New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow reversed course Thursday. He backtracked on a commitment to speak at First Baptist Church of Dallas, his decision almost assuredly having to do with controversial Pastor Robert Jeffress and how aligning himself with him had a chance to permanently dislodge Tebow’s halo.
This has been hailed as a victory. What it really is is a travesty, and a lost opportunity.
I hope Tebow reconsiders. I hope he shows up in Dallas in April. And I will attend if he reverses his previously reversed course. I had planned on attending not because I agree with everything, and more likely anything, Pastor Jeffress says but rather because I subscribe to Martin Luther King Jr.’s approach to change.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that,” Dr. King famously and wisely once said. “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
This is why MLK marched on Selma instead of New York, because he realized preaching to the converted changes little. Real change requires walking into the belly of the beast and holding the mirror up to their face and saying, “Sorry, y’all, this is wrong.”
And what is being preached at First Baptist Church of Dallas is wrong by any standard. Pastor Jeffress is using his bully pulpit and Jesus’ good name to spew his hate.
Jeffress says President Obama is “The anti-Christ.” He says Catholicism is a cult and Catholics are not real Christians. He says Jews and Muslims are going to hell, as well as Mormons and Catholics. He is not keen on gays or really anybody who does not look and think exactly like him. He’s your basic nightmare if you are a Bible-believing Christian like myself because, well, he gives us all a bad name.
Tebow described his decision to bail on Jeffress like this on Twitter: “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!”
This is a cop-out. If he really wants to use his platform, there is no better place than First Baptist Church of Dallas.
What I wanted was for Tebow to walk in and stand up and say: I believe y’all believe you are Christians and you love God. What I want to do today is introduce you to my Christ because my Christ looks and talks and acts very differently than yours, and I believe y’all are defaming my Christ by using His name to spew your hatred.
I want Tebow to point his finger at Pastor Jeffress and invite him to open his Bible to Matthew 5 and share with him The Sermon on the Mount, or Matthew 7:3, where Jesus warns us all about worrying so much about the speck in our brother’s eye that we miss the plank in our own, or just Jesus’ many words about coaching your own team.
Why does this fall to Tebow? Because he has a platform capable of getting people to listen, a Biblical cred capable of making people think, an invitation most of us do not get.
We have two kinds of people speaking really loudly for Christians right now: (A) the Jeffresses of the world, and (B) the people who use voices like his to admonish all of Christianity as behaving nothing like the Christ we worship.
The silence is deafening from the majority of Christians, those of us working on the plank in our own eye, those of us willing to admit our doubt about our own path and thus unwilling to condemn another, those of us who took Jesus at his word when he told us to love our neighbors as ourselves, those of us who do not feel comfortable speaking for Jesus or being his henchmen, those of us who believe the hymn “They will know we are Christians by our love” is the battle cry, those of us who recognize that a Bible filled with the word love should not be used to preach hate.
This is the type of Christians I encounter so often in my daily life and so rarely hear given a national platform. The Christians who make me nervous are those who believe they have all the answers, for themselves and for everybody else, the ones who are sure who is going to hell, which just happens to be the people who are not committing the exact same sins as them. There are plenty of Bible verses about adultery and divorce and lying and keeping the Sabbath holy yet Jeffress focuses his attention on gays and Muslims and Catholics and the democratic POTUS. How convenient for him and his congregation.
Tebow did silence Jeffress by canceling. He turned the good pastor into a martyr, all while keeping his own brand holy. This was not a Biblical stand. It was a public relations one.
What Tebow needs to do is go and fight hate with love and darkness with light. Anything less is disappointing from the good reverend quarterback.