Hotdogging doesn't help credibility of Big D pastor

Posted Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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kennedy As the son of a journalism teacher, the Rev. Robert Jeffress knows exactly what he is doing.

When the nation's sports columnists pore over your sermons and spend bandwidth warning stars to stay away from you -- that is what Southern Baptist pastors historically consider success.

Every word of New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow's tweeted regret note that he won't attend First Baptist Dallas' $130 million expansion party next month is a giant ad for Jeffress' ministry.

As leader of what was once America's largest Southern Baptist church, he is the new Jerry Falwell, the preacher the secular media love to hate.

In Texas, we have seen this before.

"I think Jeffress sees himself as the new lightning-rod spokesman for conservative evangelicals," said the Rev. David R. Stokes of Virginia, author of a biography of showboating 1940s pastor J. Frank Norris of Fort Worth.

"There hasn't been anybody else out there lately. It's the way Jeffress frames his comments to cause outrage -- and the media focuses on it."

First, Tebow said he would attend the grand opening April 28 of one of the most lavish church projects in American history, more than the $100 million redo of the former Crystal Cathedral in California into a Catholic cathedral.

But then, writers for highly competitive websites launched a just-say-no campaign.

Both NBCSports.com and The Huffington Post headined, "Tebow to Speak at Virulently Anti-Gay, Anti-Semitic" Dallas megachurch.

The New York Daily News called it a "Hate Date."

Finally, a CBSSports.com columnist came in with a clothesline tackle.

The incendiary Gregg Doyel called the visit "Tebow's greatest sin" and said the unsigned quarterback "is about to make the biggest mistake of his life."

Tebow tweeted Thursday that he would cancel "due to new information." Jeffress said Tebow has asked to visit later.

The church said in a statement that writers have "grossly misrepresented" Jeffress' comments about how gay soldiers might increase military AIDS cases and also about how "you can't be saved being a Jew."

Stokes said Jeffress is taking a risk.

"Sensationalism is an effective tool to build a church," Stokes said.

"But it's doesn't stick. People stop taking you seriously."

But they don't stop talking about you.

Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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Twitter: @budkennedy

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