(Photo: Reuters/Ray Stubblebine)
New York Jets quarterback and outspoken Christian Tim Tebow was cheered by a crowd of over 15,000 at a Texas church's Easter service Sunday as he called on America to get back to the country's founding ideal of "one nation under God."
Tebow, who was recently traded from the Denver Broncos to the Jets, was a guest speaker at the non-denominational, outdoor Easter Sunday service of Celebration Church in Georgetown, Texas. Joe Champion, the pastor, interviewed him for 20 minutes about his faith and its role in his public life and the culture of the nation.
One of the questions Champion asked Tebow was what should change culturally in America. "First and foremost is what this country was based on: one nation under God," The Associated Press quoted Tebow as replying.
Tebow was apparently alluding to secular activism in the United States which seeks to completely separate religion, particularly Christianity, from the State.
He said he saw no problem in openly talking about his Christian faith. He told the crowd he welcomed the attention his convictions and the "Tebowing" prayer pose draw. "It's being talked about," he said. "That's exciting… It's OK to be outspoken about your faith."
Tebow also said he disagreed with professional athletes who do not believe in being role models. "Yes you are. You're just not a good one," he said.
Pastor Champion was enthusiastic about Tebow's appearance at the service. "In Christianity, it's the Pope and Tebow right now," he said. "We didn't have enough room to handle the Pope."
The church erected bleachers on its 110-acre grounds, rented more than 100 buses to pick up the masses from six different locations, and recruited 1,100 volunteers to run the event. "Obviously it's our Super Bowl," Champion earlier told local TV station KVUE. "Easter is the resurrection of Christ, which we celebrate in our faith."
Champion also clarified that the event wasn't just about the Heisman Trophy winner athlete. "There will be the sacredness of Easter," he said. "It's not a Tim Tebow show. It's not about a celebrity. There's really only one celebrity that we are going to honor and highlight."
People at the free-for-all service sat on lawn chairs and blankets. The church had invited all to "celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ with thousands throughout the Austin metroplex on top of one of the highest points in Central Texas."
According to church spokeswoman Tara Wall, Tebow had expressed a desire to speak at the church about a month ago, and Easter was not the original date chosen by his representatives.