Responding to Tebowing

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…

The Good:

  • 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.

The Bad:

  • 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?

Time for Tebow: What I Love & What I’m Concerned About

This is my first post on Tim Tebow.  Honestly, I simply haven’t known what to say!  Personally, I’m torn about him as a quarterback (although he’s starting to make me look foolish when I say things like, “Don’t you need to be consistently accurate to be a good quarterback in the NFL?”), I don’t know many who could even attempt to question his character.

Especially after his latest come-from-behind victory against the Chicago Bears, bringing the Bronco’s to a 7-1 record as their starting QB, it seems that Tebow-mania is in full swing.  I’ve been holding off on writing about Tebow until now, but since he seems all the rage I figured it was time to put some thoughts to writing.

So far, Tebow is a living example of Titus 2:7-8

“In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.”

Here’s what I love about Tebow:

  • He seems so genuine.  I don’t know him personally, but I haven’t yet heard of anyone who does know him from college coming out from the woodwork saying that he’s a phony.  If he’s a phony or a hypocrite, surely someone would’ve surfaced by now to let us know.
  • He’s not ashamed to give Jesus the glory.  Sure, you can debate whether or not he should “tone things down” about his faith, but everyone knows what he believes.  I frequently cringe when musicians give Jesus the glory for their Grammy (often, for a song that glorifies violence, sex, or drug-use), but when Tebow does it he seems totally genuine and humble.
  • He’s a great role model to look up to.  When we look around at people who are frequently named in magazines and the news, Tebow stands out among the rest.  In the midst of our fascination of all things “Rich and Famous,” Tebow stands out for being so drastically different and mysterious.  He keeps on winning, even though he shouldn’t.  He doesn’t fit the mold for anything.  He doesn’t really fit into any box that anyone tries to squeeze him into.
  • He wins, and he inspires those around him to win.  It’s not always pretty, but he wins even when the odds are stacked against him and people are hoping that he fails.  I’m not so certain that he’s “God’s Quarterback,” but he doesn’t give up when others would.  People point to the Bronco’s defense as the reason why they’ve started winning, but they have the same defense they had when they were losing all those games before Tebow started as QB.  Not only does Tebow win, he makes those around him winners too!

Here are a few things I’m concerned about:

  • Idolatry.  I’m not concerned that Tebow would become an idolater as much as I’m concerned that he’d become an idol.  Criticizing Tebow’s form or game-performance is fair, but there are some Christians out there who refuse to hear it.  Tebow points to Jesus, not himself – let’s follow his lead.
  • Persecution & Tebow.  I’ve heard people say that Tebow is being persecuted for being so vocal about his faith.  Persecution is intentional harm done to someone because of their faith in Jesus Christ.  Gossip and slander isn’t persecution unless they bring about actual harm to the person.  So far, I simply don’t see any cause for making Tebow a martyr.
  • Failure.  If Tebow fails, will my faith in Christ be shaken?  No… but I fear that many people could be placing faith in Tebow that doesn’t belong there.  If he fails as a NFL Quarterback or if he fails morally, we will be disappointed, but we should be  careful to not place our faith in Tebow but in Christ.

I’m not convinced that God is making Tebow win.  If you watch the games and know a bit about football you can see a lot of things seem to happen for Tebow late in the fourth quarter that he’s capitalized on.  He’s a good, smart football player.  Do I think it’s possible that God has chosen to give Tebow success so that Christ would receive the glory?  It’s possible.  The Gospel Coalition posted a fantastic article written by Owen Strachan today on this very issue, please take a few minutes to read it (yes, it’s very theological, so it’s not really “casual reading,” but it’s a great article to chew on):  “Tebow, Calvin, and the Hand of God in Sports”

If you haven’t watched the video embedded above, do yourself a favor and take two minutes to watch it.  Bob Costas did an excellent job highlighting Tebow in a very honoring and fair way.  The script to what he wrote can be found here.

The most clever article I’ve read on Tebow comes from Jason Gay in the Wall Street Journal, “What Tim Tebow Can’t Do.”  Here’s an excerpt:

Despite all of these issues, people still like Tim Tebow, which is mystifying. It’s as if they can’t recognize his flaws. They’re blinded by hype. They’re willfully ignorant. They want to believe in a myth.

One day they will see all of Tim Tebow’s shortcomings. How he’s never once sang O Canada at a Vancouver Canucks game. How he’s never captured a live dinosaur. How he’s too chicken to run for President.

Tim Tebow never, ever makes everybody happy. He can’t really do anything besides win football games. Since when did anyone care about that?

Here are two more good Tebow posts I’ve come across: