Tim Tebow believes everything he says. I know this because I used to be Tim Tebow. Well, not literally, of course, you dumbass. I mean I used to say the things Tim Tebow says and I used to believe the things Tim Tebow believes.
There’s a temptation among “non-believers” to lump all “believers” into a single category of “crazy religious people.” It’s actually quite easy and fun to do this, especially when the majority of religious people seem to fall so readily into the “crazy religious people” bin. You’ll know they’re genuinely crazy religious people when they take pride in being labeled as such and then proceed to picket military funerals or strap C4 around their belts and ride the bus. I’d like to suggest that this level of “crazy religious person” is actually quite far down the periphery of religious folk and Tebow is definitely not in their ranks.
Tim Tebow is passionate in his belief and love for Jesus. (I’m going for the Most Obvious Sentence of 2011 Award). Although this may be classified as crazy by some, it is not disingenuous. Tim Tebow is a devout, well-intentioned, evangelical Christian in the truest form. This is why he is so beloved. This is why he’s treated like Jesus Jr. within his community of faith and observed like a zoo animal by the rest of the godless horde.
While some may be dismissive of the idea, there actually is quite a large spectrum of belief and praxis within Christianity. The diversity of theology and culture is what makes the faith fascinating (to me, anyway), and what we’re seeing in Tim Tebow is a classic evangelical Christian. Evangelicals wear their God-lovin hearts on their sleeves. In theory, they don’t do it to show off or be prideful in their piety; they are up-front in their expressions of faith because they believe that Jesus is the most important thing they can offer the world. This is the underlying philosophy of short-term overseas mission trips: while clean water and food and a sustainable economic infrastructure are great, the Gospel is the most important thing I can give to my Third World neighbor. Jesus is the bread of life, not you know, actual bread.
So, when Tim Tebow says his annual summer trip to Dad’s orphanage in the Philippines is what makes him most happy, he means it. It is his adherence to a higher calling. It is living life in the most fulfilling way possible - the way Jesus would have done. Evangelicals believe it is their duty to be the hands and feet of God. That means everything they do, whether in word or in deed, is intended to honor the Almighty. As an Evangelical, everything matters: what I say, what I do, how I walk, how I dress, how I behave in front of Brent Musburger.
I’d bet a year’s salary that Tim Tebow has read or heard about a book called, The Prayer of Jabez. It’s a pocket-sized text based on the prayer of a little-known character in the Old Testament named Jabez who invoked a simple prayer: “’Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.’ And God granted his request.” Evangelicals interpret this prayer to mean, “bless me so that more people will be within my sphere of influence.” In other words, “God, help me be successful so others will look up to me and I can tell them all about You.”
Every time Tim Tebow wins a game, his territory is enlarged and when he mentions his faith or thanks God in an interview or Tebows after a game, he’s doing you a favor. He is sharing with you the most important message he knows. Like The Secret before The Secret. He may not be preaching to you directly and he may not be holding a bible study in your home, but he is bringing God into your conversation, and that honors Him. Tebow believes that his actions and expressions of faith, no matter how indirect they may be, will somehow compel you to be like him. The crazy thing? When you’re Tim Tebow, it works! Tebowing toes the line of irony because it’s often done in jest but is also a huge win for the evangelical Christian community. When was the last time words like “faith” and “God” have so dominated the dialogue of sports? Tim Tebow is God’s bulldozing hype man into the secular world.
When asked by reporters about his frequent conjuring of the Lord in interviews, Tim Tebow disarms the questioner by responding, “If you’re married, and you have a wife, and you really love your wife, is it good enough to only tell your wife that you love her on the day you get married? Or should you tell her every single day when you wake up and have the opportunity? That’s how I feel about my relationship with Jesus Christ.” While godless heathens like Chuck Klosterman are surprised by such a lucid reply (jk, CK, i love you, I’ve got all your books), it’s just one of many canned analogies Evangelicals are taught from an early age. There will be more, especially if you start questioning his beliefs. Tebow will explain the Trinity to you by comparing it to the 3 molecular phases of water (ice/water/steam=God/Jesus/Holy Ghost). Tebow will talk about the faith of Abraham and Job and he’ll encourage his teammates by reciting a proverb about iron sharpening iron. This is what a good Christian boy does, and he does it earnestly.
There are more “crazy religious people” within the Christian faith than I can shake a stick at; and at times, it seems the hypocrisy of the church knows no bounds. It’s the diversity of belief and culture that’s led to the proliferation of hundreds of denominations and the unbelievably asinine nature of “church drama,” but if all the in-fighting has honed one skill, it’s our ability to spot a fake. No one is faster to accuse a believer of hypocrisy or impure motives than a fellow believer. I’ll tell you this: no fellow believer doubts Tim Tebow’s motives. He’s criticized for being calculating and throwing religion in your face. Well, that’s because he is. That’s what he’s trying to do. In everything he does, whether in word or in deed, Tim Tebow wants you to look at him and think about Jesus. If Tim Tebow sold steak knives for a living, he’d be the same way. Except he’d be the “crazy religious steak knife guy.” Football is just what he happens to be doing now. He wants to win games and be the best quarterback of all time because it broadens his territory. His final destination is not money or fame or victory, they are means to an end: to hype Jesus on the biggest platform in America; ‘cause Elway ain’t done shit for Jesus.
Tim Tebow is modest about everything except his faith. That’s because he’s following the words of the Apostle Paul: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Romans 1:16). In a world full of Jews and Gentiles, Tim Tebow is not ashamed and he’s not lying.