Tim Tebow and Cosmopolitan Christianity
Tim Tebow is a name known across social spheres. He’s a best-selling author. He’s a sought after political endorsement. Oh, and he wins football games. Perhaps the only thing bigger than his list of accomplishments is the amount of controversy he seems to have a knack for sparking regarding his faith.
Tebow is a Christian, and he’s unashamed to admit it. In fact, he very explicitly demonstrates his strong personal faith almost every chance he gets. But he’s not a broken record or a resounding gong on the matter. He makes his views known while demonstrating decorum and focusing on the task at hand. When pressed by reporters to talk about his political views at NFL news conferences, for instance, Tebow regularly turns the conversation back to football (of course, with an aside that he’d gladly talk about faith at another time). This attribute has helped to elevate Tebow to a level anyone in the world – particularly those looking to persuade others of their views – would desire, to have even your enemies admire you.
There’s a term that has been formed to refer to those of the Tim Tebow style of evangelicalism: cosmopolitan Christians. (Or, in the New York Times, a “Careful Evangelical.”) While the title is a bit dull, it’s description is quite interesting:
They’re more media savvy than their forebears and they understand the importance of building bridges. They speak more about what they’re for than what they’re against. It speaks for that segment of the evangelical community that wants to spend energy on things for the common good rather than be a lightning rod.
D. Michael Lindsay, president of Gordon College, invented this term in his book, Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite, in which he describes how, in recent years, evangelicals have vaulted to leadership positions across America (from Capitol Hill to Hollywood to Fortune 500). While many successful Christians would cite God for their abilities, most did not rise to power by wearing their faith on their sleeves but rather by bearing their faith at the core of their intentions and actions – and then being darn-good at their day job.
What makes this idea powerful is the notion that it shouldn’t be reserved strictly for Christians, or even to just the entire realm of religion. The concept of living your life based on a set of principles that drive you while simultaneously seeking to not inflame others is an admirable trait in all walks of life.
In the extremely divisive sphere of election-year American politics, discourse based on actions rather than inflammatory language would not only be more pleasant, it would potentially be more productive. If Tebow, and others like him, have found that it’s more effective to communicate the message of eternal significance by tempering their words with good decisions and actions, perhaps the rest of us trying to effect social change should take a page from their playbook.