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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. zeus_z

    God Bless Lin... Hes in the limeligt and he is not afraid to praise God and share his faith in God.

    February 13, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • dudley0415

      Lin is humble enough to realize that not everyone can play basketball like he can, and that he is not personally responsible for this talent. Humility is a rare thing and both Lin and Tebow are great examples of it.

      February 13, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • pockets

      Frightening to hear a human think and believe in his mind that there is an invisible diety watching over him and what he does in his bedroom. Scary and indeed definite signs of a mental illness.You were right Hitch, religion does poisons 'everything'. RIP.

      February 13, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • kb

      @Pockets

      Why is it scary, it shouldnt matter to you. you have no faith at all in your life? No faith that a car is stopped at a red light? No faith that your doctor knows what he's doing? No faith that you wont be shot while walking? Get my point? All we are trying to do is fulfil what God asked us to do. Spread the word. Its the fastest growing belief in the world.
      BTW: God wasnt invisible, he walked on the earth (and water) according to ancient Roman records

      February 13, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
    • ooktoo

      @ pockets...

      from an atheist (you) wishing an atheist (Hitch) to RIP (rest in peace) is at the least inconsistent.

      February 13, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
    • Nate (Seattle, WA)

      @kb,

      I have faith. Faith that airplanes fly, because I understand the science of aerodynamics. Faith that biologists can help cure diseases, because they understand biology, and don't rely on praying to solve problems. Faith that climate scientists know what they're talking about, because they have backgrounds in climate science, and not divinity.

      Atheists can have lots of faith. We just don't tend to have faith in things without accompanying evidence. By the way, some book that was written 2000 years ago, by people who never even met the person you think is God, or God's son, or God's attorney-in-fact, or whatever .... that's not evidence. That's called a "story".

      Go to Barnes and Noble. They've got literally tens of thousands of them, that are much more interesting than your bible, and don't require the level of gullibility that a book that claims men walked on water, lived in a whale, turned water into wine, and were born of virgins do.

      February 13, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
    • rb

      if only you non-believers would read history and realize that the Catholic Church produced some of the greatest scientific minds in history instead of making idiotic comments about mental illness and such.

      February 14, 2012 at 1:31 am |
    • Steve

      KB. Um, some of us live our lives based on probability, not faith. I walk across the street when there is a red light as I notice cars always stop (though I have never seen i realize the probability is exceedingly small to take that chance without any worry). And, I actually look to see they have stopped first then I go. Pretty smart eh? No prayers involved, no talking to an invisible man to make sure they stop through magic.

      As far as "Roman records" and Jesus, would you please illuminate us? Tacitus is the earliest and I think he was around 130 AD and just said their were christians. Josephus's quote is widely regarded as a forgery as it is out of context and is fawning over Jesus even though he was not a christian. These two roman sources were written well after Jesus was dead and strangely enough nobody had written anything at the time he was alive. Very strange considering the bible stated that upon his death the dead were walking around in Jerusalem and yet nobody else noticed this enough to write about it. The historical evidence for jesus is weak. To me he was a historical persion who ended up being a construct, a mythic figure that people must take on faith which is of course belief in the absence of evidence.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:35 am |
  2. Jeff

    Asian people can play basketball too and Asian people can play darn good. There are too many racists in this country.

    February 13, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • Nate (Seattle, WA)

      Right, Jeff.

      There are no racists in Asian countries though. White guys who date Asian women never get hated on by their girlfriend's family.

      Get a clue. You're not seriously claiming Asians to be the victim of any widespread racism in the US, are you? Look at the data. Asian Americans have the highest incomes and lowest unemployment of any race/ethnicity in the country. That's including whites.

      Asians don't dominate in the NBA, not because of racism. It's largely due to the fact that on average, they're shorter than white and black people, and that's kind of important in basketball.

      February 13, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
    • max

      I am of mixed heritage, half Asian and you outburst is very immature. Asians like some Hispanics are of a smaller stature in the physical nature. I am proud of Lin but ashamed of your comment, putting something out there that is so ugly is so ignorant. What the heck is your point anyway?

      February 14, 2012 at 11:23 am |
  3. Bryan

    Only one of these players is actually earning his praise on the court/field.

    February 13, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
  4. Givemeabreak

    Nobody CARES that either one of them makes empty praises to Jesus throughout the event. Why don't they praise Jesus for all their turnovers, especially when caused by other religious players. It's just nonsense. In fact, I'm sure most people wish both of these guys wouldn't appeal to Jesus....or just don't care. Why is he so popular? Because the Knicks have SUCKED for almost 15 years, and it's fun to have an exciting player in the Garden. It has nothing to do with God. This whole blog is pretty crude writing, CNN.

    February 13, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
    • kb

      Ever seen Tebow pray after a defeat? I have, obviously your not a Bronco fan. He's not doing if for selfworth. He genuinly loves God and everyone. He has specials before everygame talking about someone with a mental or physical difficulty so that they can feel normal for once in their life. As for Lin, he's more quiet about his faith which I respect.

      February 13, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
  5. Shawn

    Of course Christianity is moving into Asia, Africa, and Latin America: simpleminded religion for a more simple people. And once people from those areas civilize themselves, they too will grow out of their snake charms and sky gods.

    February 13, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • dudley0415

      The civilized person understands other beliefs and is satisfied to allow others to have them, since it does not interfere with their own. Either that or they have no confidence in their own beliefs and attack others to share their confusion.

      You pick.

      February 13, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • Woody Bailey

      So the people of Asia, Africa and Latin America are simple minded, eh? You should be ashamed to say that! My daughter-in-law is Latin American and she has given us two beautiful grandsons. We love her like our own daughter.

      February 13, 2012 at 9:21 pm |
    • Nate (Seattle, WA)

      Dudley,

      I reject your lame choices, and pick neither, just like I don't pick your silly religion.

      Don't affect other people? What planet do you live on?

      "Good Christians" in this country (US) are worse than anybody about imposing their religion on other people. They want to change laws to accomodate their non-evidence-based belief (e.g. abortion rights, tax breaks for churches, stem cell research, the recent hubub about contraception requirements in health care reform, etc.).

      What about all the wars we're fighting (at one point last year, we were simultaneously at war in SIX Islamic nations at once!)? That's not about religion, and us trying to impose our worldview on others? Don't say it's just about oil. There's oil in other places we don't spend trillions to fight wars with, and there's not a drop of oil in Afghanistan. Those wars, of which I'm on the hook for TENS OF THOUSANDS OF TAX DOLLARS, are largely about religion.

      Then, there's the business about gay rights. Among non-religious people, there is virtually no support for denying gays equal rights under the law. If that isn't imposing your beliefs on others, I don't know what is.

      Either you can continue living in your bubble, where facts are irrelevant, and religion is merely a force for good ... or you can wake up and join us in the real world.

      Pick.

      February 13, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
    • whataworld88

      Ah, the angry atheist. Living a life free from the chains of religion but spending most of his time chained to CNN's belief blog. If this is your one shot why not do something more with it? Well, I guess it really doesn't matter in the end. Chances are that you will live a normal enough life and die at a good solid age, no one will remember you in 100 years and no one will care to know about you. So keep on little buddy, give us another witty comment or better yet, your two cents on every post. I'll be glued to my screen waiting........

      February 14, 2012 at 12:09 am |
    • Steve

      hey whataworld. What makes you think he spends most of his time on this belief blog or that he is angry? Perhaps he hit a nerve and you need to pigeonhole him to feel better about yourself? Shh...are you secretly saying to yourself: "What, he does not believe in sky fairies like me, he must be angry and bitter!". Just like all of us, you will also be forgotten in 100 years so welcome to the club of humanity. He is just giving his two cents like the rest of us but if you feel it is persecution maybe god will give you a few more heaven pts for your undying faith in him on his scorecard. Secularists can live long, HAPPY productive and loving lives without appeals to the supernatural. Heck, they may even be more morale than christians who condone their diety torturing and burning non-christians for eternity. Just a thought.

      February 14, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  6. dudley0415

    Successful Christian athletes.

    America used to be full of them. Now it's a news story.

    February 13, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
    • Bob

      As Lin aptly quotes from the scriptures-Do it all for the glory of God.

      February 13, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • Nate (Seattle, WA)

      Where do you wingnuts get the idea that somehow the non-religious have taken over this country?

      America is still 85% religious, most of that being Christian.

      I constantly see athletes nodding to the heavens when they score a run, a touchdown, or a goal.

      You people have paranoid delusions, in addition to hearing voices in your head.

      February 13, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
  7. dre

    LOL. Gotta love these guys who come on here to rip someone for having faith. I'm Jewish and a huge fan of Tebow and now Lin. So refreshing in light of what dregs we put up on a pedestal these days.

    February 13, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • JT

      You're Jewish and you're in love with Jesus fanatics! Lol...it just gets more freaky by the minute.

      February 13, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
    • Steve

      JT, what, you can't like somebody you don't always agree with?

      February 15, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  8. ABOLISH RELIGION

    Shouldn't be allowed in public.

    February 13, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
    • been there done that prayer works

      Christ in me the hope of glory. God lives within the believer and cannot and will not be separated. In private, in public, wherever we go God goes and God is more than welcome. God created it all and it is heaven just to walk with HIM.

      February 13, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • dudley0415

      You can't reason when there is no reason to reason with such a trollish comment.

      February 13, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
    • ABOLISH RELIGION

      No such thing as god. Believers are the genuine trolls. Bunch of retards.

      February 13, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • Luke Skywalker

      Abolish, isn't it a little harsh to call religious folks retards? I think Common Sense Disabled is the proper term these days, HAHA!

      February 13, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
    • Ben Kenobi

      @Luke (waves hand in front of him) This is not the religion you're looking for.

      February 13, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
  9. Flooby

    Do we 'thank jesus' and 'thank god' for Whitney's death?

    February 13, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
    • dudley0415

      I encourage you to ask Him about that.

      February 13, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • SamIam

      I thank God for the life she lived, yes. And the precious moments we spent with her. Long live a legacy.

      February 13, 2012 at 9:47 pm |
  10. Billy Davis

    The difference between Lin and Tebow is FoxNews won't say people hate Lin because of his religion. FoxNews has yet to write a story about Lin. You see he's not white or an Evangelical Christian he's Buddhist and that doesn't fit into their lily white world. Lin's game speaks for him not the religious zealots.

    February 13, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
    • Joseph Mzutrnski

      did you read the story you moron?

      February 13, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • CASEYJEWS

      Your statement said it all. Excellent comment.

      February 13, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • CASEYJEWS

      Billy, you should correct from Buddhist to Christian.

      February 13, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • sfad

      That's a dumb statement. Read the friggin' article you dolt

      February 13, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
  11. Truth

    Jesus is King! Dig deeper my friends, peace be to all 🙂

    February 13, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
  12. Esther

    What a joy to see Lin and Tebow both shining knights for Faith.
    You go guys, you rock!

    February 13, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Knights, like the ones who murdered in the name of the church during The Crusades? Pathetic.

      February 13, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • Truth

      @aguest

      No need for all the negativity and strife. I'm sorry for whatever has happened to you in your life that makes you so angry and resentful towards Christians. I assure you that you can find your peace in Jesus. Cheers 🙂

      February 13, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
    • Bob

      Both these guys are an awesome testament to their faith. Knights indeed!

      February 13, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
    • Joseph Mzutrnski

      amen brother – the atheist swine will try to tear him and all CRUSADERS down, but the LORD shall SMITE THESE ATHEIST SWINE

      February 13, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
    • dudley0415

      The Crusades... ... ...some folks have to paint with a very broad brush to try to cover their own issues.

      February 13, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • dudley0415

      Joseph – I don't think God will be smiting any atheists (weeds and wheat) but soon enough He'll just ignore them forever.

      February 13, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
  13. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    February 13, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Lying to yourself and others is morally wrong.

      February 13, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • just sayin

      You should read what others post. The proofs have long since been given for Truth. Did you miss them all?

      February 13, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
    • just sayin

      I personally have been changed from death to life. All areas of my life have been changed. Prayer changed me !

      February 13, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • really???

      I could say the same thing about meth... the only truth, both religion and meth are one hell of a drug

      February 13, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • mcfan

      To "really??"

      I pray to God that one day you will get to know God better. Meth is devil.

      February 13, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
  14. Portland tony

    Did you guys at CNN realize there are probably a zillion topics and subjects of interest with religious connotations? .Maybe a blog on why Arab/Persian/Indonesian Muslim differ in their.aspects of belief..ANYTHING .......SOMETHING WITH SOME SUBSTANCE ....UNLIKE THIS TEBOW...LIN COMPARISON...CR*P

    February 13, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
    • I like reading bout jesus

      Then go to muslim.com, your bound to find something you want to read there

      February 13, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
  15. Dexter

    what a crock, faith does nothing for anyone's game.
    It's all training, skill, luck and determination.
    "But faith gives you determination!"
    No, no it does not. It just makes it easy to lose, and accept it.
    Determination makes you wish you trained harder, and WILL train harder for the next game.

    February 13, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • SamIam

      Playing for a purpose makes you work, play, and fight harder right? What if your playing for faith? Then they will work harder. But so is it if they are playing to win, or for their brother with cancer. Its not what your playing for in the eyes of the audience, but what your playing for in the eyes of the champion.

      February 13, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
  16. LinCA

    Just for the record. I'm not, nor am I related to, Jeremy Lin.

    February 13, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • J.W

      Yes. You are Linda from California.

      February 13, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
  17. J.W

    A difference also is that Tebow needed a lot of help. With Lin the other two stars the Knicks have have been gone.

    February 13, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  18. derp

    The difference between Lin a Tebow is that Lin can actually play a little.

    Jesustard Tebow has the leagues lowest completion percentage, and the lowest passing yards per game of any starting QB.

    Denver's offense averaged more points per game in te games Tebow DID NOT play in.

    Tebow sucks. The only reason anybody even pays any attention to him is because he flaunts his jesus crap at every opportunity.

    February 13, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • Joseph Mzutrnski

      the Christians really get under your skin, huh atheist-tard? SUCK IT

      February 13, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • jimmer

      'SUCK IT"

      Wow, how christian of you.

      February 14, 2012 at 9:03 am |
  19. Colossians

    Lin we love you for your faith and wish you success, love your Biblical quote
    “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men." Amen to that.

    February 13, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
  20. Christians are not allowed near children and other living things

    Christians molest your children, keep your children away from them!

    February 13, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • Grace and Mercy

      Seriously, when was the last time you heard of a true and faithful Christian molesting innocent children (not counting priests, those people are wack)? But honestly. And logically, this is a Sweeping Generalization fallacy. You cant say that all christians molest children, and if they do, obviously they arent being true to their faith and need to be locked up. And for real, was this comment at all relevant to the article above? Didnt think so. But why do you care so much if people have a bit of faith in a happier life? You should respect them. Not judge. Go live your life, and if you disagree with the beliefs of a people, then keep it to your self unless you have something "relevant" or "noteworthy" to say.
      Blessings. Im praying for your hapiness.

      February 13, 2012 at 9:19 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.