Monday, December 19, 2011

Tim Tebow and Taking Things "Down A Notch"

In case you missed it, Saturday Night Live featured a skit last week that involved Jesus making a visit to the locker room of the Denver Broncos.

 There are plenty of aspects to nitpick about how Jesus is portrayed here, and I won't even comment on the plug for Mormonism, but I want to focus on what I perceive as the main thrust: Tim Tebow needs to "take it down a notch." One of the more interesting things I've seen in a while is the YouTube video of Tim Tebow with a microphone recording everything he said during the recent game against the Bears, where the Broncos pulled off an incredible victory. It's about 10 minutes long, but I think it gives a lot of insight into the person. In many ways, he reminds me of what I've read in Brother Lawrence's book, The Practice of the Presence of God. It is clear that he tries to capture every moment as a type of spiritual formation, focussing on working as if for God, giving God the glory "win or lose", and looking at all of life through a spiritual lens. He even manages to be incredibly gracious in the face of his critics.

So what is it that people find so objectionable about Tim Tebow? I'm sure there are many answers to that. I think above all else, people hate being confronted with the truth that not all Christians are primarily hypocrites. Sure, we all have our shortcomings, as does Tebow, but there are a lot of Christians who live much better lives than most of our culture would want to admit.

 I was interested in watching who of my Facebook friends would pick up on the Tebow SNL video, and what they would say about it. At the risk of being judgmental, I was surprised how similar all the people were who said it was "FANTASTIC" or "SO TRUE!" These were all people I had known to be really nice, but who also had a strong edge, liking to party and drink hard, and not to attend church much. They would self-identify as "Christian", but would be what I consider the very definition of lukewarmness. "I like God and I believe in Jesus, but I still like to party, and I don't think God would want me being all in anybody's face about Him."

I posted a tweet as I was thinking about this: "If Jesus had taken it "down a notch", he would not have been crucified. Christ didn't bow to political correctness."

I think the real problem with Tebow is not a problem with Tebow; it is a problem with the rest of us. It has become so rare for people to experience a passionate Christian who is not ashamed to explain why they love so much, work so hard, forgive so readily, etc., that he's a true novelty. I really wish that among Christians, Tim was not so much the exception, but the norm.  "Why can't Tebow keep his 'private beliefs' quiet like all the other Christians?"  "I think it's great if you want to believe, but I don't think people should proselytize."

All we DON'T need is yet another Christian who is willing to stop talking about what he believes, and why he does what he does.

I have accepted that some people will never get it, and will always think that Tebow's faith is primarily about winning football games (as the SNL skit sort of implies). I have accepted that Tebow is going to make mistakes sometimes, and that people who have guilty consciences about their own moral shortcomings will attack him as harshly as they can muster.

In the mean time, I pray for Tim Tebow. I pray that he won't stop doing a lot of the wonderful things he is doing. I pray that he won't quit saying why he does them. I pray that I can have more courage not only to do right, but to talk about what is right. Even if most will reject it, our world needs to hear the voice of truth in a cacophony of lies. Those who are seeking need the chance to find.

I hope that this younger generation of Christians will have more faith and boldness than the last few generations have. We need more people to be like Tim Tebow, and we certainly don't need any more Christians to "take it down a notch." It's amazing how when people try and really live for Christ, it has a way of bringing the enemy out into the light.


  1. Mark, this is a great post! In a world where a lot of people find it easy to write off Christianity because “all Christians are hypocrites”, Tim Tebow doesn’t give them that option and they can’t stand him because of it.

  2. Carlos Whittaker (@loswhit) posted this today about Tim Tebow. He comes to a similar conclusion.

  3. I agree with the sentiments this sports writer shared 3 years ago:

    I respect Tim Tebow as I respect Glen Coffee. Both are warriors on the field and, as far as I can judge, sincere off the field.
    I refrain from calling him “Superman,” as television commentators do repeatedly, not because he isn’t a great player and a fine young man, but because ultimately, the over-the-top hyperbole doesn’t do Tebow any good, either.

    The Florida quarterback seems to have turned just about every person with a microphone into a blathering fan. In the end, one fears, it will end up having the same result as Dick Vitale’s endless paeans to the Duke basketball program. You’ll start to resent the subject because the messenger — or, in Tebow’s case, the legions of messengers — finally push you to a point where you say “enough is enough.”

    I ended up watching the BCS championship and wondering if Tebow had any teammates. That’s not Tebow’s fault, but it was the impression you were left with by the Fox broadcast. It’s great to say that Tebow was “willing his team to victory,” but there must have been at least 21 other Gators who were doing a little something.

    His words seem almost prophetic now.

    It isn't Tebow's boldness that turns people off. It's ESPN's endless hype of him. They have ridden Tim Tebow to a ratings bonanza. And in the end people confuse that media hype for Tim Tebow being too "in-my-face" about his faith.

    It's a shame for Tim.

  4. Phil, this is an excellent observation, and I think you're right. Tebow is getting a lot of attention that he really isn't seeking on many fronts. There are plenty of other athletes also passionate about their faith, but have really zoned in on Tebow.