Talking heads in the sports journalism world can’t help but call Jeremy Lin and Tim Tebow “religious” in their personal proclamations of faith, but there is a profound difference in a life of religion contrasted against a life in faith. Faith unifies, while religion divides, and whether the near religious fervor generated from fans for these two most recent phenoms draws from raves or ridicule, it still keeps people talking, and thinking, about faith in the context of real life, and keeps the true glare of the spotlight aimed at another point for both men.
When Jeremy Lin’s former chaplain at Harvard and still spiritual advisor, Adrian Tam, offered to use some connections to get the now famous #17 New York Knicks point guard in touch with the Denver Bronco quarterback, he discovered he was a day late and a dollar short in a good way, as Lin declared the two already were in touch, saying “He’s a great guy, I look up to him.” All the sideline symbolism and courtside caricaturing aside, the two men have made it crystal clear that their faith is an inner relationship that deflects the spotlight off of themselves and onto a truer, higher Source. “People say Jeremy is the star, but Jeremy says Jesus is the star,” Tam relates, and that kind of focus helps explain how the young star deals with being cut from two teams in the same year that now has brought him to superstardom and “Linsanity,” or how Tebow finds the best relaxation before a game in being with illness-stricken children.
Sports analyst and former NBA star, Greg Anthony, relates that because the high profiles of both players put their outward expressions of faith up for debate, making polarization nearly inevitable in the public eye, the locker room is a much more forgiving environment, one where there has always been a “communion of faith,” pointing out that all professional teams have chaplains, and organizations like The Fellowship of Christian Athletes long preceded today’s hyperfocus on faithful athletes. In the locker room, faith becomes much more about acceptance than nitpicking over dogma, especially when players can play. Describing the sports community as much more “embracing” similar to a family, compared to the media, both Anthony and Tam see sports as trendsetters for society, and spoken or not, Lin and Tebow have spawned a new consideration of looking up, and regardless of their high platforms in the present, both see their true identity as children of faith.