Fighting the devil

Alan Edwards looks at a current form of muscular Christianity but wonders whether there might not be an easier version

 

Fifty years ago when my ecclesiastical home was FIEC rather than FiF, I puzzled when senior brethren in my Bethel reported that they were ‘wrestling with the Lord.’

Which of two paths to take? Oddly enough, the result of the wrestling normally approved the direction that the brother wanted to take anyway. Did the godly grappling share a script writer with the wrestling matches which, in those days, filled the Saturday afternoon TV?

If the spiritual wrestling of my youth caused doubts, all reservations were cast aside when I discovered a recent arrival in the USA’s Bible Belt – Ultimate Christian Wrestling – UCW. Six foot four evangelist-wrestler Ray Adonis and a team of god-fearing grapplers, clad in purple leotards adorned with Spandex crosses, lift high a wooden cross in the ring before enacting blood spattering battles that preach the triumph of good over evil to deep South congregations. Hundreds are being added to these churches.

American sport and religion have long cohabited – witness the prowess of Notre Dame’s quarter-backs or the country ballad, ‘Drop kick me Jesus through the goalposts of life.’

For sermons the Ultimate Christian Wrestlers batter a Judas Iscariot wrestler who is led to seek redemption. Rome is wasting its time setting up a committee to re-evaluate Judas when a budget flight to South Carolina would sort it.

Could UCW translate from the Bible Belt to Britain’s Biretta Belt? Could Ray transform Reform? Should the Catholic Group in Synod become The Walsingham Wrestlers? Will sales of leotards eventually outstrip cassock-albs? The UCW team are about to embark on ‘The Ultimate Armageddon Tour.’ What better name for FiF to adopt for a country-wide tour, wrestling for a free province. Hang on though. Wrestling no longer features on UK terrestial TV – supplanted by darts. Scripturally satisfying, for, as those who have not given up on the AV will know, darts goes back to Joab who ‘took three darts’ [2 Samuel 18.14].

Darts would fit the current ‘laid back’ mood of UK churchgoers better than wrestling’s vigour. Charismatics apart – Anglicans are now less liturgically athletic. Even Catholics are abandoning genuflectory gymnastics for statuesque standing. The only way Britons could follow Ray would be if the limp embrace of the Peace were replaced by a Half Nelson.

So, Ultimate Darts it’s got to be. Darts’ maths would hold no fears for FiF’s General Synod members who are skilled in working out whether the latest piece of lunacy has got a two-thirds majority. However, darts playing divines would have to be careful about using the darts phrase ‘three in a bed,’ although probably the next edition of Further Issues in Human Sexuality will OK the practice.

If you still hanker after the athleticism of Ultimate Christian Wrestling, remember that darts has its athletic side. Not just the hand-eye co-ordination of throwing the dart, but also the kinetics of pint sinking. Not that Walsingham Wayfarers would be beaten in a drinking contest by TV famed giant darts champion Andy ‘The Viking’ Fordham – Kent’s lager-lifting landlord.

If the name Ultimate Christian Wrestling goes, how about ‘Orthodoxy on the Oche’ for our new darts-centred approach?

Finally, if we go for Ultimate Darts to pull the crowds when campaigning for a free province, we’ll need, like darts, to have nick-names. York diocese FiF is bound to have an equivalent of ‘Andy the Viking.’ But who will be FiF’s ringer for Eric Bristow, ‘The Crafty Cockney’?

Answers on a packet of Lamberts and, in the words of darts doyen Bobby George, ‘Be Lucky!’

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