As Tim Tebow's decision to cancel his Easter Sunday appearance at First Baptist continues to reverberate, the church and its pastor, Robert Jeffress, have gone on the offensive.
In a radio interview with the American Family Association, Jeffress says he and Tebow "had a very pleasant conversation. He explained to me that for personal and professional reasons, he felt like he need to lay low right now and avoid controversy."
As for the furor that made Tebow feel that way, that's all based "really on lies and misrepresentations" of the secular media.
First Baptist itself issued a press release, doubling down on what Jeffress said on-air:
We are saddened that Mr. Tebow felt pressure to back out of his long-planned commitment to First Baptist Dallas from numerous New York and national sports and news media who grossly misrepresented past comments made by our pastor, Dr. Robert Jeffress, specifically related to issues of homosexuality and AIDS, as well as Judaism. As a Christian pastor, Dr. Jeffress takes a biblical approach to moral and social issues, closely following his duty to preach 'the whole counsel of God,' and not just address issues that are politically correct. First Baptist is a church built on the truth of Scripture, even though at times that approach can be perceived as controversial or counter to the prevailing winds of culture.The reason for the recent media firestorm is not because the Word of God has changed, but because society has changed.More important, contrary to editorializing in the media, Dr. Jeffress shares a message of hope, not hate; salvation, not judgment; and a Gospel of God's love, grace and new beginnings available to all.
It's true that Jeffress' views on, for example, homosexuality (that it's a sin, but one that Christians should be compassionate about) are more nuanced than recent headlines would lead people to believe. But it's also true that Jeffress has made a career of saying flagrantly offensive things, then basking in the outrage he gins up.
So Tebow's decision not to visit First Baptist could be seen as karma or divine intervention. Or it could just be Tebow making a smart, reputation-preserving decision.