The article is entitled, "And I'd like to thank God Almighty". The writer Tom Krattenmaker has a beef with high profile athletes who use their public notoriety to espouse their Christian beliefs.
"They are also leveraging sports' popularity to promote a message and doctrine that are out of sync with the diverse communities that support franchises, and with the unifying civic role that we expect of our teams. Typifying the exclusive creed taught by many sports-world Christians is the belief statement published by Baseball Chapel, which provides chaplains for all major- and minor-league baseball teams. Non-believers in Jesus, the ministry declares, can look forward to "everlasting punishment separated from God."Yes, they are promoting the belief held by Christians since day one. That Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. (In fact, those are Jesus' very words.)
Krattenmaker doesn't like this narrow religious belief because it's "out of sync with the diverse communities that support franchises." In other words, their views are not politically correct.
He goes on to say that these sports teams are "our team" and intimates that these athletes should not be making these sorts of narrow comments, because these teams are supported by "tax-paying" persons.
The implication is clear: these athletes should drop their comments about Jesus being the only way to heaven, because people pay taxes and we have this notion of the separation of church and state. Thinking along this line means the belief should never be made even in churches, because taxes benefit churches which use public fire and police protection.
Realizing he could be a tad bit intolerant himself, which would be form of hypocrisy given his claims, he throws in the comment:
These sports stars, like all Americans, have a right to express their faith.
And of course
Evangelical players and ministry representatives in sports aren't out to harm anyone, of course. On the contrary, they see themselves as fulfilling the Bible's Great Commission ("Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," Matthew 28:19). In this sense, their mission is pure altruism: They seek to share the gift of eternal life.
But then again there's this one little problem. This pesky belief that their belief in God is the right one.
But there's a shadow side to this. If their take on God and truth and life is the only right one — which their creed boldly states — everyone else is wrong.
Can't we all just get along and say everybody is right?
Of course, according to Mr. Krattenmaker, there's the view of American Christians delivered to us by the Pew Forum poll which should resolve the question.
It's not just non-Christians who might have a thing or two to say about this exclusive theology. According to a December 2008 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion in Public Life, 65% of American Christians believe that many religions can lead to eternal life. Our pluralism is a defining and positive reality of American life — but not one that is much valued by those who define the faith coursing through the veins of sports culture.
So that settles it, if two-thirds of self identified American Christians don't believe a basic tenet of Christianity - the uniqueness of Jesus as the only way to salvation - it should be dropped and no longer spoken about in public by athletes who still happen to believe what the Bible says.
Krattenmaker then pulls out Tim Tiebow the star quarterback on the University of Florida football team who as you might have guessed it is an outspoken evangelical Christian, one of those guys with a narrow view of salvation. The author again doesn't want to appear too intolerant so he says we should applaud Tiebow's good works but he's one of those "who promotes a form of belief that makes unwelcome judgments about everyone else's religion."
In making and acting on rigid claims about who is or isn't in good standing with God, the Bob Tebow organization is working at cross purposes with the majority of Americans — indeed, the majority of American Christians — and their more generous conception of salvation.
Certainly, Tim Tebow must be applauded for the good he does working on his father's missions, but he should be seen, too, as one who promotes a form of belief that makes unwelcome judgments about everyone else's religion. Let's not forget the twinge that is felt by sports-loving Jewish kids and parents, for example, or by champions for interfaith cooperation, when adored sports figures like Tebow use their fame to push a Jesus-or-else message.
Is sports-world evangelicalism really "good for everything"? Certainly a lot, but not everything. Not if you're Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, non-evangelical Protestant, agnostic or anything else outside the conservative evangelical camp.
The illogic and confusion of Mr. Krattenmaker comments are very evident. First, he's being just as narrow as those he accuses of being narrow. Is his implicit view the only way, e.g. there any many roads to salvation? Isn't it narrow for him to think he has the right answer?
Second, has he ever thought that just maybe there's a unity, consistency between beliefs of Christianity which says we're to love God, aka Jesus and love our neighbor? Jesus thought so when he said the two commands go together. That you can't just pick and choose which tenets of Christianity you like and discard the rest? That these players wouldn't be the same person if you tried to chop up their faith into acceptable and unacceptable beliefs?
I think what Mr. Krattenmaker wants is a faith of his own making. The faith of good deeds and nice guys and of course one where all religions lead to salvation. (Even if that defies the laws of logic.)