In 1980, the world watched as a legend came to the end of his career. Muhammad Ali, having dominated the sport of boxing, was defeated by his former sparring partner, Larry Holmes.
By the end of the 10th round, Ali was little more than a punching bag for Holmes; who continued to throw punches at the Champion, who swayed and leaned against the ropes to hold himself up.
It was a painful fight to watch, as the man who once proclaimed he could hit the light switch at night and be in bed before the lights turned off, was met with defeat.
Shortly after the fight, Ali called his coach; Angelo Dundee, who told him:
“Muhammad, I’m sitting with a young kid right now. He’s going to be champion of the world when he grows up.”
Angelo passed the phone to the young boxer, who listened to Ali tell him:
“Do exactly as Angelo says, and you will be a world champion.”
8 years later, the kid had grown up. No longer a nobody from the streets of Brooklyn, Mike Tyson dominated the world of boxing with some of the most vicious punches the world had ever seen; punching his way out of the projects and onto the global stage of professional boxing.
On January 22, 1980, 21 year-old Mike Tyson had his opportunity to fight Larry Holmes in a fight billed as “Heavyweight History”, competing for the WBA, WBC and IBF Heavyweight Championship titles.
Moments before the fight started, Ali greeted Holmes and then walked over to Tyson and whispered three words in his ear:
“Destroy him, Mike.”
Tyson roamed the ring with the stance of a tiger; a warrior about to enter one of the most important fights of his life, secure three world titles, and avenge the legend who spoke to a 13 year-old boy who diligently followed his instructions for 8 years.
That night, a new legend was born as Tyson viscously tore into Holmes, landing countless combinations that began to topple the towering giant.
In the 4th round, Tyson knocked over Holmes twice, before landing a death blow of a right hand that knocked the fighter unconscious, and paved the way for Tyson to be known as one of the most brutal punchers in boxing history.
Tyson wasn’t just a good fighter that night; he was a badass.
If somebody were to watch the fight and tell me Mike was anything but a ‘badass’, I’d seriously question their eyesight.
Why do I share this story? Because it tells the tale of a young boy who was predicted by the greats to be a world champion, at the age of 13.
Some may have looked at 13 year-old Mike, and seen an angry young man who should have spent more time in school. Angelo, who didn’t live to see the 1980 fight, looked into the eyes of Tyson and saw the mettle of a world champion.
He saw a king, when others would have seen Tyson as little more than a boy.
There was once another boy who had greatness in his future, foretold by the elders he would one day change the world.
During those days, the world thought it needed a conquering king. Instead, it got a carpenter.
I spent over 20 years in the christian religion, often hearing stories of the Jesus that resembled “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild” more than the true badass he was.
We often hear stories of him healing the sick, teaching the poor, and schooling the religious elect at their own game. However, I’ve never heard a preacher tell the story about a man who wasn’t just the life of the party – he was the guy who got the party drunk when he turned water into wine.
Jesus wasn’t just a legend because of the way he spoke, he was legend because he turned the world upside-down with his message of peace, hope, and unconditional love.
Preachers will often share stories about Jesus going to the temple, where he saw it had turned into little more than a marketplace and place of money changers. As a result, he threw a major temper tantrum; taking a braided whip and viscously flipping tables of the merchants and money lenders who had turned the temple into a transaction.
To this, I’d ask:
What if Jesus walked into your church? Chances are, he’d probably look at a lot of churches in America and see buildings that turned their back on caring for the poor; offering little more than their doorsteps for the homeless to sleep on at night, while the building remained empty throughout the week…
He’d see the fancy light shows, sound systems, and multimedia presentations…
He’d see the custom suits, fancy cars, and flashy attire of those not just in the audience, but those behind the pulpit.
More than likely, he’d throw a worse temper tantrum than he did during his rampage at the temple.
“Didn’t I tell you to love your neighbor, not build a wall?”
“Didn’t I tell you to give one of your coats away, if you had two?”
“Don’t even get me started on your shoe collection….”
See, I think if Jesus could see the way the world is now, he’d wonder why people need a fancy building to gather in every weekend, when his instructions were to go out into the world and love others with unconditional love; void of judgement, or concern for whether or not it would be returned.
Jesus wasn’t a nice guy with roses and bunny rabbits frolicking around him. He was a badass.
I think christianity would look a lot different if people allowed themselves to call Jesus what he really was; the original badass, rather than as a tame sheep.
Tyson may have fight four rounds, but Jesus took 39 lashes with a scourge (40 was the number required to kill a man) before being executed in one of the most brutal ways one could die; crucifixion on the cross.
I wish this blog could be read by ministers to their congregation, word-for-word, because it might make some uncomfortable at the word “badass”. However, I think that if ministers were bold enough to tell the story of Jesus with the power and strength of words fitting his character, they would inspire a generation of lions instead of sheep.
I’ll close with this – I don’t think it’s necessary to go to a building every Sunday to get reminded of the message Jesus had for others to follow. It was pretty simple, really.
“Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
“If you have two coats, give one away. If somebody asks you to walk one mile, walk two instead.”
These commands go together. All of the tithe, church attendance, and songs sung aren’t a substitute for giving to the poor, opening your homes to the homeless, and giving of your time (time – This Is My Everything) to those who need you.
Many will agree that the church of today looks like little more than ‘religion’. I have to agree. I see far more attention paid to light shows and musical performance than people putting on their boots and hitting the streets to feed the homeless with their own hands.
It’s far more common to give you leftovers, out-of-style clothing, and spare change to those who need it, rather than giving your best, similar to how Jesus brought the best wine to the party he turned out.
True religion? Jesus had a recipe for that as well:
“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
None of that involves a requirement of being baptized, accepting salvation (the concept that originated after one of the Popes told an emperor his sins in the crusades were unforgivable…), or putting your money in the bag to help pay for a fancy light show.
I hope this blog post challenges you. I hope it provokes you to think, act, and question the way you’ve been doing things. I hope there’s a single pastor who has the balls and conviction to read this, word-for-word, to their congregation.
You can’t put new wine in old bottles, otherwise the bottles will break. The world needs champions now, more than ever. It needs people who aren’t afraid to break the mold of where they’ve come from in order to usher new growth, life, and love.
Today, I salute the original badass. Not as a meek sheep who was afraid to rustle the feathers of those around him, but as a champion fighter who stepped into the ring and cut the religious world down to its knees, just like Tyson did to Holmes.
The most badass thing Jesus ever did wasn’t getting the party drunk, flipping tables at the temple, or healing the sick. It was the final words he uttered while he looked at those who signed his death sentence, nailed him to the cross, and ripped his flesh into shreds with a whip made of metal and broken glass.
“Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.”
And with that, it was finished.
“Homie Jesus” image by Don “Catfish” Gorospe <3