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Divine Favor & Tebowism

In the history of the NFL we have seen many openly Christian players.  It’s not unusual to see a finger pointing towards heaven after a big play; we’ve heard dozens (hundreds?) of appreciative sentiments offered to G-d in post-game interviews…especially after a championship.  Notably Kurt Warner, the highly decorated Super Bowl MVP (and winner of a participant ribbon on Dancing With The Stars), has always been very open about his faith.  The Christian community has always had a fondness for these sports figures.  It’s pretty normal to cheer a little louder for a player we identify with.

However, something is different this year with the emergence of Tim Tebow.  The buzz in the Christian community is bigger than its ever been before.  Even non-Christians are paying attention.  Many Evangelicals who never before found interest in the sport have started watching games specifically because of Tebow.

Tebow has always had a bit of a following among Christians.  He began to rise to fame in college while famously wearing bible verses on his eye blacks.  But Tebow Time became a national sensation about mid-way through this current NFL season.  Week after week he led the Broncos to a number of late game comebacks to secure a place in the playoffs.  And then it began…  Social media became abuzz with mentions of G-d’s favor on Tebow.  Some Christians started inferring that G-d was involved in what became known as “miracle” victories.  Tebowism reached a climax after an overtime playoff win over the Steelers.  Only 11 seconds into overtime Tim threw a great pass to Damaryius Thomas to score an 80 yard touchdown, securing the victory.  Within minutes Facebook and Twitter were flooded with messages claiming the play was some sort of immaculate reception.  Something new popped up this time though.  Christians started using numerology to interpret a heavenly message from G-d using Tebow’s passing statistics.  Tebow passed for 316 yards in that game which predictably they assigned to John 3:16.

I should say at this point that Tim has publicly stated that he does not believe G-d is supernaturally pulling strings to give him and the Broncos victories. Unfortunately this is the one message that his admirers (worshippers?) have not heard. A poll taken after this game revealed some interesting results. View the results here. An amazing 43% of respondents who were familiar with Tebow answered affirmatively when asked if his success was the result of divine intervention. This theology is quite troubling for a few reasons, but suffice it to say (for now) that if G-d is performing miracles for multi-millionaires while billions are suffering and dying in extreme poverty something is very wrong. In addition, if Tebow’s success is a result of G-d’s favor what does last week’s loss say?  Has G-d abandoned him?  This might deserve some more discussion, but we will save that for another time (or the comments).

So is our theology really this poor? Is G-d really that arbitrary and/or callous? I would suggest that something else is going on here. Perhaps the issue doesn’t say much about Tebow or about G-d, but rather says a lot about us. A very common belief among many religions (especially those from ancient societies) is that if we do something (pray, offer sacrifices, perform a ceremony, are nice to others, are obedient, etc) then a divine being will be inclined to give us what we desire. I believe Tim Tebow has become for many American Christians a symbol of this desire. Tim has a trait that we, as Christians, believe he shares with us, his faith. If G-d gives him success as a reward for his belief, then hopefully he will do the same for us. Could it be that Tebow is just a projection of our own longing for miracles in our own life?

At this point I would redirect us. I personally don’t find it all that beneficial to continuously attempt to find the right combination of variables in order to manipulate the favor of G-d to achieve success. I do think Tim can still symbolize something of importance for us though once we move past supernatural game rigging. Tebow has worked incredibly hard for many years to achieve success. Reportedly he is consistently the first one to practices and the last one to leave. He seems to always have a good attitude, supports and encourages those around him, and has a generous disposition. Tim is successful because he earned success. I can respect this form of “Tebowing” regardless of how I feel about football players taking a knee with head bowed after a good play.


idk why…I just found this picture and felt I needed to share 😉

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