Let me be upfront: I’m a Chicago native born and raised. I tried running away from it when I graduated high school. I didn’t want to be associated with those that ate polish sausages from Maxwell Street and I didn’t want to be engaged in the lifelong South Side versus West Side and Harold’s mild sauce versus Uncle Remus’ chicken. I didn’t like to be associated with “all y’all people still from Mississippi” type of people. Nevertheless, the more I was away from Chicago, the more I identified with Chicago.
I said all that to say, I’m having aught with God seeing as how da Bears got Tebowed on this past Sunday.
Now, I hope all of my usual readers have cleaned off the coffee and food stains from their keyboards and computer screens as yes, I’m more or less doing a sports post.
Yeah, I know. But, my usual readers probably know where I’m going with this one.
God and sports has always been an interesting combination to me. Even as someone who dabbled in sports here and there from early on, high school and one quick stint in baseball in college, the two never quite made sense to me. I remember saying a couple of small prayers to myself before I’d step into a batters box, one of which was God don’t let me get hit by a 70 mph fastball. I wasn’t so much praying that we win, but for God to help us do the best we, or I, can.
Based on that, me and Tim Tebow are praying just about the same thing.
So what’s the big hoopla about?
Well, for one, I wasn’t visibly seen “uppitying” in the dugout the same way Tim is “tebowing” like Rodin’s the Thinker on the sidelines. Nor had I posed in a controversial pro-life commercial that aired during the Super Bowl. And come to think of it, I wasn’t starting off press conference with the tried and true “First giving honor to God who’s the head of my life….” speech. The difference is that in sports, particularly the most American of them all, football (so American that it’s international designation is American football), the intersection of God and sports is indeed a religion itself.
Football engages the most American of ideals from Friday night football games that unite rural and urban communities alike to college and professional teams. American ideals that attempt to mix rugged individualism with teamwork are all played out on the gridiron. Little children learn to watch mothers cater to fathers and other patriarchs when “the game is on” and gender roles get defined early; “good” wives and women learn how to just go with the flow or even get into the game with their significant other. We learn in life that there are always winners and always losers; it’s no wonder I could preach football if I had too. The countless sermon analogies I’ve heard in the pulpit with Jesus as a quarterback in the game of life are no shock.
Jesus as a quarterback; Tim Tebow, rookie quarterback.
No doubt, Denver area pastors will have a field day in their midweek Bible studies and even into next Sunday’s sermon, it still doesn’t get at the why behind all of this. Being on the losing side of the most recent victim of Tebow’s Broncos, I’m quite tempted to just dismiss this as a bunch of hooey and spinkster inkdum unremitted, but 7-1? Who argues with the odds of winning the last seven of eight games when Tebow started. He must be on to something, right?
Tim Tebow, meet Aaron Rodgers.
….or Drew Brees, or Joe Flacco.
You get my point.
Personally, I blame the world that its sports commentary. Sports commentators from local networks all the way to the major networks and ESPN, they get paid to make inflammatory comments, tweet incendiary tweets and just fan the flames in general. In a society that lives on the edge of evangelical thought at times, it didn’t take much to make the claim that “God, bless Tebow–and no one else” was a fair enough assertion.
New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Bruni put it this way:
Tebow performs a sort of self-righteous bait-and-switch — you come for scrimmages and he subjects you to scriptures — and the displeasure with that is also writ colorfully on the Web, in Tebow-ridiculing Twitter feeds and Facebook pages, one devoted entirely to snapshots through time of Tebow in tears. An emotional man, he has traveled a weepy path to this point.
What Tebow has and is doing stands in stark contrast to what Tebow-nation has done: Tebow comes off as fake. Yes, I said it. The overposturing of “my Lord and savior Jesus Christs” when a microphone is stuck in his face mixed in with images of him going down into prayer mode on the sidelines for long stretches make it seem like he has a hook up that no one else has. That indeed, Tebow has the unique ability to treat God, as what Henry Emerson Fosdick once opined, like a “cosmic bellhop” being able summon wins out of the 4th quarter like nothing.
And it works.
Ask Chicago Bear fans yesterday.
I knew it was bad when I saw Facebook and Twitter feeds with life long Bears’ fans claiming South Dakota as their residency are threatening to defect to Green Bay rather than succumb to the awesomeness that was Tim Tebow.
Tebow seems like a good guy, he really does, but I think he’s being a naive scapegoat for a bigger movement. In a nation so divisive on the triumvirate of taboo subjects of race, religion and politics, Tebow’s public displays of religiosity seem to do nothing more than buttress the idea that religion, namely Christianity, doesn’t require much deep thought. Tebow’s endorsement of Jesus Christ is better suited for a Christian summer camp than for the NFL. In a politically charged atmosphere where GOP candidate Rick Perry makes a direct plea to evangelicals with an anti-gay and anti-non Christian message in a commercial, I can’t help but wonder where does Tebow fall in any of this–in a larger sense at least.
Oh yeah, he falls there.
What bothers about Tebow, truly, notwithstanding the cultish atmosphere of sports at times, is really more America’s inherent problem with how we view religions. From a larger narrative, Tebow is just a pawn once history gets written. My problem is how we, as a nation, religify just about anything that we come in contact with. Everything we extrapolate to a larger example of God and/or Jesus Christ (or both at the same time) or something about good versus evil. What makes Tebow’s personhood just annoying is that it’s the basic in-your-face type of proselytizing that rivals only Jehovah’s Witness’ on Saturday morning waking people up at 9:00 am dropping off Watch Tower magazine.
Those of us, like myself, are left asking, is this the face of Christianity?
This Jesus Christ fella who Tebow keeps calling on has been reduced to a verb called “tebowing” that’s nothing more than glorified genuflecting on a sideline. I guess since the planking phase is over and done with, we can expect to see people post pics of “tebowing.” Lowercase please and thank you. Tebow, the actual guy, the human quarterback, has now left himself to be perfect. We don’t expect any scandals, any random swear words, not even a speeding ticket zooming up I-25. In fact, we expect you to go find some lake in the foothills and walk on water just we’ll believe in your perfectness. Because when you fall, as most of us do, it’ll be yet another nail in the coffin of progressive Christians who are fighting an ideological war about the image of Christianity.
Many of us are battling the projection that “Christians [or church folk] are a buncha hypocrites” as a traditional attack for non-Christians to say about those of us who were born and raised in the church. For many people, the very mention of the name Jesus, let alone the full Jesus Christ, heaps a ton of expectations some reasonable and others not so much. In a country that practices freedom of religion, I’m not suggesting that he be stopped or banned from mentioning the J name in a presser, but actually, I am asking him to tone it down. In a country that doesn’t really know how to handle the embraces of differing religions all that well, we’re just asking for trouble.
As far as the football gods are concerned, I really think this is a no-brainer. Even Tebow has said God doesn’t care about football. And Icouldn’t agree more. But the Bible does say “In all thy ways acknowledge Him and he shall direct thine paths”; and what does it say about a God who isn’t concerned about the goings-on God’s creation. Further proof that members of religion are just empty-headed zealots who don’t really think?
Perhaps. I can be that for a moment in time.
At least, in the time being, if Rick Perry is still in the race, we can look forward to Tim Tebow making a cameo appearance…
…and we’re not the Indianapolis Colts.
Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL