The Jeremy Lin factor

Jeremy Lin's winning streak may have ended Friday, but he picked right back up today with 28 points and 14 assists during the Knicks' win against the Mavericks.

Headline writers are having a field day with potential puns, but that hasn't worked out well for ESPN, which fired a staffer for writing "Chink in the armor" in a headline and suspended an anchor. Lin's popularity certainly has something to do with ethnicity, which some outlets may struggle to cover.

On the other hand, some outlets are covering several different angles, including a profile from the Mercury News and an interesting interview with Lin's pastor from the Washington Post's On Faith, among other pieces on religion and sports.

I've been pretty impressed by several articles from The New York Times that have captured some of the nuances of both race and religion. We've already looked at Michael Luo's first-person piece and talked to him for more background. I laughed out loud at the quote the Times captured from Lin's grandmother. “I know nothing about basketball.

I only know when Jeremy puts the ball in the basket he has done a good thing.” I also appreciated a Times piece on what Lin's rise to prominence has done for Christians in China. American Protestant missionaries converted Lin's great-grandfather to Christianity, the article reports.

Lin’s combination of success in the N.B.A. and strong Christian faith — he has spoken in the past of becoming a pastor someday — has fired the imagination of many Asian-American Christians. There are some early signs that he may also be catching the attention of Christians in China, who continue to face varying levels of persecution.

Only 1,500 of the initial 1.4 million microblogging messages on mainland Chinese Web sites that mentioned Lin also mentioned Christianity.

The article mentions twice the fact that Christians in China are persecuted, but it doesn't go into too many specifics. It does, however, show how the government tries to temper the spread of Christianity.

Chinese authorities allow one Protestant seminary per province, as a way to limit the number of pastors and slow the spread of Christianity, which by some estimates may have more than 100 million adherents among China’s 1.3 billion people.

Mao ordered the merger of Protestant denominations in China in 1958; while different strands of Protestantism have informally re-emerged since Mao’s death in 1976, they must share a small supply of seminary graduates and other pastors trained at Bible schools operating informally.

Kudos to the Times for looking deeper, showing how one athlete's popularity spotlights something larger about Christianity in China. And we hope you enjoy this week's podcast.

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

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