Christian’s against Karate; What?

Posted by: John W. Zimmer
Under: Humor
4 Oct 2009

Every once in a while I am totally taken aback by a story I find on the internet, one that leaves me scratching my head (by the way if you’ve seen my head, I don’t have much hair left!). Well I found a youtube video series by a Dr. Scott Johnson entitled, “The Spiritual Danger of Martial Arts” that is kind of funny to me.

Now longtime readers of this blog know that one of my rules is to have reasonable discourse about topics, not to use personal attacks. I will resist the urge and ask any commenters to do the same. For me this is a reasonable platform to speak about Dr. Johnson’s main points and make some valid counter arguments.

Here is a PDF of Dr. Johnson’s sermon and the first youtube video below. Dr. Johnson goes off topic a lot trying to clarify his points so I suggest you might just read/skim the the 9 pages (7-15 on the PDF) as it will be faster then clicking on the videos. In this post I will give my frame of reference and rebut some of the fallacies found in this video/PDF.

 

Now I know how talking about sex, politics and religion can be touchy but please know that is not my intention to attack Christians in this post but rather this one preacher’s opinion on the martial arts.

Just for full disclosure purposes I will reveal (although I hope it has not been apparent in my writing) I am a non-denominational Christian. My roots in religion are Catholic from my childhood, Protestant in my early adulthood. Now I mostly claim Catholic and Protestant leanings in my non-denominational worship.

The preacher’s sermon speaks about 5 main points:

  1. Martial arts originate in false religion
  2. Martial arts are part of occult philosophy
  3. The concept of self-defense is unscriptural and anti-christian
  4. Martial arts glorify the flesh
  5. By the fruits you shall know them

Before we begin, lets define Christianity, in the simplest terms, to be a Christian, one believes that Jesus Christ is the son of God or said another way, believes in Jesus. Although there is some disagreement among sects of Christianity as what a Christian is – I believe this definition is broadly supported.

Is there one true religion? Many religions might claim to know the answer to this but as a thinking man, I submit to you that there is no way of knowing the answer to this question.

So if there is not an “Authoritative” answer to which religion is right, how can we accepted this preacher’s view? My answer is we cannot.

By the way according to Wikipedia.com, in 2005, Christianity accounted for 33% of the worlds peoples. Islam accounted for 20% and the Hindus has 13% of the people. The rest of the world’s religions including atheists only has small percentages of followers.

Ok, say that we get beyond the authority question, just how many Christians does this preacher speak for, or what is Dr. Johnson’s percentage of outreach?

That is hard to know because anyone can make claims on the internet and it is up to the viewers to have to tools to discern the validity of the source! One example is where there are a lot of conservatives (I used to be one of them before college) that follow a radio show called the Rush Limbaugh show.

Rush for instance is a very reasonable man in a lot of instances. It is easy for one to find commonality with his views if one is a conservative. The issue for me is Rush takes a stand and does not fairly evaluate other equally valid points of view. It is his way or the highway in some many words.

The danger of this Dr. Johnson might be that with some Christians that already come from churches that believe many normal things are demonic, will view this sermon as proof that karate is providing a false testament!



Now that I have set the stage, lets examine the arguments:

Point 1, about karate originating in a false religion is a rather narrow way of looking at the world. Because one person is not like me – he must be bad? Say you believe your religion is the only true religion, why is everything else evil? Was the whole world created to just tempt you?

I’m sorry but just because karate’s creators were involved with Buddhism, I don’t see the link that what my kid learn from an American strip-mall karate school is bad. So by this ministers theory, (picking on Zen Buddhism for a moment), becoming a better acher with Zen meditation techniques are actually demonic somehow?

Point 2, about occult philosophy, Dr. Johnson makes the point that breaking ice or such that cannot be done by a normal person, he enters into the world of the occult (paraphrasing)! What? All it takes is practice. No superhuman forces are at work but rather training and discipline.

The preacher went on to say that Mas Oyama’s bull horn breaking technique powers came from a superhuman source? What? Oyama did what any other tough son of a gun could train himself to do… overcome adersity! Admittedly Mas Oyama was at the top of his game but he was not supernatural.

Point 3, Self-defense is unscriptural and anti-Christian? Christians as a people and Christian nations certainly do not take turn the other cheek literally or else there would be no crime or wars very soon… as soon as the Christian’s were eliminated (from not fighting back). Click the link to see some of the interpretations but again this preacher is trying to say karate is inherently evil because it teaches people to defend themselves.

Would then this preacher think governments, authorities, and other religions that preach the right of self defense as evil too? Oh wait, this preacher pretty much thinks that everyone not like him is evil. :)

Point 4, Martial arts glorify the flesh? Sorry but I did not get his point here. Does he mean we are worshiping idols? It would be a mis-statement to assume that martial artists that are at the top of their game  and who are also religious, believe they are gods. They may give thanks for their god-given talent however.

Point 5, By their actions, you shall know them. This one is really funny. When I sold life insurance, I was taught the poison pill speech. If I was losing a sale I would simply “help” the client with their search criteria when they were looking for a policy with another company. I would then proceed to tell the client about the traits of a bad policy all the while talking up mine.

In this case Dr. Johnson invokes the kitchen sink argument. He states that Christians that took up karate started fighting, abusing and such and were not really good Christians. Had I been sitting in his church (oh wait – I don’t think he has one), he would have pounded the pulpit at that point because he did not really have an argument! :)

In conclusion he states:

The whole concept and practice of the martial arts contradicts Christianity. It is at once, occult, fleshly, man serving, and Christ denying. It is, in fact, anti-christian in spirit, philosophy, and practice. Smashing bricks and breaking boards opposes the example of Christ…

I tend to take the view point that we have an absolute right to defend ourselves if attacked. Turing the other cheek, I think, means more about not taking revenge than giving up (that can mean you are dead). Also I was kind of puzzled why boxing and wrestling were not mentioned. They would have all of the same problems except perhaps for the non-Buddhist boxers.

I hope you have enjoyed this funny review of this preacher’s views of the Martial Arts. I did have some fun pointing out some of the fallacies of his arguments but please do not forget that self-defense is a serious subject. I will close with a video of some good reasons to NOT turn the other cheek!


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21 Responses to “Christian’s against Karate; What?”

  1. SueC Says:

    What a load of rubbish! The video I mean not your analysis. I listened to the whole video and found it to be a load of incomprehensible waffle. The scriptural arguments used to support his irrational hatred of martial arts were basically non-sequiturs – they didn’t follow or make any sense. I think this man is a prize hypocrite – why does he attend so many martial arts displays if he is so fundamentally opposed to them? He also at one point described a board/ice breaking demonstration as whipping up ’emotional fervour and froth’ in the audience. What? does he mean the audience enjoyed the display ?(oh how unchristian to enjoy yourself). But more seriously isn’t stirring up emotional fervour and froth exactly what he’s trying to do? What about church’s that whip people into a frenzy encouraging them to roll around the floor speaking in tongues? What about tv evangelists? I don’t mean to be offensive but this all reminds me why I’m not religious.

  2. Bob Patterson Says:

    What would be interesting is to have this guy debate someone from one of those Christian martial arts associations.

    http://www.christianmartialarts.com/

    :-)

    -B
    .-= Bob Patterson´s last blog ..Martial Arts News 10.4.09 =-.

  3. Zara Says:

    It would be pretty naive to expect a guy who’s being paid to preach one world-view to be tolerant of other views and religion happens to be one of the last great bastions of organized stupidity in the world today (the other would the republican party lol, nah just kidding). I’d say there’s nothing evil about wanting to protect life (whether your own or someone-else’s), I’m curious about what he thinks about the police or the army since their profession entails using violence too. Ah well, if christians like getting their asses kicked then that’s their business although I do think it would be hard to deduce a uniform standpoint from the bible regarding the issue. As Shakespeare remarked even the devil can cite scripture for his purpose, that is why it’s virtually impossible to deduce a coherent moral code or set of guidelines based on the bible. I fully subscribe to Nietzsche’s analysis on the matter: ‘neither as a religion nor as an ethical code christianity ever comes into contact with reality’. I’ve got nothing against Christ as I happen to think he was one of humanity’s great moral and spiritual teachers but the church sure has [m]ucked-up his legacy. Just look at all the religious wars that were conducted in name of Christianity (‘deo lo volente’ or ‘god wants it’ as motto to the crusades, ‘kill them all, god will know his own’ during the crusade against the kathars in southern France) and it’s easy to see the church never advocated a policy of non-violence. On the contrary: a knight upon completion of his training would be anointed by a priest and his weapon blessed. I think this guy needs to brush up on history, as well as read the bible more carefully. Or alternatively use common-sense but I guess that’s pretty much out of the question here.

    I’m not an avid bible-reader but I do remember one phrase that would suggest Christ would actively support violence (presumably for a good and just cause, although that’s not very clear from this passage): ‘I have not come to bring peace but the sword’. Anyway, I found a site with a rather thorough defense of the practice of kenpo (and the MA in general) from a Christian standpoint using biblical references: http://www.arsenalkenpo.com/warriors.html I like his argument that turning the other cheek applies only to insults (if someone calls your mother whatever there’s no need to bash his face in), not to physical violence. This to me is common-sense: you should only employ violence when they threaten your physical integrity, otherwise just walk away. Sticks and stones will hurt my bones but words can never hurt me. Who cares what some blockhead you’ve probably never even met thinks of you? The other argument in this text is that allowing someone to kill you or somebody else is actually a sin since life is holy, thus it’s morally good and justified to use force to prevent this.

    In any case the practice and ethics of the MA (at least in the east) were embedded in Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism and Shintoism and not one of those religions encourages senseless violence, a veneration of ‘the flesh’ (these guys really are obsessed with sex, aren’t they?) or foolish pride, on the contrary. Besides that it’s entirely possible to be both a Buddhist, Taoist, Confucian or shintoist and a Christian at the same time: not one of those eastern religions is theistic so they’re perfectly compatible with the worship of one god. Breaking of boards or ice is a completely natural process (funny that he thinks it’s inspired by the devil when one could just as easily claim god guides the hands and feet of those practioners performing these feats) and if he claims practicing MA is a surrender to the flesh because it entails exercising the body then he must be against any type of sports as well since it’s basically the same thing.

    Well, it’s always fun picking apart the pseudo-arguments of stupid fanatics, isn’t it? I do hope this guy doesn’t represent any significant portion of Christianity in the US or it wouldn’t bode well for your country.

    Zara

  4. Prasad Says:

    Hhhmmm.. not bad. but aint they common techniques and requires more strength, would they help to normal people.
    anyway.. please come to my blog and give your ideas about the martial arts.
    I’m in a trouble to identify the world’s best martial art?

    http://Blogs.FanBox.com/MartialArtsforfreelife

  5. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Sue, I’m not much for fringe groups in any vocation trying to speak for the rest of the group. I normally see this in politics. People like this I think do more harm for religions (most religions have their zealots) than good.
    .
    Hey Bob, Yep I’d like to be a fly on the wall in that debate but I think they would just be quoting scripture to each other rather than really trying to discern each other’s positions and commonalities. :)
    .
    Hi Zara, Thanks for Nietzsche’s analysis, I’d have to say most religions have been the basis for morality, ethical and legal codes but as you (and Nietzsche) say, it is easy to get lost in the minutia. As for wars and destruction, I agree that most wars have been fought for in some way, for religious beliefs, but I tend to thing if there were not religions, cultural differences would have had the same effect.
    .
    Hopefully in this internet age, where we are communicating with each other, the world over, we can finally realize that people are not that much different and even our perceived enemies are just people like the rest of us, trying to get by in life.
    .
    Hi Prasad, Not checked your site out but there is no best martial art… just people with different ideas and skill levels. Pick on and go for it!

  6. Neal Martin Says:

    When are these people going to go away? I have no love for organised religion of any kind (especially coming from a country that was tore apart by it for years)and the sooner people wake up and see it as the form of mass control that it is the better.

    People like this guy always seem to get their kicks from attacking the things that give us the most pleasure- music, sex, books…and now martial arts. I used to get very wound up fundamentalist Christians, now I just laugh at them. I find it pathetic that they have to behave in the way they do. Usually they have unlterior motives anyway, like making themselves more money and power tripping over their flock. What’s even more infuriating is the fact that they partake in the very activities they spend their time denigrating and putting down. The good Dr.Johnston is probably a secret black belt himself, though probably only in lies and deceit, in which case he’s probably a grand master by now.

    The antics of such people give us who know better something to rail against. They entertain us. I’d still be laughing if it were not for the fact that thousands, even millions, of others take this stuff completely seriously.

    And what would Jesus say? Would he ban martial arts when he comes back here? I doubt it very much. The way the world is today he’d probably be the next UFC champion, killing opponents before ressurecting them again. What would Dr. Johnson make of that, eh?
    .-= Neal Martin´s last blog ..Street Self Defense- Do You Know Too Many Techniques? =-.

  7. Zara Says:

    I think there’s a difference between religion and spirituality: religion is about quenching the fear of death, pain and meaninglessness (bad things happen to good people without any obvious reason or justification) and social-control (before societies came up with a codified system of civil law), spirituality is about love (feeling connected to each other) and a sense of oneness with the universe. Religion is a herd-phenomenon: people who cannot think for themselves turn to others to guide them and tell them what to do, how to live their lives and reassure them there is meaning and justice and a life after death. The result is hierarchy (as if any human has more spiritual potential than another), thought-control and a lot of suffering for believers and unbelievers alike.

    My beef with Christianity and indeed any form of monotheism is that they think they have a monopoly on truth (as if their book wasn’t written by men), as a consequence they behave with incredible arrogance and zeal and are very likely to adopt a holier-than-thou attitude knocking on other people’s opinions and lifestyles without so much as one good argument. The funny thing is that the bible does not offer much in terms of clear-cut views on moral topics (especially when you compare the old testament to the new) and as a result there’s much debate about what is meant exactly and what should be taken literally (as little as possible as far as I’m concerned). This is made worse by the problems associated with the language and structure of the bible: written in ancient languages with the associated problems of translation and interpretation, the question which texts are genuinely part of the bible or not, the status of the so-called apocryphal texts…

    Yet each of the different sects claim their interpretation is the right one. This reminds me of an interesting quote: ‘all nations proclaim each other stupid, and all are right’. The real trouble begins when extremists begin to acquire followers and their words are taken seriously instead of being ridiculed. Their real motivation is always personal gain (be it fame, power or money), even though they claim they’re on a mission from god and they only act out of kindness and altruism. Beware of false prophets and judge not lest you want to be judged.

    Personally I’m an atheist (I don’t see any good reason why the existence of a deity or the supernatural would be likely, let alone certain) with leanings towards Buddhism. I strongly believe in the teachings of the Buddha and the value of living a good, honest life (the basic precepts in Buddhism are very similar to the teachings of Christ: do no harm, do no steal, do not kill, try to be a decent human-being…) and I’m part of a Zen-group which I frequent semi-regularly. I respect religious people as long as they don’t flaunt their truths and values and respect mine, a few of my friends are religious and we have lively discussions about it but it’s always in the spirit of friendship and mutual respect. A human-being is a human-being (whether black, white, red or purple, religious, non-religious) and as such is entitled to respect but I have no respect for people who try to convert me, ridicule my opinions or try to control people by invoking heaven and hell. I’ve passed the stage of needing rewards for good behavior and punishment for bad actions long ago.

    I think Neal has a point: people in Europe tend to be a) less religious than those in the US for example (at least less occupied with organized religion and dogma) and b) far more tolerant towards other’s beliefs and this is in large part due to our extensive experience with fanaticism and religiously inspired violence. Practically the whole medieval-era was characterized by blind, unquestioned faith, wars against the Muslims and prosecutions of other Christians. Even though we all come from the same stock people in the US tend to forget Europe’s history and troubles and as Santayana once said: those who do not know history tend to repeat it. What I find discomforting about America is the strong undercurrent of militant christianity and its ties to politics, education and nearly all aspects of social life. I once saw about a documentary about some sort of religious summer-camp where very young children (age 4 and up) were drilled in reciting the bible and bombarded with complete rubbish about the dangers of islam, atheism, materialism and modern life. This reminded me more of the Hitlerjugend (propaganda mixed with fun activities to attract people and foster an esprit-de-corps and loyalty towards the leader) than anything else and I am deeply concerned about the distorted world-view these children grow up with. Truly this is no better than Arabic children growing up in madrassa’s reciting the Quran and admiring Bin Laden.

    There is something positive about this preacher though: at least he doesn’t befoul the MA by using them as a tool to gain more converts among the young, that’s at least something. Lets not give him any ideas, shall we?

    Zara

  8. Dr. J Says:

    Hey John!

    I don’t know why, but I never looked at your other blog before. The material on this post alone is very complicated, and thoughtful Too much for a quick response except to say. in my martial arts voyage, I went from usually being the nail to usually being the hammer and somewhere along that road, I learned that the true battle was with the self, and that has made all the difference.

  9. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hey Neil, You know better than most just how diverseness can lead to problems. I know little of N. Ireland’s conflict other than with was the Catholics against the Protestants for some reason. Jesus in the UFC! That would sell so PPV :)
    .
    Hi Zara, We each have to decide how to structure our lives. This post’s scope was aimed directly at this fringe minister but I really have no beef with any religion of the world. I would like to see a little more of live and let live attitude out there.
    .
    Hi Dr. J! I can talk ad-nausium about martial arts as it is so much a part of my being. Well said about self improvement. That is often the true opponent that is overlooked in our training!

  10. Martial Arts News 10.10.09 « Striking Thoughts Says:

    […] John Zimmer discovers that some Christians are against karate. Now I know how talking about sex, politics and religion can be touchy but […]

  11. Tony Says:

    This is funny to me, as I am Christian and have practiced Karate for several years. My Karate teacher has taught me great values and how to be a good person, respect others, my parents,and to be a good role model to my younger siblings etc… As you can see, to me there is nothing wrong with Karate. This Dr. Johnson guy is a quack!
    .-= Tony´s last blog ..Lyoto Machida Shorts =-.

  12. Chris | Martial Development Says:

    Consider a hypothetical scenario. What if the church cared about nothing other than increasing its own power? It would be obliged to either co-opt, or attack any alternative social order as “satanic”, thus establishing itself as the only game in town.

    Live and let die, in other words.

    There are very few people qualified to discuss religion as metaphysics, philosophy or science–inside or outside the church. It is best understood IMO through the lens of sociology, or as a political movement. The pastors are politicians, and deserve all the respect we normally grant such figures, and no more.
    .-= Chris | Martial Development´s last blog ..One Man’s Experience With Spring Forest Qigong =-.

  13. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Tony, I think karate training has helped me too deal with people with respect. Dr. Johnson seems to take on lots of fringe views for some reason. While I highlighted his views about karate – they were funny to me too!
    .
    Hi Chris, I like your analogy here. One can see the same arguments in religious, political, environmental organizations.

  14. Marc G. Says:

    Well, I guess I am going to have to take stand of “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” on this post. Personally, being a Christian and a Martial Artist, it bothers me that any blanket judgement would be made by someone claiming to be a scholar of the church. Isn’t the idea of being a scholar to learn? And, isn’t one of the most basic things that we learn about eachother is that we are all different? My point being that while martial arts training (just like anything else) can be misused for evil purposes, that does not make it inherently evil (or specifically to this sermon unchristian). There are no such direct teachings in the tradition practice of the “asian” martial arts or any other that I have ever studied. As well, like someone said in an earlier comment, “Even the devil CAN quote scripture for his own purposes.” This does not make the context or intent holy…or even rational.
    .-= Marc G.´s last blog ..The True Kata Applications…Part 3 =-.

  15. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Marc, I tend to take your view here. One has to discern actions to judge intent. I don’t see evil behind every tree like some but rather wait to see what developes. I also am not threatned by other cultures, religions, or political views… just how they affect me… hopefully if everyone followed the golden rule – there would less fringe groups out there.

  16. Zara Says:

    The mere fact he’s actually picking on halloween (“a feast devoted to the devil”), look it up on you-tube it’s hilarious, says enough. This guy is a loon with an obsessive-compulsive disorder and really does not deserve any attention. Luckily we’re not living in the dark ages anymore or he would be the first to light the fire at the stake. He professes to worship someone who taught nothing but love and humbleness and yet he’s preaching the exact opposite: hate and pride since he alone knows what is appropriate for a true christian and he alone has the right to chastise and threaten anyone who disagrees with him and thus strays from the true path. His bible-quotes and weak sophisms do not impress me, he’s totally full of it and contradicts himself: “Check your opinion at the door”, jee guess what he’s doing? But don’t be mad at him for exposing the true nature (pure evil) of your passion or pastime: “Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?” Too bad Hitler didn’t think of this one or WW2 would have never happened.

  17. The True Kata Applications...Part 3 | ActionKarateArts.com Says:

    […] to debunk what they see as other peoples “misguided” ideas.  This applies to anything: politics, religion and…yes, the martial arts as well.  Here in the real world, where everyone is different, how can you have a practical training […]

  18. Marc G. Says:

    Hey John,
    Haven’t been in to comment for a while. But, this post kind of had me thinking since I read it. I referenced it in a post of mine on the same subject. Hope you don’t mind…it just kind of got to me more than I thought it would. That with all the true evil, corruption and other misdeeds out there, that something as potentially positive as karate (or other martial arts) training can be, they would sieze it to attack as “unholy”. Everyone needs something to hate it seems. Anyway…take care and thanks for mentioning this.
    .-= Marc G.´s last blog ..A Karate RELIGIOUS Crusade…!? =-.

  19. Karate Religious Crusade | ActionKarateArts.com Says:

    […] Zimmer (myselfdefenseblog.com) wrote a very good post about this entitled: Christian’s against karate; What?  In it there was an audio clip from a sermon given by Dr. Scott Johnson demonizing the practice of […]

  20. Pat Says:

    I don’t want to correct you, but it is quite easy to see how many people Dr. Johnson reached with his video/recording. YouTube said 291 views when I looked. Probably most of them are from people reading your blog.

  21. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Marc, Wow your friend really was impacted by thinking such as this… to me it was more abstract when I read it. By the way I liked your post.

    Hi Pat, Thanks for pointing that out. I’m not sure if this is the prechers only outlet… hopefully so.