TebowOver at RealClearReligion, Jeffrey Weiss thinks the fuss over Tim Tebow’s broken engagement at First Baptist Dallas doesn’t “make a lick of sense.” I beg to differ.

Jeff does think it made sense for the poster boy of Southern Baptist athleticism to accept the engagement in the first place. FBD is one of the mighty fortresses of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Tebow’s own Florida pastor used to be head honcho there himself. But why the shock from the likes of Huffpost that the lad would grace the theologically exclusivist, gay-unfriendly pulpit with his presence? What else do you expect from a big old conservative SBC church? And why the awkward bow-out by Tebow, as if he didn’t know what he was in for? As in:

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!’

But in fact, all this makes perfect sense. FBD’s current pastor, Robert Jeffress, has indulged in no shortage of widely reported remarks attacking Mormonism and Islam and Judaism as coming from the pit of Hell and suchlike. Most Southern Baptist pastors don’t do that in the public square. And like many a evangelistic character before him (e.g. Billy Graham), Tebow can agree with the details of the theology while declining to associate himself with Jeffress’ style.
So it’s fair enough for the Huffposties of the world to trumpet the impending association and send Tebow scurrying, thereby provoking Jeffress to sermonize his gratitude “for men of God like these who are willing to stand up and act like men rather than wimping out when it gets a little controversial and an inconvenient thing to stand for the truth.”
Sorry, Bob, but this is how we make the sausage of civility in the American public square. If you want a Tebow, tone it down.

Categories: Beliefs, Culture

Beliefs:

Mark Silk

Mark Silk

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life.

8 Comments

  1. Jeffrey Weiss

    Thanks for the shout-out!

    Well, yes about Jeffress. And none of it a secret. So why would Tebow accept and *then* pull back? I’d be less concerned about the tone than the substance. Would it be OK for Tebow to visit Rick Warren’s church, where Warren is surely more tactful but holds the same opinions about the sinfulness of homosexuality and the eternal damnation of anybody who doesn’t accept Jesus as Lord and Savior? Or, say, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where the outspoken Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. runs the show?

    Unless Tebow is found to be discriminating against Jews (or Buddhists, Bahai, etc.) or discriminating in a this-world fashion against gays and lesbians, then I say his religion is his business.

    • Tebow’s religion would be his business… except for the fact that he’s made his religion his business rather conspicuously on the football field and put it on public display at every opportunity.

      I might also mention that the gay and women hating coming out of these fundamentalist churches is now everybody’s business precisely because our tea party lawmakers are legislating based on the very same religious bigotry propagated and mainstreamed by the Southern Baptist Convention (for one).

      They were using Tebow to help them mainstream a certain brand of particularly viscious and unChristian religiosity (Christian Reconstruction). It became our business the moment they decided to politicize their religion. Otherwise, nobody would care.

  2. Mark Silk

    For sure his religion is his business. But these public theatricals are about how things work in the public square. And if Tebow wants to be a beloved Billy Graham-type witness for Christ, then (as Graham did) he steers clear of the Jeffresses.

  3. We’ve already seen, in the case of Barack Obama and the Rev. Louis Giglio, just how much gay activists and liberal media pundits care about “civility” and “how things work in the public square.” And now we Christians get to watch Tim Tebow cave in just like the equally gracious and civil Louis Giglio did? Even though I am supportive of Tebow’s decision this time, troubling aspects remain, as Dr. Albert Mohler has pointed out.

    Sorry, but when it gets to the point where Christians are allowing gay activists, non-Christians, and liberal media pundits to dictate to them which CHURCHES they get to speak at or not speak at, that’s a bridge too far. It’s time for Christians to just stand up and fight Goliath already. Billy Graham has already done his share of standing up (especially in the last year or two!), now it’s time for the rest of us.

    • Inaugurations are for the winners because elections have consequences and send messages. Having Giglio there would have sent the same message as having the Grand Kleagle of the KKK there. Giglio did a lot of wiggling, but did not walk back his previous statements, and they included irresponsible and dangerous claims that people should change their sexual orientation. (The professional association have weighed in on this, claiming otherwise is risking serious damage to vulnerable listeners.) As for Billy Graham, his previous defense of Nixon and anti-Semitic statements secretly recorded by Nixon say a lot about him, as well as the scrubbing of the anti-Mormon statements from his website right before his endorsement of Mitt.

  4. Jeffrey Weiss

    The Super Bowl commercial from a couple of years ago was in the “public square.” The pulpit of First Baptist Church of Dallas, not so public. A famous Southern Baptist decides to talk about himself and his faith at one of the most prominent churches in the Southern Baptist Convention. Dog-bites-man news.

  5. Mark Silk

    Once upon a time, yes. But now that what’s preached from the pulpit of First Baptist is readily available to anyone with an internet connection, not so much. For better or worse, the public square has, in our online world, expanded.

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