New York sure to test Tebow, on and off the field

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Despite its reputation, New York is not the godless Gomorrah that outsiders envision. The city has experienced an evangelical revival of sorts, with young, goateed pastors establishing churches in storefronts, auditoriums and hotel ballrooms. According to nycreligion.info, about 40 percent of the 200 evangelical congregations in Manhattan below 125th Street started in the last decade. The Empire State Building is home to an evangelical school, The King’s College, where students are preparing to become Christian leaders.

“The city has changed. The city is much more religious,” said Tony Carnes, editor of nycreligion.info. “As far as the number of religious groups, we’re at a 100-year high. There hasn’t been this type of effervescence in this city for a number of years.”

That portion of the population is sure to embrace Tebow.

Others, however, won’t be nearly so welcoming, watching closely to see if Tebow really is as clean-cut as he appears.

Maybe even rooting for him to fail.

“What I think (being in New York) will show is the steadiness of his faith, and that’s what many have tried to question,” said Joe Price, a professor in the religious studies department at Whittier College. “If he succeeds in New York, it’s not just because he’s north of Colorado Springs and within arm’s reach of Focus on the Family. He’s right there within arm’s reach of Manhattan, a very different culture. But if his faith is expressed in the same way, winning and losing, that really identifies the authenticity and the depth of his faith.”

For his part, Tebow doesn’t plan to act as the Jets‘ morals police. Or New York’s, for that matter.

Asked about Ryan’s salty language, Tebow brushed it off, saying, “You’re not going to have the cleanest language in an NFL locker room, so I’m not too worried about that.”

His job, he said, is to play football, “get better as a quarterback and to help the team any way possible.”

And if he manages to get the Jets back to the Super Bowl, he could find himself up in the pantheon of New York’s sports heroes: Frazier. Namath. Jeter.

Tebow?

Jets fans will be critical of whoever doesn’t lead them to the glory of the Namath era, religion or no religion,” Price said. “For Jets fans, the only religion that matters is the success of the Jets.”

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AP National Writer Eddie Pells, AP Religion Writer Rachel Zoll and AP Sports Writer Dennis Waszak Jr. contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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