Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What the Tebow Phenomenon Reveals about Us

Let me begin with this caveat, I really like Tim Tebow! I think he's great for the Denver Broncos and I believe he's great for the National Football League.

Now, 'liking' Tim Tebow and honestly assessing where he is as a professional football player is something else. I thought all of the brouhaha regarding his 'mechanics' was exaggerated and unfair.

Until I watched him play...

Of course by now he's improving, but there are some plays in which he's just plain bad. But that's not what makes Tebow Tebow. The team has rallied around him. It seems as if the rest of the team has upped their game in order to make up for his deficiencies. They believe in him. They patiently wait for his maturation as a football player and they celebrate his growth. Now, that means he's a leader. And that's great.

I'll confess, I don't get all of the criticism. Not about his PDF's (public displays of faith). Christians who spend an inordinate amount of time complaining that Tebows faith is not 'respected' tend to forget that there was a time when being a Christian could get you killed. That's still true in some parts of the world. Being criticized for praising God and praying in public isn't that big a deal in the scheme of things. And besides, if we believe what we say we believe, we know that our faith is in a Founder who was executed as a criminal. Jesus never achieved 'rock star status'. As a matter of fact, after His first sermon, the congregation tried to stone Him!

Our celebrity soaked culture believes that Tebow ought to be celebrated for his faith - or at least not criticized. I beg to differ. While Tebow's PDL's are in line with his beliefs. Our belief's that he ought to be safe from criticism because he is a professing Christian shows that American Christianity has a complex because it's bought into a success ethic: believe in Jesus and we ought to be applauded, feted and in line for riches.

What about the people who work hard everyday and don't get rich? What about poor people who struggle daily and are criticized because they're poor? What about the Christians who don't win - at least in this life? And what about their continued faithful commitment to God, even though they don't get to do it on a football field? Does that make their faith any less authentic?

And what are we saying to our kids?

Tim Tebow has a ways to go before he is a very good NFL quarterback. We don't talk about it enough, but he's working on getting better. And, he works, period. Ever seen the documentary that shows his workout? Fierce!

Yet, in social media and in the mainstream media, you'd think that he was simply dropped in a stadium, playing badly and some miracle happens. And it's because he's a Christian. The message: if you've got God, you don't have to be good.

Tebow works hard. My expectations are, at some point, he's going to be a very good quarterback. Not great, but very good. And that's not bad at all. We need to tell our kids that there Tebow's faith makes him work hard to be a good quarterback for his team. If you've got faith, you work hard to get better.

Everyday. And God blesses consecrated effort.

And winning? Tebow and the Broncos defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. In overtime. Few, if any of us saw it coming. And of course, it was because of his faith.

But are they're any believers on the Steelers' team? What about them? Does that mean they didn't believe? Or does it mean that they weren't 'blessed'?

Sports has been called 'the toy department of life'. Yet there are some real grown up lessons. Sometimes you have faith and you don't 'win'. Sometimes real faith is demonstrated in how you handle loss. Sometimes faith is demonstrated in the sportsmanship you show after you've won. Or in how you dedicate yourself to the next contest. I have a hard time believe that God is so invested in a sports contest that He needs to demonstrate His Power by making, what is now a very average quarterback, a 'winner'.

Let's just admit it: this is a compelling story. It's a story of perseverance. It's a story of faith, of how someone believes in himself and his God enough, not to trust the experts when they said he wasn't good enough. Win or lose,  you keep trying. God blesses effort, when you devote yourself to getting better. And, sometimes you get better, but you don't win. At least not immediately. But sometimes, its very exciting. And it feels great. And we can celebrate that!

Why can't that be enough?


And what about those who criticize Tebow? What I find amazing is that we are criticizing this guy, that there is something irritating about his public display of faith. It's too 'in your face'. It's too...

Well fine. But just a few years ago, we were complaining about being  bombarded by reports of arrests of pro football players. Players in strip clubs. Players doing drugs. Plaxico Burris, in a club, shooting himself in the leg. Going to prison! And most recently, Chicago Bear (and former Dallas Cowboy) receiver Sam Hurd arrested for trying to buy enough cocaine to make him a major drug dealer.

And Tebow is criticized for publicly praying and thanking God for his success?!

There's nothing wrong with Tim Tebow...there's something awfully wrong with us!

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