Dear Tim Tebow,

This is an open letter from one of your loyal fans.
I’m from your hometown of Jacksonville, Fla.

All three of my siblings went to UF, a place that has enshrined you as perhaps the greatest college football player ever.

I’ve got that September 2008 speech of yours, after the Ole Miss game, committed to heart, as one of the most inspirational examples of leadership I have ever seen in my life.

I have followed your career since high school and have admired you. (I even put up with the Tebowing thing, though it wasn’t my cup of tea.) But now comes news that you’re going to be speaking at the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas.

Tim (can I call you Tim?), for the sake of God (literally) look up a few things about the pastor of this church, Pastor Robert Jeffress, to see if this is the kind of person that you would want to associate with. I know you are a praying man, I ask you to pray in your heart and compare his views with what you know about Christ in your own heart.

Everything I have learned about you tells me that you see Christ as the gateway of God’s love for this world. Again, I ask you to look up Pastor Robert Jeffress, and see if this sounds like someone you would want to associate yourself with. Here is what Pastor Jeffress says about Jews: “You can’t be saved being a Jew.”

He calls Islam a “heresy from the pit of hell”, apparently the very same part of hell as Mormonism.

As for his further elaboration on Islam, he discusses:

“The deep, dark, dirty secret of Islam: It is a religion that promotes pedophilia – sex with children.”   Yup, he actually said that.

Tim, you’re a good man, and you know what racists do when confronted with their racism.  They resort to the old, “I’m not a racist, some of my best friends are black,” kind of BS. And this is literally what Pastor Jeffress does, when called on his hatred towards Muslims, except that apparently he has just one Muslim friend:

“We do not hate Muslims…I have a very good friend here in Dallas who is a Muslim.”

This is the same Pastor that goes on Fox to perpetuate the rumor that President Obama is a Muslim. Oh yeah, and that the President is “paving the way for the Anti-Christ.”  Yup, he really did say that.

And you know what the Pastor says about gays/lesbians.

And you probably know what the Pastor says about our Catholic friends, part of a Babylonian Cult.   Yup, he said that too.

Tim, I am not asking you to theologically change who you are. I am simply asking you to think about how many look to you to embody a certain model of high-profile Christian athlete/celebrity.   You can be who you are, stand for what you stand for, and represent Christ without associating with hateful zealots like him. You don’t need his podium and you actually end up validating his hatred by preaching from there.

As I have said before, some people tend to be equal opportunity haters. Once they have made the ultimate sin of closing their heart to one portion of humanity, it becomes easier and easier to close their hearts to more and more segments of humanity. Hate and prejudice is contagious and they spread till the whole of a heart is infected.

I have never met you, I don’t know you personally but I have always gotten the sense that you care about your legacy beyond football, that football has been a podium from which you can reach people through God’s love.   

I don’t know what is in the future for you but I do know that God-willing you will do great things by bringing God’s love into the service of humanity. And I pray that your own standing is untainted by associating with people whose hearts have become hardened toward God’s children.

Even if one believes that Muslims, Jews, Catholics, gays/lesbians and Mormons (and probably many others) are in error, I know that Christ reached out to sinners in love and kindness.

I pray that you choose to act more like Christ and less like some of Christ’s hateful followers.

As you often say, God bless.

Omid Safi
(official Tim Tebow fan for a loooong time)
Professor of Religious Studies

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