The Common Good

The Problem With the Tebow Easter Extravaganza

I didn’t see Tim Tebow’s Easter Sunday appearance in Texas. For one, it’s in Texas and I’m not. Plus I kind of have a standing gig on Sundays. But more than that, I was irked when I heard about the big event being planned on, of all days, Easter Sunday.

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images
Tim Tebow addresses the media as he is introduced as a New York Jet March 26. Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

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For the most part, I admire Tim Tebow, even though I don’t agree with him theologically very much. He made one statement about getting back to what this country was founded on, “One Nation, Under God,’ which seriously rubbed me the wrong way (HINT: the phrase “Under God” wasn’t added to the Pledge of Allegiance until the 1950s.), but for the most part, he was the upstanding Christian athlete people have come to expect.

I’m not surprised by the Christendom talk, like the “under God” statement, and I’m also not surprised that the banter between Tebow and Joe Champion, pastor of Celebration Church, smacked of the us-and-them dichotomies tossed around in larger talks about religious culture wars. I’m not even surprised that the event drew 15,000 people (though they anticipated 30,000) or that reporters have written about the event having more of a “rock concert feel” rather than a worship service.

I was surprised and, I’ll admit, a little pissed when I heard they were having the event on Easter. Yes, we all know that, despite the quasi-Messianic comparisons, Tim Tebow is not the reincarnation of Jesus. But do we really need to help perpetuate such breathless celebrity worship, particularly on one for the Holiest days of the Christian year?

I’m not one for orthodoxy particularly, and I’m not overly liturgical in my view of worship. But when people are wandering through the crowd during an Easter service dressed as Easter Bunnies and Sesame Street’s Elmo, and when there are more people in football jerseys than anything else (based on photos I’ve seen), it feels too much like we’re worshiping, but not necessarily what we’re called to worship.

I’m glad Tebow kept the focus in his talk on faith in general, rather than on him. I’m glad he called out fellow athletes to be better role models for children. That’s all good stuff. But it has nothing to do with Easter.

In possible defense of Pastor Champion, his church has released statements saying that they invited Tebow to appear on any Sunday that was convenient for him. But when a celebrity becomes the focus of your Easter service – let alone ANY worship service – you and your congregation have officially jumped the theological shark.

If anything, it seems to point to Christianity’s desperation to remain relevant n an increasingly secularized culture. And I wholeheartedly agree that we need to stretch ourselves to blur the lines between the so-called sacred and secular worlds.

But as the scripture in Ecclesiastes says, to everything there is a season. In this case, the potential benefit of bringing people together to learn more about what it means to be a follower of Christ fell short, overshadowed by the spectacle of an event, focused too much on itself to truly worship.

It’s not exactly moneychangers in the temple, but it’s way too close for me.

Christian Piatt is an author, editor, speaker, musician and spoken word artist. He co-founded Milagro Christian Church in Pueblo, Colorado with his wife, the Rev. Amy Piatt, in 2004. Christian is the creator and editor of Banned Questions About The Bible and Banned Questions About Jesus." He has a memoir on faith, family and parenting — PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date — hits book stores everywhere April 1. For more information about Christian, visit www.christianpiatt.com, or find him on Twitteror Facebook.

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