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.