Tim Tebow (left) and Jeremy Lin
Associated Press/Photos by (Tebow) Seth Wenig and (Lin) Danny Johnston
Tim Tebow (left) and Jeremy Lin

Should Christianity contribute to celebrity status?


Let’s take a trip down memory lane, way back to nine months ago. It was the doldrums of late winter and spring was still a ways off. But, man, the professional sports landscape was abuzz. Remember Linsanity and Tebowmania? Those guys were amazing. I’m not sure any athletes in history have ever bred so many Christian fanboys (and -girls). Seems like it was so long ago. In fact, it’s almost as if it never happened.

What did happen to those guys? Well, Tim Tebow was traded by the Denver Broncos to the New York Jets, where he currently is a backup quarterback on an under-achieving team. Jeremy Lin left the New York Knicks and signed with the Houston Rockets and is having a perfectly fine season as their starting point guard. But that’s not really the question: What else happened to these two guys? They were the biggest thing to hit upon the Christian sports scene since … ever. They were adored, fawned over, celebritized, biographied, and sainted. People named their newborn sons Timothy and Jeremy and their dogs Tebow. We were, to put it accurately, LinSANE about them, true Tebowmaniacs.

What really happened is that we did what we do with most sensations—we found every reason to be excited about something new and rode that wave until it no longer thrilled us. Riding the excitement wave is a dubious means of entertainment and direction in any circumstance, but when one of the primary reasons for the excitement is a celebrity’s faith it is particularly imprudent. It is good to resonate with the faith of others and to appreciate or admire the expression of bold faith as we did for Tebow and Lin. But as soon as that admiration gets lumped in with our celebrity fanboyism we have mixed the truly ultimate with the truly banal.

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Did Tim Tebow change when he moved from Denver to New York? Did his faith and public declarations of belief become less meaningful? No, it was his position on the team that became less meaningful. Instead of leading game winning drives he now holds a clipboard. And so his celebrity luster diminished, as did our estimation of him.

When Jeremy Lin left New York’s Madison Square Garden did he leave his Christian witness behind? No, he left behind the biggest media market in the United States, so now we don’t need to pay attention to him anymore.

When we use Christianity as a criteria and a fuel for celebrity and that celebrity fades, as it always does, the Christianity will too—at least in the public eye. We have included something of deep significance, of eternal value, into our equation for cheap thrills and quick fun. Nothing can truly cheapen the message of the gospel, but this sort of public display of fickle fandom certainly sends a mixed message as to what Christians truly value. Is it the stardom or the belief, the platform or the person? We cannot muddle these answers without muddling the message of our faith.

Barnabas Piper
Barnabas Piper

Barnabas works for Lifeway Christian Resources and is the author of The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity and Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt Is Not the Enemy of Faith. He and his wife live in the Nashville area with their two daughters. Follow Barnabas on Twitter @BarnabasPiper.


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