Jewish Journal

Kicking butt in Jesus’ name—amen

by Brad A. Greenberg

October 17, 2007 | 3:20 pm

Mark Pedersen’s Tae Kwon Do students learn how to block, kick, punch and basically everything one would expect to be instructed in a martial arts dojo. But they also learn one other aspect at Might for Right Ministries that probably not too many martial arts experts place into training: The teachings of Jesus Christ.

That’s from the Orange County News in Texas and, with the headline “Kickin’ it Jesus style in God’s dojo,” the Bible Belt Blogger thought it earned that copy editor the headline of the day award. The article reminded me of a pretty lame piece I wrote for The Sun two years ago about the exact same thing. The OC News’ lead quote was, in fact, almost identical to my closing quote. Here’s my piece, which ran as a sidebar to a story about counterculture and off-beat ministries:

CHINO - About 15 students practiced dropping their attackers to the ground and breaking their elbows on a recent Thursday.

They closed their class with a Bible devotion and prayer.

Christianity and kung fu San Soo are taught together at Calvary Chapel of Chino Valley.  Children, teens and adults attend San Soo classes twice a week at the church. They are guided by Master Sam Silva, a student of the late grand master Jimmy H. Woo.

The class is an outreach to non-Christians, but Silva doesn’t questions his students’ beliefs.  It’s an odd combination, mixing a deadly martial art with the word of God.

“People ask, ‘How can you be in a church and do that?’’ Silva said. “The Bible doesn’t say anywhere that Christians need to be victims.’

Silva said that being jumped in an alley or attacked in your home is not the time to, as Jesus put it, “turn the other cheek.’

For that package of niche-ministry vignettes, I also wrote about a biker Bible study, street ministry and Hip-Hop Jazz Mass at a downtown mission:

SAN BERNARDINO - Alex Avila steps in front of the altar and starts rhyming and dancing.

This is the Hip-Hop Jazz Mass at the Central City Lutheran Mission.

Located in a poor, Latino and black neighborhood of San Bernardino, the mission’s goal is two-fold: help people escape the tortures of poverty teen pregnancy, STDs, drugs, gangs and bring them to a faith in Jesus Christ.

The stuffy chapel that doubles as a homeless shelter during the winter is a rhythmic playground for those who attend the youth-focused Mass.

Alex is free-styling some lines about the pain of growing up in the ghetto.

“I don’t know if I can make it to tomorrow. I’m scared to get up,” Alex raps as he collapses. “I think I’ll stay on the floor, stay on the floor.”

Two teenage girls join for a backup harmony.

Toure Curry jumps in and helps his Christian brother up.

“Together we can make it. Together we will. Now stand up!” Toure belts.

This is one of many performances at the Mass. The spiritual message is guided by the poems, songs, dances and prayers of 30 people in attendance.

“It’s a place I can go to reveal my feelings,” said Lajoii Dominguez, 15, of San Bernardino. “There is no negativity. It’s always positive. They encourage me to do better.”

No topic is taboo. Profanity is permitted.

The mission’s pastor, the Rev. David Kalke, opens and closes the Mass in prayer. He offers words from scripture and leads the taking of Holy Communion. Kalke even contributes his own poetry.

“Rise up, oh prophets of the desert. ... Rise and bring your words of life to those who chose death.”

As I told some new interns at the Daily Bruin last weekend, it’s always fun—and embarrassing—to read old copy that you thought was so good.

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Since launching the blog in 2007, I’ve referred to myself as “a God-fearing Christian with devilishly good Jewish looks.” The description, I’d say, is an accurate one,...

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