RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - The most decorated Olympian of all time, American swimmer Michael Phelps, has become a bona fide Christian icon since extending one finger skyward after he won Gold in the Men's 200-Meter Butterfly event earlier this week, sources confirmed Friday.
Narrowly capturing the win in the Tuesday night race, he immediately put his index finger in the air, held it there, and even wiggled it back and forth for emphasis, as if to say, "Don't miss this finger I am pointing toward Heaven. I do not deserve the glory for this win - Almighty God does!" The reaction from Christian social media was immediate and widespread.
"So happy to see Phelps praising GOD. What a witness FOR HIM!" commented one Twitter user, before later adding "Michael Phelps is clearly a CHRISTIAN ROLE MODEL! Hope kids are watching! #GOAT"
"Michael Phelps winning hearts and minds. Someone get him in the pulpit!" enthused another Twitter user, while one Facebook user posted a 700-word discourse calling for more unashamed believers in the same inspirational, evangelical vein as the legendary swimmer.
By Friday morning the rest of the web had caught up. The Christian Post ran an article called "Why Phelps Matters to Evangelicals," which was countered by a HuffPo Religionarticle entitled "Why Evangelicals Are Wrong About Phelps (and Also Women Pastors)." Shortly thereafter, a Charisma Magazine columnist penned the thought-provoking piece "Michael Phelps Could Be a Harbinger of the Jubilee Dominion Claiming of Sports." Even Time noted the phenomenon, running a short piece asking "Will Phelps Prove Dangerous To LGBT Olympians?"
A brief survey of social media indicated a multitude of Christians had changed their profile pictures to the iconic image of Phelps pointing up. Additionally, Phelps was said to be offered a cameo in the upcoming movie God's Not Dead 3: God Harder. As perhaps a fitting coronation for the greatest swimmer of all time, Desiring God published an article Friday titled "The Soul-Satisfying Journey of Michael Phelps: Glorifying God In Hedonistic Swimming Satisfaction."
At publishing time, sources reported that Phelps had held up four fingers after a successive win on Thursday night, which was being seen as confirmation of his sainthood, as it was a clear attempt to one-up his previous shout-out to God by pointing not just his index finger, but his entire hand heavenward, in a remarkable gesture of thanks and reverence to his Creator.