Spandex and Sacrament: Pro-Wrestling and the Church
I don’t know the level of overlap between fans of pro-wrestling and Christians (let alone Uniting Church members), but Jonathan Foye and myself sit snuggly in the middle of that Venn diagram. Given that the biggest wrestling show of the year, Wrestlemania (stay to the end for our predictions), airs on Monday 9 April, we decided to explore what the two have in common and, in particular, what the church might be able to learn from the pro-wrestling community.
Even if you’re not a wrestling fan, this special one-off podcast is for you. When you’re passionate about something rather niche (such as wrestling), something that can often be looked down upon in the general public, categorised as ‘one of those things kids and teens should grow out of’ – two things happen: 1) you tend to form a special kind of community with those who share your passion, 2) you spend quite a bit of time thinking about how you would introduce it to your friends. Because of this, our conversation on pro-wrestling opened up multiple avenues for thinking about sharing one’s testimony, the gathering and binding of Christian community, the liturgy and flow of worship services, and how to talk about something that is meaningful to you but bizarre to anyone encountering it for the first time.
The ties between pro-wrestling and Christianity go further still. Both are riddled with problematic pasts and presents, including elements that cannot sit easily with those committed to the liberating love of God. How do we approach these checkered legacies? The search for something life-giving and community building within texts, traditions, and art forms (which doesn’t resort to blind apologetic denial nor complete abandonment) is a tricky one, but Jonathan and I share how we approach it with wrestling and how that translates into conversations about faith and church.
Our hope for those listening is threefold. First, that this is at least a little bit entertaining. Second, It will encourage folks to either take a closer look at wrestling or Christianity – especially if you’ve easily dismissed one or the other in the past. These are things that bring people joy, that build community across generations, genders, cultures, and sexualities, and tell meaningful and moving stories. Third, that you will have a think about your own passions (especially niche passions) and examine how they touch your life, how they bring you into communities with others, and how you evangelise their beauty, fun, or meaning to those who, from the outside looking in, find it more than a little odd.
Liam Miller is the Uniting Church Chaplain at Macquarie University