PRO SERIES: Tears For Christ (Faith In Wrestling: Part II)

In 2003, I was proudly the best up-and-coming good-guy wrestler for a promotion running a half-burnt-down building, until the matchmakers started booking Brad Rictor.

Brad was in better shape, better looking, and, much worse, better than me in the ring. Not completely unlike now, I was very experimental and erratic. Rictor, on the other hand, was smooth and fluid: a master of extracting great beauty out of simple movements. His opening offense reminded me of Zen art; the untouched canvas being as important as the brush strokes.

He made me both jealous and guilty for being jealous: he was so infuriatingly nice that you couldn’t hate on him.

While he was traveling across the country with legends like Ricky Morton and Bobby Eaton, I was traveling one town over.

While he was getting shout outs from Tom Prichard, in interviews, when the good doctor was asked “Who should be in the WWE?”, I was getting shouted at for doing too many springboards.

Without the envy-laden motivation caused by Brad Thomas (Rictor), I doubt I would have become more than a slightly decent, local wrestler.

After a long while of the road-grind, and the indie wrestler disappointments of so-close-yet-so-far-away, Brad decided to step away from the ring.

A few months back, I ran a charity event and asked my semi-retired friend if he would come wrestle for free, to help out a family in need. He said, “Of course! But, can I go on before intermission? I have to be up early to preach on Sunday.”

That’s how I learned that my ol’ pal Brad Rictor/Thomas had become Pastor Brad Joseph for Mountain Heights Church, in South Charleston, West Virginia.

So, of course, when I wanted to talk to a Christian wrestler I thought, “Who better than a legit preacherman, man?” Once again, he was happy to oblige.

How long have you been a Christian?

Pastor Joseph: This might be the longest one…haha…bear with me!

I can remember being about 7 or 8 and staying with my grandparents (grandfather was a pastor and preacher himself). I can remember I would stay in his bed. It would be so dark, no nightlight, nothing! And all I could here was the ticking of his big ben clock. Almost deafening because it was all you could focus on.

But one night…I remember him asking me, if I wanted to let Jesus into my heart. I remember praying with him that night. But that was all I remember. I wasn’t brought up in church, and when I got on my own…didn’t really want to have anything to do with church.

But when I moved back to WV from TN in 2008, I started dating a Christian girl, and she made me go to church. Lol. And I would go on Wednesday nights with my uncle out of obligation (he was always really good to me). Well things started “churning” in the ol’ ticker…and with my addictive personality I already had, I picked up a bible and started reading. And kept reading. Still in the bar…still popping pills…but in the WORD and in Church.

Well, one night in a bar in downtown Charleston (used to be Julie j’s) … about 1am… some friends got on the subject of God and Christianity…and really started laying the boots to Jesus. And in my drunken stupor…I couldn’t defend him. So emotion/conviction came over me…and I found myself in the bathroom of that bar…looking in the crooked mirror…Crying. And then I heard it…first time ever. People can say it was my sub-conscience…people can say it was the Rum…but it was the Holy Spirit.

And it said to me this…”is this what you want out of your life?” “get out of here…”

And I changed that day. Did I kneel at an altar…no. Did I go through a class…no. But my heart changed that day. And I’ve been changing ever since. Married that good Christian girl…got involved in my church. Got called to preach in 2010.

So, to answer your question: I’m not sure how long I’ve been a Christian…but I am sure that I am one right now!!!

Imagine someone has never heard of Christianity and you wanted to get the essence across to them in one sentence, what would that sentence be?

Pastor Joseph: To me, the World gives no foundational answers to 3 key questions to life.

Why do we love? Science says it’s serotonin and nerve sensors and blood pressure that give the feeling of love…but when I look at my wife and children…when I feel the presence of God…I know it’s more than that.

Why do we suffer? The world says its by a series of events or circumstances or by chance. I find no comfort in that.

What happens to us when we die? Reincarnation? Rot away into dirt? Float into space? I find no good answers and nothing with any HOPE.

But the Bible gives such clarity to all of these questions…thus giving us LIFE with purpose and fulfillment and assurance.

Now that you have their attention, what would you add, if anything, to help them really understand what your religion is about?

Pastor Joseph: It’s not about Religion. It’s about the heart. What I have can’t be explained…the “law” tried to do that. But it’s Grace that must be experienced before it can transform an individual. Jesus told the “religious” people, “You clean the outside of the cup…but the inside is filthy! First clean the inside…and the outside will become clean!” He was talking about the heart.

What drove your decision to become a pastor?

Pastor Joseph: I would be working (I travelled for my job)…and I would find myself with a thought that would not leave until it was written down. Next thing I knew I had notebooks of “sermons” before I knew they were even sermons. Then I would stand up at church and testify…and people would say “you sound like a preacher”. So I just prayed and told God “you give me open doors and I’ll give you open hands!” and He has been so faithful to do so!

Do you think there are common misconceptions about Christianity that you would like to clear up?

Pastor Joseph: People think you have to be perfect. But Paul says “he dies to himself daily”. Sin is an epidemic that will not be completely cured until heaven. But for now…I sin (and often times daily…even hourly)…but I have a relationship with the one who knows my heart and I simply tell him I’m sorry and I could use some help to do better…and he loves me so much despite that.

1 John 2:1

My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:

People coming to church and thinking people are hypocrites and walking away is like going to a hospital and going in the waiting room and saying “what? These people are all sick…I’m not going here!” Of course they are…they are there to see the DOCTOR!!! Same with church.

Do you have a Bible verse that sticks out in your head, most often?

Pastor Thomas:

Romans 8:28

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Who else can take the worst of the worst tragedies…and make it into something good?! The Cross is the greatest proof of that: Roman death device turned into a symbol of hope!

Does your faith have an influence on you, as a wrestler?

Pastor Joseph: Sure. Its simple. Good vs. Evil Storylines ebb and flow. they build up. They keep you on your toes. But at the end…Good should always prevail. It also is an outlet for me to get in front of people who I wouldn’t typically at church…and let them know of this faith I have and hopefully introduce them to that same faith. Let them know I’m just like them…just with a different destination!

I personally struggle with the gap between my non-violent beliefs and my involvement in a violent form of entertainment. I have taken steps to try to bridge that gap. Do you think there’s a gap between the teachings of Jesus Christ and professional wrestling, as we know it, today? If so, is it a bridgeable gap?

Pastor Joseph: Yes. But I can’t fix the sport. I can only do what I do. In my personal beliefs as a wrestler…the baby should never throw the first punch or kick. Only in retaliation. It now becomes a defense not an offense.

Anything you would like to add?

Pastor Joseph: There’s an old phrase that says “Try Jesus. If you don’t like Him…you can give him back. But no one does!” That’s all I ask people. Don’t get religion. Get Jesus. Big difference! I’m glad to be able to discuss this with you. Glad to see you are putting your faith into action as well. And glad to see that Professional wrestling can be an outlet for that faith.

For more info on Pastor Joseph and the Mountain Heights church you can check out their Facebook page at:

facebook.com/mhchurch

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