During my youth I was witness to one of the great schisms in fundamentalism. True friends broke fellowship and preachers raged from their pulpits. Universities changed courses and people in church vestibules around the country murmured soft and low of the scandal of it all. I’m speaking, of course, of whether or not martial arts were permissible for Christians or a gateway to the occult.
Here is the controversy in a nutshell. On the one hand some fundamentalists agree that there is no better feeling than walking around knowing you could wipe out your entire neighborhood, provided of course that you witness to them first and give them a chance to get saved or at least throw a few gospel tracts on their mangled bodies after the fracas and then calling them an ambulance. Fighting fundamentalists do love to fight.
On the other side, however, are fundamentalists who stand opposed to most forms of martial arts. Not, as you might think, because they are pacifists — far from it! They have no objections to boxing matches, wrestling bouts, or professional hockey. What they fear is that once you put on those foreign looking clothes and start bowing, meditating and learning how to pronounce “qi” that demon possession just can’t be far behind. It’s all just so very un-American that it’s better to be wary.
I’ve even heard testimony from fundamentalists who claim that once they got saved they completely lost the ability to 360 degree spin kicks or stop someone’s heart from beating by clever use of pressure points. The fact that their fried chicken intake tripled during the same period is irrelevant. It must have been that the demon forces that they were channeling with Power Rangers moves during those sixth grade playground fights just completely left them once they received the Holy Spirit. Makes complete sense.
So on and on the fight raged between sides causing a very different set of memories for people from different fundamentalists camps. Some can recall watching a martial arts ministry guru using a sword to slice a watermelon that was lying on the stomach of their youth pastor. Others only recall sermons against Bruce Lee, the Karate Kid, and pretty much everything Asian in origin. Kung Pao chicken sounds a bit martial-arty; best to abstain from the appearance of evil.
Martial arts are a slippery slope. Next thing you know women will be able to defend themselves against men and people might start getting physically fit. It’s easy to see why many fundamentalists aren’t too keen.