Of all New York’s embattled minorities, Evangelical Christians — with their storefront churches, immigrant parishoners, and unfashionable politics — may get the least attention and sympathy from the urban elite.
But with one low-key Evangelical, Jeremy Lin, making headlines at the Garden and a more vocal one, Tim Tebow, possibly headed to the Meadowlands, Evangelical leaders are thanking God for their good luck, and looking to a sports-driven revival.
“Praise the Lord that he’s coming to New York,” said State Senator Ruben Diaz, the pastor of a Christian Community Neighborhood Church in the South Bronx, and a leader in the losing battle against same-sex marriage in New York. “He will be someone we should imitate.”
One New York athlete has already taken a high profile role in the culture wars. David Tyree, who won the 2008 superbowl for the New York Giants with a miraculous, fourth-quarter catch, made a video in 2011 warning that same-sex marriage is a step down the road to “anarchy”:
The minister who persuaded Tyree to join the fight, Brooklyn-based Pastor Joseph Mattera, told BuzzFeed he didn’t think Tebow — who has been vocally anti-abortion, but has refused to answer questions about homosexuality — would likely join that fight on arrival in New York.
But Mattera, the Overseeing Bishop of Resurrection Church in the neighborhood of Sunset Park and the head of the socially conservative Christ Covenant Coalition, said he thought Tebow could spark a wave of interest in Evangelical Christianity in the city.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of kids in public school Tebowing, I think Tebow-mania will probably sweep New York City,” he said. “I think it will make Evangelical Christianity more popular among the young people – unless the guy bombs out.”
This could, he said with some satisfaction, “be an annoyance” to the notably secular Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Mattera said he admires Tebow and Lin because of their demeanor: “They’re humble, they seem to have integrity, they’re not showboating.”
But Mattera said he’s also among those who have seen a sign in the statistics: In the Broncos comeback victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers last year, Tebow threw for 316 yards and averaged 31.6 yards per pass, which pointed for some Christians to a key passage of the gospels, John 3:16.
“There seems to be some mystical element in which God was on his side,” he said. “It was a providential sign from God of the reality of what he preached.”
Mattera will be rooting for Tebow, he said.
“He has what we would call a good testimony. I don’t think he’s proud, I don’t think we’re going to find skeletons in the closet, I don’t think he‘s going to be sleeping around at night clubs shooting his leg like Plaxico Burress.”
But he won’t necessarily be cheering for his team.
“I’m a Giants fan,” Mattera said. “I love Eli Manning.”