Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tebow's Unconventional Life

The Broncos' turn around after starting Tim Tebow against Miami, followed by improbable after improbable win, has stirred more Tebow debate than anything we've seen since Tim Tebow emerged onto the national scene in the ESPN documentary "The Chosen One."  Before Tebow there have been numerous outspoken Christian sports figures but none have caused the intense interest, following, hatred, and speculation that Tebow has.  But why?  Is Tebow so fascinating an individual? Or is it because he is so unconventional a figure in American culture today?

We as a nation are at a crossroads; economically, politically, and even spiritually.  Our current president ran on a platform of "hope" because the nation's future looked bleak, and now, three years later, only more so.  The same president that ran on hope also declared that America is "no longer a Christian nation," or at least not "just a Christian nation."  Many took exception and even offense to this, but be honest, does the average American live by the Judeo-Christian principles our nation was founded on?  Even at the most basic level by the ten commandments? No, they don't. They claim to "believe" in them, but don't seem to really live by them.

Enter into this cultural climate a young, bright eyed and over eager QB who looked and worked out like a linebacker.  A guy so nice that to find a cultural reference to compare him to you had to go back to Richie Cunningham on Happy Days, and as a player to Bronko Nagurski, and that's quite a combination. 

With so few relevant, much less strong and masculine, Christian figures in American culture today, Tim Tebow has become a rare example of masculine Christianity, while also representing the benefits of Christian ideals and standards in American life today where so many other public figures have cast them aside. 

But is the intense interest and "hate" for Tim Tebow because he's an outspoken Christian?  We don't really think so because there are numerous other Christians that no one pays any real attention.  Why are so many other Christians easily dismissed and not Tebow?

Not long ago we heard  Stephen A. Smith debate Tebow and "Tebow hating" on  First Take  (14:30 mark), and he had an interesting point.
"[Tebow] is not hated.  What it is is that what he represents...people look at that and they are saying 'we don't want to be held to that standard because we can't live up to it.' So you don't want him elevated and that is why...The big elephant in the room is that you have people out there that look at his lifestyle, his religion and the way he wears it on his [sleeve], they look at all of that and what they don't want is for him to be elevated to such a point that he's the standard that everybody [has to live up to]...Just call it what it is...Is that really hating you or is that just wanting to avoid you being the one who sets a standard that the rest of us know we can't meet?"
No one would care about Tim Tebow's standards if he wasn't a winner.  He wins and he wins unconventionally, and that makes a lot of people uncomfortable for a lot of reasons.

But Tebow's unconventionality also shatters preconceived notions on what a Christian is and forces those who don't want to think about faith, and God, and their individual purpose in life by invading their weekly means of escape, i.e. football.

Tebow is as unconventional a Christian as he is a football player simply because he not only "believes it" but lives it.  He is simultaneously lauded and reviled because he embodies so many of the ideals of masculinity that Christian men seem to have either lost or ceded and that American Christianity seems to no longer value or promote.

He's an aggressive, intense competitor.  He's a beast who refuses to quit.  He'll out work you, and if he can't over power you, he'll out last you. That would be fine for most fans if he only did it on the field but he also seems to out work, out persevere and out perform in the moral arena as well.  And in the same improbable way that he wins on the field, he wins off it too. On the eve of a prime time game against the Jets that may define his early career as a QB to the nation, is Tebow nervous?  No, he's excited to announce that his foundation is building a hospital in the Philippines. As fierce a competitor he is, football is secondary to his faith. And that's what they hate.

Once upon a time Tim Tebow wasn't unconventional, he was the average Joe; a polite, hard working, decent, God-fearing  man who could play on both sides of the ball.  But today, that Joe is a rare breed.  Tebow isn't setting a new standard that others can't meet, like Stephen A. believes. He's an uncomfortable reminder of the ones we used to have and live.

To all the Christians who read this blog, we'd like to issue you this challenge.  Lets make Tebow irrelevant.  Imagine that so many Christians actually lived a strong Christian life that someone like Tebow was so typical, so commonplace that it wouldn't warrant discussing, much less dissecting.

How about bringing the same passion, commitment, determination, hard work and excellence to our everyday lives that others are forced to consider our faith and our God as a result of our everyday actions?

How about taking the hits from the skeptics in our sphere of influence with the same polite, level headed and gracious approach that we see Tebow do, week after week, year after year?

Instead of "tebowing", i.e. taking a picture of yourself pretending to pray, how about really praying for those around you who are in need?

Instead of wearing a 15 jersey with "Jesus" emblazoned on the back, how about feeding the sick, supporting orphans, visiting prisoners, and providing health care to those less fortunate.  How about acting like a follower of the real Jesus, instead of just wearing his name?

And instead of "believing" Tebow can get it done on the field, how about we all join him off the field and make being a real Christian the standard and not the exception? 

Let Tebow silence his critics on the field, and let us as fans join forces and silence the critics off the field by making the man Tebow is just one of the many instead of one of the few.

Instead of being "unconventional" on and off the field, let's make the man we all admire one of us, just another face in the crowd that exemplifies the grace and mercy of Jesus, and not just another empty jersey in the stands.