Early this morning I read the latest Sports Illustrated cover story, titled, You Gotta Love Tim Tebow.
In summation: Tim Tebow is the University of Florida’s star quarterback. But, even more important, he’s a devout Christian with a literal belief in the Bible. He spends his free time peddling Christianity to prisoners and the poorest denizens of third-world countries. His father is a minister, so Tim’s been told since Day One that there is a single route toward salvation, and it is via Jesus Christ. Because of all of this, he’s a great guy, and someone you should admire.
Before I go on, let me say that the author, Austin Murphy, is a writer I greatly respectâ€”truly one of the best in the business. The story is beautifully presented, with the flawless transitions and word choices you’d expect from Murphy.
That said …
After reading this piece, I don’t feel Tim Tebow. Not. At. All. If you’ve been anything but Christian in this country, you’ve certainly been approached (in a mall; in a store; at your door) by missionaries seeking to save your moral soul. And if you do this job long enough, you’re inevitably asked to profile hard-core Christian athletes. Hell, I’ve done everyone from J.D. Drew to Mike Sweeney. The pieces almost always come out the same: Not only is he a great player, but he’s just as amazing off the field!
Personally speaking, I consider missionary work to be incrediblyâ€”what’s the right word here?â€”disturbing. Why are we celebrating young people serving as moralistic salesmen? Why are we celebrating the practice of, literally, going to poor outposts to peddle a particular (historically questionable) vision of Godliness to the “savages”? A closer look at missionary work offers up a sad, frightening history of mistreatment and sleaziness; of pitching The Word by any means necessary. Of manipulation to the Nth degree.
It goes without saying that Tim Tebow believes homosexuals to be sinners (“We’re all sinners,” he would replyâ€”a lame prejudicial concealment); believes that contraception is wrong; believes that … well, on and on and on and on. What I find most disturbing about people of Tebow’s ilk is the actual message being sold: That salvation is the reward worth living for.
Hypothetically speaking, there are two people: One, an agnostic, spots a homeless person and buys him a hamburger because her heart hurts when she sees the man. She wants to help him because he is damaged and in need. The other person, a “Christian,” sees a homeless person and buys him a hamburger because she seeks eternal salvation, and knows that status only comes with living a righteous life. She wants to help because she wants to be saved.
According to the Tim Tebows of the planet, the first woman is damned to an eternity in hell. The second is golden.
Say what you want about agnostics or atheists (or, from my experiences, Jews), but they never try and sell you on their beliefs based on the outcome. In other words, you shouldn’t turn to Christianity because you crave eternal salvation, should you? I mean, doesn’t that seem a bit, ahem, un-religious?
Mostly, while reading the piece I kept asking myself, “Who the hell would take life advice from Tim Tebow?” I’m sure he’s a friendly kid. But he’s a sheltered 21-year old whose life has been lathered in football and religion. I’m sure he believes in the realness of his spiritual moments, just as I believe in the realness of mine.
But, really, what’s to celebrate?