A new word has made its way into our vocabulary…. and though its roots are in sports, I am amazed to see how Tebow-mania has swept across a pretty broad spectrum of the culture… and to see the act of “Tebowing” as the sometimes humorous, sometimes mocking, but for many the uncomfortable expression of Tebow mania. (Tebowing is the emulation of Tebow’s kneeling “prayer-like posture”).
It makes fodder for a pretty good conversation, even a necessary conversation, about how public displays of faith can create such discomfort and divisiveness in the culture, and how ultimately that’s okay. Seems like a great topic to weigh in on here in the midst of the Christmas Season… yes I used the “C” word, instead of the “H”(holiday) word… no doubt, this is a blatant case of linguistic “Tebow-ing.” I just unashamedly threw Christ in your face by saying Christmas… and made you gaze upon the letters that spell the name, and consider the actual person of Jesus… whoops, just did it again. That Tebow is dangerous I am telling you.
For those not indoctrinated, Tebow is the current quarterback of the Denver Broncos. He is on a hot streak, having led a team considered “bad” to win seven of its last nine games and as of this writing they lead their division in the NFL. Tebow’s success seems more due to determination and moxie than his currently unrefined skills. But Tim Tebow is even better known for his boldness in proclaiming his faith during his days at the University of Florida and now in Denver. Tebow never fails to give God the glory, win or lose, and he does not keep it generic and PC… he always references his “Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
He also has made headlines speaking about his decision to remain sexually pure until marriage, and he made a very well-publicized video with his mom emphasizing the sanctity of life. (Tebow’s mother was advised to abort Tim because of serious medical complications she faced, and she was a missionary in a somewhat remote location at the time).
It is this very publicly lived faith that has placed Tebow in the crosshairs. For Christian fans, Tebow can do no wrong, even if his passes do wobble. This blind allegiance has often burned Christians in the past when someone we place on a pedestal takes a big fall. Somehow it is hard to see that happening to Tebow… but a caution about idle worship is always a wise word.
But what has really grabbed my attention is how uncomfortable Tebow makes some people…. particularly two groups of people. First, there is a group of cynical, secular people who are forced to cover and comment on Tebow’s exploits in his sports career because it is their job. When Tebow boldly references his faith, sometimes the awkward factor registers a 10 on the awkward scale. Then there is a second group… believers who share Tebow’s faith, but are intimidated by his boldness. They wish he would just keep it to himself.
In fact, that is this culture’s answer to Christianity isn’t it? If Christians could just keep it quiet, apparently the world would once again be a happy place. The intolerance of the new definition of “tolerance” is a little ironic isn’t it? Other players have been seen “Tebowing” after touchdowns to mock Tebow, several coaches and commentators have been extra-critical of Tebow’s flaws, though he is basically still a rookie in experience level and has won anyway. A recent national Jewish writer even insinuated that Tebow’s “religious displays” were dangerous and would lead to a rise in anti-semitism and a host of other hate crimes (go figure?), before his article was quickly pulled and disavowed by the publisher… Then for emphasis, Saturday Night Live “thrilled” us with an irreverent Tebow and Jesus skit last week, just to make sure we all get the message: we don’t know how to handle a person who is both overtly evangelical Christian, and also wildly popular in sports. Now for a moment imagine that Tebow were Muslim, or Buddhist, or pretty much anything else. Does anyone really believe this level of disdain and condescension would be “tolerated?”
I suggest that it is okay for America to be made a little uncomfortable about faith now and then. Years ago, while in Cairo, I took public transportation to a Church service. Crammed into a streetcar with about 50 Muslims, I am pretty sure every one of them spent the whole trip staring at the Bible I was carrying under my arm. I had not planned to cause a stir, just doing what I do when I head to church. Is that really such a bad thing? If Tebow makes the secular hear the name Jesus occasionally, and if he forces other less verbal believers to face their “Timidity” (pardon the pun), is that really such a bad thing?
I think I am going to stop writing now and spend a little time Tebowing! Keep it up Tim…
You shall know the truth…