Tim Tebow is an anomaly – in more ways than one. Although he plays quarterback for the Denver Broncos, he seems to run as much as he passes. (For those of you not familiar with the National Football League, a quarterback traditionally throws the ball much more than he runs with it.) And when he does throw, he has an unorthodox throwing motion. As a result, many sports analysts dislike him as an NFL quarterback. But the criticism doesn’t end there. You see, Tebow is also a religious Christian whose values influence his conduct both on and off the field. As a result, many people dislike him as a person.
“The Tebow Effect”
Lev Echad blog
We all have our animal inside. The point is not simply to muzzle that animal, but to harness its power. To determine what sort of an animal this is and what can be done with it.
A sheep, for example, is easily domesticated and doesn’t care to hurt anyone, while an ox may kick and gore. But did you ever see a sheep plow a field?
-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
If you’re a religious person, do you ever feel a little picked on by the world around you? Do you ever feel that you are sometimes misjudged by secular society or even by your atheist friends and family members? Do you ever get a little angry and want to snap back at them when they call you “ignorant” or “unscientific” or “superstitious” or even a “bigot?” If you do, then I suppose that makes you human. It also speaks to Rabbi Freeman’s commentary on “Your Beast”. Christians are sometimes taught to “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39) when confronted unfairly, and many times we do. Sometimes we don’t and there are even times when some of us are really unfair.
When Stella Harville brought her black boyfriend to her family’s all-white church in rural Kentucky, she thought nothing of it. She and Ticha Chikuni worshiped there whenever they were in town, and he even sang before the congregation during one service.
Then, in August, a member of Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church in Pike County told Harville’s father that Chikuni couldn’t sing there anymore. And last Sunday, in a moment that seems from another time, church members voted 9 to 6 to bar mixed-race couples from joining the congregation.
“Rural Kentucky church revisits ban on interracial couples”
Los Angeles Times
Examples like this are fairly rare, but they do exist and unfortunately, once they make national and even international headlines, this is what the secular world sees as Christianity. Could this be why so many people who cheer on quarterback Tim Tebow of the Denver Broncos want him to keep quiet about his Christianity, at least in public?
Whether or not Ebersole endorses that view or merely observes it, he definitely touches on a common perception of public religion. Believe whatever you want and worship whoever you want with your family in private. But when you step into the public arena, you can’t say much more than “God bless you” and “God bless America” without stirring controversy. This idea, that religion belongs only in the home, underlies the principle of public reason that I discussed in my last post.
“Tebowing as a Political Metaphor”
If you believe in free speech rights, rights to peaceful assembly, and rights to worship in the religion of your choice, then even if you are an American atheist, you must support the right of Tim Tebow or anyone else to hold whatever beliefs they wish, whether you agree with them or not. However, as Fryman just pointed out, most people want us to be quiet about it. I’m sure it would be “safer” for us to do so, to gather in our churches and our synagogues and to keep to ourselves. I don’t mean “safer” in the sense that we would be physically threatened if we chose to pray in public, such as before eating a meal at our local restaurant, but safer in the sense that we wouldn’t have to hear how “bad” we are (perhaps because of our stance on some hot political and social topic such as abortion, same-sex marriage, or “creationism”). We also wouldn’t have to take as much fallout over news reports of those little religious anomalies like the aforementioned interracial banning Kentucky church.
It’s interesting because, in response to the media backlash on the Kentucky church’s controversial vote, that church may be changing its tune. In this case, I applaud them for rethinking their blatantly racist position, but it does bring up a disturbing thought. Racism and banning interracial couples in a house of worship cannot be reasonably supported from how I understand the Bible, but what about those times when we, as people of faith, do take a stand based firmly on our faith, that does contradict societal political correctness? Should we just keep our mouths shut and stay “safe” or open our mouths and be dismissed as hateful bigots? Or should we change our minds in order to better fit in with what the secular world wants out of us: compliance with established social norms?
If it’s a matter of faith and principle, I believe we should stand our ground. Otherwise, our faith becomes a sham and our identity as disciples of the Master becomes a paper-thin mask hiding the fact that we are no different from people who claim no faith in God (and there are churches already doing this). Fryman’s final comments on his blog tell us why we must not hide who we are and, God forbid, cave in to media and social pressure.
Tim Tebow is Christian. Sounds obvious, I know, but his critics (of his religiosity, not his quarterbacking) don’t seem to understand. I know he’s Christian, but does he have to be so damn religious every time he opens his mouth?! Yes, he does. Because that’s what religion is: a way of life. Football is his life, so of course his football is Christian. If politics were his life, his politics would be Christian too.
There are times when it is best for us to be as meek as sheep but sometimes we are faced with a task such as “plowing a field”. Sheep can’t do the heavy lifting but an ox can. Both of those natures are part of us for a reason. The trick is knowing which trait to display and under what circumstances. Some expressions of our faith are best demonstrated in private prayer or in our houses of worship. But our faith, if authentic, is not just a weekly plug-in we connect to on Saturday or Sunday. It is who we are more than any other aspect of our being. Like the gay community is so fond of saying of themselves, we should “live out loud” our lives of faith.