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By John Pierce

Tim Tebow’s professional football career appears to be slipping away. And now he finds himself in a public relations squeeze as well.

Personally, I’ve always liked him. Sometimes I cringe, but I like him.

My sense is that he has a good heart and a genuine faith. Like all young adults, whether talent brings them into a large spotlight or not, he is growing. And I’m glad for that.

In my earlier career, my colleagues in campus ministry in the Atlanta area would share a monthly luncheon. At one gathering, a newcomer to this distinctive ministry came in deeply distressed that his students were provincial in their thinking and not well developed theologically.

We laughed at him. What did he think was his job?

One by one we told of students who had come to our campuses as freshmen and left four (or more) years later after many mission and learning experiences that had shaped them into more mature believers and effective leaders. But they didn’t have reporters shoving microphones in their faces and tracking every move along the way.

A most recent dilemma for Tebow had to do with his agreement to speak at the First Baptist Church of Dallas as part of the dedication of $130 million worth of bricks, steel and glass. He backed out — causing a backlash to replace the backlash.

Now the culture warriors, who have been his biggest cheerleaders without gators on their cheeks, are blaming him for not staying in formation during their ongoing losing ideological battle. And, using common diversion tactics, they have been quick to assign blame everywhere except the mirror.

In a press release, the Dallas congregation blamed — drumroll, please — the media while defending their pastor Robert Jeffress, who often takes to the spotlight to throw offensive rhetoric like deep passes to those who equate narrow nastiness with biblical truth.

Of course, none of the blame rests with their pastor who publically equated homosexuality with pedophilia and the president with the anti-Christ. That’s just preaching “the whole counsel of God.”

We observers of fundamentalism know how this game is played. There is only room on the team for those who play by the ever-narrowing rulebook. When the opposing team goes home after the game, the suspicion gets turned on those in their own locker room.

So now it looks like both the Jets and religious right warriors may be pushing the former Heisman winner aside. He just didn’t “man-up” when they called his number.

I like him — and like to see him growing.

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