Is the Tea Party a Christian party?

So 81% of Tea Partiers say they’re Christian.

Nearly half say they are part of the “Christian conservative” movement.

According to a new study from the Public Religion Research Institute, most Tea Partiers are socially conservative (as opposed to libertarian) and identity with the GOP.

Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network is hailing the link.

The study is getting a lot of media attention. But can anyone be that surprised by the results?

Did anyone really think that the Tea Party was made up of secular humanist Democrats? There probably are 5-10 secular humanist Democrats out there, between the various Tea Party groups.

Anyway, the Jerusalem Post looks at whether the Tea Party/conservative Christian link will alienate Jews from the Tea Party movement.

John Wooden: Man of Christian faith

There’s been so much said and written this week about the former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, who died late last week, that I didn’t think there was anything for me to add.

I was never a big college basketball guy. And Wooden retired in 1975, right around the time I started following sports.

I knew, of course, that he was held in high esteem. I knew that he had won like a million straight games at UCLA and that he was regarded as a great teacher, a great man.

But for me, Wooden was just one of those public figures who had been around since the beginning of time.

I haven’t seen much mention of Wooden’s faith in the few tributes I read about him.

But today, I came across an interesting essay on ReligionDispatches.org by a fellow named Amir Hussain, a Canadian Muslim who teaches theology at Loyola Marymount University, a Jesuit university in Los Angeles.

Hussain came to admire Wooden because of his influence on Kareen Abdul-Jabbar, a rare Muslim role model during the 1970s. Hussain later moved to California and had contact with Wooden on several occasions.

He writes:

*****

He never imposed his Christian faith on anyone, only insisting that his players “have a religion and believe in it.” Coach was a pluralist long before many of us had heard of the term. Of his own faith, one of his favorite maxims was “If I were ever prosecuted for my religion, I truly hope there would be enough evidence to convict me.” Many of us have grown tired of the hypocrisy of self-described “Christian athletes” who can glibly quote Bible verses but can’t manage to live by them. Coach, as always, was different. We both agreed that Abraham Lincoln was the greatest American, but he said that the greatest person of his generation was Mother Teresa. Like her, he lived out his Christianity in service to others.

*****

Poking around for additional reflection about Wooden’s faith, I found a column by religion scribe Terry Mattingly about Wooden’s strong, but quiet Protestant faith.

He notes that Wooden rarely missed the annual Fellowship of Christian Athletes breakfast at the Final Four.

Mattingly writes:

*****

When working with secular audiences, Wooden used a nondenominational approach to life’s great lessons — which led to his famous “Pyramid of Success” image, built on common virtues such as “skill,” “enthusiasm,” “industriousness,” “patience” and “faith.” Former players also learned to recite his folksy sayings, such as “Be quick, but don’t hurry” and “It is what we learn after we know it all that really counts.”

But Wooden shared other sayings, when the time was right, including this one: “Basketball is not the ultimate. It is of small importance in comparison to the total life we live. There is only one kind of life that truly wins, and that is the one that places faith in the hands of the Savior. Until that is done, we are on an aimless course that runs in circles and goes nowhere.”

*****

Mattingly also writes on the GetReligion blog (which critiques media coverage of religion) that too much coverage of Wooden’s death neglected to mention his faith.

He writes that an obit in the NYT “did find a way to address — in secular terms that would not offend the newspaper’s audience — the kind of moral influence that Wooden had on his players.”

I now kind of wish I did pay more attention to Wooden when he would make those TV appearances now then. Maybe I’ll get one of his books.

AP file photo

Is Tim Tebow a preacher on the field?

I mentioned the other day that college football superstar Tim Tebow will appear with his mom in a pro-life commercial during the Super Bowl.

As you’ve probably heard, a few pro-choice groups have criticized CBS for agreeing to show the ad. But CBS is holding firm.

I came across a very revealing column about Tebow on Slate.com by Jason Fagone, a journalist who profiled the QB for GQ magazine. He makes a strong case that Tebow’s Christian faith is not some side story in relation to Tebow’s football career, but THE story.

3430df414bfbbd23de3748e1e001Tebow sees his football stardom as evangelism, a way to bring more people to Christ.

Fagone notes that Tebow is perfectly comfortable talking about his faith, maybe to a degree that most famous people are not, but that most writers don’t really want to go there. As if it’s too personal or too…wacky.

Fagone writes:

*****

Tebow has never really been asked about this stuff, which is a shame. I had a chance when I wrote a profile of him for GQ, but I blew it. I only got as far as a little riff on evolution, which Tim brought up himself, mentioning his admiration for creationist Ravi Zacharias. “Have you ever heard Ravi Zacharias speak before?” Tebow asked me. “He came here to speak and I talked to him for a little bit. … The way he can draw you in with his stories and his wording, and then at the same time make it so easy and simple for someone to understand—I was like, man, he’s great. I thought it was awesome.” But when I got to the heavier God stuff, I started to sweat, fumbling my questions like a blown snap from center. I kept thinking, This guy is a college football player. It’s not fair to ask him what he thinks of Mohammed.

But that was not only stupid; it was condescending. Today, I really regret not asking Tebow about Islam and gay marriage. I regret not asking him if a Jew can go to heaven, and whether he believes that Hurricane Katrina and the stock-market crash are manifestations of “God’s wrath”—as the new pastor at his church, Mac Brunson, has said. (Just last Sunday, Brunson name-checked Pat Robertson, who had been pilloried for calling the people of Haiti devil-worshippers: “You can’t help but just pray for him, you know?” Brunson told his congregation. “He may be right, but what a dumb time to say something like that.”) These are more than fair questions given Tebow’s decision to politicize the Super Bowl, and if reporters don’t ask them, they’re actually doing Tebow a disservice. At SEC Media Day last year, one brave reporter asked Tebow if he was saving himself for marriage. “Yes, I am,” Tebow said as the room burst into nervous giggles. He laughed and his eyes lit up: “I think y’all are stunned right now! You can’t even ask a question!” If anything, he was frustrated that nobody had asked him the question sooner. After all, it can’t be much fun to be a culture warrior if the opposing culture is constantly wimping out, denying you a chance to show your true mettle. Grind him, test him—he’s ready.

*****

Sure, most college football fans know that Tebow is a Christian. They’ve seen the Bible verses painted under his eyes during games.

But Fagone spends some time on the super-conservative Christian tradition that Tebow comes from. His dad runs the Bob Tebow Evangelistic Association, which has been working to save souls in the Philippines since 1985. Their website explains: “Since 1985, there has been an increasing movement of the Holy Spirit in the Philippines. BTEA feels an intense sense of urgency to get the gospel to every Filipino before this great door of opportunity closes.”

As Fagone notes, the group’s website includes a detailed description of the “rapture” to come.

In other words, Tim Tebow is not your average star QB with a church background. His story, as it unfolds, may be far more interesting.

Photo: Phil Sandlin, AP

Brit Hume, evangelist to the stars

If you haven’t seen Brit Hume’s plea on Fox News for Tiger Woods to become a Christian, it’s time.

You’ll like it or you won’t. But you won’t be without an opinion.

Hume dismisses Buddhism, by the way, as just a silly, old thing.

Check it out:

<object width=”425″ height=”344″><param name=”movie” value=”http://www.youtube.com/v/cVjuO5v5Cts&hl=en_US&fs=1&”></param><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”></param><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always”></param><embed src=”http://www.youtube.com/v/cVjuO5v5Cts&hl=en_US&fs=1&” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” allowscriptaccess=”always” allowfullscreen=”true” width=”425″ height=”344″></embed></object>

The Washington Post’s Tom Shales really went after Hume hard, urging him to apologize.

If Hume has commented on his comments, I haven’t seen it.

UPDATE: A reader points out that Hume DID comment further on Bill O’Reilly’s show. You can see it below.

Hume says he does not believe he was proselytizing.

He also says: “Jesus Christ offers Tiger Woods something that Tiger Woods badly needs.”

And: “If Tiger Woods would make a true conversion, we would know it. It would show through his being…It would be a shining light. It would be a magnificent thing to witness.”

Hume also comments on the criticism he has received from some about what he said. He seems to think that the reaction is due to negative feelings about Christianity in general and not to the idea of a former news anchor dismissing one world religion and advocating for another.

Speaking the name Jesus Christ, he said, “triggers a very powerful reaction in people who do not share the faith and do not believe it.”

Here it is:

<object width=”560″ height=”340″><param name=”movie” value=”http://www.youtube.com/v/n2MB8boLWZc&hl=en_US&fs=1&”></param><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”></param><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always”></param><embed src=”http://www.youtube.com/v/n2MB8boLWZc&hl=en_US&fs=1&” type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” allowscriptaccess=”always” allowfullscreen=”true” width=”560″ height=”340″></embed></object>