Why is everyone making such a big deal about Tim Tebow? Sure, he wins football games. Sure, he’s exciting to watch. So what if he wants to kneel and pray after a great play?
Anyone who complains about displays of religiosity in sports hasn’t watched baseball. I’ve seen plenty of ballplayers cross themselves before they step into the batter’s box. I’ve seen kids in our Little League do that. With the way that eight- and nine-year-olds pitch, those batters could use a little divine protection.
Tim Tebow isn’t even the first devout Christian to play in the NFL. The late Green Bay Packers star Reggie White was an ordained evangelical minister, and he caused much more controversy than Tim Tebow ever did. High schools have associations of Christian athletes. Coaches lead teams in prayer in the locker room before a game. Religion and sports have hung around together for a long time.
Perhaps it is a Culture War thing. One side will say, “Tim Tebow is so religious. How wonderful! What a great role model for children and an example of faith.” The other will say, “Tim Tebow is so religious. How terrible! What a pathetic display of superstitious nonsense pretending that a god, if one exists, would care about a stupid football game.”
What do I feel?
I feel grateful to live in a country where people have the freedom to devote themselves to whatever beliefs their conscience guides them. Just as I want to exercise my faith, I want Tim Tebow to be allowed to exercise his. If he wants to express his gratitude for his talent and accomplishments, that’s his right. It doesn’t offend my Judaism to see him express his Christianity.
However, I expect the same respect of my faith in return. Don’t tell me that I’m going to hell because I believe in different things. Don’t do the same thing as Reggie White by condemning others because you don’t like the way they live.
The lesson for all of us, religious or not, is to show the respect to others that we would expect for ourselves. Kneel and pray if you wish, but don’t condemn the woman in a hijab, the man with the kippah, or the family who does not have a religion.
Some have linked Tebow’s 316 yards passing on Sunday’s game with John 3:16. We should remember another number: 712 as in Matthew 7:12, ” So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”