We Need More Tebows

By now every pop culture columnist in America has chimed in on the Tim Tebow “controversy,” of which my favorites have been Daniel Foster’s take in National Review and Kevin Craft’s in The Atlantic. Both of these articles point out, rightly, that Tebow’s critics are largely unnerved by his sincerity and unflappably earnest devotion to his beliefs. It’s not his constant talk of God that’s the problem; it’s that he so clearly believes what he’s saying and lives his life accordingly. It’s unironic. It’s no mere lip service. He takes things seriously. As Chuck Klosterman notes in his meandering Tebow treatise, he has a faith that “defies modernity” and “makes people wonder if they should try to believe things they don’t actually believe.”

As a Christian a few years older than Tebow (and, full disclosure: a Broncos fan) I see in this guy an enviable model of what it means to be a Christian in the public square. Tebow didn’t seek to become the flashpoint of discussions of faith in public life, but he has. Tebow has gotten more secular people talking about faith than most pastors ever do. And he’s doing it not from a Pat Robertson-esque bully pulpit but from a vocation he’s been called to, is good at, and publicly gives God glory for.

From the perspective of a Christianity increasingly confused about how and what to be in an increasingly secular world, Tebow is a laudable icon. We need more Tebows.

We need more Tebows because:

  • He’s an incredibly hard worker and is great at what he does. He wouldn’t be in the position he is if he lacked a strong work ethic and valued excellence. If Christians want to make an impact or have a voice in this world, they must first earn that position by being great at something and working hard.
  • He’s vocal about his faith. It’s become popular for Christians to advise other Christians to live quiet lives of steadfast vocation and faithful presence and just kind of bide their time, establishing relationships that might one day lead to a God conversation, etc. without really drawing attention to the fact of their faith. That’s bogus. Tebow reminds us that if we truly believe what we say we believe about Jesus Christ, we can’t be kept silent. We will want to acknowledge him and give him the glory whenever we have the opportunity.
  • He practices what he preaches. Tebow isn’t all talk. If he were, the Jake Plummers of the world would be right to critique his God talk. But Tebow honors God not only in post-game interviews but in his extensive charity work. He helps doctors perform circumcisions in the Philippines, where he is also building a new children’s hospital. He spent most of his $2.5 million signing bonus on various worldwide charity organizations focusing on famine, education and home-building. He hopes to turn his downtown Denver loft into a soup kitchen. He preaches the gospel at all times and has earned the right to use words.
  • He’s upright. He’s the kind of squeaky-clean, trustworthy hero that entire generations of kids have been lacking. Of course there’s plenty of time for all of us to be letdown by him, but right now he comes across as a genuinely good person. This bothers some people, which is a shame. We need models of moral living. In the name of “authenticity” we’ve come to value people who are broken or at best rough around the edges. But is there no value in looking up to the most respectable among us and aspiring to be like them?
  • He’s humble and not self-aware. What a breath of fresh air it is to see someone who thanks God and his teammates after every win rather than tooting his own horn; someone who responds to criticisms about his still-developing skills by agreeing that he could improve. In a sport dominated by larger-than-life egos, Tebow seems hardly to even know he’s an NFL star.
  • He’s sincere. We need desperately to rediscover the spirit of seriousness and sincerity embodied by Tebow. The ubiquity of irony and jadedness is toxic in our culture. Thank you, Tim Tebow for being refreshingly sincere in a world of cynical and silly.
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27 responses to “We Need More Tebows

  1. I would suggest that Tim Tebow is the Oliver Cromwell of the NFL. His zeal and sincerity have given him a confidence and leadership ability that is quite rare these days. He will be the Cromwellian Lord Protector of Denver until the Johns, Elway and Fox, flinch and restore the Broncos to the old Monarchist ways.

  2. I’m sorry but I really don’t see the connection between professional football
    and Christainty. The average career of a professional football player is 3 to 4 years. Every year major injuries end their careers. And for most x football players they go through the rest of their short life (average life span 55 years) they are in pain and disfigurement. Football is one of the most violent sports ever created. It’s basically controlled war. And you tell me this is Christian….with the ultimate man of peace Jesus in it. Please!

  3. NO we don’t need more Tebows.
    We need people to do Christ work quietly and without fanefare.
    There are lots and lots of Christians who do what Tabow does
    but they give and serve as Jesus instructed…like the woman who gave anonymously in the temple. I’m sorry but I really don’t see the connection. What if a Jew did what he does, or God forbid a Muslim. Christians would be jumping all over the place screaming “look what they’re doing to Christian America”. Football has become THE secular religion so it’s only natural that Tabow would be announted a spititual saint. This is truly sad. The most violent sport blessed by THE man of peace?
    who give

    • Mo,
      It doesn’t seem like Brett’s point is to claim that football and Christianity are intertwined somehow (although I do get a sense that he would). He’s commending Tim Tebow’s character as a person and as a Christian. While Brett didn’t quote Scripture, all the points that he made about Tebow’s character could be backed up by the Bible. Is his profession so “bad” to you that we can’t even admire these Christian qualities?

      • For me the greatest Christian quality is the one that
        you don’t have to state but simply live.
        Tebow is definitely not the only Christian football player.
        he’s the most obvious of course. So does that make him and
        better Christian and those who you don’t see “acting” Christian
        any less. a Christian.Christianty is a doing, a verb not just a noun. And the greatest
        Christian ( I believe) are the ones who never have to say what they are
        because their love of God is such a shining light that everyone wants
        to be a part of what they have.
        There are lots of Christian brothers who pray every time they get a touch down, in college and the pros. Tebow is not the first. But as a quarterback,
        his prayers are more obvious but I really don’t think you can say he’s doing more than any other Christian player has done on or off the playing field.
        But that’s not even the point, I was making. All of this “posturing” by him or any other player, for that matter that proclaims any of them as Christian,
        as nothing to do with the Christ was all about. And this is even more so, in football a most violent game.
        Let Tebow start loosing and see what the owners say. You think the owners of his team care if he’s a Christian or not? Come on.
        Like Al Davis use to say is what they think “just win baby!”
        (that) Light.

      • Personally I’m very happy for Tebow.
        He’s a good man, period. But he’s not the only
        Christian, though his faith is up front.
        Through the years, I’ve seen many Christian
        football players step up as leaders of their team.
        They know what they are up against.
        They know the odds and how easy it is to have
        a career ending injury.
        Thus…in need of prayer.
        professional footbal players are treated like
        gladiators. It’s that plain and simple.
        As far as owners are concerned
        do you really think they care if you are a Christian or not.
        You state loosing or get hurt, you are gone.
        A gladiator who got ate up by the lions/ the system

  4. Thanks Brett. You are right – he has caused more people to stop and think about faith and why they are annoyed by him. I think we could call him a “stumbling block” and stumbling blocks are necessary for someone to see the gospel clearly. And I also like football. Not really pro football, but college. Enough with this silliness about it being violent. I would consider fox hunting more violent than football.

  5. Yeah right, like fox hunting paralyzes 2 to 3 high school kids every year and gives a half a dozen college kids a permanent injury for life.
    I like football too…but what does that has to do with Jesus is nothing.
    No more than jets flying over and people singing the American Anthem
    before…the game/war.|
    He has not caused me to stop and think about my faith other than to think, how trivialized Christanity has become and that football is now THe secularized religion in America.
    Look at the madness of Penn State and all college football programs where young men are recruited zealously for the money they can bring to a program. No it ain’t about Jesus..it’s about profit.

    • What are you going on and on about? Can you at least stick to the point that Brett is trying to make instead ranting about things that no one here is even talking about.

  6. Violent: 1. Acting with or marked by or resulting from great force or energy or emotional intensity (Webster’s)

    Jesus, the docile man of peace, would never, ever participate in or endorse anything that we would describe as “violent”. Especially anything that involved good-natured competition, heavy training and rules that forbid one player from intentionally harming another with malice. And Jesus’ profession and lifestyle clearly were a testament to subtle, discreet actions that called zero attention to himself and guaranteed longevity and quality of life past his early 30′s.

  7. Bobby Bear the great country singer had a hit years ago:
    “Drop kick me Jesus through the goal post of life”
    “End over end neither left nor right”
    I think this is what Jesus and football is.
    Something commerical and crass and bottom line…money.
    He would throw out the money changers of this NEW temple
    to greed. They are not (to me) his flock.

  8. I would argue that Bobby Bare’s crass blend of Jesus + Football + Country Music was a providential setup for you to make that vintage ironic cultural reference for “such a time as this”.

  9. But that’s what Jesus becomes in the marketplace of commerce,
    crass and commercial to the LCD lowest common denominator.
    And of course was was the opposite of this.

  10. Here’s a good supplemental reading to your post Brett. It talks about how a Christian should live in this celebrity culture. http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2011/12/08/celebrities-heroes-and-slanderous-jealousy/

  11. How, by the very definition of “lowest common denominator”, would you apply that term to “the most polarizing quarterback in the NFL”? The guy kneels in prayer every time he scores a touchdown, to the jeers and mockery of so many players and commentators. I think that Tebow is more aware than anyone else in the NFL that America is not a Christian nation.

  12. So praying after a touchdown makes Tebow and Christian?
    And he knows America is not a Christian nation because
    some peope jeer him. Come on, they jeer and mock
    the singing of the American Anthem too…because they think
    “come on lets do this game”. To equate the jeers to Tebow
    and America not being a Christian nation is nonsense. America is
    a Christian nation not because of football, that crazy.
    Sports is just the peace time way of war, when men are not
    warring. Man hates peace… and loves war because there’s
    a war within him…that ultimately he must win.
    This is Christ message.

  13. Great post Brett… Couldn’t agree more.

  14. Bobby Bare had it right
    “Drop kick me Jesus through the goalpost of life”.
    That’s what the marketplace of fame, and commerciality
    has done to the One.

  15. Thank you once again for writing such well thought out and phrased posts. You are a breath of fresh air and encouragement to me, Brett. I so heartily agree with what you present so straightforwardly here.

  16. I love how he glorifies the Lord :)

  17. Pingback: Tim Tebow Not Ashamed of Jesus | American Freedom

  18. Some of the comments in this post have helped to vividly illustrate to me how not only can one make an idol out of something one loves but one can just as easily make an idol out of something they hate as well.

  19. Brett, I’m with you cheering for Tebow until you make this statement:

    “If Christians want to make an impact or have a voice in this world, they must first earn that position by being great at something and working hard.”

    Some of us will never be great at anything, no matter how hard we work, and some of us will never even work…as Christians, our place, our voice, and our impact is all unearned. Some won’t listen to us if they don’t see evidence of hard work or great talent, and we do earn some people’s trust and respect that way, but people to respond to truth wherever they hear it, however they hear it, if they are looking for the truth. We should be willing to speak for Jesus even when we
    can’t get work, or when we aren’t great at anything. He doesn’t disown us for that.
    He isn’t a performance-based God; but we as hard-working Americans want to see Him that way sometimes. That way, if we get A’s and succeed at work, we can call ourselves better Christians. It may or may not be true.

  20. I read Klosterman’s article and share a similar sentiment about this phenomenon, although I think we should be (I hope Tebow would want us) less focused on him and more on Who his life reflects. http://musingsinmontage.wordpress.com/2011/12/07/a-matter-of-faith/

  21. I think Tim’s actions bring to light the conflict in today’s church between standing by God v. standing by “men.” The idea that Christians shouldn’t proclaim Christ is simply a lie. Take Psalm 40, for example. It is an awesome passage about proclaiming God’s mercy and grace. Some believe that Christians should earn the respect of nonbelievers through example alone, as not to offend them; all the while Christians are asked to respect others’ proclamation of beliefs under the guise of political correctness. Any Christian would agree that faith without deeds is dead (James 2) but to not proclaim His glory just doesn’t jive with our “secular” actions. We all know people who are passionate about their country, or sports team, and will openly give glory to them…whereas Christians are not supposed to praise Jesus, who takes the penalty of our sins and gives the gift of eternal life with Him? Tim has been given a platform that most of us will never have he has decided, rather than keep the most important aspect of his life to himself, to use his spotlight to bring glory to his Savior. He has clearly chosen to stand by God, rather than “be cool” with everyone, which sounds a lot like Jesus.

    But honestly (and unfortunately), as much as I’d like to think that all this controversy has come on account of Tim’s faith, I think it has much more to do with the win column. Nobody’s talking about Colt McCoy, another openly Christian quarterback, because he’s on a losing team. However, I think this topic comes at an important time when our country is losing hope in our president (& presidential candidates), our economy, and other “foundations” that aren’t as solid as the Rock.

    “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” – Romans 10:14

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