Guy Kawasaki almost single-handedly put Macintosh computers on the map. He was neither a sales rep nor a customer rep: his official title was “Evangelist.”
That’s a huge difference, not just in meaning but in attitude. Kawasaki wasn’t giving people an over-rehearsed sales pitch, he was fervently shouting about this thing that had changed his life, how it really worked … and why YOU should be using it, too.
For an evangelist, the product isn’t a 9-to-5 job. It is a way of life to be shared with everyone you meet: every barista, every cab driver, every grocery clerk. It permeates your existence, to the point where the most common comment about you is something like “He just won’t shut up about it!”
If you know anyone involved in CrossFit, you already know exactly where I’m going with this …
The in the wake of a decades-long decline of religious affiliation in America–as well as a dramatic rise of “social” media lifestyle that ironically fosters isolation–it’s interesting to note how non-religious communities are starting to operate in ways that look a little bit … well, religious.
Millennials are showing less and less interest in institutional affiliation, but that can’t rid themselves of the innate desires for companionship, community, and a connection to something bigger than themselves. And many of them are finding that connection in specialized gym or exercise-oriented locations like SoulCycle, Zoomba … and CrossFit.
Harvard Divinity School fellow Casper ter Kuile points out how spaces traditionally meant for exercise have “become the locations of shared, transformative experience,” not unlike a role traditionally filled by churches and synagogues.
Of course, plenty of people still go to mega gyms to run on treadmills with ear buds securely in place and a facial expression that dares anyone walking by to interrupt them. More than one CEO boasts of his or her exclusive workout regimen. Exercise in and of itself isn’t the key.
“The two most striking things about CrossFitters are their evangelical enthusiasm and the way they hold one another to account,” ter Kuile posits. To illustrate, he points to the communal insistence that members let each other know if they will miss a session. “CrossFit expects members to call each other out if they don’t appear at their usual time.”
Gyms are places of transformation, another role that coincides with religion: gyms aid physical transformation, while churches have strived for spiritual transformation … but in the move away from the traditional ideas of church, CrossFit seems to be trying to fill that spiritual void, as well.
And the zeal with which CrossFitters expound upon their new-found faith is an element that is inherent in the CrossFit ideal. It’s not like, say, Amway members, who may constantly bombard everyone within earshot of the wonderfulness of their product. CrossFit members are recruited by converts to CrossFit, but the current members gain no financial advantage. The preach because they believe.
CrossFit may not be a religion in the traditional sense, but it seems to be a good substitute for some. And in fact, the two can go hand-in-hand: at least one an organization, Faith RXD has combined CrossFit with Christianity to create a spiritual community where God is honored … and hopefully honor the members’ best efforts in the gym.