Macho Ministry Tries to Prove Jesus Was a Cage Fighter
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If you were a cynical 12-year-old boy like I was, then the words Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers will bring to mind bitter thoughts of cheesy dialogue, bright spandex uniforms, and choreographed live-action anime fight scenes, all overdubbed and irritatingly formulaic. Other children (many, actually) fell in love with the show, and its popularity continues to grow as new generations are taken in by the bright colors and trademark teamwork of the heroes. I hadn’t thought about the Power Rangers in years until I learned that one of the show’s stars, Jason David Frank (who played Tommy Oliver, The Green Ranger) is the founder of a Mixed Martial Arts clothing line for the Christian Fighter/MMA enthusiast called Jesus Didn’t Tap.
Jesus as the One True Warrior
The thought of a man who spent his formative years delivering campy dialogue and roundhouse kicks (all while wearing a fierce ’90s ponytail) now marketing the Lord with Mixed Martial Arts was intriguing, to say the least. The Mighty Morphin’ alumni already boast a convicted murderer, an actress who died young in a car crash, and now, with Jason David Frank, an anointed fighter and proselytizer.
Frank has swapped the full-body Power Rangers getup for MMA shorts, four-ounce gloves, and a muscular frame with so many tattoos the man looks graffitied. He has a 2-0 record in the cage (his wins coming via omoplata submission and TKO) and according to TMZ, Frank even has his eyes set on fighting Jean Claude Van Damme.
Back in November of 2009, I spoke with Frank on the phone. He lives in Texas and managed to squeeze my call into a 15-minute window, between his training and a “meeting,” which might have been for either Jesus Didn’t Tap, his chain of Rising Sun Karate schools, or one of the other projects he has in the pipeline. As he told it, one day Frank and a partner “did statistics on Christian numbers” and decided that it was a huge market to tap into. According to Frank, in their first year alone (2008), they did over $250,000 in sales, and the J.D.T. line is only growing.
In February the New York Times published R.M. Schneiderman’s article “ Flock Is Now a Fight Team in Some Ministries” about the “growing number of evangelical churches that have embraced mixed martial arts—a sport with a reputation for violence and blood that combines kickboxing, wrestling, and other fighting styles—to reach and convert young men, whose church attendance has been persistently low.” Jesus Didn’t Tap offers the newly converted Christian-inspired threads that won’t clash with the Affliction and Tap Out gear already in their wardrobes.
There’s no doubt that Jesus Didn’t Tap was a great business move, but what Frank tries to make clear is that it’s not all about the money. For a long time the 36-year-old “wanted to come up with something strong to show people that really there’s only one true warrior in life, and it’s Jesus. And Jesus never complained”—i.e. never tapped. In summa, what Frank is trying to say is “There was a guy by the name of Jesus Christ and he was positive.”
Giving the Prince of Darkness a Noogie
Frank’s “positive Jesus Christ” shows up on the J.D.T. “Street Wear” (crewnecks, long-sleeves, hoodies, sweats, beanies, fitted hats), “Fight Wear” (MMA fight shorts, gloves, rashguards), and other accoutrements (stickers, patches, and dog tags). The images are often cartoonish and evince a simple mythology of anthropomorphized good vs. evil: Jesus (w/ halo) battles Satan (w/ tail, goatee, and skin the color of like Jesus is both choking Satan and giving the Prince of Darkness a noogie.