May 19, 2019

Wrestling Jesus

professional wrestling

Even as a child, I am not sure I ever believed that professional wrestling was real (i.e., unscripted without predetermined outcomes). I do remember wanting it to be real and being uncertain whether it might be real, but I do not recall believing that it was. I found it curious how obviously strong men who threw "punches" at one another never seemed to hurt their hands. When I punched someone, it almost always hurt my hand. I couldn't help noticing how a series of "punches" that looked like they were landing rarely resulted in facial swelling, cuts, or bruises on the faces of those being hit. This hadn't been the case when I'd been hit or had hit someone else. I also remember my dad and one of his friends telling me it wasn't real repeatedly. It really seemed to concern them that I might confuse professional wrestling with an actual sport.

I remember my best friend going to see one of the professional wrestling events in what was then called the World Wrestling Federation (before they were sued over the WWF acronym). He was so excited to get to see it live but came back disappointed. He told me that any doubt he ever might have had about professional wrestling being real evaporated that day. He'd observed "punches" that stopped 2-3 inches from the target's face and to which the target acted like he'd been hit. He'd observed wrestlers clearly communicating with one another during the match. He'd observed too many instances where the scripting was obvious.

There are two interesting observations to make at this point. First, recognizing that wrestling was not real did not diminish our enjoyment of it at all. This was the heyday of the WWF, and we loved it. It was not real in the way that most sports were real, but it was as real as any fight scene we'd seen in our favorite TV show or movie. It didn't matter if it was a real sport as long as it was entertaining. Second, there were some kids who did believe it was real in spite of all the evidence suggesting otherwise. Their reaction, when told it was not real, was almost always to say that it had to be real because their favorite wrestler would never deceive them. I thought that was silly, but I didn't have much of a leg to stand on considering I still believed in gods at this time.

The kid who continued to believe that wrestling was real because his favorite wrestler said so would be a preview of the Christian who believed in Jesus because of what Jesus allegedly said and did. Evidence had zero impact. They believed because they wanted to believe. But perhaps the more important lesson here had nothing to do with this kid and everything to do with those of us who continued to love professional wrestling after we recognized that it was not real.

I suspect that there are at least as many modern "Christians" who continue to practice Christianity in various ways (e.g., attending church, raising their children to be Christian) even though they have at least some awareness that there probably aren't any gods and that Jesus may not have done or said everything attributed to him, if he lived at all. None of this is to suggest that I do not think there are many believing Christians who rarely question their beliefs. I'm sure they are out there. I just think that they are probably surrounded by those who maintain the trappings of Christianity even though the belief in much of it has faded.