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My Take: Linsanity vs. Tebowmania, key similarities and differences
Stephen Prothero says there are big similarities between Jeremy Lin, above, and Tim Tebow, but big differences, too.
February 13th, 2012
04:35 PM ET

My Take: Linsanity vs. Tebowmania, key similarities and differences

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

Is the New York Knicks’ point guard Jeremy Lin the NBA’s answer to Tim Tebow? Let me count the ways.

First, Lin was underestimated throughout his career. The knock has been that Tebow couldn’t throw. The knock on Lin had been that he wasn’t particularly athletic.

Although he led Palo Alto High School to a state championship in basketball, major college programs did not want Lin. And after he blew away the competition at Harvard, the NBA didn’t seem particularly interested either. Undrafted, he warmed the bench at Golden State, then Houston and then New York before getting his big break this year with the Knicks.

Second, like Tebow, Lin came out of nowhere to bring a dying team back from the dead. While Tebow turned around the Denver Broncos at quarterback, Lin has led the previously struggling Knicks at point guard to five straight victories, each with 20 points or more. And his field goal percentage during this winning streak tops 50%, not bad for a guy who supposedly can’t shoot.

Third, Lin is also a born-again Christian whose fans love him as much for cultural and religious intangibles as for his ability in his sport.

In a 2010 interview with Timothy Dalrymple of Patheos.com, Lin said he was raised in the church and became a Christian in high school. In college, he played “for the glory of God.” After his career-high 38 point performance against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, he said, “I just give all the praise to God.”

But Lin, who told Sports Illustrated in 2010 that he wants to be a pastor post-NBA, also has another intangible going for him—his Chinese-American heritage. Yes, the “Linsanity” is driven by his performance on the court, but it’s also driven by his Taiwanese descent, and the fact that he is one of a handful of Asian Americans to make it to the NBA.

Lin also differs from Tebow in his approach to the faith, which is more subtle. On his Facebook page, Lin does quote Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men." But the "Taiwanese Tebow" doesn’t “Tebow” after a game. His evangelism is decidedly low key.

In this way, Lin is a reminder that, like Christians themselves, athletic evangelicals come in all shapes and sizes.

Scholars of religion have been observing for years that the Christian tradition is rapidly moving south and east, finding its new home not so much in Europe or in the United States as in Asia and Africa and Latin America.

Lin exemplifies this trend, even as he reminds us that American Christianity is changing its face, too. The Asian immigration boom that began with the opening up of immigration in 1965 did wonders for Buddhism and Hinduism, to be sure. But it brought far more Christians to American shores, many of them (like Lin) non-denominational evangelicals.

Down the road, Lin will probably get some of the same grief that Tebow has gotten for his outspoken faith. And if he is as human as that faith says he is, his shots are going to clang off the rim some day, and with it some of the sheen on his celebrity. In other words, there is at least as much insanity in Jeremania as there was in the cult of Tim Tebow. To believe in either guy takes a little bit of faith.

But for now, "Linsanity" is crazy wisdom, driving Web pilgrims to view the couch where Lin (who makes a paltry $762,000 a year) been supposedly sleeping in recent days and even resurrecting the stock of Madison Square Garden–Linflation?–which owns the surging Knicks.

Lin headlines his Twitter account with “to know Him is to want to know Him more.”

At least for now, Knicks fans seem to be saying that to watch Lin play is to want to watch him more. A lifelong Celtics fan, I've never liked the Knicks. But I want to see Lin more, too. Until he comes to Boston.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Christianity • Sports • United States

soundoff (691 Responses)
  1. siding cleaning

    I do consider all the ideas you have presented on your post. They're very convincing and will definitely work. Still, the posts are very brief for beginners. May just you please extend them a little from subsequent time? Thanks for the post.

    April 3, 2012 at 7:46 am |
  2. Pat

    After screwing Kim Kardashian, I don't think any church would let him be a pastor lol

    February 21, 2012 at 8:32 am |
  3. bham

    They are not at all the same. Tebow is good down the stretch, but not a good QB. Lin is the real deal. No one ever, not jordan not kobe, scored as many points in their first few games. Tebow thinks God chooses him to win and prosylatizes (sp?), Lin is low key. Many people are fans of Tebow only because he is Christian. I am a secular Jew and love Lin because he can flat out play, because he came out of nowhere and because he got a good education.

    February 21, 2012 at 3:18 am |
  4. Reality

    Ending the "Lininsanity" and the "Tebowstupidity" with a prayer:

    The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven?????

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
    Jerusalem.

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
    ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    Amen
    (References used are available upon request.)
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    February 15, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
    • Nii Croffie

      Mr Reality I have personally checked up a lot of the information you put out and unfortunately they were found NOT to be the opinion of the intellectual mainstream. These were Liberal n Deist ideas which have been discounted already but revived to further the cause of atheism. U r being dishonest.

      February 17, 2012 at 4:09 am |
    • Theorist1

      Wow. why are you so bitter against Jesus? You must really have some some hurts in your life. However, your "science" is way off.... I'll be praying for you. Blessings!

      February 21, 2012 at 9:33 am |
    • come on man

      @ Reality,
      Man you post this B.S. on every blog...come up with something else.

      March 1, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  5. Joel

    He doesn't "Tebow" after games, he prays.

    February 15, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
  6. name

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIStVKtY-To&w=560&h=315]

    February 15, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  7. Lucifer

    ...Or are they both just more examples of the media and "trend makers" of the world, representing yet another "product." If you think otherwise... Then it completely explains why there will always be a ruling class. Now get back to work, 2012-13 is going to be the year that you get taxed to death, corporations continue their monopolization of government and the Dollar will die, but as long as you have your sports it's all good, right? LOL

    February 15, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  8. booiiii

    thanking someone who doesn't exist is absurd

    February 15, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • Nii Croffie

      Saying you believe in science when scientists don't believe in science is crazy! When scientists say they cannot determine the existence of God but the effects of belief are positive and u say belief is useless u r being ignorant, I'm sorry to say.

      February 17, 2012 at 4:24 am |
  9. booiiii

    lin sucks

    February 15, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.