September 16, 2014

Tidbits on the Tebow Tempest

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OK, I’m breaking my Tim Tebow fast to give the iMonk community an opportunity to discuss the latest news.

I’ve assembled a few quotes from people who give various angles on the story of the NFL quarterback accepting, then declining an invitation to speak at First Baptist Church in Dallas. Read these perspectives and opinions and then you can weigh in.

My question is: Does this mean anything at all? Or is this all fluff and bluster, on the level of cheap celebrity gossip?

* * *

While I was looking forward to sharing a message of hope and Christ’s unconditional love with the faithful members of the historic First Baptist Church of Dallas in April, due to new information that has been brought to my attention, I have decided to cancel my upcoming appearance. I will continue to use the platform God has blessed me with to bring Faith, Hope and Love to all those needing a brighter day. Thank you for all of your love and support. God Bless!

- Tim Tebow

* * *

Fast food Christian CEO bullied. Pastor bullied out of praying publicly. Today,athlete bullied out of speaking AT A CHURCH!

- Rick Warren, @Rick Warren

* * *

So, while it was not surprising that First Baptist Dallas would want one of America’s most beloved and celebrated evangelicals to be part of their church opening, it was surprising that a petition began to circulate through Change.org urging Tebow to cancel — and it is positively a miracle that Tebow decided to cancel.

As recently as yesterday Jeffress seemed certain that Tebow would speak at his church and told conservative radio host Janet Mefford: “I believe as long as he listens to the Holy Spirit and to God’s voice and maybe not that of his handlers, you know, I think he will stand firm.”

But I believe that Tim Tebow was listening to the Holy Spirit when he made the decision to not associate himself with Jeffress and his worldview. Tim Tebow has joined the ranks of many Christians who are refusing to be associated with a particular strain of religious faith that is publicly connected with an anti-gay stance and flagrantly hostile to other faith traditions.

Like many evangelical young people, Tebow seems to care more about loving and being loved by Jesus than the politics that too many automatically associate with Him.

In his press release Tebow mentions that he was looking forward to sharing “Christ’s unconditional love” at First Baptist Dallas. Apparently Tebow, like so many of his evangelical brothers and sisters, now feels that the religious right is no longer a place where that can be done.

- Paul Brandeis Raushenbush,
“Tim Tebow Officially Puts Evangelical Right on the Sideline”

* * *

Evangelical Christians are now called upon to think strategically about what it means to speak truthfully and lovingly to a society that increasingly sees us as the moral outlaws. Clearly, we must watch our speech carefully, measuring every word for truth and tone and avoiding incendiary sound bites. We must also guard our hearts toward the persistent temptation towards self-righteousness. But, at the same time, even the most humble statement of biblical truth can now be turned into a sound bite described as hate speech and a refusal to affirm the normalization of homosexuality is turned into repulsive intolerance. We now face no shortage of arguments for capitulation, but abandoning the truth of God’s Word is not an option. We deny the gospel if we deny the sinfulness of sin. That sin. Every sin. Our sin.

Further, evangelicals should not miss this opportunity to rethink our focus on evangelical celebrities in popular culture, including sports heroes. For now, the controversy is over Tebow’s withdrawal from an invitation extended by an historic church. The pastor’s statements have been the center of the controversy. Inevitably, the controversy will shift to Tebow’s own statement, which he will eventually have to make. There will be no escape.

Before long, the ball will be thrown back to Tebow. I hope and pray he does not fumble it. I pray the same for myself and for every Christian in the midst of this tumultuous cultural landscape. Sooner than later, the ball will be thrown to each of us.

- R. Albert Mohler, Jr., “Tebow’s Big Fumble”

* * *

Oh, look, I would never say anything disparaging to Tim Tebow. He is a fine Christian who is trying to do what he thinks is right, and I do think Tim will learn in time that you can’t appease some of the severest critics of Christianity by compromising with them.

But we salute this great man of God. We wish him the very best.

- Pastor Robert Jeffress, quoted in The Daily Beast

Comments

  1. One thing’s for sure, it will mean nothing in the way Mohler thinks it will.

    It is REALLY hard not to hear him saying that how one feels about Jesus depends on one’s opinion of homosexuality.

  2. Mattpurdum says:

    I hope it means that Jeffress and his ilk are on the way out in this country….

  3. Richard Hershberger says:

    The Culture Wars (homosexuality division) have reached a tipping point. Everyone recognizes this, at least tacitly. Many Evangelicals are abandoning the fight, even if they are doing it by reclassifying homosexuality as just another sin of no more import than all the others (just like they did decades ago with divorce). Others are doubling down on the issue, retreating into the citadel for a last stand. Tebow is just making clear which group he is in. The only interesting aspect of this is why and how he in particular went about this. Tebow is only of interest due to his standing in the Evangelical community. (Certainly he is not of interest due to his standing as a football player. One of the benefits of not being an Evangelical is that I don’t have to pretend that he is anything other than a good college quarterback whose style of play doesn’t translate well to the NFL.) The cynical response to this is that he has decided that his future depends on getting ahead of this issue; hence the very public manner in which he did it. The claim that he is shocked–SHOCKED!!–that the pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas has said mean things about gays does not ring true. I would have been shocked (or at least surprised) if the pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas had not, and that is based on nothing other than the name of the church. On the other hand it is also possible that Tebow is completely sincere, and just decided that he finally had to go public with it. I don’t claim to know what is in his heart. So my takeaway from this is that it is another sign of the rift in the Evangelical community over homosexuality, but not really anything we didn’t already know.

    • You are assuming this is about homosexuality. Don’t be too quick to make that assumption. Jeffress has made comments about many groups, including Catholics

      • Well, I had to look up this church leader…..very, ummmmm “interesting”, to say the least.

        The Catholic Church as the “Whore of Babylon” and part of conspiracy…….well, that goes a LONG way to healing the rifts in Christianity now, doesn’t it???

        (…and I always wonder where people like this think their denomination was “hiding” from 33 A.D. until the middle ages. )

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          (…and I always wonder where people like this think their denomination was “hiding” from 33 A.D. until the middle ages. )

          Two alternatives:
          1) Their One True Remnant Church was completely underground the whole time, and The Conspiracy erased them from Church History (Landmark Baptists).
          2) The One True Church founded by Jesus Christ in 33AD was completely extinct (destroyed by Satan’s Romish Popery) until Our Founder Reverend Apostle Joe Soap was led by Christ in These End Times to restore the Original New Testament Church, i.e. US (same church history as the Mormons & Jehovah’s Witnesses).

  4. I have always felt for Tebow himself, but not necessarily those who have created the cult following. I identify with him in that I grew up in that world, and at his age would have been involved in churches like First Baptist of both Jacksonville and Dallas. Actually, at his age I adored his church at Jacksonville. For those familiar with SBC history and politics, the two churches are extremely linked, and have long been associated with the most fundamentalist wing. As late as the 1990s, they forbade CCM music among teens and carefully controlled dating.

    Now curious to me, does he stay in that world or get lost in the wilderness?

    • Now curious to me, does he stay in that world or get lost in the wilderness?

      I do not envy the backlash he will endure if he leaves. Just look at the response he got from a single cancellation.

      • Remarkable, isn’t it? If evangelicals want to play in the public arena, they’d better be ready to take the flak.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          If evangelicals want to play in the public arena, they’d better be ready to take the flak.

          But Evangelicals would rather be Commanders of Holy Gilead calling all the shots.

          “Make sure WE are the ones who define what is legal and what is not.”
          – L Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology

  5. I just re-read your post and noticed Rick Warren’s quote. I haven’t kept up with him lately, has he become more outspoken in that world?

  6. I think it’s mostly, as you say, fluff and bluster, on the level of cheap celebrity gossip. This wasn’t decision wasn’t theological as much as PR. I’m sure that he, a conservative evangelical, agrees with the substance of most of Jeffress’ unpopular beliefs (homosexuality is a sin, Islam and Mormonism are false religions, etc), and isn’t afraid of publicly associating with people who believe them. He probably just doesn’t want to associate (or rather, his people don’t want him to associate) with jerks who believe them.

    It is more revealing that so many people (myself obviously included) feel the need to comment on the public appearances of a backup QB.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Because he’s a C*E*L*E*B*R*I*T*Y!

      (Actually, I’m surprised Tebow hasn’t suffered Christianese Celebrity Burnout by now.)

  7. Dan from Georgia says:

    Whoa. Where in Tim Tebow’s remarks is he giving reason for his decision to withdraw from speaking at that church? It is amazing the Albert Mohler and other have so quickly jumped on Tim Tebow when Tim gave no reason for his decision.

    • Good point. Like there’s NO possible reason someone could want to publicly distance themselves from a church or a movement, OTHER than their view on “the gays.” Like the fact that First Baptist of Dallas is bastion of opulence and excess, and probably is more of a mission for the Texas upper crust to make themselves feel like they’re at the top of something than a mission for the way of Jesus. Just guessing here:
      http://vimeo.com/58754562

  8. From his statement “While I was looking forward to sharing a message of hope and Christ’s unconditional love with the faithful members of the historic First Baptist Church of Dallas in April”…

    Isn’t bringing a message of hope and Christ’s unconditional love to a Christian church a little like bringing coals to Newcastle?

  9. Maybe Tebow found out the price tag on Jeffries big fancy fountain he is building for the Glory of God in Dallas.

  10. I would hate to be the guys holding 20 year debt on the new FBC Dallas palace … This mess really stinks , but let’s not forget that when one part of the body hurts , the whole body hurts.

  11. Being opposed to Jeffress equals pro-gay agenda. I’m sick of this manipulative double-speak.

    • First order logical fallacy……

      LOTS of other reasons not to be on board with Jeffress.

      • I agree. But choose any of those other reasons, and one will still be accused of being on the wrong side of the cultural war. This is big-dog evangelicalism. Swat the big dog on the nose, and you’re going to lose an arm.

  12. If Tim Tebow wanted to share “a message of hope and Christ’s unconditional love,” he should have gone ahead and talked at the Baptist Church. If he avoids a place because he disagrees with that preacher’s message, that makes Christ’s love very definitely “conditional.” That is, “I’ll tell you about Christ’s unconditional love, on condition that you agree with my opinions.”

    I don’t blame Mr. Tebow very much; he’s very young, and doubtless pretty confused with this cult-like status that has exploded around him. But I do blame those so-called “liberal” Christians (and I am as liberal as they come!) who say such things as, “We have an open and tolerant love for all our fellow humans, including gay people, and so we really loathe and despise conservatives who disagree with us.”

    • I’m guessing the situation Tebow would have found himself is standing next to Jeffress as he makes one of his inflammatory comments, to then turn to him and say, “Isn’t that right, Timmy?”. I don’t think Tebow would then have a chance to talk about unconditional love.

    • Thanks for pointing this out, H. Lee. I once read this on a student bulletin board at a local university: “Liberal senior seeking open-minded roommate.” My mind immediately changed that to “like-minded roommate.” I guarantee you the person was NOT looking for someone who didn’t think like they did. Liberals tend to think they’re open-minded, when in actuality they are as close-minded as the people they deride.

  13. Dan Crawford says:

    I would avoid Dallas 1st Baptist, period. But then I wouldn’t want to identify myself as an evangelical.

    • Dan from Georgia says:

      I would avoid that church too. Although I personally would identify myself as an evangelical, it seems like they (Frist Baptist Dallas) are more interested in identifying themselves as Southern Baptist more than evangelical. It is almost like a badge of honor to them.

  14. Is it common for footballers to be invited to speak in churches? I know that US politicians do it. Do they deliver the sermon, or what? I honestly have no idea how this works.

    By the way, does anybody know whether Tebow is named after Timothy Richard, the 19th century Baptist missionary to China?

    • It is very common for Christian athletes to be invited to evangelical churches. They will get up during the time when announcements are made and the congregation sings and give a little speech. The pastor will still give the sermon normally. (I’ve watched Tebow do this several times, as we were students at the University of Florida at the same time. One time he gave his little speech–commenting on football, his walk with Jesus, etc, and then his dad preached the sermon.) Tebow doesn’t preach though–its a five minute, tops talk on various acceptable Christian pop culture issues–in his case, sports. A singer would have the same approach though they would talk about music. Often times they give their testimony, describing how they used to be a terrible sinner and became a Christian at some point. Tebow doesn’t really do this since he’s always been a good little Christian momma’s boy. But he’ll talk about being strong in the temptations he gets.

  15. Tebow is young. Money talks. Success on the football field has given him his “platform” to share the Gospel except when….

    I simply cannot imagine the Apostle Paul saying, “Well, I’ve cancelled my trip to Ephesus because the diviners and sooth sayers will find my message offensive.

    I don’t think of the Gospel as anti any particular group except sinners. Yes, the cross is an offense and always will be. Is Tebow the rich young man who came to Jesus saying, “What must I do…?” Is Jesus sad about Tebow as he was sad about that young man?

  16. I guess I’ll put on one of my broken records again: this is another case for solid teaching on vocation. If one is called to play football, then play football with all the talent God gave you for the good of the fans and your manager. If you’re called to be a pastor, then be a pastor. But don’t expect a football player to be a pastor. It’s like the commercials that run in our region, where the pizza delivery kid tries to give a lady’s broken down car a tow with his pizza delivery scooter.

  17. I have no idea who Paul Raushenbush is but he nails it with this quote: “Like many evangelical young people, Tebow seems to care more about loving and being loved by Jesus than the politics that too many automatically associate with Him.”

    It is not entirely a generational thing, but mostly. Tebow speaks of faith, hope, and love, and as the Apostle pointed out more than once, of these, love trumps all. Young people are abandoning the church in droves, a church filled with dour old people wringing their hands and with their eyes fixated on sin and doctrine. Paul found many a time to walk away from folks who just didn’t get it and were rabid in their opposition to truth. So did Jesus.

    We are shortly going to be involved in another battle over the man who had the audacity to sum up the teachings of Jesus and the whole Bible in two words: Love Wins. Rob Bell is starting out the book tour for his new book in Grand Rapids on March 10 and I hope to attend. He doesn’t seem to be scheduled for First Baptist Dallas.

    • I lvoe the account of the woman at the well. But it’s sad (actually pathetic) that people only want to remember the first part of what Jesus told her, and pretend like He didn’t even make the last part of the statement to her that He did.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      We are shortly going to be involved in another battle over the man who had the audacity to sum up the teachings of Jesus and the whole Bible in two words: Love Wins. Rob Bell is starting out the book tour for his new book in Grand Rapids on March 10…

      So gear up for “Rob Bell vs Team Hell, Round Two”?

  18. Perhaps one must put this in the perspective of evangelical/fundamentalist culture. This is ghetto-speak: the ghetto inhabitants cowering inside self-imposed walls imagining the monster lurking outside the walls. They want someone to come in and speak words of assurance, that the boogie monsters will be defeated. That is their source of “good news”. For Tebow to decline to be that voice cursing the darkness, perhaps it seems like he has abandoned the ghetto residents to the the horrors of their imaginations. The message of love, forgiveness, and salvation for the boogie monster is of no use to them at all.

  19. Two problems I have with the whole boondoggle.

    [1] Tim Tebow is not a theologian. Not an elder statesman in the church. Not even a Christian blogger. The man, for a living, throws and catches footballs. A valuable and marketable skill, but still: Does this make him a man whose doctrinal opinion should carry a lot of weight? Or any weight at all? Why should anyone consider his opinion an informed one?

    [2] Why, for that matter, should anyone invite him to a church in order to get his episcopal blessing? Or be offended when he decides, for whatever reason, he can’t go?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Tim Tebow is not a theologian. Not an elder statesman in the church. Not even a Christian blogger. The man, for a living, throws and catches footballs. A valuable and marketable skill, but still: Does this make him a man whose doctrinal opinion should carry a lot of weight? Or any weight at all? Why should anyone consider his opinion an informed one?

      Because he’s a C*E*L*E*B*R*I*T*Y, that’s why!

      Just like how Kim Kardashian can go on Oprah, announce “2 + 2 = 5″, and have all the Beautiful People oooohing and aaaaahing and orgasming about This New Profound Truth. Just this Celebrity Cult is Christianese.

  20. Wow…never thought I would say this, but I have to agree with Rick Warren. In a strange twist of irony, we are seeing a huge mountain of intolerance. But the irony comes from the fact that the intolerance comes from those who for decades CLAIMED that they wanted tolerance. Well, the veil has been removed and we now see that tolerance was the last thing they wanted. They simply wanted to force everyone to believe what they believe.

    Rolling my eyes at the brand of “Christianity” that says “just love and affirm everyone.” I’m OK in my sin, you’re OK in your sin, God is only a God of love, all dogs go to heaven…blah, blah, blah.