Anybody wondering why there is such antipathy about recently unemployed NFL quarterback Tim Tebow needs only to look at what happened to Jason Collins on Monday.
His admission of “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.” unleashed a torrent of Biblically-annotated vile so ugly, so hateful from the good “Christians” of the Internet that I have to believe Jesus was somewhere saying “Keep my name out of your mouth.”
What does this have to do with Tebow? He is the willing face of Christianity in sports, and for many, this makes him a phony. They see Christians preaching love and forgiveness for themselves and their sins while dishing out hatred and ugliness for those who sin differently, and the hypocrisy turns them off.
This is a big reason why many do not like Tebow and snark at his every failure; currently his search for an NFL job. This is not simply about talent. This is about his religious beliefs. Unfortunately for him, he has become the face of a religion many have come to see as judgmental, hypocritical and angry — or everything that was on display in the wake of Collins’ news on Monday.
For every President Obama call and Kobe tweet, there was an army of judgmental, homophobic, angry Christians condemning Collins to hell in Jesus’ name on Twitter, in columns, on TV and radio.
So a growing segment of society looks at a guy like Tebow, professing his faith and living his ideals, and struggles not to see Westboro Baptist protesting at the funerals of US servicemen or hear pastors from the church of “I’m Right, You’re Wrong” preaching hellfire and damnation on whatever sin does not hit too close to home for their paying customers.
The sad reality is this bellowing minority has drowned out the silent majority of Bible-believing Christians who take very seriously Jesus’ call to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34). This is just the beginning. Much of what Jesus says in the Bible translates to “coach your own team” in the sports version. John 8:7 is especially instructive as Jesus says: “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone.”
Look, the Bible is a complicated book that far too often has been twisted and spliced, usually by agenda-driven segments of the population, to perpetrate all variations of ugliness. Slavery, anti-Semitism, stopping whites from marrying blacks, disenfranchising women all had Biblical backing from cherry-picked verses until society said, “Whoa, that is not what my Christ is about” — Loving v Virginia, The Voting Rights Act, The Emancipation Proclamation.
I do not pretend to have all the answers. But what I know for sure is people who get their salvation from the New Testament would be wise not to get their doctrine from the old. And when in doubt, ask yourself: What did Jesus say?
It struck me Monday, as many Christians were tweeting about how God views homosexuality as an abomination, how little Jesus said on the subject.
Why if this is such a big deal, did Jesus not once say, “Oh, by the way, being gay is a deadly sin?” He spoke time and time again about loving one another, of doing unto others, of helping the poor. He even went so far as to say that that which we do for the least among us we do for Him. He is quite clear about what matters to him and nowhere in there is a call to deputize anybody to be the sin police.
Now people will say: “Leave your religion out of this, Engel.” This misses the point completely. Religion is everywhere in the discussion about Collins. It is the get-out-of-jail-free card for the homophobes and racists and sexists, allowing them to cloak their ugliness and hate in the carefully cherry-picked Word.
What days like Monday do are turn people away from Christianity, and make them view people like Tebow as a phony. It is not un-Christian to admire Collins.
The President of the United States did not call Collins to congratulate him for being gay. He lauded him, and rightly so, for his courage. What Collins did is take the harder road to make it easier for everybody who comes after him. That is moral courage. It is a trait lacking in almost every layer of American society, a trait Collins and Tebow actually share, this willingness to stand up for what you believe.
So if you think Tebow has been treated unfairly, and I tend to agree he has, the best way to change this is by changing how you, we, as Christians talk about issues like Collins.
It is time we stop letting the angry, ugly few speak for all believers. Or else we let them paint us all as phonies.