I’m a fan of the religious magazine Religion Dispatches and in a recent article author Carter Turner writes that in regards to all the Tim Tebow-mania, “there’s an elephant in the room, and it’s not wearing a football jersey.” Turner tells that the driving issue behind all the Tebow curiosity goes beyond his public displays of religion, “people are watching because for many, his games are about whether or not a God exists who intervenes in human history—even in the mundane, like football.” Turner is definitely onto something here, and goes on to say that “people are watching The Tebow Show because he’s a second-rate quarterback… and winning games, often against great odds while playing his best at the most opportune times.” Turner points out that a recent poll has found that 43% of those polled thought that God was intervening to help Tebow and the Broncos win. What Turner sees then, is that this elephant in the room is a theological question of whether God intervenes in history and rewards people who have faith.
While Turner is certainly smarter than me, I don’t think he goes far enough in his critique of conservative Christians and their love affair with Tebow. As a former conservative and current liberal Christian I see what’s going on; amongst conservative, Evangelical Christians, it’s not a question that God intervenes in history and rewards faith—it’s an indisputable truth. This Tim Tebow thing is a real-life example of their theological assumption that God rewards faith. It’s similar to the “Prosperity Gospel” way of thinking—if you believe, God will bless you.
Can’t get a job? It’s because you don’t have enough faith God will get you one. Things didn’t work out the way you wanted? It’s because you didn’t spend enough time in prayer. Lacking the money to pay the bills this month? If you trusted God, he would have provided. Tim Tebow is exhibit A for this line of thinking, the “miraculous” wins by Tebow and the Broncos are due to God rewarding Tim’s great faith, just ask Tebow’s dad.
This is my real problem with Tim Tebow, or rather, the Evangelical Christian takeover of Tim Tebow is that rather than just appreciating his genuine personality and authentic spirituality, Tebow has been made into an example of why we’re not good enough—if we had enough faith, all these good things would be happening to us. It’s like the convenience of every self-help book; if the program doesn’t work for you it’s because you didn’t follow it/commit to it/ dedicate yourself to it enough. Just like every self-help guru, God conveniently gets off easy—it’s not God’s fault you don’t have a job, you should have had more faith God would provide, because then he would have.
I’m a Broncos fan, I’m a Tim Tebow fan, and I’m a Christian and I want to enjoy the spectacle of the unexpected happening, admire a guy who isn’t ashamed of who he is, and respect a guy who actually practices what he preaches (whether I agree with it or not). What I don’t want is for some Christian personality to cram their theology down my throat while also trying to guilt me into thinking that my life would be better if I had the faith of Tim Tebow. Do I hate Tim Tebow? I guess not–what I hate is Christians constructing a Tim Tebow systematic theology. You can believe what you want to believe, but keep your theology off my quarterback.
Oh, and for the record, Tebow himself has blown off the idea that God is “miraculously intervening” on his behalf.