The Test of Tebow

Tim Tebow

Image by Jeffrey Beall via Flickr

Lately there has been quite a stir on the internet about Tim Tebow, the professional football player that so many love to hate. Ever since he’s come into the spotlight a few years ago, I’ve honestly been surprised and made uncomfortable at some of the irrational hatred directed towards Tebow. A few weeks back, George Weigel voiced what I’ve often wondered:

No, Tim Tebow is a target of irrational hatred, not because he’s an iffy quarterback at the NFL level, or a creep personally, or an obnoxious, in-your-face, self-righteous proselytizer. He draws hatred because he is an unabashed Christian, whose calmness and decency in the face of his Christophobic detractors drives them crazy. Tim Tebow, in other words, is a prime example of why Christophobia—a neologism first coined by a world-class comparative constitutional law scholar, J.H.H. Weiler, himself an Orthodox Jew—is a serious cultural problem in these United States.

While I’ve thought this, I never wanted to express it out of fear of looking like a christian with a persecution complex. But hatred for Tebow because of his religious convictions is really out there, it’s not something that we can just dismiss. Take for instance this ugly, hate filled rant by Jeff Pearlman (who has written for Sports Illustrated and ESPN.com).

Tim Tebow scares me, and judging from his father’s website, his upcoming Super Bowl ad and mounting knowledge of his way of life, he should scare you, too. Tim Tebow doesn’t play football merely for the joy of the game. He plays football because he wants to spread the word of Jesus Christ. But not merely spread it. He wants you to accept it and, if you don’t embrace it, he wants you to think again about embracing it. And, if you still don’t embrace it, he wants you to think again. And again. And again. If, in the end, you’re still not sold, you will burn in hell. This is not merely Tim Tebow’s opinion ”but he knows it, in his soul and heart and mind. Christians who accept Jesus will spend an eternity in bliss. Those who don’t are doomed.

Some call this faith.

I call it f***ing insanity.

I know, I know ”everyone has a right to believe what they want … faith is admirable … you’ve gotta respect his feelings. Well, bulls***.

I do not have to respect this sort of damaging craziness, where a group of people go to foreign, oft-Third World nations and convert the so-thought-of “savages” (ie: those who don’t know Christ).

Forgive the expletives and straw men. I suppose I can appreciate Pearlman’s honesty. Don’t misunderstand me, it would be absurd to say that everyone who hates Tebow hates him because he did a pro-life Super Bowl ad with Focus on the Family, or that he said he was going to save himself for marriage, or that he does missionary work and puts scriptures on his eye black.

I’m sure there are a ton of people who dislike him for the same reason they dislike Brett Favre. Call it media-fatigue syndrome. People simply get annoyed of hearing how “he wears his heart on his sleeve” and “he just knows how to win”. As a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, I can sympathize. The fanbase falls in love with just about every undersized hustling scrub that dons the birds on the bat. (see Eckstein, David) I’ve come to loath the adjectives “scrappy”, “gritty” “little things” and “hustle” when they come out of people’s mouths.  Dealing with fans of those players makes me tired.

But can we just admit that some — like Jeff Pearlman and his merry band of followers for instance — despise Tim Tebow because he is an outspoken evangelical Christian? Or to put it more mildly, can’t we just confess that some fans would dislike Tebow just a bit less if he shared their same worldview? What if he was the same player, but was very outspoken about animal rights, or gay marriage, etc.? Sports tends to bring out our irrationality, but I’ve seen too much mockery, derision and just plain venom spewed in his direction for comfort.

I will grant that I believe that because Tebow is so outspoken about controversial issues does open himself to criticism. I think every person’s worldview is up for debate and should be tested on its logical consistency, correspondence to reality, explanatory scope and power, etc. But far too often this isn’t the case, rather we get the really bizarre and irrational disgust and disdain. Or often I see that “he should just keep his beliefs more private”, but these people are often not private about their own beliefs, like the belief that Christians or pro-lifers should keep their mouth shut.

For Christians, I think Tebow presents us with a challenge and an opportunity to discuss our faith, or the Christian perspective on the abortion issue and premarital sex. In case you haven’t noticed, here in ‘merica a lot of people pay attention to football, and many that don’t at least pretend to around the lunch table. And these people very likely have an opinion about Tebow.

If it comes up, I believe we should come right out and ask why it is that  they don’t like him. If they bring up some of his convictions, ask them what about his convictions they disagree with. Hopefully you’ve done your homework and obeyed 1 Peter 3:15, which says “but in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”

If you haven’t, well…get with it. There are a ton of places on the internet where Christians can begin to become equipped to make the case for Christianity and handle some of the toughest objections critics can raise. There’s really no excuse for Christians to not be able to offer reasons for their faith. Being the lightening rod that Tebow is, he’s given believers an open door to get into the game in the field of sharing our faith, if you can pardon the terrible pun. I believe that is pretty much what Tebow is going for.