NFL quarterback Tim Tebow will no longer be appearing at First Baptist Church of Dallas April 28, news that was first released, as in all important matters of religion, sports and politics, via virtual tablet:

As reported, First Baptist leader Dr. Robert Jeffres

has claimed that Islam promoted pedophilia, said Judaism “leads people to an eternity of separation from God in hell,” and reportedly reduced Catholics, Hindus, Buddhists and others to members of cults….Jeffress denounced the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” by observing that “it’s a fact that [AIDS is] a gay disease so there’s a reasonable reason to exclude gays from the military.”

“I’m ashamed to like Tim Tebow now,” Gregg Doyel of CBS Sports wrote when the appearance was still on, calling Jeffress “an evangelical cretin… who does the work of the Lord sort of like Westboro Baptist in Topeka, Kan., does the work of the Lord.I don’t consider Robert Jeffress’ theology to be Christianity, a religion built on love.”

Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel, a self-described Tebow fan, included a gratuitious potshot at Dallas in his critique of Tebow’s initial choice:

On Nov. 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy, one of America’s most beloved presidents, was shockingly assassinated on the streets of Dallas.

Now, a half century later, Tim Tebow, one of America’s most beloved athletes, will assassinate his own character and reputation if he preaches at the First Baptist Church of Dallas on April 28, 2013.

Too soon, Mike.

In a statement, the church said that Tebow “needed to avoid controversy at this time” but:

would like to come to First Baptist Dallas to speak at a future date. We are saddened that Mr. Tebow felt pressure to back out of his long-planned commitment 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.

“The whole thing was rather odd,” wrote Mac Engel of the Star-Telegram. 

Nothing Tebow has reportedly said since he became TIM TEBOW has been even remotely close to some of the judgemental hate that Jeffress has said. Maybe Tebow agrees with Jeffress line for line, but this announcement shows that he is smart enough not to publicly declare it. 

In fact, Tebow critics like Dave Zirin of The Nation would not see Tebow’s association with Jeffress as being all that different from his previous association with Focus on the Family, or from the core mission of Tebow’s father’s ministry in The Phillipines. And neither would the Christians who are disappointed with the quarterback’s about-face, such as Christopher Brannen, director of contemporary music at the First United Methodist Church in Colleyville.

Update (2:25 p.m.):

The Star-Telegram‘s Bud Kennedy weighed in on the topic Thursday, observing that the hype, backlash and controversy are “what Southern Baptist pastors historically consider success… [Jeffress] he is the new Jerry Falwell, the preacher the secular media love to hate.”