The first year of Porterbrook Omaha just wrapped up as 25 students turned in their final assignments. The theological and cultural reflection these students are doing is so good that I asked some of them if I could share their work with a larger audience. Justin Dean, a PBOmaha student and the planter of Sacred City Church in Davenport, Iowa, offered the following critique of the Crossfit craze.
About 10 years ago, Dr. Greg Glassman created a workout/lifestyle regimen he called Crossfit. His idea was to keep things simple and functional. To create a program that anyone could do in their garage, on their own, and on a busy schedule. His purpose was to enable people to be fit for life and ready for the unexpected. Here is how Dr. Glassman describes Crossfit: “Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and play new sports.”
Crossfit has exploded. What started in southern California has now spread across the globe. With thousands of affiliates called “boxes,” the Crossfit lifestyle has spread like a proverbial fire. Having been a Crossfitter for over two years, let me give you a cultural assessment of Crossfit based on the gospel.
One of the first things you will notice at any Crossfit box are the people – the beautiful people. I don’t mean dolled up, glammed out people. Crossfit beauty is a little different than our culture’s norm. Many of the athletes will be muscular and barely dressed, flaunting their developed musculature and great fitness. They’re not afraid of sweat, blood, or flopping down on the floor in exhaustion after a workout. You notice right away that Crossfitters have sacrificed many luxuries to look like they do. But why are they sacrificing things like sugar, comfort, and the flesh of their hands from too many pull-ups? Is it just to look good?
What I have found is that many Crossfitters are obsessed with their performance. Their heaven is a healthy body that functions and performs at the maximum capacity its genetics will allow for. Their hell is unhealth. Fat, laziness, and all forms of weakness must be purged from the body. Strong body, Strong mind, Strong diet, will ensure that you are ready for anything and can meet the unexpected with great performance. In reality it is all about control. Crossfit gives people a feeling of control. It promises to prepare a person for the unexpected that life throws at them, giving them a sense of control over their circumstances. Many Crossfitters have a great fear of cancer. They believe that their diet and lifestyle can keep the dangers of cancer at bay.
Crossfit has become a religion to many people. Faith is placed in our performance instead of Jesus’ performance for us. I have found that when their performance fails them, many times it pushes them to despair… which creates a great gospel window to share with them the beauty of the gospel of Jesus.
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Excellent post! What a great, practical warning re idolatry. Also, what you said at the end is a great way for Christians who do Crossfit to be missionaries in that context.
Concur! What a great post.