Despite His Christianity, I Like Jeremy Lin

Tim Tebow drove everybody crazy. His conspicuous religiosity, and the adulation it won him from so many quarters, was a kind of slow torture of Christian privilege for anyone who thinks faith should be a private thing.

Now there’s a new kid in town: Jeremy Lin, point guard for the New York Knicks. Lin, a Taiwanese-American born in California, graduated from Harvard with a degree in economics and a fierce desire to play professional basketball. Cementing his status as scrappy underdog, he went unrecognized for years in the NBA’s Development League, fighting for playing time. An injury and a blowout led to Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni giving Lin his chance and what resulted has been several weeks of “Linsanity.”

Because Lin is unabashedly Christian, he’s drawing comparisons to Tebow everywhere, from the New York Times to the Boston Globe. But from what I’ve seen so far, the similarities end there. With Tebow, we were used to a certain amount of derailing to talk about his Lord and Savior, as in this on-field interview:

YouTube Preview Image

That’s to say nothing of the Tebowing, the inscribing of Bible verses on his person, and the commercials for annoying Christian organizations. But so far, Jeremy Lin seems far more subdued in his expressions of faith.

While a recent report indicates that Lin wears a wristband reading “In Jesus Name I Play,” you wouldn’t know it since he doesn’t talk about it.

(Debby Wong - U.S. Presswire)

After watching a number of Lin’s postgame interviews on YouTube, one thing in particular strikes me. He never leads off with a declaration of faith like Tebow. In fact, the only context in which Lin seems to bring up his faith is when he’s asked about his feelings on his meteoric rise to fame, and he mentions God and Jesus in the context of extreme gratitude.

Do I think Jesus gave Lin the chance to play? No, I think Lin and, ultimately, D’Antoni gave Lin the chance to play. But Lin sincerely believes that the Man Upstairs handed him this opportunity, so I can understand his gratefulness.

Lin also isn’t known for kneeling to pray on the court. I’m not the only one who’s noticed his less showy brand of faith; Michael Luo of the New York Times has this to say:

[M]y gut tells me that Lin will not wind up like Tebow, mainly because Lin’s persona is so strikingly different. From talking to people who knew him through the Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Christian Fellowship, and watching his interviews, I have the sense that his is a quieter, potentially less polarizing but no less devout style of faith.

Like Lin, many Asian-American Christians have deep personal faith, but they are also, notably, almost never culture warriors. That is simply not what is emphasized in their churches and college Christian fellowships, including the one that played such a formative role in Lin’s life at Harvard.

Luo seems to believe, as an Asian-American Christian himself, that Lin’s reserved style of faith is rooted in his culture. All I can say, as an atheist sports fan, is that it’s refreshing not to feel like I’m being proselytized at. It’s clear that Lin has a deep personal faith, but he appears to keep it just that: personal. I don’t begrudge him the occasional mention of it in his interviews — these are his sincerely held beliefs, and as silly as I find them, I don’t think he needs to be silent about them. But at the same time, Lin seems to consider his beliefs relevant to one person, and one person only: himself. And that’s exactly as it should be.

About Megan Wells

Megan Wells is an IT tech and sports blogger in Chicago.

  • 303dk

    “he went unrecognized for years in the NBA’s Development League”

    except for when he was named All-NBADL First Team?

    not to mention MVP of the ABA Club championship…

  • Jake

    Another difference between Lin and Tebow: Lin is actually good.

    • Mrssaherlifeafterlife

      Dearest i¨n Christ,

      I am Mrs. Sehar Mohammed from Libya.I am married to Late Mr ALI
      MOHAMMED of blessed memory who is an oil explorer in Libya and Kuwait
      for twelve years before he died last year.We were married for twelve
      years without a child.He died of Gadhafi problems that happend in
      my country libya date Thursday, March 3rd, 2011.Before his death we were
      both devoted new convert christain.

      Before his death I too have been battling with both Cancer and fibroid
      problems . When my late Husband was alive he deposited the sum of 4.1million
      (four Million, one hundred U.S Dollars) with a security company in London.

      Recently,my doctor told me that I have only six months to live due to
      cancer problem. Though what disturbs me most is my stroke and kidney
      problem and now my dorctor have book me for kidney transplanting .

      Having known my condition I decided to donate this fund to
      either a christain organization or devoted christain individual that will
      utilize this money the way I am going to instructs herein.

      I want this christain organization or individual to use this money in all
      sincerity to fund CHURCHES, orphanages, widows, and also propagating
      the word of Almighty GOD and to ensure that the society upholds the views and
      belief of the Holy BIBLE. The Holy BIBLE emphasizes so much on GOD’S
      benevolence and this has encourage me to take the bold step.

      I took this decision because I don’t have any child that will inherit this
      money and my husband relatives are Muslim’s and I don’t want a situation
      where this money will be used in an Unholy manner.Hence the reasons for
      this bold decision. I know that after death I will be with ALMIGHTY GOD the most
      beneficent and the most merciful.

      I don’t need any telephone communication in this regard because of my
      health and becaus e of the presence of my husband’s relatives around me always,
      if any need for call i can tell my doctor to call you if there is any need for that
      right now i am presently in a hospital in India  I don’t want them to know about this
      development With ALmighty GOD all things are possible.

      As soon as I receive your reply I shall give you the contact information
      of the security company in London where the money was deposited.
      I will also issue a letter of authority to the security company authorizing
      them that the said fund Have being willed to you and a copy of such authorization
      will be forwarded to you.

      I want you and the Christain community where you-reside in Philippine to always pray for me.
      My happiness is that I lived a true devoted christain worthy of emulation.
      Whoever that wants to serve ALmighty GOD must serve him in truth and in fairness.

      Please always be prayerful all through your life.Any delay in your
      reply will give room in sourcing for a christain organization or a
      devoted christain for this same purpose. Until I hear from you, my dreams
      will rest squarely on your shoulders.May the Almighty GOD continue to guide
      And protect you.
      Pls reply via this Email;mrssaherlifeafterlife@bol.com.br

      Regards,

      Mrs. Sehar Mohammed

  • The Other Weirdo

    All I got from that wall of text was, “Wow! Those economics degrees sure aren’t worth nearly as much as they used to be.”

    • Kataton

      I’m not sure I take your meaning. Why are you calling this article a “wall of text”? It’s fairly clearly written, with many sentences of varying length. It’s divided into paragraphs grouped around several sub-points which support the overall point that Lin expresses his faith differently than Tebow. That seems like the opposite of a wall of text…

      • The Other Weirdo

         Perhaps you’re right. No, scratch that. You ARE right. It’s a perfectly laid-out, formatted and typeset article about absolutely nothing. Reading this article is like reading about a person who, despite pursuing an engineering degree, ends up marking time as a Women’s Studies professor.

        • Dan

          Sexist comment alert.

        • Kataton

          Well, at least I can make sense out of what Megan is trying to say in this article. I’m afraid I can’t say the same for your comments. Again, I ask for clarifiction; I don’t understand what you mean?

  • Nordog

    I know I’m late to the party, but I’m not a football fan so while I had heard of Tebow I had not really experienced the Tebow thing.

    Anyway, caught some of the Tebowing thing and I gotta say it’s creepy.

    • Nordog

       Oh, and about Lin, I’m not a basketball fan so I’ll figure out that phenomenon a couple of years after everyone else has moved on.

  • http://wondroushippo.com Carter Dotson

    I think that’s the thing: he’s very humble and sincere. Listen to his post-game interviews, that’s what comes across – he’s very willing to give the credit for his successes to others, and to be a team player. And no, I don’t think he’s proselytized at all outside of when he’s been asked what he credits his success to. He’s very refreshing after all the phony Tebowmania.

    • Xeon2000

      Generally speaking, that type of attitude is very commonplace within Asian-subculture.

  • Anonymous

    I absolute despise the phrase “sincerely held beliefs”. Usually that’s code for “don’t criticize anything I say or do as a result of them” and used as an excuse to not follow established rules and laws

    • Your Friendly Theist

      Not sure why–don’t you think you have the sincerely held belief that atheism is true? 

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

    He’s just another guy from L.A.  There are a zillion rags-to-riches stories there.

  • T-Rex

    Athletes and entertainers receive way too much attention and money in our society. They play games and pretend to be other people for a living. Why would anyone put much stock in what they believe or what they say? Rediculous.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, Sarah Palin finally likes an Asian person.

  • Annie

    I am sure what we are seeing is a difference in personalities, but Tebow is also one up on Lin in the privilege department.  I wonder how much that comes into play here?

  • Jesse

    Have you seen the constant feed of Jesus coming from his twitter? The brain’s capacity for compartmentilization is impressive when kids this smart can still believe in fairy tales.

    • Johnk

      There are all kinds of fairy tales – like the oft proselytized one that the universe and all that we know popped into existence just… Because.
      Really smart people believe that, too.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tiffany-Jade-Brown/640358790 Tiffany Jade Brown

        Really? Because I don’t know of anyone who believes that.

  • Justin Miyundees

    I think the worst form I’ve seen is Javier Hernandez from Manchester United.  He kneels at center field and does some strange incantation that looks like a hybrid pagan christian ceremony.  It’s just weird and ridiculous and even creepier than “Tebowing”.

  • http://www.twitter.com/a_okafor007 Anthony C. Okafor

    ummm I saw a post game interview where he INDEED led off the interview by thanking his “lord and savior jesus christ” It was after he hit the buzzer beater in Toronto

  • Bob

    How about Lin is a good basketball player and Tebow is a bad football player.  Lin deserves the adoration.  Tebow doesn’t

    • http://lifebeforethebucket.blogspot.com/ Adrian Waller

      This, times a billion.

  • Good and Godless

    Basketball is marketing and with tebow generating interest in football the minds behind marketing campaigns launched another one in basketball to keep the mindless fervor going. An unfamiliar player an opposition oddly  giving too much leeway and marketing has scored another coup against the gullible. 

    Find some real news and drop this regurgitated marketeer drivel. 

  • http://twitter.com/DanTresOmi Peoples Rodriguez
  • Guest

    Atheists should not be afraid to be in-your-face with their atheism. They should be proud to declare their beliefs in public. But Christians on the other hand, they should just keep their pathetic beliefs to themselves and shut up about their fairy tales in public.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, atheist are so mean! Demanding a bit of proof behind belief claims. Hey but please keep your tax exempt privileges to keep your church lights burning and fuel for your minister’s jet.

    • Johnk

      Atheists definitely see it that way. It’s an amazing example of the pot calling the kettle black. Christians should cease speaking about their faith 100% in public, but atheists should have parades (On public streets, wearing insulting costumes), and shout from the rooftops that they are right, all-knowing, and if you make a mis-step, they will sue you!

    • Jandflim

      I don’t know what your belief. But everybody should have the freedom to speak and people like you  can plug up their ear if they want to.

    • Zeggman

       I can only recall one atheist using a personal victory to declare their beliefs in public, and that was Kathy Griffin. Actually, I don’t know if she’s an atheist; her “suck it, Jesus” may have been her speaking as a comedian rather than as an atheist.

      I think it’s really a matter of degree. Hermant didn’t say Lin should just shut up, he simply appreciated the fact that he didn’t feel compelled to inject his deeply held personal beliefs into every opportunity for public expression.

  • Juliet

    So sad to hear that there are some people who doesn’t believe Jesus Christ and quote as it’s just another fairy tale. Thank God He is using our Sports Icon nowadays in spreading the faith. Let’s remember whatever we are in the society, may be in fame or not, we won’t be here without a God who created us. In times  of darkness, He is there and in times of victory He’s also there, so sovereign yet compassionate that He doesn’t makes us a robot for us to follow Him, instead He gives us the freedom and sees our humble heart. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tiffany-Jade-Brown/640358790 Tiffany Jade Brown

      Yes, thank God that he’s spent so much time spreading his word through “Sports Icon nowadays.” Wouldn’t it be great if he helped the starving, sick, etc….nope. Guess he’s too busy.

      • http://churchofthecasualchristian.blogspot.com Pryopizm

         It’s far more important to have His word spread than to actually–you know–do anything.

        Well, aside from showing up in toast and assorted foodstuffs.

      • Jandflim

        If you had his faith you don’t have to be starving and sick.

      • SanchezgingPhil

        Yeah we may ask question sometimes, why is this and why is that, well its normal but, we cant avoid that feeling but remember ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD. People become better thru trials and conflict.  If  we continue to put our faith in Him and seek His will,  He will be abiding with us in all the circumstances that we will be facing. And one day when we look back and compare the difference between having a life with HIM (maybe in trouble, sickness, pain, etc.) we will learn that GOD above is so so sovereign and has each reason for everything. He will let us shine wherever He puts us. We may be in fame or in a big problem  right now, people around us will be amaze and will glorify our GOD as they will see how good He is.

        (By the way those Sports Icons that we’ve mention has faced so many trials also. Like of Pacquiao who used to be an ordinary poor man. But along the way God has blessed him despite of what was he and now little by little God is doing something in his spiritual life. And Jeremy Lin who didn’t get instantly what he wanted to be, BUT NOW THEY GET THE  FAME and the SUCCESS that they have right now. And for sure they’re so thankful to GOD for it as they realize HOW GOD WORKS IN THEIR LIVES.)

        TO GOD BE THE GLORY.

  • I will boat in my Lord! :D

    Praise God for everything that is happening. Tebow, Lin and Pacquiao! I know who’s next… YOU! I am praying for all of you guys! The end is near, you may not believe it but God is gracious that when the time comes that you are ready, He will still accept all of you despite all the hate He is receiving from you today. I am so glad that the Lord my God is someone who spouses love more than anything. To Him be the Glory when the day comes that the eyes of your hearts will be opened. God bless us all!

    • Juliet

      Amen

  • Kaka

    I actually agree with pretty much of this article.

    I think there is a difference between Atheist’s outwardly expressing their beliefs that there are no deities than say a christian outwardly expressing their belief in god. The difference being that the christians believe they are harnessing some sort of spiritual strength from it, Whereas an atheist would really have no legitimate reason to outwardly express their lack of belief in any deities.
    I guess you could argue that you could harness this spiritual strength in the locker room rather than on the court/field. Which would be fair imo, Although you could argue that even though millions of people are watching the dispaly of faith is still a private one in the sense that nobody is being forcibly included in the worship of said god.

    Im not denying atheists their right to outwardly express their beliefs, Although i think in term of being human beings and respecting each other, People with faith have a more of a leg to stand on in that sense. Since they (at least in their mind) would have something benefit from it in a spiritual sense.

  • sanchezgingphil

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