"A Match Made in Heaven"?

That’s the title of the article in the May 8, 2006 issue of ESPN The Magazine. The double-page, full color introduction to the article is a racy picture of 2 women (?) wrestlers in a ring, one standing over the other, about to kick her. The kickee is holding the ropes, grimmacing and in obvious need of more clothing. A pull-out quote next to the women says this:

BORN-AGAIN WRESTLING LEGEND TED DiBIASE IS SAVING SOULS ONE SMACKDOWN AT A TIME

There is so much in the article, written by Allison Glock, that warrants comment that I must necessarily limit myself or else someone will think that Gene Bridges really wrote this entry. 🙂

First, the story indicates that a real conversion to Jesus Christ took place in Mr. DiBiase’s life. Glock writes that in 1992, while at the top of his profession, DiBiase (aka “The Million Dollar Man” [MDM]) turned from a very sordid and opulent lifestyle to following Christ. One can only rejoice at this testimony of saving grace. The obvious zeal that MDM has to see people converted is also wonderfully encouraging.

Out of his love for the Lord and for wrestling, he founded the Power Wrestling Alliance, an independent league that “doubles as a Christian ministry.” The league’s stated purpose is “to get souls saved.” To that end they host wrestling events in local churches, charging a one time fee and then allowing the church to keep “all the proceeds from tickets and concessions.”
Initially, people thought he was crazy, MDM admits. “They couldn’t see how wrestling and religion connected. But they’ve come around the idea of having a ring in their sanctuary.”

Their promoter, Bobby Riedel distinguishes the PWA from other Christian wrestling organizations by noting, “We do upscale…. We have lighting. Smoke. High standards. It isn’t a boring, hokey show because it’s Christian. If WWE can have the best, why can’t God’s people? The Bible says to be fishers of men. We say you need some good bait. And the bait we use is wrestling.” At least he is honest.

The show ends with a reenactment of the crucifixion that is realistic enough to make children cry and turn away. Then MDM takes the microphone to preach, or as he puts it, “to wrestle with you.” After he spends half an hour speaking, he gives what Glock rightly identifies as “an altar call” to join him in the ring. On the night that she was researching this article, many come. In fact, she writes, “almost all the remaining audience members file down to join him at the ropes, heads tilted skyward, hearts pounding, arms outstretched. Autograph books in hand.”

The article is actually surprisingly sympathetic to DiBiase and his PWA. 1 Corinthians 9:22 is cited in the article (“I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some”). That is a key (partial) verse in thinking about what evangelism. But too often it is used as if it were a theological justification for Joseph Fletcher’s situation ethics where the end justifies the means rather than a principled approach to compassionate evangelism.

Overall, this article is one more indicator of how confused we are as modern evangelicals. DiBiase’s zeal is so obviously commendable. But it is equally obvious that it is a zeal without vital knowledge.

Tomorrow I plan to pick up on this last point and complete my thoughts.