece—who literally worshipped inspirational persons who had sacrificed themselves in defiance, such as Socrates the Philosopher, or risked life and social status battling a predatory rape cult, such as Euthymus the boxer—often favored the idea of an aspect of God [in this case his son] suffering in human form, the Aztec warriors, all willing to be sacrificed for the good of their nation, also identified with this agonized interpretation of the divine, a sentiment obvious in the heroic conduct and crowd-pleasing style of Mexican boxers to this day. The bravery of Mexican boxers is so common it may be regarded as a national characteristic in terms of that sport.

It is important to recall that in the ancient view a hero faces enemies within [traitors and his own self-doubts, as did Jesus as portrayed in the Gospels] and crucially enemies from without, usually rendered in mythic terms as monsters such as Humbaba or Grendel [and in the Gospels as the evil world, which passes sentence on and kills Jesus for his teachings.] If looked at coldly, in secular, literary terms, the life and sacrifice of Jesus may be seen as a form of heroization and later deification of the condemned counter-culture leader, like Socrates. However, looked upon from the Christian perspective, by a masculine combatant, the idea of a non-combatant suffering and dying for a higher purpose, has had great, motivating appeal to fighting men for at least the past 1700 years. Our social forms might change, but individually-combative men [as opposed to a mob or a unit of slave soldiers] have remained motivationally much the same across the ages.

In my view, there is nothing more evocative of the ancient heroic tradition across numerous warrior cultures, in both northern hemispheres of the world, than the prize-fighters, exemplified by catholic and protestant boxers and MMA fighters crediting their victory to God, often, specifically in the form of Jesus Christ.

Is it as simple as a belief in a higher power buoying the spirit of a fighter or is it more?

In this man’s mind it is one in the same.


1. If you are an atheist or agnostic and are trying to wrap your head around this concept, think of challenging the gods in terms of challenging Fate, nature or some previously impassable barrier, such as a mountain, an ocean or outer space.

He: Gilgamesh: Into the Face of Time

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