Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Eye Black Messages and Christian Privilege

A recurring theme in the blogosphere is the idea that Tim Tebow is the beneficiary of "Christian Privilege" because he is "allowed" to wear bible verses on his eye black.

The basic arguments are would he, or another player, be allowed to have "Allahu akbar" in Arabic on his eye black?

Another argument is that he plays for a state funded university, and the wearing of Bible verses is some how against separation of church and state.

The final argument is that Tebow is rewarded for wearing Bible verses, and the accolades are part of Christian privilege, and there would be no "reward" if he were of another religious conviction.

We disagree.

In the future if a young Muslim QB comes to UF, and his father is an imam, and he plays and behaves like Tim Tebow does both on and off the field and wears verses from the Koran on his eye black. Great. As Christians, we welcome him and any player that is Hindu, Buddhist, Zoroastrian, etc. so long as he is a good example to the youth of our community and represents the university well, and of course, a great player who has earned his spot on the team. And as Gator basketball fans, we are eager to see Israel's Nimrod Tishman do well for the Gators. If he wants to don eye black with verses from Proverbs. Great again.

What many people fail to realize about the University of Florida is that it is a diverse university and community. As a national university, UF has a diversity index number of 0.53. That means that over half the people at UF are a different race than you, whatever your race. And if you've ever been to UF that also includes a great religious diversity as well. Come spend a day with us at UF and we'll treat you to a Krishna lunch on the Plaza of the Americas. You'll be surprised who all you find there.

We don't believe that Tim Tebow has been the recipient of "privilege" but has earned the platform he has because he has been a champion on the field. He could be a second team QB, with the same eye black, and no one would notice. And don't forget, Tebow didn't start systematically wearing Phil 4:13 on his eye black until after the Ole Miss game which gave us the "Promise." The verses on his eye black was meant to encourage himself, not necessarily others. Previous to that he wore plain or Gator eye black or none at all (the photo above is from the 2008 Tenn game, the game before Ole Miss).

And, yes, the University of Florida is a state funded university, but we also have free speech. And we extend it to all, not just our QB. The one governing body that could limit or restrict eye black messages is the NCAA. So if you don't like them, take it up with them.

We live in a pluralistic society in which even our religious beliefs must compete for a spot in the market place of ideas. Tebow seems to have won that competition as well. It wasn't given to him.



Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

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