UPDATE: Tim Tebow has canceled his scheduled appearance at Robert Jeffress' First Baptist Church in Dallas. On Thursday, Tebow tweeted about his decision:
"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!"
On April 28, Tim Tebow, quarterback for the New York Jets, is scheduled to speak at the First Baptist Church of Dallas during the morning service.
Tebow is both a member of the evangelical First Baptist Church and an outspoken advocate of the Lord’s word. The football player has become a somewhat controversial figure because he may be one of the most popular promoters of Christianity in the United States. The son of Baptist missionaries, Tebow frequently speaks about his enduring faith and the strength it has brought to his career. From painting Bible verses on his cheeks during games to kneeling to pray after touchdowns, Tebow has seamlessly embodied the union of two much loved American traditions: God and football.
The particular congregation that Tebow will address in Dallas is known for its pastor Robert Jeffress, who has gained notoriety for his radical opinions.
Jeffress has openly stated in public interviews and on his radio show Pathway to Victory that gays and lesbians are perverse, incapable of monogamy, and that they are slowly brainwashing America — an act he believes will inevitably lead to our country’s demise. While Jeffress is known for his harsh declarations, he does not limit his criticism to the LGBT community. On separate occasions he has called Mormonism a cult, said that Islam promotes pedophilia, and that President Obama is paving the way for the antichrist. Although many have criticized Jeffress for his inflammatory statements he is still currently the senior pastor of an 11,000 member mega-church which is flourishing in both size and budget.
If Jeffress has a tendency to come off as extremist in his public statements on religion, Tebow is exactly the opposite. When asked about his faith, the football player is very polite and infallibly tactful with his words. He has neither affirmed nor denied whether he agrees with members of his church like Jeffress when it comes to many controversial issues.
For this reason many are surprised that the outspoken pastor and the prudent football player are collaborating. Tebow’s speech will be part of a month-long celebration of the completion of the $130 million renovation of the First Baptist Church of Dallas’s downtown campus. The project, which is aimed at revitalizing downtown Dallas and expanding the church’s capacity, has ignited much debate since it has been touted as the most expensive Protestant church renovation in history. It is impossible to predict what Tebow’s remarks at the ceremony will entail or what the effect will be on his career. This association with Jeffress will most certainly bring unwanted censure to the cautious Tebow but it does not mean that the football player unanimously agrees with the pastor’s opinions. What will the repercussions be for Tebow, and is this the forum where he would finally risk voicing his beliefs on issues like marriage equality? If one thing’s for certain, it is that many people will be listening.