Church of CrossFit (10): CrossFit and the Cross

By February 25, 2011No Comments

In my previous post I wrote that CrossFit is often accused of elitism, and I concluded that it was guilty.  Its mission of “forging elite fitness” has indeed led its adherents to elitism.  In other words, they truly believe that they are training the most well-rounded, fittest human beings on earth.

I argued that elitism is a natural and necessary part of life.  But does elitism have to be synonymous with pride?  I asked, is it possible to embrace something that’s true in a way that doesn’t lead to a superiority complex?  Is it possible to be elitist and yet not look down at the people who don’t see things the way that you do?  That’s what I’d like to explore in this post.

[Fair warning: I know that not everyone who reads this blog is a follower of Jesus, just like not everyone is a CrossFitter.  That’s where I’m coming from, however, and I hope that I at least can help you understand what resources the Christian faith gives for holding “elitist” views with as much humility as possible.]

The funny thing is, the longer I do CrossFit, the more humbled I am.  Don’t get me wrong, I am blown away by the results.  But every workout kicks my butt, leaves me on my back, makes me think about how much farther I have to go.

And I’m thinking that’s the point: to crush my sense of superiority and sufficiency and to train myself to become somebody worth being.  Maybe that’s why I like CrossFit – it somehow humbles me and encourages me at the same time.

But if I’m not careful, something that ought to produce humility actually engenders pride.

Like almost anything else, CrossFit can become a functional Savior – it can become  one more thing to add to our image, one more fix to patch up our insecurity, one more argument to justify ourselves, to tell ourselves that we matter, to define our identities over against the “un-enlightened ones”.

“Thank God I’m  not like those Globo-gym idiots at XSport!”

The problem with most of our functional Saviors is that they engender despair when we fail (“I am worthless”) and arrogant superiority when we succeed (“you are worthless.”)

I think the same thing is true when we replace Jesus with religion.  Something that is supposed to produce humility actually leads us to pride.

“Thank God I’m not like those __________!” (Pagans, Democrats, Republicans, etc. Fill in the blank with your favorite group to feel superior towards.)

What bothers me most about Christianity is not the elitism of our doctrine.  Everyone is elitist at the end of the day.  Everyone’s a fundamentalist, we just have different fundamentals.

What bothers me is the fact that our doctrine has often led us to disdain for those not like us – even while the Scriptures say that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

What bothers me is the attitude of arrogance and superiority that we often wear like a badge, even while the Scriptures say that we are justified not because we are smarter or better than anyone else, but simply because of God’s undeserved kindness.

It’s the sneering rhetoric that we celebrate(!) on talk radio shows while affirming our belief that we are so bad that God had to come himself to bleed for us.

One of the things I love about the writings of Paul in the New Testament is he is always pointing out how Jesus destroys any ground we might have for boasting about how good we are, or for feeling superior to anyone else.

The Cross humbles us – because Jesus had to die for us, that’s how deeply flawed we are –  AND gives us confidence – because Jesus was glad to die for us, that’s how deeply loved we are.

Humility and Confidence.  Openness and Elitism.

CrossFit helps me with this during my workouts.

The Cross does it for my entire life.

Question: Any final thoughts or questions on CrossFit, or what I’ve written during the series?


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  • Holly says:

    This is exactly along the lines I’ve been thinking (at least, if I’m hearing you the way I think I am).

    We were just discussing “Toxic Religion” at church a couple weeks ago. The main message was about unity being from the Holy Spirit and divisiveness being a tool for Satan. But our pastor applied it to denominations, “worship wars” and the like. I can say more about that aspect if you’d like.

    But one of the main points that I took away was the idea of following “rules” so that your religion actually becomes following rules. Not that certain things are bad; mostly they are hyper-sensitivity to trying to live a moral life. Take the Pharisees. They would write down all of the ways necessary to live a “spiritual” life. They would record these in what was called a yoke. These yokes got to be so detailed, minute, and–elite?–that they would become large manifestos.

    But then Jesus said, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy-burdened, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

    I don’t know…hearing that reminds me that, even though we may disagree on things like Arminianism, Calvinism, the end times, being filled with the Spirit, etc….those should not be used as ways to divide us. Time is too short; too many people are dying without knowing Christ. And that makes me humble.

  • Thanks for sharing this Holly! What church are you all at these days?

  • Justin,
    Interesting and insightful article. I am encouraged and interested in your thoughts and reflections on CrossFit, Christianity, pride, and humility. Well done.

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