Tebow at home (in church) in the Big Apple?

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You know that you have moved into true Bible Belt territory when the locals start asking you — literally while the moving van is in your drive way — blunt questions that sound something like this: “Hey, do you folks know where you’re gonna go church yet?”

Now, I would imagine that this question is not asked nearly as often when people move into New York City. I think that’s a pretty safe piece of speculation.

However, I would argue that this is a question that someone with the Associated Press SHOULD have asked that Tim Tebow fellow the other day when an AP reporter sat him down for an interview that, in The Wall Street Journal, ran under the headline, “Tebow balancing faith, fame and football with Jets.” I think readers that care about issues linked to Tebow’s faith would like to know what he said, when asked that question, even if his answer is something like, “I have found a local church and it’s a good one, but I’d rather keep that private.”

You see, this story treats religious faith as a totally personal, private thing — totally devoid of details linked to, well, churches and other bodies of believers. Tebow’s out there on his own, almost all alone, and there’s no need to ask practical, specific journalistic questions (think “follow the money”) that would allow readers to connect this man’s faith claims with some factual details. That’s right, the goal is connect faith to facts, or something like that.

What we end up with is good and, at times, interesting. But it’s sort of like knowing that George W. Bush claimed that he prayed a lot in the Oval Office (ditto for Barack Obama, by the way) and it was impossible to know whether anyone in his family was practicing the Christian faith in any traditional sense of the word. Instead, readers get:

CORTLAND, N.Y. (AP) – The most important call of Tim Tebow’s day comes far away from the huddle.

It’s usually sometime at night, when football is the furthest thing on the New York Jets backup quarterback’s mind. That’s a rare moment these days for Tebow, particularly during training camp. But one of his closest friends — an “accountability partner,” as he describes him — is always a phone call away to keep his priorities in order.

For No. 15, that means God is No. 1.

Family comes second.

Football is a distant third.

“He’s someone I pray with,” Tebow said in a recent sit-down with The Associated Press, preferring to keep his friend’s identity private. “He’ll ask me: ‘Hey, did you get in the Word today? Were you praying today?’ I have him because I need someone who is always investing in me, you know? You don’t ever want to become complacent. That’s very easy to do because life gets in the way.”

Great stuff, on one level.

And later on, of course, AP has to ask how America’s most famous saving-myself-for-marriage young believer (and t-shirt model) is getting along when it comes to dating and a social life. After all, New York City is New York City.

There are constant questions and rumors about his sex life and who he’s dating, and people trying to play matchmaker. Going out in public is also a challenge, where having a quiet meal is preceded by scouting missions to find a restaurant with seating that’s more private than most.

He doesn’t complain about it. He accepts who he is, and what everyone expects him to be.

“It definitely can be tough, but at the same time, I don’t want to let the media or the world affect how I live,” he said. “I really feel like it hasn’t to this point, and I don’t want to let it start.”

That’s a logical question and it needed to be asked.

However, here’s the interesting thing. New York City is also in the midst of an amazing sea change at the level of church growth and involvement, especially among Asians and Latinos, and Tebow is a globally minded Christian. There are vital and alive churches in and around the city in every form of traditional Christianity.

In short, New York City is an exciting place for a young man to hunt for a church.

So, if this is a story about Tebow’s diligence at practicing his faith, it would have been totally logical to ask him what churches he has visited and whether he has found a church home. It’s a serious question, for serious believers, and there is every indication that this Tebow guy is a serious believer.

Was it asked? It appears that the AP took a pass on that one.

About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • http://markbyron.typepad.com/main/ Mark Byron

    If I’m not mistaken, most clubs have chapel services on Sunday mornings if the game is on Sunday. With a 1PM kickoff, it’s not feasible to players to go to church and get to the stadium in time for game prep. Also, since the team’s out of town half the time on Sundays during the season, a chapel service works well for the visiting team.

    That’s going to make church problematic during the season; weekday Bible studies and Wednesday night services would be doable, but Sunday is spent with the team.

    I know that legendary Tigers radio guy Ernie Harwell helped start Baseball Chapel, where both teams have a service together on Sunday morning, since baseball plays every Sunday and usually early in the afternoon. Football proceeded to do likewise.

    • Passing By

      Mark Byron -

      I thought about replying to your comment to the effect that Sunday games are no excuse: Tebow can go to the Vigil Mass on Saturday.

      But then I thought it would get me spiked. Now I’m checking out out how the reply button (which seems to come and go on my screen) works.

  • tmatt

    Dang it. I didn’t think it was possible to write anything about Tebow and draw silence.

    • http://markbyron.typepad.com/main/ Mark Byron

      I hope I didn’t scare everyone off. Sorry.

      • tmatt

        Right. It’s all your fault.
        ;-)

  • Mike Hickerson

    Hasn’t Troy Polumalu said that he and his wife attend (Orthodox) services in midweek because of the football schedule? If there were a place with churches that can accommodate high-profile members with unusual schedules, I think it would be NYC.

    Also, if media think of “Christianity” as having more to do with public statements, private prayer, and sexual behavior than with being a member of the Body of Christ, I wonder where they might have gotten that idea from.

  • tmatt

    Trust me, folks. Modern evangelical megachurches would offer all KINDS of different kinds of services at different times in the week.
    Sunday a.m. is NOT an issue.

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