This is the third of brief columns on stories I didn't get around to until now.
I've earned an especially unfair reputation for being not only anti-Tim Tebow, but apparently, anti-God. And perhaps therein lies the problem with young Timmy and his open proclamations of faith in Jesus Christ. It seems that you can't be one without being the other. In short, any criticism of Tebow is tantamount to a criticism of Jesus, and unless I missed something in the pages of the New Testament, one can be critical of how Tebow shows his faith (and even his football skills) without being critical of the faith itself.
Tebow has now become an Icon to many of my brethren, who see in him a great witness and witnessing tool for the cause of Christ. Allow me to play Devil's Advocate (although I suppose some of my more devout friends would already see me as The Devil for not jumping on the Tebow-wagon, but I digress).
Mr. Tebow has a unique position within the NFL: he can pretty much say and do anything without facing some of the penalties we would if we tried them. Therefore, he can go to one knee in prayer without facing fines or reprimands. Perhaps this is why so many are apt to follow his example, sometimes literally:
Thus we get the new verb, "tebowing", which is from what I understand an act of worship. I don't begrudge Tebow for showing us 'a new way to pray', so to speak. However, all his followers appear to be missing the point altogether.
It isn't suppose to be about Tim Tebow. It's suppose to be about Jesus Christ.
I go to the case of Connor and Tyler Carroll, two 17-year-olds who were suspended for 'tebowing' in their high school. Now, I figure at first glance this is terribly unfair to the Carroll brothers and those who participated with them: they were merely showing their devotion to Christ (at least I hope it was Christ, not Tebow himself). This is persecution for the Faith, they may argue.
However, here is where I differ from our young men. There is a time and place for all things, and dropping to one knee in the hallway is not the time and place. I support the free expression of all faiths, but I also know that just as it would be inappropriate for me to drop to my knee and 'tebow' in the middle of the library, it is also inappropriate for kids to do the same in the middle of their school.
As I grow older, I feel I'm getting a bit more moderate in my way of looking at the world. I think of Tim Tebow, and I think he has inadvertently allowed himself to be the source of admiration, dare I say, worship, while Christ himself is not the main point of interest. Despite being from the University of Florida I figure Tebow has some intelligence (that was suppose to be a joke; I'm no Gator Hater). However, Tebow has always used his prominence on the football field to promote his faith (say, through messages on his face while playing). Maybe it's because I'm more in the St. Francis of Assisi mindset, but somehow I think you show your faith best by doing, not by wearing.
I'm frankly, a bit torn on this. I don't think there is anything wrong with someone being of deep faith and having it impact every aspect of their lives. However, there's something I can't warm up to about how Tebow is being made out to be a hero of some kind because he is so open about his Christianity.
One wonders if my fellow Christians would be so embracing of Tim Tebow if he insisted on wearing a yarmulke and refused to play on the Sabbath, or if he insisted on turning to Mecca during a game. I get the feeling they would be irked at the idea that a Jewish or Moslem Tebow would use football to promote Judaism or Islam, so to my mind while one should respect his faith one must be wary of using him as a vehicle to bring people to Christ. As far as I know, no one became a Christian because Kurt Warner pulled off a great Super Bowl.
I suppose this is my beef with Tim Tebow and 'tebowing' itself (apart from the fact I think he's highly overrated as a quarterback, but that's another discussion). As much as he may protest to the contrary, it isn't about Christ. It's about Tim Tebow. In a strange sense, it's Tebow that's being admired, even worshipped (though not literally, and I'm sure he'd be the first to say that he shouldn't be the object of veneration, but Jesus Christ).
To me, the true heroes aren't the Tim Tebows or Kurt Warners or Drew Breeses or Colt McCoys. Instead, the true heroes are people like this:
Yubelina Hgato, a young Indonesian woman attacked for being a Christian. She is disfigured, but only physically. Internally, in her spirit, she is beyond beautiful, for she still maintains her faith in Christ despite all obstacles.
The true heroes aren't Tim Tebow. Instead, they are people like this:
A family of Coptic Christians in Egypt killed for their faith in Christ. If any group deserves the title of 'martyr', it would be them.
In short, it's easy to "tebow" in the United States, but there is nothing heroic about it. Heroic are those who literally are being beaten, tortured, even killed for following the Messiah Tim Tebow talks so much about. These are the people I admire, not Tim Tebow. I don't question Tebow's faith, but I worry that he is allowing himself to be the source of discussion and admiration. Being able to throw a football and then talk about Jesus isn't a terrible thing. However, to my mind, actions speak louder than words.
In that sense, my Coptic brothers and sisters, those Christians killed in Iraq, imprisoned in North Korea, burned in India and Indonesia, beaten up in Central America, THOSE are my heroes. Those are the people I look up to. I can only hope that my brothers and sisters in Christ think of them a little bit more and Tebow a little bit less.