As anyone who has seen Tebow on television would know, broadcasters cannot find enough superlatives to describe him. What's not to admire? He plays with a rugged, infectious enthusiasm. He's a born leader. He's a Heisman Trophy winner and a two-time national champion. He spends his off time speaking at prisons and doing missionary work in Asia.... But there's more to his story. Tebow does his missionary trips to the Philippines under the auspices of his father's Bob Tebow Evangelistic Association. The Tebow organization espouses a far-right theology. Its bottom line: Only those who assent to its version of Christianity will avoid eternal punishment. The ministry boldly declares, "We reject the modern ecumenical movement.".... The Tebow organization's literature estimates that 75% of the Philippines' inhabitants "have never once heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ." This in a country where more than 80% of the citizens identify themselves as Roman Catholic.
what place this sort of proselytizing has in the sports world. Along with that, I wonder what, if any, role the media should be playing in promoting this sort of overt religiosity?We've all seen it. An athlete has a great game, and on his way off the field, he's corralled by a sideline reporter and a microphone is shoved in his face. Before he begins talking about his superlative performance, we get something along the lines of, "I'd like to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, without whom none of this would be possible...yadayadayada...." There's nothing wrong with the heartfelt expression of one's religious beliefs, of course, but sometimes I find myself wondering
Tim Tebow is clearly the most visible and over the top example of athletic hyper-religiosity. He wears his religion on his sleeve, and he defines his life as first and foremost a platform for spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That's all well and good, and it's easy to get caught up in the "Tim Tebow as an example we hold up to our children" hysteria...but do we or the media give any thought to what it is that Tebow is actually selling? It's not as if Tebow's beliefs are based on anything resembling tolerance. If you use his father's ministry as a guide, Tebow's Christianity is based on the narrow arrogance that his version of Christianity is the ONLY true religion. All other versions are mere heresies destined to land their followers in Hell as apostates. The arrogance and dismissiveness behind Tebow's beliefs are truly disturbing...and yet local and national sports media fawn over his as if he's God his own self. Florida fans (and other who follow the SEC) half-jokingly refer to Tebow as "God." The legend surrounding Tebow, his life, his talent, and his accomplishments on the football field really are bigger than life...if you except the media's fawning portrayal of him at face value.
But Jesus' representatives in sports aren't just practicing faith. They are also leveraging sports' popularity to promote a message and doctrine that are out of sync with the diverse communities that support franchises, and with the unifying civic role that we expect of our teams. Typifying the exclusive creed taught by many sports-world Christians is the belief statement published by Baseball Chapel, which provides chaplains for all major- and minor-league baseball teams. Non-believers in Jesus, the ministry declares, can look forward to "everlasting punishment separated from God."
I'm not here to put forth the idea that Christian athletes don't do good things. Many, likely most, live their beliefs quietly and effectively without feeling the need to use their celebrity to promote them. My problem is not necessarily with those who live their Christianity loudly and publicly, though sometimes I do find myself wondering about the sincerity involved. No, my problem is with the media that is too often all too happy to provide them with a pulpit from which to preach and proselytize.
I'm a Buddhist, and I was a quarterback once upon a time. Let's say I'm a star quarterback coming off the field after yet another brilliant 300-yard, five-touchdown performance in support of another impressive, come-from-behind victory. As I'm heading towards the locker room, Erin Andrews sticks a microphone in my face (after giving me her phone number, her hotel room key, and her panties) and asks me about the game. Before answering her question, I begin by reflecting on the Dharma, and how the peace and serenity I've achieved through following the Buddha's teachings is really what's responsible for my superlative performance. What sort of reception do you think I'd receive? Would I be treated with fawning, worshipful regard a la Tim Tebow? Not bloody likely. Most likely I'd be treated like Terrell Owens and roundly condemned for my idolatry and apostasy. This is pure conjecture on my part, of course, but I seriously doubt that either the media or the general sports-watching public would receive my comments with an open mind and react to them in a positive manner. The same would undoubtedly be true for a Jewish athlete, or really anyone courageous enough to espouse non-Christian beliefs on camera.
Reflecting on all of this, I find myself wondering why it is that intolerant, evangelical Christianity such as that espoused by Tim Tebow always seems to transmitted without question. The problem here isn't Christianity, of course, but with those who use it for their own ends and those who provide the platform for the promotion of intolerance and Evangelical Christianity. Sports and Jesus should go together like strippers and professional athletes...yet to listen to athletes like Tim Tebow, the Son of God was their lead blocker.
We like our sports heroes pure and clean, the sort of driven and virtuous personality that we can hold up as the best we have to offer. There's nothing wrong with that, of course...until you consider the agendas pushed and promoted by so many uber-Christian athletes, who see promoting their beliefs as both their right and their responsiblity.
If I was King of the World, you would of course have the right to believe as you see fit. Break into proselytizing when a microphone is stuck in your face, though, and that would be a personal foul and/or a game misconduct. Living your beliefs is fine. Thumping your chest about them is beyond the pale. That is all....