Scott Wallace, Sr. Editor Sports Almighty
There is an interesting article by Ted Kluck of Christianity Today regarding Christian athletes as cultural celebrities and whether or not we are creating idols out of them.
I’ve had athletes ask the very question that is at the heart of this article; Should I wear my faith on my sleeve as a Christian athlete? I’ve always responded with these words; “Be who you are and leave the consequences to God.”
If you are not John the Baptist in your personal life, then why are you going into the arena being Tim Tebow? Tim’s testimony in the media is extremely important and has created numerous talking points for Christians in their relationships with non-Christian co-workers.
But not everyone is Tebow. If someone makes Tebow an idol in their personal life, that’s not Tebow’s fault. That shows areas of growth that is needed in the Christian fan’s life, not in Tebow’s life.
Whether you are Robert Griffin III, Aaron Rodgers, Steph Curry, or a reserve guard on your middle school basketball team, act the same way in your athletic life as you do in your personal life.
Don’t hide your Christianity because of how you think it will be received. And don’t create a public persona of faith if you don’t share it in your personal life.
Here is the article entitled “Is RGIII the New Tim Tebow?”
I admit it felt weird writing a book about Robert Griffin III just weeks into his rookie season with the Washington Redskins. At this point, nobody knows how God will use success, failure, and other circumstances to shape this professional, professing Christian football star. As John Piper once said in a sermon, “Living heroes are important, but they might cease to be heroes before they die.” That’s to say, the jury is still out on Griffin and, to be fair, all of us.
A scant three years ago, when Griffin was still playing college football at Baylor University, we may have thought the same things about then-hero Tim Tebow. Amazingly, we’re already living in a post-Tebow NFL. (Well, maybe not. Hours after we posted this article, the Patriots signed him. Well, read on anyway…) Back then, everything Tebow touched turned to gold. Heisman winner. National champion. First-round draft choice. Author. Spokesman for everything.
A celebrity-hungry evangelical fan base “made” Tebow by clamoring for anything Tebow-related: books, jerseys, photographs, autographs, documentaries, commercials, articles, game tickets, and conference tickets. We put Tebow on a very significant public pedestal because he stood for what we stood for, everything from a pro-life position to homeschooling to the actual gospel.
If “mentioning your faith” had a spectrum, Tebow would be on the high end of that spectrum, and Griffin would be on the moderate-to-low end. While public faith was an integral part of the Tebow brand, Griffin seems low-key by comparison. He said nothing more than “God had a plan” at his Heisman Trophy acceptance speech. He has tweeted periodically—but not excessively—about his faith. His Twitter bio is a play on the popular evangelical mantra of relationship-not-religion, saying “I have no Religion. I have a relationship with God.” Still, Griffin seems to be walking a fine line, appealing to Christians and non-Christians alike.
There’s something weird about the Christian celebrity culture. It certainly exists—it’s what enables me to write books about football stars—but I can’t help but wonder if it should exist, if it does us more harm than good. I’m reminded of Paul’s word in 2 Corinthians 2:17, which reads, “Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit.” Sometimes it feels like we’re doing exactly that. Our hero-making, at times, ignores the most central truths of our faith. Whether we’re talking about Tebow or RGIII or the next big name, we risk losing the gospel message in the powerful and popularized narrative of the Christian athlete.
Amid our hunger for Christian celebrity, it can be hard to maintain focus on sin and the cross. After all, there are Super Bowls to be won, commercials to be shot, products to be moved, and dreams to be lived. And yet, whether our name’s on the back of an NFL jersey or not, we’re all wretched sinners in need of a redeemer, and we can all do nothing good apart from Christ.
And on the other hand, don’t you’ll be a ‘Christian Celebrity.’