Tim Tebow Dodges Controversy, Cancels Appearance at Dallas Mega-Church

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Feb. 21 2013 3:09 PM

Tim Tebow Dodges Controversy, Cancels Appearance at Dallas Mega-Church

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Former Florida Gator and New York Jet Tim Tebow attends the Allstate Sugar Bowl between the Florida Gators and the Louisville Cardinals at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 2, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Famous evangelical Christians, like other public figures, have to choose their friends a bit more carefully than the rest of us plebs. In New York Jets' quarterback Tim Tebow's case, this apparently means bowing out of a speaking engagement at a controversial Dallas mega-church where the pastor has, among other things, stated that he believes homosexuality is  a "perverse ... degradation of a person’s mind." 

After the church's high-profile booking raised eyebrows and some media ire, Tebow called First Baptist Church pastor Robert Jeffress on last night to cancel the scheduled April appearance at the church, telling the pastor he "needed to avoid controversy right now for personal and professional reasons," according to Jefferss's interview with the Associated Press. Tebow also tweeted about his change of heart, noting that he'd canceled the appearance "due to new information that has been brought to my attention."

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Tebow, arguably more famous at this point for his outspoken faithfulness than for his football prowess, isn't a stranger to the Christian right by any means, though he usually tries to avoid hot-button social issues when he talks about his beliefs. It doesn't look like he's trying to cut ties with other conservative, evangelical institutions that might want to hear him speak (like this sold-out "men's impact weekend" at Liberty University this March).

Notably, the athlete hasn't said whether he disagrees with Jeffress's theology or not. If Jeffress is to be believed, Tebow might not be looking to wash himself of an association with the pastor altogether — the reverend told the AP that Tebow would like to reschedule an appearance for a future date. On the other hand, the disappointed tweets fired back at Tebow's cancellation announcement from his Christian fanbase indicate that the quarterback needs to stay diplomatic about his retreat from Jeffress. In any case, Tebow is clearly getting the message that an appearance in Dallas right now wouldn't go under the radar.

Jeffress, who has said that Obama's presidency is “paving the way for the future reign of the Antichrist,” previously made headlines in 2011 when he called Mormonism a "cult" at the Values Voter Summit. He later endorsed Romney for president.

Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.

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