Monday, October 12, 2009

Eye Black - Friend or Foe?

Tom Krattenmaker, in USA Today, questions whether athletes like Tim Tebow who espouse their Christian faith publicly are exclusionary of other's religious faith. And if their public statements of faith in Christ are offensive towards those of other faiths and/or persuasions.

Krattenmaker also takes aim at Bob Tebow Evangelical Association, and vaguely implies that both father and son may be "anti" alot of things (read the article) because they stand for something. He asks the question, "Is sports-world evangelicalism really "good for everything"? Certainly a lot, but not everything. Not if you're Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, non-evangelical Protestant, agnostic or anything else outside the conservative evangelical camp."

The story asks a valid question, but negatively implies or assumes that if one holds a specific belief or opinion that your actions must be against those of contrary belief/thought. There is no evidence from Tim Tebow's actions that he excludes anyone or is "anti" anything as Krattenmaker implies.

What Krattenmaker does not seem to realize is that although you believe Christ is the single way to God, that you are at the same time commanded to love your neighbor as your self. Not when they become Christian, like yourself. Perhaps better put, just because you are a Christian does not mean that you condemn others, because you will be judged as you have judged others. The example we believe these athletes provide is a point of view, a way of life, that others are free to want to learn more about, and then reject and accept on their own. Having a belief, doesn't negate other beliefs. Just because you see a billboard of a Big Mac, doesn't mean you can't pass it by and go to Burger King. If you don't like what Tebow is offering, you are free to reject it and ignore it.

What Krattenmaker also fails to realize in his piece that in a pluralistic society ideas, like in the game football, compete for influence in the market place. Mr. Tebow is equally able and free, like all other players, to write verses from other religious texts on his eye black, but he has chosen to express those of his Christian faith. If a person who holds a contrary view to Tebow, and these other athletes, and wants to enter the market place of ideas, then let him or her. Tebow has earned his place in public life through being a champion on the field. If someone wants to represent their beliefs through football, then let them earn their place on the team too. Krattenmaker would have an argument if only Bible verses were allowed on eye black, but that is not the case.

To use one final football analogy, you don't have to be a Gator, plenty of people aren't, but we can't imagine why they wouldn't want to be Gators either.

Excerpt below, whole story here.

Players point skyward to the Almighty after reaching the end zone or home plate, star athletes voice thanks and praise to their savior after a big win, and sports heroes use their media spotlight to promote the Christian message. (See University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and his eye-black, touting Scripture.)These are the outward signs of a faith surge that has made big-time sports one of the most outwardly religious sectors of American culture.

Far less visible, but worth knowing about, are the infrastructure and strategy of the sports-world evangelicalism that powers these pious displays. Athletes' expressions of Christian faith reflect decades of hard work by evangelical ministries to convert players and "coach" them to use their stature to promote a particular version of conservative Christianity.

Christian chaplains are embedded with all the teams in professional baseball, basketball and football — and many college teams as well — to provide religious counseling, Bible studies and chapel services. Given the misbehavior and self-seeking that plague sports, who could doubt the benefit of bringing moral guidance and a broader perspective to locker rooms and clubhouses?

The good with the bad

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."

Urban Meyer, Tebow's coach at Florida, has praised his quarterback's faith-promoting ways as "good for college football ... good for young people ... good for everything." Such is the rhetoric usually heard from those who defend sports-world Christianity as wholesome and harmless.

But should we be pleased that the civic resource known as "our team" — a resource supported by the diverse whole through our ticket-buying, game-watching and tax-paying — is being leveraged by a one-truth evangelical campaign that has little appreciation for the beliefs of the rest of us?

Photo: Gary W. Green/Orlando Sentinel
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