New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow is being criticized for his planned visit to speak at the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, led by Pastor Robert Jeffress, who some media are decrying as "anti-gay."
"Tebow's peace-and-love message could be tested by the megachurch's evangelical Christian pastor, the Rev. Robert Jeffress," a New York Daily News author wrote Friday, of the athlete's planned visit to the megachurch on April 28.
The author, Bill Hutchinson, goes on to say that Pastor Jeffress has accused gay activists of trying to hide "the link between homosexuality and pedophilia," warned his flock that President Obama's re-election "would lead to a rise of the antiChrist," and bashed Islam, Judaism and Mormonism as heretical religions "from the pit of hell."
On Thursday, NBC Sports writer Rick Chandler sought to ridicule Tebow, saying he has been making more speaking appearances in church than he has quarterback appearances in NFL games.
Jeffress, Chandler said, is "a controversial evangelical Christian who has made quite a name for himself by referring to other religions as 'heretical,' and that re-electing Obama would lead to the 'rise of the anti-Christ.'"
The outspoken evangelical athlete is known for "tebowing" on the field to give honor to God. At college in Florida, Tebow frequently wore biblical verses on his eye black. In the 2009 Bowl Championship Series, he wore "John 3:16" on his eye paint, reportedly causing 92 million people to search the verse on Google. Later, Tebow switched to "Proverbs 3:5-6," again causing 3.43 million searches of the verse together with "Tim Tebow."
"There's all this excitement in a game, whether it's playing the NFL or college, with all the hype," Tebow said last year at an event in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he spoke to thousands of his Christian fans. "You're going to do good, you're going to do bad and all the eyes are watching you and for me, it's to be able to take a moment to block out everything else and just get on a knee and thank the Lord."
One of the reasons behind "Tebowing," he added, "is because that's a form of humbling yourself. I want to humble myself before the Lord and say thank you for this opportunity. Thank you for letting me play the game I love. Whether I'm good or bad, whether I'm the hero or the goat, whether I score four touchdowns or throw four interceptions, that will still be the same person, honoring the Lord."
Tebow will speak at the First Baptist Church of Dallas weeks after the congregation inaugurates a $130 million, new state-of-the-art campus on Easter Sunday on March 31.
"At a time when suburban megachurches are the norm and research shows that many people no longer feel the Church is relevant, First Baptist is committed to the Bible and to downtown Dallas," Jeffress said in a statement Thursday. "People are hungry not for religion but for the Word of God. First Baptist Dallas is built on the Bible, and because of that we are growing."
In contrast to its splendid new building, First Baptist Church of Dallas was once seen as a dying church. But Dr. Robert Jeffress is credited for revitalizing the church, which has experienced growth under his leadership.