It seems that American Christians are in the market for a new hero now that Billy Graham, a.k.a. “America’s pastor,” passed away last week. There are many people to choose from, but according to columnist Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel, that new figure is going to be… Tim Tebow.
Yes, that Tim Tebow. The guy who wants to play baseball for the New York Mets, but sprained his ankle during spring training yesterday after stepping on a sprinkler head.
That’s the guy who “will someday become the most influential Christian leader in our country.”
Like Graham, Tebow has the incredible charisma to inspire the masses, the impeccable character to avoid scandal and the uncanny political ability to be beloved and respected by both Republicans and Democrats alike. And like Graham, he has the cult of personality to fill football stadiums and counsel presidents.
Has the evangelical reputation sunk so low that the new standard of morality is “charisma” (which every great cult leader has, by the way), avoiding scandal (it could just mean you’re good at not getting caught), and the ability to “fill football stadiums”? Really?
I’ll grant that being respected by both major political parties is something of an accomplishment in these extremely divisive times. But that’s probably because Tebow has largely avoided talking about his personal politics. When he has weighed in on certain issues, like during his 2010 anti-abortion Super Bowl ad for Focus on the Family, he wasn’t exactly trying to win over large swaths of Democrats.
That is to say, if he’s your typical evangelical model, then he’s going to align with the Right and piss off the Left. That’s just the way it is.
In fact, I’ve written this before and I will reiterate it here, I believe Tebow could someday be the president himself. If you don’t think that’s a legitimate possibility, then you’re not paying attention to the political landscape in this country. If a controversial reality TV star can become president, then a unifying sports figure and compassionate Christian can certainly get elected as well.
The slogan for the 2020 election ought to be “Put Actual Politicians in the White House Again.” Do not perpetuate this nonsense that literally anyone can be president these days just because they’re popular among people for reasons that don’t involve understanding policy. It’s already gone too far. We don’t need it again, from either party.
Even if he doesn’t choose to go into politics, I believe Tebow, much like Billy Graham in his later years, has already learned to distance himself from the polarizing political climate and the volatile issues that divide Americans today.
The guy famous for writing Bible verses on his eye black is apparently not polarizing.
That may be Tebow’s only saving grace if he wants to be America’s next Christian Sweetheart™. But at some point he’ll have to take positions on controversial issues, and that means putting those characteristics that make him popular to so many people on the back-burner. You can’t satisfy everyone with your abortion stance. You won’t please white evangelicals if you support LGBTQ rights. You’re going to lose the GOP base if you speak in positive terms about immigrants.
The article goes on to describe Tebow’s philanthropic history, which he deserves credit for and which is longer than anything Trump ever did. But if we’ve learned one thing given evangelicals’ support for Trump before and during his presidency, it’s that a person’s “good deeds” are irrelevant. All that matters is appointing anti-abortion judges and having an “R” after your name.
That said, Bianchi’s choice is a bit of a relief. It could have been much worse. At least he didn’t choose Pat Robertson or Josh Duggar.
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