The fad of “Tebowing” swept the nation last week faster than you could say “Jesus Christ”. You’ve no doubt seen pictures of people in the grocery store, on the beach, or in the office, down on one knee, elbow propped up, eyes closed, in a thoughtful pose of prayer, mimicking the position often assumed by the Denver Broncos would-be savior, quarterback Tim Tebow.
Luckily it seems that Tebowing has gone the way of Tamagatchis, Yo-Yo’s and Furbies. But the media, always hungry to manufacture meaningless outrage, even as our world slowly disintegrates and the future of America hangs in the balance, pounced on this one like a hungry parishioner on a communion wafer.
It all started last Sunday when Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch sacked Tebow during Detroit’s dismantling of the Broncos. Immediately following the sack, Tulloch got down on one knee over the fallen QB, in a familiar pose. He Tebowed Tebow.
Things like this happen every week, mind you. A defensive end puts on an imaginary championship belt after bringing down Aaron Rodgers. A safety runs down the field with his arms out like a plane in midair after picking off Mark Sanchez (too often). A cornerback slips on a comfy pair of man-Uggs after batting away a Tom Brady crossing route (Ok this never happened, but it should. I’m looking at you, Antrel Rolle).
But this was different. This time, GOD himself was involved. How dare Tulloch, or any other individual for that matter, mock the quarterback’s religious fervor? After all, he is a devoted child of God. An evangelical Christian. A man who has saved lives. A missionary (I always find that ironic). The second coming of Jesus, some even go as far as to say. That’s why Bruce Arthur, in Canada’s National Post, ran a story with the headline “Tim Tebow mocking enters dangerous territory”. Arthur is only one in a vast sea of journalists whose outrage has reached embarrassing levels (see also Jen Floyd Engel). Their message: how dare you mock Tebow for his beliefs? He is a child of God, and no one has the right to express real or imagined anger at that fact. To do so would infringe upon his rights as a human being, and demean a life that is better than yours.
Someone pass the puke bucket.
Let’s first take a look at Tebow’s own reaction to the Tulloch incident: “He was just celebrating, having fun with his teammates and I don’t take offense to that,” the QB said. Amen. You can say what you want about Tebow (I’m getting there…), but that is a measured, calm, and totally appropriate response. Tebow knows that in the game of football emotions run high, things are said and done that are later regretted, and knee-jerk reactions are not always fair. He saw Tulloch’s act for what it was – a humorous celebration, no harm intended.
When Tebow himself can brush aside that supposed affront, why is the media in a frenzy? Instead of focusing on people teasing a man for his belief in God (even though that isn’t the case), the media should focus on something else: Tim Tebow is not someone to be defended. Or admired. Or put up as a poster child for anything other than condescension and hate. I say this with no sense of irony. Why? Because Tebow is all of the below: intolerant, condescending, patronizing, and barbaric. It’s just that the media chooses not to notice.
I have never been hit harder by an article in Sports Illustrated, my favorite publication, than on July 27, 2009. That day I opened up the magazine to see a story titled “You Gotta Love Tim Tebow”. Do I? Because after reading it, I was almost positive he didn’t like me.
Never before in SI had I come across a discussion of religion presented in such a blatantly “un-sports” way. The article chronicled some of Tebow’s on-field successes, but his off-the-field work as a missionary and motivational speaker was the main focus.
Here’s the gist: Tebow visits prisons around the country with the hope of saving death-row inmates. His orations, it is hoped, will turn their lives around and turn them into his fellow “brothers of Christ.” He also does missionary work overseas, hoping to turn the cannibals and God-less mongrels of the Philippines into fellow devotees to Jesus.
The whole thing is sickening, as is the concept of missionary work. But one small quote stood out. Some might scoff and say it really doesn’t mean what it seems. Others will call me too thin-skinned, but this quote alone has shaped my opinion of Tim Tebow, now and forever. It is spoken by Jim Williams, an electrical contractor who volunteers at the correctional facility where Tebow often speaks. Call him Tebow’s spiritual advisor. He says of Tebow:
“His mama trusts me with him. She doesn’t want him to spend his limited time speaking to Kiwanis clubs. She wants him speaking to people who are not Christians, people who are going to hell.”
Excuse me Mr. Tebow. Can you help me? I’m a nice fella from New York. I try my best not to hurt others. I do what I can to help those in need. But there’s just one problem. I’m Jewish. Unfortunate, I know. I’d really like to avoid hell at all costs. I hear it sucks down there. Can you help me?
Tim Tebow might be a child of God, but this isn’t the God that I (and millions like me) know. My God is tolerant. He looks down on Jews, Catholics, Muslims, Taoists, and atheists all the same. Did you live your life the right way? Do you do your best to make the world a better place? Then you’re going upstairs when all is said and done.
But those who worship Tebow are worshipping intolerance. How can anyone in their right mind think that a non-believer in Christ is destined for hell unless he changes his ways? There isn’t a word strong enough for this kind of parochial and narrow-minded way of thinking. Unfortunately, half of America agrees with Williams and Tebow. That quote gave the Religious Right a collective hard-on.
And therein lies the problem. So often the media focuses on the “good” Tebow does. Even I can’t help but admire the fact that he lives what appears to be a life of selflessness, in which his main goal is to help others. But the way he goes about it is abhorrent. To say that I am bound to burn in hell because I don’t believe in what you do is the climax of condescension. In that same article, a former teammate of Tebow’s at the University of Florida muses that the quarterback never forces his beliefs on others, but rather lives in such a way that others will want to follow him. Ok, so in other words, he knows he’s better than the rest of us non-believers, but he’s just not gonna say anything about it to our faces. What a load of bullshit. Tim Tebow’s outward shows of devotion and worship are nothing more than self-aggrandizing exercises. Through his actions he says to the world: “I am better than you, now follow me and you’ll all be saved.” This only makes the world a more dangerous place to live, where intolerance runs rampant.
Bruce Arthur can talk all he wants about the dangers of mocking Tebow. But the biggest danger to decency, decorum and acceptance in this country is Tebow himself.