Why should religious leaders, of all people, turn their fire on celebrities who use their popularity for public proclamations of the Almighty’s power?

In an age when media icons flaunt every sort of indulgence and depravity, prominent members of clergy should find more appropriate targets to scold than athletic achievers like football’s Tim Tebow, basketball’s Jeremy Lin or baseball’s Josh Hamilton, who choose to flaunt their devout Christian commitment.

Widespread discomfort toward well-publicized professions of faith highlights a significant rift in outlook — not just between believers and skeptics, but between religious people who want to limit theological affirmations to church or synagogue settings and those who announce their ardent belief at every opportunity.

The newly elected leader of the important Reform movement in Judaism clearly shares the instinct to wince at the insertion of too many religious gestures in today’s pop culture.

“God-sentences do not flow trippingly off Jewish lips,” writes Rabbi Rick Jacobs in his denominational magazine Reform Judaism.

He goes on to suggest “a deep reason for our unease. The God-talk we hear most is hardly worth emulating. Watching athletes pointing to the heavens to acknowledge their savior after scoring a touchdown, you’d think God actually cared about which team won. While I hope God’s presence can be felt in all places, including football stadiums, I find it offensive to reduce the Almighty to a football mascot in the sky.”

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