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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Religious Experts Try to Tackle the Tim Tebow Phenomenon

Tim Tebow is one of the most fascinating people the sports world has ever known. The most beloved man in Denver’s on-field success is a truly remarkable story, but it is another topic that occupies the minds of the masses week in and week out: Tebow’s religious faith.

In order to dive further into a phenomenon that has become unrivaled by any in sports history, the USA Today sought out the opinion of a number of scholars who specialize in religion.

“Tim is who he is,” Brent High, the Associate Director of Athletics for Spiritual Formation at Lipscomb University, explained. “If you are a Christian, he is your absolute flag-bearer in the sports world. You cheer for him and you hurt for him when he takes the beating that he takes. If I am putting myself in the shoes of someone who is offended … and Tebow is getting down on one knee with all cameras trained on him, that’s in my face … So I can see why it’s like the fingernails on the chalkboard to those people.”

In a way, that makes sense.  To non-Christians who watch football, Tebow’s preaching could come across as painfully unnecessary.  Some people just want to hear about football.  There are those who will undoubtedly subscribe to the “if you don’t like it, don’t watch” theory, but is that fair? Football and religion are not inherently intertwined, although there are many other athletes who have been just as open with their displays of faith as Tebow.  That leads to another interesting point.

“I often think about the same thing,” Patton Dodd, managing editor at a religion and spirtuality website called Patheos and author of The Tebow Mystique, told the USA Today. “I often think about Troy Polamalu, who you will hear Pittsburgh Steelers players say is the most religious athlete in football. He crosses himself before every play and sometimes after. He prays during plays. It is odd that there are more outspoken Christians on the Denver Broncos like Brian Dawkins. It is odd that Tebow has become this figure.”

Then why is Tebow the topic of debate? Former NFL quarterbacks Kurt Warner and Jake Plummer both expressed concern over Tebow’s displays of faith, so clearly the criticism is not unique to the casual fan who is simply looking for a way to knock a successful athlete down a peg.  The more you think about it, the more difficult it becomes to explain.

Perhaps the fact that Tebow has enjoyed so much success in the early stages of his career has led to an infatuation with him as a person, thus inspiring the public to critique his every move.  It’s also possible that documentaries like The Chosen One set Tebow up for more scrutiny than other practicing Christian athletes.  Maybe it has to do with the position he plays, which provides Tebow with more press conferences and interviews that lead to more opportunities to praise God.  Whatever the case, Tebow is taking most — if not all — of the heat for proud Christians in professional sports who wear their faith on their sleeves. And from the looks of it, he doesn’t plan on changing his approach anytime soon.



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