I like Gordon Keith. One of the on air personalities of Dallas' premier sports radio station is sometimes profane, sometimes irreverent, more often than not very, very funny. And yes, more preachers than you feel comfortable knowing listen to and like 'The Ticket'!
Sometimes peeking through Gordon's wit and humor, there peeks through some thoughts that are very provocative. Keith is becoming somewhat ubiquitous, popping up on television and on the op-ed pages of the Dallas Morning News, where one of his thought provoking opinions appeared today.
Just for background, Tim Tebow, the much maligned back up quarterback of the New York Jets, declined an invitation to speak at Dallas' First Baptist Church. Apparently, the pastor, Robert Jeffress has taken exception to Tebow pulling out and the pastor has suggested that Tebow is a wimp for having done so.
"Do you remember the old black-and-white movie The Invisible Man? The defining characteristic of the Invisible Man wasn’t that he was a Crimson Tide fan or that he got political at open-bar Christmas parties. His defining quality was that he was invisible. So in the movie, the Invisible Man had to be wrapped in bulky Ace bandages, cinched trench coats, and novelty-store sunglasses. He looked ridiculous, but since we can only see the Invisible Man when we put clothes on him, it was a good workaround. But we should never mistake the clothes for the man."
"God is like our Invisible Man. Through the ages, we’ve draped many suits on him, then spent a lifetime mistaking our clothes for the real him. It’s no surprise we pick the stuff from our wardrobe that appeals to our psyches the most. Anne Lamott once said, “You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” Show me a person who emphasizes the judgment of God, and I’ll show you a person who likes making judgments. Show me a person who goes on and on about God’s view on sexuality, and I’ll show you someone who is very interested in the goings on of sexuality. It’s all understandable, but I don’t think many realize that they do it."
"Jeffress has taken the palette of the Bible and painted his portrait of God, and he thinks it’s correct because it’s “biblical.” The problem is that the Bible is a collection of other men’s portraits of God. All instructive. All important. All of them portraits. Necessary clothes for the Invisible Man. Jeffress is entitled to his portrait of God, but it doesn’t mean Tebow has to fly in to D/FW and publicly buy a numbered print (read the rest of Keith's column here)"
Tebow's faith is well known. So is the convenient appropriation of his faith by nearly every corner of American Christendom, more particularly that corner that believes God needs celebrity endorsers to legitimate the Christian faith or their version of it.
Frankly, which one of us (pastors) hasn't gotten someone well known to come to our church to essentially say 'Me too'. On one level, there's nothing wrong with it. On another level, no speaker, famous or otherwise, is obligated to share his or her testimony with any set of Christians in order to bolster the ego of the congregation or it's pastor. And it's certainly out of bounds to equate a decision not to accept such a speaking invitation as cowardice because the invitee is uncomfortable with the motives of the one's issuing the invitation.
Tebow's refusal to come says a lot - mostly positive - about him!
I don't agree with everything Gordon Keith has written in his op-ed, but I will say this. The Bible is clear: the purpose of the Christian faith for followers to be shaped in Christ's image (Romans 8:29) - not vice-versa. And wherever you believe the opposite is being done, it's the wisest thing in the world to steer clear of that space - no matter who invited you!