I just learned about the bizarro Wrestling for Jesus, which upon reflection would probably have to be invented if it didn’t already exist. The website appears to be defunct, but the movement is alive and well, at least with other organizations doing the same thing: Ultimate Christian Wrestling and the Christian Wrestling Federation. Wrestling has definitely morphed from the sniggering, not-sure-what-to-believe sideshow of my youth to a full-blown, guileless entertertainment in my adulthood. It helps that the truth that it’s fiction was finally revealed, which gave fence-sitters the option to happily accept that it’s merely an athletic stage show and to go ahead and indulge in the synthetic glory of juiced-up hulks simulating epic battles between supposed good and supposed evil. It’s not unlike the movies in that regard, except that it’s live action (or pay-per-view, if you prefer).
Adding the Christian element is either a masterstroke or a ridiculous detraction from the bigger, better WWE version. All the iconography, characters, and parables of the church can be redeployed in staging epic battles between good and evil, but now without irony. Problems emerge, however, when the participants (should they be called actors or athletes?) get carried away, presumably transformed by the very characters they play and stories they tell into states of ecstatic communion with the savior, and fail to pull their punches. History shows that actual Christian violence isn’t exactly a rarity, but it has to be a surprise when the fictitious violence of the hyped-up, adrenaline-fueled wrestling arena becomes real violence.