Monday, December 12, 2011

Tebow, Faith and Fantasy

What a Game!!!!  I’ve noticed that much of the hoopla surrounding the Denver Broncos recent spate of last-minute nail biters has revolved around faith:  faith in the team, faith in Tim Tebow and, of course, Tebow’s faith in God.  If you were to go through all of the post-victory commentary surrounding his recent victories and count all the times the words:  “faith,” “believe” and “believer” were uttered I’m pretty confident it would be overwhelming.  Last week, I was interviewed by a reporter from the Wall Street Journal about how Tebow is being perceived by the non-Christian Faith Community.  (Here’s the link:
The basic premise of the article was that Tebow’s unabashed expressions of faith have provoked as strong a reaction within the general populace as his remarkable ability to rally to victory in the last few minutes of every game.

What is it about Tim Tebow’s faith that is so compelling?  Why do so many people find it difficult to swallow the fact that he sees no disconnect between his actions on the field, in his house of worship and in his daily life?  There is no doubt in my mind that he is genuine.  He believes – deeply – in God and is convinced that God has placed him here to witness the power of what he believes God’s truth can do.

From a theological perspective, the idea that God favors one football team over another is ludicrous at best – taken to its logical extreme it is disturbing, even obscene at worst.  Yes – our stadium is located a Mile High – but that doesn’t mean that we are closer to God.  And, to his credit, Tebow has never stated that God is on the side of the Broncos.   At every opportunity he has praised his teammates and acknowledged his frailties.   And yet, it’s hard not to consider, even for a moment, the possibility that Tebow’s last-minute comebacks might have just a little bit of divine intervention in them.  And if you read some of the comments posted on the right-wing blogospere, you will see that there are many who have no doubt that God is a Bronco fan who wears an orange and blue jersey with the number 15 on the back.

The problem is that those who claim to have God on their side areusually dangerous.  Football is fairly benign.  There are other, far more sinister arenas where the concept of Divine Triumphalism has taken its toll.   Throughout history - from the Crusades to September 11th  - holy warriors have been responsible for great suffering.  Perhaps this is why so many people are upset with Tebow’s prayers and pronouncements.  If God favors one side then, by logical extension, the other side must not be in God’s favor.  What would happen if every team prayed for victory before every game?  Instead of looking at coaching, game plans, raw talent and luck we might instead have post game analysis linked to theological consistency and liturgical spirituality…..The possibilities boggle the mind.

Moving away from logic, there is one upside of the Tebow phenomenon.  It has people talking about faith, about God and about belief.  In my opinion, these are all good things.  If we are uncomfortable with Tebow’s faith, what kind of faith is comfortable for us?  And who said that faith needs to be something we are comfortable with?  From my experience, those moments when we confront our faith are the times when we are out of our comfort zones:  times of great joy and great sorrow; times of angst and times of absolute certainty.  Judaism teaches that we should search for God not only in the highest of highs and the lowest of lows – but every day.  God is found in the “still small voice” that calls to us when we are ready to hear.

So I want to take this opportunity to thank Tim Tebow for giving us the opportunity to have this discussion.  Go Broncos!!!