Commentators are suggesting that Jeremy Lin is just what the NBA needed, a “Taiwanese Tebow,” as some have dubbed him, pointing to his outward expression of the Christian faith and his ability to capture the attention of sports fans everywhere.
To be sure, the 24-year-old standout from Harvard is giving kids (and kids at heart) someone and something fun to cheer about. And in the NBA, with the disproportionate moral deficiencies amongst some of its players, that’s no small feat, no pun intended.
Some are calling it “Lin-Sanity.” Others a “Linderella story.”
As for me, I’ll leave the clever names to the punsters.
I just think it’s a great story.
Here is Lin, a second-year player, coming off the bench and leading his injury-plagued New York Knicks to a seven-game winning streak, and in the most impressive and dramatic fashion. In each of his first six games, he's averaged over 20 points and 7 assists including a winning three-point shot at the buzzer on Tuesday night. Last night he set a personal record for assists in leading the Knicks to any easy victory.
Back in the summer of 2010, just after he was bypassed in the draft and signed as a free agent by the Golden State Warriors, reporters were more quick to zero in on his Asian-American heritage, as opposed to his Christian faith. When asked about it on CNN, here’s what he said:
People want to talk about me being Asian. First and foremost of my identity is me being a Christian.I'm a nondenominational Christian and I grew up in the Bay Area and I've been going to church since my whole life, so I've been blessed by God to be in this situation. And, you know, it's -- it really is a miracle. And there's so many different parts of my story that I never could have seen coming. And there's so many tough situations and what I thought were bad situations that God turned into great situations. And, so, I'm very, very thankful to Him.
Writing in Saturday’s New York Times, reporter Michael Luo made an interesting observation:
I have the sense that (Lin’s) is a quieter, potentially less polarizing but no less devout style of faith. And while Tebow appeared in an anti-abortion Super Bowl ad two years ago, Asian Americans tend to avoid the culture wars.
In a follow-up interview with World Magazine’s Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Luo was pressed on his observation:
I think the manner in which Tebow has become such a polarizing figure is … in large measure, because of how he has come to represent the stereotype of all evangelicals — specifically white evangelicals who are part of the so-called religious right. That’s partly the media’s fault. But that’s also partly just the way the word, “evangelical,” has morphed since the 1980s into a political term, synonymous with Christian conservatism, as opposed to a theological one, which is how it really began.
As the leader of Focus on the Family, I’m regularly running into all kinds of unflattering stereotypes from those who disagree with many of our foundational principles. I actually enjoy meeting with some of those who hold to these types of views. It’s good to have a chance to disprove what many have long believed to be fact.
But is this a fair assessment from Mr. Luo, that Jeremy’s Asian-American heritage somehow makes his Christian evangelism more palatable to the broader public than Tim Tebow’s – simply because Tim Tebow is white and Lin is not?
Racial stereotypes are most unfortunate and distasteful. They negatively impact the spreading of the faith. I hope we can move beyond such antiquated discussions. Our heritage is important but not nearly as much as our faith, which should be colorblind. I applaud Mr. Lin for doing his part, and for his solid and positive representation of Christianity.
By the way, did you know that more Christians went to church throughout Asia this past Sunday than here in the United States?
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About Jim Daly
Jim Daly is president of Focus on the Family and host of its National Radio Hall of Fame-honored daily broadcast, heard by more than 2.9 million listeners a week on more than 1,000 radio stations across the U.S. He is husband to Jean and father to Trent and Troy.
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