Richard Lee is the Lead Pastor of Bethany Well Church in Fort Lee, NJ. The views expressed here are his own and not those of the church.
When a noun becomes a verb, it has reached a level of transcendence in the vernacular of the culture.
Go and Xerox a memo. Facebook me. Just Google it.
Tim Tebow has now reached that rarified air that few nouns reach. His name has now become a verb. "Tebowing" is now the word that people use to strike a pose in the prayer position above. It is most often used derisively of the Denver Broncos QB ("Tebowing" has a website dedicated to it. It has become a mild internet phenomenon, a la 'planking'). But his name has now transcended the football culture.
The fact that Tebow has transcended the NFL is clear. He's been written about in the Wall Street Journal, the NY Times, and countless other news outlets. And I'm not talking about their Sports sections. In fact, in the perhaps the most telling evidence of his transcendence, a woman in my church just "facebooked:" Out of curiosity I googled Tim Tebow cause everyone has been talking about him lately. Woah, I gotta start watching some football!
Even if you're not a football fan, you've probably already heard about Tim Tebow and wondered what the big deal is about him. You've probably heard two things.
1. All he does is win. The Broncos were 1-4, in last place and were headed to a dismal season under QB Kyle Orton. But once Tebow took over as the QB, Denver has gone 7-1, and has propelled themselves to first place. But more than that, it's the way that Tebow has done it. He's won in come-from-behind fashion late in the 4th quarter. And usually he's done it after looking very mediocre as a QB for the first three quarters. Thus, the 4th quarter in a close game in Denver has become known as "Tebow Time."
2. All he does is talk about Jesus. This is the other thing that he's known for. Every interview he does, he first thanks his "Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." Seriously. Every time. There are plenty of Christian athletes playing. Every once in a while you will see a circle after an NFL game with dozens of players praying in a circle. This circle happens after every game. But we rarely see it. And none of those players have ever been known for their faith. Tim Tebow is known for his faith.
There's been quite a reaction to him and his outspokenness of his faith. Some respect him for his character and leadership, but want to hear less about his faith. Some have flat-out mocked him for his faith*. And it's the mean-spirited, mocking backlash that I find the most troubling. It's one thing to think he throws a wounded duck for a pass. But to mock, root against, or even hate him for his faith is another altogether.
* Although, to be fair, most of the criticism in football circles has been around his throwing skills as a Quarterback, or lack thereof.
I think the reaction to him has shown that as a culture, we are, in many ways, unable to have a civil conversation about God and faith. At face value, all Tebow does is thank Jesus. If an athlete started every interview by saying, "First of all, I'd like to thank my mom and dad," no one would make a big deal out of it. Or if they thanked their high school football coach or wife, no one would care. In fact, I think people would admire that.
But, mention God—or worse, JESUS!— and suddenly, there's a backlash. He's not proselytizing. He's not saying, "You're going to hell." All he's doing is acknowledging the one to whom he's thankful. And here's the thing, I'm convinced that if he thanked "Yahweh" or "Allah" no one would think twice about it.
I'm not quite sure why that is. I'm not naive that Christians haven't always been the best examples in society historically or currently. However, it does remind me of a certain Bible passage that may be pertinent.
“See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”
~ Romans 9:33, quoting Isaiah 8:14