Tim Tebow and his Jesus-soaked football: NYT further osculates the rump of faith

One of the nuttiest aspects of religion is the belief that God really cares about whether one team or another wins a soccer, football, or baseball game. How can anyone imagine that any deity worthy of respect takes sides? Nevertheless, millions of people believe that.

Frank Bruni, an op-ed columnist writing in today’s New York Times, analyzes the effusive religiosity of the Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. In “Tim Tebow’s gospel of optimism,” Bruni first claims that he’s put off by Tebow’s on-field displays of faith:

With Tebow there’s no getting away from it. He uses the microphones thrust in front of him to mention his personal savior, Jesus Christ, and has said that heaven is reserved for devout Christians. He genuflects so publicly and frequently that to drop to one knee in the precise way he does has been given its own word, along with its own Web site, where you can see photographs of people Tebowing inside St. Peter’s, in front of the Taj Mahal, on sand, on ice and even underwater.

But then he excuses these displays because they are, after all, signs of a resolve to win—a resolve buttressed by Tebow’s faith:

He reminds us that strength comes in many forms and some people have what can be described only as a gift for winning, which isn’t synonymous with any spreadsheet inventory of what it supposedly takes to win.

This gift usually involves hope, confidence and a special composure, all of which keep a person in the game long enough, with enough energy and stability, so that a fickle entity known as luck might break his or her way. For Tebow that state of mind comes from his particular relationship with his chosen God and is a matter of religion. For someone else it might be understood and experienced as the power of positive thinking, and is a matter of psychology. Either way it boils down to stubborn optimism and bequeaths a spark. A swagger. An edge.

. . . The Broncos are the talk of the league. More and more people are watching. And you could indeed say they’re tuning in to find out how far God can take a team. Because that’s just another way of saying how far grit can.

No it’s not, not at all.  God does not equal grit.  Perhaps belief in God can confer grit, and I have no doubt that in Tebow’s case it does. But there’s a difference between a dogged drive to win and a drive premised on God being behind you and directing the football.

Bruni decries the ridicule that some fans heap on Tebow’s displays.  I don’t agree, for the displays themselves are ridiculous: they’re public thanks to a God who supposedly cares about the fate of the Denver Broncos.  That’s ludicrous.  If Tebow wants to make a public display of this faith, then we’re fully entitled to publicly ridicule him.

Here’s one of those displays.  Isaiah 40:31 is this:

but those who hope in the LORD

will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;

they will run and not grow weary,

they will walk and not be faint.

and they will score the touchdowns.

118 Comments

  1. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    The implication is not just that God cares about who wins a football game, but also that the efforts of the players matter less than God’s blessing. To publicly thank God for each touchdown is to say that it’s a miracle you scored any points at all. That’s no way to respect yourself or your teammates.

    • Posted December 11, 2011 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

      Same goes for those who thank god when they, or someone they know, receives successful medical treatment. Turns out they didn’t need those doctors, or those therapies, or the hard work from those who developed the therapies!

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted December 11, 2011 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

        A few years ago I sat through a nephew’s graduation from a Christian school. Drove me nuts the way the principal kept praising Jesus for the academic accomplishments of his students (as if Jesus wrote those term papers and sat for those exams) when the students themselves were standing right there in front of him. How about a little praise for them?

        • Posted December 11, 2011 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

          I think such behavior is somehow supposed to indicate humility, as in “I acknowledge that, often, I need help.” But really it’s a form of boasting, as in “did you all see how graciously and flippin’ awesomely I acknowledged that I needed help? I’m awesome.”

          • Kharamatha
            Posted December 12, 2011 at 7:48 am | Permalink

            More like, “I acknowledge that, often, you little losers need help, and I’m glad someone competent was there to save you from yourselves.”

            • Posted December 12, 2011 at 11:42 am | Permalink

              You are right. Your version jibes better with Gregory’s specific example. I guess I was thinking more about the general practice of thanking god for making x</i

            • Posted December 12, 2011 at 11:43 am | Permalink

              You are right. Your version jibes better with Gregory’s specific example. I guess I was thinking more about the general practice of thanking god for making x possible.

              • Posted December 12, 2011 at 11:49 am | Permalink

                Have I mentioned how much I dislike the new WP mobile format?

                The old one looked better and it made accidents like premature postingless likely.

                Two thumbsdown for this new disaster.

  2. Robert Michl
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

  3. bigjohn756
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    How bad must the other team feel. They pray just as hard as Teebow, but, he seems to be getting the most attention. I guess the Lord loves Tim better than he loves them.
    On the other hand, perhaps we should just wait a while and see what the statistics say about Teebow’s performance. Probability suggests that he will eventually wind up very little different from anyone else prayers or not.

    • Dave
      Posted December 11, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

      Not to mention what happens when he moves on to his next franchise. Will God follow? Or remain faithful to the Broncos?

      • bigjohn756
        Posted December 11, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

        Excellent point, Dave.

    • Nom de Plume
      Posted December 11, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

      How bad must the other team feel.

      Not all of them feel bad. For instance, there’s this Miami player who thinks God was the reason the Dolphins lost to Tebow last week:

      “I think us losing to Tim Tebow the way we did, we’ve seen it first hand,” Dansby told Jim Rome. “The young man is blessed. The young man has a special anointing on him.”

      “Don’t blame me, coach, the Lord just wasn’t on our side today!”. If I were his coach, my reply would be, “You got that right. Clean out your locker, asshole”.

      • Flounder99
        Posted December 12, 2011 at 6:30 am | Permalink

        I was doing fine, coach, ’til Jesus made me fumble.

      • Kharamatha
        Posted December 12, 2011 at 7:52 am | Permalink

        “Seven feet tall he was, with arms like tree trunks. His eyes were like steel: cold, hard. Had a shock of hair, red, like the fires of Hell.”

  4. kirkgray
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

  5. ForCarl
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    I have always thought that those who make the biggest show of their faith are the ones who are the most insecure within it. When you desperately need people to agree with your religious ideas so that your validation of opinion is held up by mere numbers, you are in trouble.

    However, this could just be Tebow’s giant ego at play. There’s nothing humble about this guy. Maybe he harbors the thought that HE is actually a god. The arrogance of claiming that a god took your side in a sports game is just as annoying as listening to people saved in a tornado vocally claim god protected them in front of families who lost their loved ones despite the fact that they also prayed for protection. It’s basic meanness. Tebow disgusts me.

    • Posted December 11, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

      God helps those, like Tebow, who help themselves to his his winning power.

      • ForCarl
        Posted December 11, 2011 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

        To his his winning power? Your needle is stuck.

        Are you talking about that god who terrified a young kid by having his dad prove his faith through sacrificing the kid? Yeah, that’s what I call “winning power.”

  6. Posted December 11, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    We die-hard Bronco fans don’t give a rip – we are happy for any W that comes our way :-) It does seem odd that Tebowing gets such attention, given all of the pointing skyward in baseball as well as football and the individual and mass kneeling that has gone on over the years. Gotta love hockey where the celebrations are an air punch and raising the sticks.

    More seriously, the Gott mit uns mentality of many xians only demonstrates the shallowness of their religion.

    • Microraptor
      Posted December 11, 2011 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

      No kidding- yesterday, thousands of children all over the world died of starvation, disease, or violence and yet these people think that there’s a god who watches out for their football team.

      I feel sick every time I hear someone talk about how their god provides X, Y, or Z for them.

  7. Linda Grilli Calhoun
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Matthew 6:1 – Do your alms in private. Those who do their alms in public have their reward; I say to you your reward shall be different.

    Tebow is having his reward. L

    • Pete Moulton
      Posted December 11, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

      You could even go a bit farther, Linda: Matthew 6:5 sayeth: “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites [are]: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.”

      Tebow and the rest of the xian religiotards haven’t even read the book they claim to venerate.

      • Scott near Berkeley
        Posted December 11, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

        That is a keeper!!

        I’m posting that whenever, wherever it’s possible and germane!

        • Pete Moulton
          Posted December 12, 2011 at 4:28 am | Permalink

          I’m guessing you’ll have lots of opportunity, Scott.

      • Flounder99
        Posted December 12, 2011 at 6:34 am | Permalink

        If I were the opposing coach I would have that written on every one of my player’s eye makeup.

  8. Posted December 11, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    I’ve always wondered what Stephen Fry really thought about the Auburn/Alabama game during his American road trip series.

  9. phhht
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    To me, Tebow embodies the quip about how religion is like a penis: fine to have, fine to be proud of, but not fine to take out and wave around in public. And not fine to shove down anybody’s throat.

    • Posted December 11, 2011 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

      I’m stealing that!

      • Notagod
        Posted December 12, 2011 at 11:37 am | Permalink

        OK but I warn you, its a bit like having a christian dangling from your innards, that is, doing all manner of irrationality.

  10. Tom W.
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    Aw, let the guy have his delusions. I’ve always taken the attitude that if these folks get some kind of satisfaction from fiddling with their religion, its no skin of my nose. I don’t have to spread my convictions. I’ll stand quietly during an invocation and let them get it out of their system….

    • Jack van Beverningk
      Posted December 11, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

      satisfaction from fiddling with their religion

      In reference to what phhht said at #9?
      … fine, but not in public.

    • Dominic
      Posted December 11, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

      Hmmm…
      I cannot sit by and not comment when I see people who are clearly spouting nonsense.

    • Notagod
      Posted December 12, 2011 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      The more you do that the more the christians will give it to you and take from you.

  11. Chuckie K
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Faith, hope and competition. And the greatest of these is competition.

  12. PeteJohn
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    I’m a huge sports fan and have grown extremely tired of the fawning praise that Tebow has been receiving ever since he stepped foot on the campus of the University of Florida. He’s a very good runner, he’s a smart player, and by all accounts is well liked and respected by teammates wherever he goes. But the media would have you believe Mr. Tebow is capable of motivating every single player at Florida (never mind that Florida was bringing in top 10 recruiting classes every year) and on the Broncos to do things above and beyond what they’re typically capable of doing. He’s capable of leading his team to victory due to the power of his own powerfulness. He had a few games earlier, which the Broncos won, where he played like garbage but made some nice plays late and was lauded for how well he played “in the big moment” disregarding they big moment was necessary because of his terrible play.

    The focus should be on how the Broncos are having success playing a particularly novel form of offensive football and whether this is likely to continue. But the endlessly and embarrassingly fawn-ful folks at ESPN would have you believe it’s already a success and that Tebow is, once again, proving what an endlessly special human being he is. Honestly, I kinda feel bad about Tebow at this point because he’s been built into a love ‘em/hate ‘em figure due to this pathetic “journalism.” His fans claim detractors hate him b/c of his public faith, and use it as evidence that Christians are persecuted in this world. The guy is just a football player and has been turned into something else. I just wish it would all go away. It’s just a damn football game!

    • Posted December 11, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

      Yup. I wish people would stop taking a small sample size of this season and talking about how much of a “winner” he is. Maybe he goes on to have a good NFL career…who knows? (Though, I’m still doubtful) But for every Ben Roethlisberger there are dozens more Rick Mirers, Damon Huards, and Derek Andersons.

      • PeteJohn
        Posted December 11, 2011 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

        Vince Young won a Rookie of the Year award and was considered a great winner, even though there were tons of doubters who had legitimate criticisms of his arm strength, accuracy, throwing mechanics, etc. Same critiques most “Tebow haters” have of Tebow. We shall see if he’s a Vince Young or if he can make strides and where he’ll go from here.

      • cornbread_r2
        Posted December 12, 2011 at 1:34 am | Permalink

        …and Heath Schulers grrrr

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heath_Shuler

    • Notagod
      Posted December 12, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

      Quit following sports in my early twenties. I like sports but can’t stand the people involved, including most of the fans. As you say “its just a game” and it should be presented that way. If they all burned in christianity I would likely not even know. Watching a bunch of millionaires get all freaky about it and the undeserved importance that society places on it is demeaning. Only watch/follow a little bit of tennis and a tiny bit of the game that can legitimately be called football.

  13. Posted December 11, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    One of the nuttiest aspects of religion is the belief that God really cares about whether one team or another wins a soccer, football, or baseball game.

    That ought to look nutty even to theists. Yet many theists don’t see it as any problem at all.

    • Posted December 11, 2011 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

      But if He doesn’t care who wins a football game, He might not care who wins a war, and then where would we be?

  14. Jacob
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    If there is any proof of god, it’s that the Lions are 8-5.

    • Occam
      Posted December 11, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

      If there is any proof of god, it’s that Barça thrashed Real Madrid last night 3-1. After being 1-0 down in the 24th second!

      God is Pep Guardiola. Lionel Messi, Andrés Iniesta and Xavi are the Trinity. Heaven is blaugrana (blue and deep red). The Second Coming will take place at Camp Nou.

      And the entire NFL, whether Broncos, Bears, Lions or other Beasts, is composed of heretics, marked for eternal damnation.

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 12, 2011 at 3:22 am | Permalink

      And, given yesterday’s game, proof that God has a helluva sense of humor…

      • Microraptor
        Posted December 12, 2011 at 10:06 am | Permalink

        Did the Lions eat the Christians?

  15. Ian
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    If Tebow believes that his God cares about the outcome of these games, then he should have a little more faith, and look to the bible (which, I assume, he believes to be literally true).

    If God wants to use the Broncos to demonstrate his power, there’s a perfectly good precedent – Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Elijah not only gave “the other team” an unopposed shot before he tried anything, he went on to soak the carcass with water and called on his God to send down fire.

    If Tebow had any faith, he’d first give the other team the ball and not oppose them in any way. And when they failed to score, he should stand on his 99-yard line with the ball, tell his team to stand aside, and score from there. Backwards, with his eyes closed. With the opposing team rushing him, of course. Anything less than that and I don’t really believe that your God cares about the outcome of the game.

    • Dominic
      Posted December 11, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      “The Lord taketh no pleasure in the strength of an horse, neither delighteth he in any man’s legs” as the psalmist said.

  16. Posted December 11, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    I never did like him …. Until I read your blog …..

    Thank you!

    • Dominic
      Posted December 11, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

      Hey Wayne…
      Which tribal god do you have then? Because that is what you have here, a very primitive religious view based on the idea that this particular god supports a violent sport and a particular team that plays that sport. It might work as a viewpoint if there are rival gods, but otherwise it is just totemic cultural primitivism.

    • Microraptor
      Posted December 11, 2011 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

      As if we needed any more proof of your trollness.

    • Draken
      Posted December 12, 2011 at 11:59 am | Permalink

      …and to hell with Matthew 6?

  17. Posted December 11, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    As a simple Aussie atheist, I have to say that American football and fundy religion is just Incomprehensibleness2

    • Dominic
      Posted December 11, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

      I get equally bugged by those footballers who do all the crossing themselves.

  18. DV
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    Most athletes are superstitious in some way.

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 12, 2011 at 3:24 am | Permalink

      Exactly what I was gonna say. Jim Leyland (Tigers manager) doesn’t change his underwear in the midst of a hot streak…

  19. Dominic
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    “It is said that God is always on the side of the big battalions” wrote Voltaire.

    • Dr. I. Needtob Athe
      Posted December 11, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

      Ah, so Napoleon stole that from Voltaire. Shame on him.

    • Christian
      Posted December 12, 2011 at 4:25 am | Permalink

      … or the one with the iron chariots :p

  20. Rod
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    I must say that until just now I’d never heard of Tebow, being Canadian and all. If anyone in the NHL tried any of that stuff, they would be a) laughed at and b) checked until they heard bells.
    Just play the damn game. Acknowledge when you are outplayed, and be modest in your crowing.

    • Dominic
      Posted December 11, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

      I always thought it was a type of steak.

      • Draken
        Posted December 12, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

        I saw what you did there!

    • Pete Moulton
      Posted December 13, 2011 at 4:36 am | Permalink

      You may see it yet, Rod. Rocco Grimaldi’s probably on his way to the NHL. Of course, it’ll depend on whether he can survive the WCHA, and things haven’t been going well for him so far this season.

  21. Posted December 11, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    So, Tebowing is now a verb. Hmm… so anyone engaged in such an activity is a Tebowner. Therefore if someone on the team does it, it could be legitimately said, “Oh, that team? It has a Tebowner for Jesus.”

  22. Posted December 11, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    Am I the only one who looked up Isaiah 40:31 to see if the last line about touchdowns was real?

    • JohnnieCanuck
      Posted December 11, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

      I hope so. I’m hoping you didn’t, as well.

      • Posted December 12, 2011 at 11:44 am | Permalink

        I totally did. And only because I grew up in church in Tuscaloosa, AL- where God is clearly a Bama fan- and so I wanted to know if my Sunday School teachers had been holding out on me, not telling us about Bible verses mentioning touchdowns…

    • Posted December 12, 2011 at 2:25 am | Permalink

      No. But only because I wondered if there was something else there instead.

  23. Posted December 11, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    Am I the only one that had to look up what osculate meant?

    • Filippo
      Posted December 11, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

      Osculating very often leads to lickspittling.

  24. Posted December 11, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    I thought everyone knew God is a basketball fan and guided Indiana University to a last second win over Kentucky. Football is too violent for him.

  25. mordacious1
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    Tebow being drafted by the Denver Broncos was the perfect storm. Denver is a weak team in a fairly weak division which is allowing Tebow to appear to be effective. He will never beat a good team.

    But also, he’s in Denver which is surrounded by a lot of evangelicals. Focus on the Family and other such groups abound, especially in the Colorado Springs area. If you read NFL blogs, you will notice a lot of posters who have never been football fans, but who are showing up to support their christian. If you write something negative about Tebow/christianity, they will vote your comment down. It’s a sort of reverse pharyngulation.

    All in all, it’s very annoying to watch, but it will be short-lived.

    • PeteJohn
      Posted December 11, 2011 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

      New England next week. A team that has an actual offense and at worst the second best QB in the NFL. They beat NE in a fashion other than with significant aid from the other team’s bad screw-ups, I’ll be impressed.

      • Larry Gay
        Posted December 12, 2011 at 3:26 am | Permalink

        I am praying that Tebow will run into Vince Willfork at full speed.

    • Nick Evans
      Posted December 12, 2011 at 5:54 am | Permalink

      Unless the Broncos rise again, of course.

      Can’t say I’m too bothered about this. Tebow seems to think that *everything* arises because of God’s grace. So when something nice happens it seems only polite for him to give thanks.

  26. Rick Graham
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    Tim should take his savior’s words to heart.

    Matthew 6

    1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.

    2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

    3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:

    4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

    5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

    6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

    • Pete Moulton
      Posted December 13, 2011 at 4:39 am | Permalink

      I guess Tebow just cherry-picked his way past that.

  27. Persto
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    Bruni and many Tebow supporters seem to be missing the point about Tebow’s public displays of faith.
    Now, the problem is not whether he is deserving of criticism or ridicule for his incessant professions of evangelical faith. He should be subject to criticism when deserving of it like any professional athlete or public figure. Certainly, no one can dispute that Tim Tebow should be allowed to utilize his First Amendment privileges anytime. No one can dispute his good behavior, which has been lawful and permissible to this point, and no one can dispute his athletic accomplishments. None of that is the problem. The problem with Tim Tebow’s public display of faith is the Christian community seems to think that Tebow’s success and subsequent praise of god, in some way, validates or confirms their religious beliefs. This problem is compounded by Tebow’s intermittent willingness to invoke and/or congratulate god for every athletic accomplishment. So, Tebow’s success and extolment of god, in the minds of many Christians, reaffirms and validates their religious beliefs. Well, what is awful about that? For starters it further entrenches religion in the minds of Christian individuals, but it also cultivates and promotes the type of religious belief (ie Christianity) that supports homophobia,sexism, racism, sexual repression, and child abuse.
    In addition, Tebow’s religion, which he asserts is the reason for his success, is the same religion that resists and sabotages the onward march of science and secular thought. Put succinctly, Christianity, particularly evangelical Christianity, denies equality and encourages ignorance. It deliberately and contentedly endorses and advances bigotry,hypocrisy, and inequality. It irritates me when someone says,”You must hate Tim Tebow because he’s a Christian?” (Unsurprisingly, non-Christians “hating” Christians, in the minds of Christians, also validates their religious beliefs.) My response is I do not hate Tim Tebow, but I do hate his religion and for that matter all religion. I have a deep-seated aversion for religion because it is uncompromising, irrational, unreasonable, unscientific, corrupt, fraudulent, deceitful, dogmatic, apocalyptic, racist, hypocritical, chauvinistic, repressive, murderous, contradictory, despotic, exploitative, tyrannical, oppressive, wishful, and erroneous. As Hitchens so brusquely stated,”Religion poisons everything.” For all of Christianity’s redeeming qualities (hope, love, joy, compassion, and kindness) it still possesses or has possessed the very worst attributes and record of any single institution. Christianity, at one time or another, was responsible,assisted, and/or justified the Inquisition, the Crusades, the wars of religion in Europe, the mass slaughter of Native Americans, the enslavement of millions of Africans and other indigenous peoples, the colonization of Africa, Asia, and the Americas, the execution of “witches” in Europe and America, the persecution and wanton killing of Jews, the censorship, persecution, and killing of individuals with differing opinions and beliefs, child abuse, the servility of the “lower classes” in Europe and the Americas, the subjugation of women, and Christianity has and continues to obstruct and impede the onward march of science and secular ideas. (To name but a few of Christianity’s worst moments.) I am reminded of Lucretius,”To such heights of evil are men driven by religion.” So, why do I disagree with and dislike Tim Tebow’s public displays of faith? I disagree because it speciously and inaccurately represents a religion that intentionally committed these atrocities and continues to promote and encourage bigotry and ignorance. A man kneeling for prayer to thank the god he deems responsible for his achievement is delusional and dim-witted, but I could tolerate it. However, when you kneel to pray in the name of a religion that is as immoral, reprehensible, and criminal as Christianity; I do have a problem with that.
    Lastly, it is a faux pas to presume all critics of Tim Tebow despise him personally or athletically. I, an atheist and critic, do not, but I do detest his public displays of faith because of what they denote, which is that a Christian god exists, that Tebow’s religion is based on the literal and inerrant word of this god, that Tebow’s religious lifestyle is the only way to live rightly and without sin, and that his religious beliefs are beyond disputation.

    Parting query I wonder if Tim Tebow would receive the same public support were he an American-Muslim football player?

    • PeteJohn
      Posted December 11, 2011 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

      Evidently critiquing the skills of a football player who also happens to be a devout Evangelical Christian is persecution in this country. Who knew?

  28. Cody Porter
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    Dawkins said it best:

    “I gather that Tim Tebow is extremely good at football. That’s just as well, for he certainly isn’t very good at thinking.”

    http://richarddawkins.net/articles/5032-the-great-tim-tebow-fallacy

  29. Neil
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    I love it when they kneel in the end zone after making a touchdown. I truly wonder what kind of faith lets people think their god cares. I do not believe in god, but if I did, I would surely think that my god cares about more important things. But maybe to these folks, there aren’t more important things.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted December 11, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

      For me, the offensive part is not that they think God cares. It’s that they see no ethical problem with playing in a game that’s been rigged by God in their favor. Seems to me the righteous thing for Christian athletes to do would be to pray to God to please stay out of it and let them compete on their own merits in a fair contest.

    • Posted December 11, 2011 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

      “…there aren’t more important things.”

      Ding ding ding.

      • Neil
        Posted December 11, 2011 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

        Well, I must admit, at the atheist/materialist/nihilistic level, perhaps there are no “more important things.” I still cling to the belief/hope/delusion that there are, but I am not prepared to defend that view at this time.

      • DV
        Posted December 12, 2011 at 8:16 am | Permalink

        You gotta think like an apologist. Of course you know God is a competent multi-tasker.

        • Draken
          Posted December 12, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

          He seems to be good at forking but his threading implementation sucks.

          /geek

  30. Posted December 11, 2011 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    I don’t so much care if he wants to pray about field goals on the sidelines or thank Jeebus for a touchdown. I think it’s pretty silly, but more or less harmless. Kind of like saying you missed the field goal or fumbled the ball because Mercury’s in retrograde. Or rather, I wouldn’t so much care if that was as far as it went. But in praying for it, Tebow is asking his God to choose the Broncos over any other team, and the implication when they win, especially in their now-characteristic nail-biting fashion, is that God has indeed favored the Broncos over their opponents.

    What really pisses me off and makes me hate Tebow – and, as a die-hard lifelong Broncos fan, it tears me up to hate Broncos QB1 – is garbage like what he said to Peter King after last week’s game:

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/writers/peter_king/12/05/Week13/index.html

    (scroll down to the bottom for the relevant passage)

    Tebow’s God “has a plan” for Blake Appleton, a kid with leukemia entering hospice care. Tebow’s God’s plan somehow involves making sure the Broncos win games and also letting a KID DIE OF CANCER.

    Tebow’s worldview is pretty typically Christian: when meaningless things go right (Go Broncos, we win!), it’s all thanks to God! When meaningful and horrible, unimaginable, awful things happen (like, I don’t know, a KID DYING OF CANCER), it’s okay because it’s all part of God’s plan!

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 12, 2011 at 3:34 am | Permalink

      Eeeuww. Makes my skin crawl. You would not think it possible to be that arrogant…

  31. Allen
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

    Any supernatural being who isn’t a hockey fan ain’t no gawd for me.

  32. Posted December 11, 2011 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    I admit that this amuses me.

    I am a football fans (and a Bears fan too; Jesus must really hate the Bears! :) ) and I admire Tebow’s football skills.

    As far as his constant references to the Cosmic Zombie: I am amused by it and not much else; Mr. Tebow is a football player and not a political leader or public intellectual. I honestly don’t care about his opinion on anything other than sports.

    The stuff that comes from so-called leaders like Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann and, more locally, Joe Walsh and John Shimkus bothers me a whole lot more.

  33. Posted December 11, 2011 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    I wonder what gyrations the fundy theology will go through if he breaks his neck or gets offed in a plane crash.

    • Microraptor
      Posted December 11, 2011 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

      Obviously it will turn out to be All Part of God’s Plan (which never involves condoms, fertility treatments, or stem cell research).

      • DV
        Posted December 12, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

        Except when it is the Devil’s doing. The Devil is sort of God’s kryptonite. God is very powerful but He’s powerless against the Devil. Come to think of it, God is also powerless against Man’s Free Will, which is funny it being just an illusion.

  34. Kevin
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    So, I’m surfing my favorite blo…um… web sites, while watching Sunday Night Football.

    And Bob Costas did a take-out about this during halftime.

    The impetus for this was the NYTimes article. And I think I’ll defend Tebow against the accusation that he thinks “god” is on his side and helps him win football games. Apparently, he doesn’t actually hold that position.

    What Tebow is guilty of is the same thing other “celebrities” are guilty of. That being using their fame in one area to provide them a bully pulpit to discuss things outside of their area of expertise.

    Actors do it all the time. They make a living being pretty and pretending to be someone else, and suddenly we’re supposed to care about who they’re voting for? (Though Hollywood is predominately Democratic, the last election had Jim Caviezel — the guy who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s movie — actually saying something in Aramaic on behalf of McCain!).

    I don’t particularly care for Tebow either as a person or as a football player. His politics are far, far to the right of mine, and his association with frank bigots like Focus on Family is disturbing.

    But I think I’ll dislike him for his actual beliefs, rather than the straw beliefs being discussed here.

  35. JKW
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    Bears fan here. Tebow has stated repeatedly that he is just expressing thanks to God in his profession in his own way, and that he does not believe God really cares about football and who wins and loses

    • Dominic
      Posted December 12, 2011 at 3:25 am | Permalink

      Not an Apologist JKW, surely?!

  36. Posted December 12, 2011 at 12:06 am | Permalink

    A Christian believes (actually KNOWS) that a Sovereign God is active in our lives. We are to do everything we do with excellence – to the best of our ability. The fact is that many who profess Christianity fail to walk the talk. We don’t actually pray for a particular team to win, but that the followers of Jesus serve their Master as commanded in Scripture. Tebow seems to be a lightning rod for detractors. He appears to me to be minding his own business and doing a great job.

    And yes – it is a blessing of God that we have the freedom to comment pro or con on the actions of others. It is odd how some label any who hold opposing views as lobotomized idiots. Too bad.

    • Filippo
      Posted December 12, 2011 at 5:15 am | Permalink

      Just curious – as regards the “knowing” of something, what is your understanding regarding the age of the Earth, and what is the basis of that understanding?

    • Linda Grilli Calhoun
      Posted December 12, 2011 at 6:55 am | Permalink

      A couple of us have quoted above Matthew 6:1-6.

      If Tebow is “minding his own business”, how, precisely, is his behavior reflecting that passage?

      It looks to me like it’s not.

      Please explain, without coming off like a lobotomized idiot. L

    • Persto
      Posted December 12, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

      Christians “don’t pray for a particular team to win.” So, why do they pray/thank god after every successful play or team victory? Why not kneel for prayer after an incomplete pass, a fumble, or thank god for a loss, since they are indifferent toward the outcome of the game? Shockingly, you never see this.

      “It’s the blessing of god that we can comment pro or con.” Nope that’s not right. Try blessing of the US Constitution. However, once again god gets the credit for human achievement and ingenuity.

      Christians are idiots. They are foolish and senseless, the very definition of idiot, but lobotomized idiots I think not. For that to be the case they would have to be tranquil fools.

  37. ambulocetacean
    Posted December 12, 2011 at 12:33 am | Permalink

    Who would want to worship a god who spends His weekends fixing football games for for a bunch of meathead multi-millionaires?

    And why is match-fixing bad when players do it but good when Jehova/Allah does it?

    I guess it just goes to show that there’s one rule for the omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, omnibenevolent creator of the universe and another rule for the rest of us.

    • Posted December 12, 2011 at 2:27 am | Permalink

      “I guess it just goes to show that there’s one rule for the omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, omnibenevolent creator of the universe and another rule for the rest of us.”

      Yes, that’s pretty much what William Lane Craig says.

    • Posted December 12, 2011 at 6:18 am | Permalink

      Every person, warrior, meathead or professor thinks he is the chosen one. Make the movie ‘Life of Brian’ compulsory at all schools.

  38. Dominic
    Posted December 12, 2011 at 3:23 am | Permalink

    Have you noticed, one Isaiah than the other?

  39. John Weiss
    Posted December 12, 2011 at 4:21 am | Permalink

    Gah! Public displays of one’s religious belief is like showing one’s private parts. For free. Ugh.

  40. Onychomys
    Posted December 12, 2011 at 6:23 am | Permalink

    Is the photo of him with the verse in his eyeblack from his pro career? I thought he had stopped doing that after leaving college.

    • mordacious1
      Posted December 12, 2011 at 7:56 am | Permalink

      College. I think the NFL would fine him if he showed up with that on his face during a game.

  41. Marta
    Posted December 12, 2011 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    “Jesus-soaked football”: perfectly descriptive, economical turn of phrase with just the right amount of derision.

    Nicely done.

  42. Jacob van Beverningk
    Posted December 12, 2011 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Today’s (12/12/2011) CNN poll:

  43. Ray Moscow
    Posted December 12, 2011 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    God helps Tim Tebow score a few touchdowns. Praise him!

    However, he’s too busy to save millions from dying in misery from disease, starvation and senseless violence. Priorities, people!

  44. Posted December 12, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    As a football lover and an occasional football essayist, I read Bruni’s thing (I mean, Bruni, now elevated to the heights of column writing, was the Times’s wine critic!) with intense irritation. He should go back to wine.

    Professional football goes through religious phases. After September 2001, both teams (that is, the players who bought into this crap) would kneel on the field after a game to do a group prayer, as I, watching on my TV, would do a solo curse, sitting up.

    My Giants, guided by an Irish Catholic head coach, kneel in the locker room after a game and pray. I won’t, can’t talk about the ’80s, when the Irish Catholic owner had his players demonstrating outside women’s health clinics.

    My argument against god-in-football is twofold: first, the only god we non-believers can associate with the game is the pantheistic football god, who does pay attention to our “prayers” but who is monstrously cruel, much crueler than the Old Testament Jewish god, who was pretty fucking wicked. And the football god is a fan’s god only; the players apparently associate themselves with a much higher force.

    And second, football professionals who give themselves over to a “god” are not taking full responsibility for their own actions. By diminishing their human existence and talents before a mighty god, they are bleeding themselves of their human powers to play the damn game.

    “God” makes football players passive, just as it does for all believers. “God,” therefore, is altogether a bad deal for the human race. Which, incidentally, does include professional football players. And the insane people who, despite everything, love them.

  45. Posted December 12, 2011 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    When I read this post yesterday, I wished I could think of a sarcastic, snappy comment. Dan Gardner, a columnist from the Ottawa Citizen, said it better than I could:

    “Today, 2,139 people were killed by malaria because God was too busy helping Tim Tebow win another fucking football game.”

  46. Posted December 12, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    From my limited perspective, football *is* one of the great American religions.

  47. Posted December 12, 2011 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    I suppose that it was inevitable – http://tebowing.com/ – some of them are hilarious! I think that JAC should be the first of the Top 50 to post a tebowing post, and perhaps you could convince the site that the need an Atheist subsection.

  48. Sean
    Posted December 12, 2011 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    Nobody mentioned that Tebow is probably a victim of extreme indoctrination as a child.

    His father is an evangelical with some extreme beliefs (http://www.btea.org/whatwebelieve.asp) minister and his mom wanted to run anti-choice ads.

    Who the hell runs anti-abortion ads with there MOM???

  49. john
    Posted December 14, 2011 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    God hates Philadelphia Eagles and their wicked fans:
    4 Though thou exalt thyself as the eagles, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the LORD.

  50. Posted December 15, 2011 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    OK, so Tebow is the crazy side of American footbal. I’m sure we have a few crazies in real football here in the UK, but as a contrast I offer the philosophical, though occasionally troubled, Joey Barton (former Man City player who stubbed a cigar in a colleague’s eye, among other misdemeanors[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joey_Barton], now playing for QPR): https://twitter.com/#!/Joey7Barton


2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] Football: Tim Tebow and his Zombie Yes, I watched today’s Bears-Chargers game, and yes, I think that Tim Tebow is a good player who really helps his team. But he is very outspoken about his personal superstitions and that has drawn attention from a variety of quarters, including those who really don’t follow football. [...]

  2. [...] 7. It is often said that man created God in his picture. A bizarre example is a sportsman who believes God is a football supporter. [...]

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