This post is a follow up to last week’s post on Tim Tebow and was requested by my wife… so how could I say no?! She’s a teacher in a local middle school and has been dealing with students “Tebowing” in the hallways, in the cafeteria, in the middle of class, etc. Just last week a few teenagers at another local school got suspended for Tebowing in the hallway. So here’s the question: Is Tebowing Good or Bad for Christianity?
First, for those who are unfamiliar with “Tebowing,” UrbanDictionary defines it as, “To get down on a knee and start praying, even if everyone else around you is doing something completely different.” Tim Tebow, the QB for the Denver Broncos, is a very devout Christian and is outspoken about his faith, and his “prayer posture” has become something of a cultural fad that’s sweeping the nation. There’s even a website devoted to pictures of people Tebowing in public, Tebowing.com.
As usual, I see some good to the Tebowing craze, and bad. Here we go…
- Maybe people actually pray while Tebowing. If it gets people who don’t pray to start praying (even trite prayers) then you never know how God might use that.
- Tebowing has people talking about prayer and Jesus in (mostly) positive ways. Sure, most people are saying “God doesn’t care about stupid things like football, doesn’t he have more important things to do.” We won’t agree with what everyone has to say about prayer and faith, but these conversations don’t usually happen in such public and open ways. I’ve heard people everywhere talking about their faith openly, and in New England that simply never happens. So if Tebowing get people to start talking about faith and religion and Christianity in particular, then I’m thankful for it.
- Mockery. This one’s pretty obvious. It’s clearly a mockery of Tebow’s faith in particular, and Christians in general. I personally don’t think Christians should get offended over it and should take it the same way Tebow does: It’s good-natured mockery. If we can’t laugh at caricatures of ourselves, then we have a pride problem to deal with.
- Tebowing can communicate that prayer is for show. I don’t think Tebow prays so that the cameras catch him praying, and therefore gets a certain public reputation or celebrity image. I get the impression from Tebow that he legitimately wants to pray in order to thank his Heavenly Father for the opportunity and gifts to play football. But we need to keep in mind that Perception Isn’t Everything, But It’s Close. Jesus taught the value of private/secret prayer as opposed to the Pharisees who loved to pray in public so they would be seen. Again, I give Tebow the benefit of the doubt, but people could easily accuse him of this (and I’ve heard people accuse him of this).
- Tebowing trivializes prayer. I often say “There’s no such thing as a small prayer. We measure prayer by the One we’re praying to, not by the words we use or our ability to pray well.” If that’s true, then Tebowing represents prayer in a laughable, cheap, and completely ridiculous light. I don’t think they intend to trivialize prayer (some do, but I think most are blissfully ignorant), but that’s just the reality. Again, let me repeat my encouragement again, don’t go to battle against Tebowing and I’m not personally offended by it, but I do think we should take the opportunity it opens up to us in order to discuss what people believe about prayer and faith and God, etc.
All in all, I think the Tebow phenomenon is a really positive thing: people who never discuss religion/spirituality are doing so openly and are interested in hearing from Christians about their beliefs. I’m still amazed that I can’t remember hearing anyone say to me, “I think Tebow’s a fake and a hypocrite.” People are fascinated by him because he seems to be so genuine and real, and that’s a wonderfully refreshing thing for me to see after all the Christian leaders who are usually in the news for one scandal or another.
I’m confident that Tebowing is just a passing fad, so if you’re someone who’s thinking, “But you just said it trivializes prayer! Rally the troops, we need to fight this!” then I’d encourage you to settle down… by the time you get the troops rallied the Tebowing trend will be on its way out of our cultural consciousness.
Instead of protesting because you feel offended or mocked, take the opportunity to ask some questions like these:
- If you could ask Tebow a question, what would it be?
- Do you think people are rooting against Tebow because of his religious beliefs? Do you think that’s right, or should that be a non-issue?
- What do you think of Tebow being so outspoken about his faith? Are you offended, or are you ok with him talking about his faith in Jesus so frequently?
- Why do you think Tebow is so open and public about his faith?
- What do you think about prayer? What sort of things do you think God cares about?
- Do you think God listens to Tebow more than he’d listen to you when you pray? Why?