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Left In Lowell » Blog Archive » Why Tebowing Bugs Me

Left In Lowell

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January 15, 2012

Why Tebowing Bugs Me

by at 4:22 pm.

And it’s not for the reasons you think. I don’t care that he’s a good Christian or that he believes wholeheartedly in an imaginary friend who’s an invisible omnipotent sky man. That’s totally his personal thing, and I am not the thought police. Of course, I reserve the right to call his God an “invisible sky man” all I want, likewise.

And his PDR (public display of religion) doesn’t bother me because I think that he thinks “God is on his side” when he plays football. It’s clear that (though his fans are another story) his faith is something deep, spiritual, and personal to him, and not to be trivialized in such a manner. He doesn’t pray to God because he wins (or loses), he prays to him to thank him for the opportunity to play. That’s cool in a way. I can respect that. He doesn’t credit God for his wins (though again his Christian fans are another story), and like most Christian types, never blames God for his losing. (That whole hypocrisy is another story for another time…)

I can even accept a public display of faith, as long as it stays away from the civic arena (as in, separation of church and state). But here’s why Tebow’s end-zone praying sessions bug the crap out of me:

If Tebow, and this extends to other Christians in similar circumstances, have a personal, deep, and spiritual non-trivial experience of God, then why the need for an excessively public show of faith at such a heightened moment? If it were truly only about his inner dialog with his deity, why not silently talk to God on his way back to the bench, or close his eyes once he gets there to hold a private conversation thanking his god for whatever it is Tebow is grateful for at that moment? I liken this need to kneel down in front of the TV cameras after a touchdown with a similar need of right wing Christians to extend prayer into schools - to make the action a visible display of religion. It is the same reason in both cases. It is a form of proselytizing, expressing your believe in an invisible friend to all onlookers, whether it’s Tebow dramatically kneeling down with his head bowed on a national network, or a school teacher who has her kids (the Christian ones anyway, while the other ones can feel left out and peer pressured) bow their heads at the beginning of class for a prayer. Of course the school prayer movement is not a perfect analogy, since I believe the separation of church and state should preclude that specific case.

So you can’t really say that Tebow’s relationship with his god is just a private, spiritual thing. A large part of his faith, via his theatrical demonstration, is meant to be public; an expression of tribalism, intended to be a showcase of ritual for the sole purpose of hoping to affect the millions of people watching a football game. I’m as inclined to be bugged by Tebow as I am by the Christians or others that come to my door every month or two. Except I can turn away the god people at my door. But when I am watching a game I care about that should have nothing to do with religion one way or the other, Tebow makes it about religion by throwing it in my face.

Ergo, while I respect his right to believe, and his right to make gestures of religion in non-governmental settings, doesn’t mean I have to respect his efforts to proselytize the entire football-watching audience. I find that not only does it do exactly the opposite of what he’s professing - that it actually trivializes his faith, in my opinion - but that by making it so public, and the endless subject of the sports and mainstream media, that he is no better than the cultists that knock on my door hoping to make another invisible-man convert.

Sure, he - and they - have a right to proselytize all they want. But let’s just be clear on what is actually going on here. When Tebow kneels in the end zone, he is not merely having a private, personal moment of faith.

37 Responses to “Why Tebowing Bugs Me”

  1. Mike01824 Says:

    I don’t mind it when he takes a knee in public anymore than I mind it when a same-sex couple kisses in public.

  2. Lynne Says:

    My problem is that the people who are saying that it’s some personal private thing, when in reality it’s about proselytizing. Call a spade a spade.

  3. Tebow got his "comeuppance" last night. God was with Tom Brady. Tebow must have been a bad boy in God's eyes. Says:

    Tebow must have been a bad boy last week. God definitely was looking down with love at Tom Brady.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Athletes make religeous gestures all the time. Batters cross themselves before they step up to the plate. Players point to the sky after scoring. This gesture just got more hype.

  5. Lynne Says:

    Please enter in a nickname in the future so as to keep confusion to a minimum.

    “Players point to the sky after scoring.” That speaks to my other annoyance, which is that I love how religious athletes love to give credit God for a win/good outcome, but fail to curse his name when they strike out. ^_^

    This gesture by Tebow is *far* more dramatic than a quick crossing oneself when going up to bat, which is *why* it’s getting more attention. And a quick look at almost any baseball player shows that pretty much all of them have little ticks they perform before they step in the box, they are known to be superstitious - I liken it to a culture of flute players who gyrate themselves when they play - is it necessary for flute players to gyrate to play well? No. Does it help their playing at ALL? No. Do any other of the woodwind instruments’ players do it? Nope. But it’s part of the flute-playing culture…so it is with baseball. It’s like an entire league of obsessive-compulsive sufferers…

  6. C R Krieger Says:

    On the other hand, it may really be a “private” thing that you are looking at, perhaps uninvited.

    This is a delicate issue.  A US Army Lieutenant Colonel recently died in a car accident.  I didn’t know him, but I know he was a non-believer—his wife, who I know vaguely from a list-serv I am on, told me.  I am having a Mass said for him in February.  It isn’t much of a gesture, but it is what I can do.  If it makes a difference, he will know it and if it doesn’t, he won’t know it because there is no life after death.  My advice is don’t die before me or you might get a Mass said for you, not to impose my faith on you (you would have moved on), but because I care about my friends. :-)

    And, yes, Mr Nameless summed up a part of it.  How did THAT happen?  But, it does.  As St Teresa of Avila said, “It is no wonder you have so few friends, considering how you treat the ones you have,” when her burro dumped her in a river she and the burro were crossing.

    Regards  —  Cliff

  7. Lynne Says:

    How can it be “uninvited” when it’s on national TV? Just wonderin’. ;)

    The Mass thing is at your church, why would that bug me? (Though it might bug me if you did it for my husband after death and I was still alive, since we’re both atheists - insult to injury, though as an atheist I can’t see that there’s actual harm since I don’t believe it matters at all.) The Mormons baptizing the Jewish Holocaust dead bugs me too (very insulting). The very religious coming to my door at an early hour to talk about God is also annoying.

    It’s also, as I said, rather cheapening to be so blatant on national television. As my friend pointed out to me: Matthew 6:5.

  8. GrayOne Says:

    Should all sporting events be made purely secular? No religeous gestures or references allowed? Isnt that censorship?

  9. Lynne Says:

    Did I once write the word “ban” or “censor”? No. I am questioning his claim of having a personal, private religion. In no way is it only personal or private, and I called him out on it.

  10. pablo Says:

    Football is recreation, an escape. When I sit down to root for my beloved Patriots, I don’t want to have the game hijacked for political or religious purposes. Not only does Tebow come in with a track record of advocating for right-wing positions, now we have Focus on Family reinforcing that message by advertising in the middle of the game. There is a time and a place for everything, and just as we shouldn’t be throwing footballs inside a church, we should just let football be football.

  11. Douggie Fitz Says:

    I would say the Author has the real issue. The perception of the events makes this a true eye of the beholder scenario. Wouldn’t it be fair to assume that it is us who make Tebow into what we want? The author’s dislike for Tebow’s actions are based on unconfirmed motive. The only way you can remove unwanted content from your entertainment is by not subscribing. In our world, the consumer assumes all the risk. Buyer beware.

  12. Corey Erickson Says:

    Lynne, Its interesting that your semi annual faith hate speech focuses on crazy ass “christians”… Yet consistently neglects to mention examples of “sky men” in other major religions…. Also dont u think its a bit self righteous to assert your right to publicly rail against their right to publicly practice?

  13. Lynne Says:

    FYI “The author” is right here, and I do have a name. *rolls eyes*

    Why? Am I being inaccurate to talk about invisible sky men? What else is there to say about it? To me, to my perception, that’s about what it is. *shrug* Put yourself in my shoes, as a nonbeliever. You’re lucky I’m being really nice about the concept of God - I have plenty of other ways to describe it. (Hint: starts with “de” and ends with “sion.”)

    Sorry to be so accurate. It’s hate speech now to poke a bit of fun at God…wow, you ought to talk to the comedians who make a living out of it. They do it far more often than me. It must be soooo haaaaaard to be a Christian in the US these days. Oh, wait. You can’t be ELECTED unless you profess to be one.

  14. Lynne Says:

    Oh yeah and pablo, I saw the FotF ad. Don’t get me started on THAT double standard. (Ask yourself if the commercial of a nonbeliever would ever even get aired EVER, never mind during this particular game.)

    BTW “self righteous” - no, more like my constitutional rights, but hey, whatever floats your boat. I can’t *question* Christianity or religion without getting called self righteous…well, how Christian of you.

    Also, I am not advocating to ban Tebow or censor him. I am calling him out because I smell bullshit (as in, “private and personal” is…not so much).

  15. Mr. Lynne Says:

    My two cents.

    Athletes make religeous gestures all the time. Batters cross themselves before they step up to the plate. Players point to the sky after scoring. This gesture just got more hype.

    It’s also a ‘bigger’ and more dramatic gesture (and typically in a context of higher TV ratings than other sports events), so this is not surprising.

    On the other hand, it may really be a “private” thing that you are looking at, perhaps uninvited.

    I don’t think anybody is uninvited to look at you when your a QB in the NFL in the middle of a game.

    Should all sporting events be made purely secular? No religeous gestures or references allowed? Isnt that censorship?

    He’s free to do what he wants. I’m free to think not much of it.

    There is a time and a place for everything,

    It’s his choice to do it and its the NFL’s choice to let him (its their event, not his).

    The author’s dislike for Tebow’s actions are based on unconfirmed motive.

    I think this is true. I wouldn’t take it upon myself that I know his mind. I’ll bet this has become more habit for him than an attempt to prosthletize. But I don’t know that 100%, just a huch. OTH, given the way FotF likes to exploit him, he probably also knows that the effect of what he’s doing is prosthletizing, and I’ll also be he doesn’t mind that since he’d stop if he did and jesus commands it anyway. It seems pretty clear that he takes his position as a role model seriously, so it’s likely that he’s quite aware of the prosthletizing effect of his actions and is ok with it.

    In our world, the consumer assumes all the risk. Buyer beware.”

    It’ll be interesting to see if the the NFL moves any further than what they’ve already done with his eye-black.

    Lynne, Its interesting that your semi annual faith hate speech focuses on crazy ass “christians”… Yet consistently neglects to mention examples of “sky men” in other major religions

    There’s plenty of stuff to criticize. The topic of the moment is Tebow, which is appropriate since he’s a topic of the moment in general. I wound think that it’s pretty parsimonious that if one were inclined to criticize religion, the particular faith that one is confronted with most often would be the most likely target of such criticism.

    Also dont u think its a bit self righteous to assert your right to publicly rail against their right to publicly practice?

    She’s not railing on their right… she’s railing on their act. She’d defend their right any time. Criticising the particular way of exercising that right is her right. Nothing self ritious about it. It is often the case that criticism of religion in particular is looked upon diferently than the criticism of other ideas, but this taboo that religion in particular should have special privilidge in the marketplace of ideas is a bad one.

  16. Lynne Says:

    As the Mr. just pointed out to me, there is the “Tebow Rule” in college sports now, where athletes are banned from putting messages into their face paint, due to his posting Bible verse references on his face. (The NFL already had this rule in place.)


    Yes, he was proselytizing, and still is. Pretty much proves it. He even says:

    Tebow stated of the searches “It just goes to show you the influence and the platform that you have as a student-athlete and as a quarterback at Florida.”

    ‘Nuff said. He executes public displays of religion on purpose to showcase his religion. There can be little doubt of this.

  17. Lynne Says:

    That last quote was in regards to the huge increase in Google searches for the particular Bible verse he was touting (he’d put the chapter and verse # on his face).

    So much for “personal and private” beatific religious thoughts…

  18. Douggie Fitz Says:

    FotF did seem to like whoring out children to spin their message. I found that more troubling than the passage they spoke.

    I am sorry Lynne for the “author” thing. My attempt at being objective somehow placed you there.
    *googly eyes* - not quite “rolling” yet seriously funny.

    Now back to finding that damn Spaghetti Monster.

  19. Lynne Says:

    Not really that offensive, just strange, and you being a new nickname, seemed a little weird.

    We here in New England are thankfully mostly immured from the culture of proselytizing that the South lives, eats, and breathes. There are a few exceptions (cultists coming to my door, and a really out-of-place right wing Christian billboard up Everett Turnpike at the tolls) but unlike large swaths of the rest of the country, we DO tend to keep our religion private up here. (OK not at Lowell City Council meetings, another pet peeve, but that’s what makes it stand out so much.)

    Having done even a little travelling in the South, and just long studying and reading about it, what we have to understand is that proselytizing comes as natural to the culture there as biscuits and gravy. Instead of one weird and discombobulated billboard on a major road in NH, you have billboards every half a mile.

    And that where this proselytizing culture holds an iron grip, it is stifling to the nonconformists, other religions, and nonbelievers. It is a form of bullying and peer pressure, etc. Sure, Tebow’s silly public kneeling is a very mild form of it, but as Sam Harris says, by enabling the little things about religion, we enable the bigger, more damaging things.

    He is not above reproach as to how his behavior comes across, and even if it were merely a “private moment” that somehow he loses himself in where he just fails to see the greater context and meaning (and I doubt that very much, given the cultural context AND his history of painting Bible verses on himself at games so Google searches spike), he is still responsible for proselytizing because of the nature of his actions and what they mean.

    Now, he has a right to do so, again, but he has no right not to be criticized for it by people who disagree with having religion thrown in their faces and who dislike bullying and peer pressure to perpetuate mystical thinking.

  20. Lynne Says:

    Here, for people who want to see the TRUTHFUL version of that Focus on the Family ad:

  21. Lynne Says:

    (HT Joe My God and the Mr.)

  22. Some Teacher Says:

    This is a rather tame set of comments. From the note on JoeMyGod, I was expecting much more vitriol. Since I am neither an atheist nor a Christian (as Corey mentioned in #12, there are those of us who do not fit into either camp), please feel free to disregard anything I write.

    First, I don’t believe that God loves one football team more than another. If that were the case, as #3 wrote above, Mr. Tebow must have really pissed off God to make God now focus all the love on Mr. Brady. Really?

    Second, like Lynne, I really don’t care if Mr. Tebow is religious or not. His personal faith does not help me and does not harm me. His antics on the field may be a concern for his employer and I can be happy with any choices the employer makes. Since this is entertainment we are discussing, it would not be discrimination based on religion if the employer chose to act, it would be discrimination based on likelihood of maintaining ticket sales.

    Third, Mr. Tebow is certainly a publicly religious figure. Otherwise he would not be a top selling religious author.

    Fourth, Focus on the Family is a much tighter focus than would include my family. As such, I do object to anything that they do. Their political arm, the Family Research Council (certified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center), is working against my family being equal to those that they favor.

    Finally, a few words appropriate to the day.

    I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice. But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

  23. Some Teacher Says:

    Sorry. I’m new to this format. The quote at the end should be attributed to the late, great Coretta Scott King.

  24. madknits Says:

    Thanks for this articulate response to what I think is a vulgar display of religiosity. I come from a generation where such things are unseemly. I also don’t like it when batters cross themselves. It feels like they’re doing it for “luck” or because if they don’t, the gods will not favour them.

    Found you via JMG, and have always appreciated your comments there.

  25. rayy Says:

    @Mike08124: does it bother you when an opposite-sex couple kisses in public. If not, you might be a bigot.

  26. rayy Says:

    Good point, Lynne, but this kind of thing has been going on in football for many years–it’s not new or unique to Tebow. He does do a lot for charity, apparently, so I am inclined to give him a break.

  27. Lynne Says:

    I think Mike’s point is to equivocate not caring about PDA’s of gays with not caring about PDR’s (public display of religion) for Evangelicals. Except the gay couple is not trying to turn anyone else gay with their actions…so really it’s not the same thing at all. PDR’s by uber religious people *are* meant in that context. Show your tribalism to induce a feeling that you should be part of this. (This is what irks me so damn much about invoking God in the City Council chambers - not only an issue of separation of church and state, but do you have any idea what it’s like to be an atheist sitting there surrounded by prayer?? It’s extremely uncomfortable.)

    I really do think those who think “no big deal” really haven’t studied the culture of Evangelical Christianity. It’s all about the public expression for purposes of causing there to be pressure for onlookers.

    Also, his little demonstration is crass as all get out.

  28. Magnolia Says:

    It’s one thing to be religious and it’s another to force it down other people’s throats. I can see sports players doing a quick cross, but Tebowing is waaaay too much. What he is doing is a “Look at me, I am great” gesture and that is not truly Christian. And speaking of Christian , the other thing that bugs me is some of the Southern Baptists and funadalmentalists that refuse to agree that anyone who belives in Christ is a Christian. According to someone we used to know years ago, Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians, etc are not “true” Christians”. Maybe thay need to take another look at the dictionary.

  29. Dispassionate Observer Says:

    It’s really the networks’ and other media’s decision to publicize Tebowing that’s getting you worked up. Do you realize that after almost every NFL football game that a bunch of players and coaches gather together for a group prayer session? There’s a good number of players throughout the league, particularly in the NFL, that are Evangelical Christians. Television producers, and too a lesser extent newspaper editors, decide which images that viewers/readers are going to see. There’s far too much personal/religious expression going on by players for the NFL to crack down on Tebow’s Tebowing. Complain to CBS.

  30. Lynne Says:

    The prayer sessions (though I worry about nonbelievers in such a situation - that peer pressure to “join” has got to be awful in the context of a supposed-to-be unified team) that are off camera don’t matter as much to me. If they want to get together and mutter some endearments to their god, so be it. I just hope that if an atheist is on the team they give him some consideration (or hell, a Muslim, Unitarian Universalist, Hindu, etc).

    What, is CBS supposed to NOT show the QB after a TD play?? Come on, asking them not to show is it like asking them not to show Gronk mega-spiking the ball after his third TD catch. Not realistic.

    The Focus ad, though, I could have lived without, and all the ESPN crap that was droning on pre-game about Tebow and his religion, though since it’s not part of the game, I can switch channels without missing anything important.

    Keep in mind, Tebow is from the arena of wingnutty religion. He was born of missionaries in some other nation, where his parents were trying to turn the denizens into Baptists…we’re not talking about a UU guy, here. A born again, die hard evangelical. Emphasis on the E-Van-Gelical.

  31. Mr. Lynne Says:

    I take your point, but I think there is ample evidence that Tebow’s situation is quite different than those other “good number of players”. Imagine if you will a quarterback who mentions his mother’s surviving cancer in almost every interview, acknowledges her in the stands with small and large gestures throughout the game, was a major icon on behalf of organizations that promote cancer awareness, and was a best-selling author on the subject of his mother’s cancer. Under those similar circumstances, I think it’s forgivable for the media to take such notice… how could they not. Its certainly possible for the media to create a person like Tebow, but in this case I don’t think they did.

  32. Christopher Says:

    I reject the idea that Tebow is proselytizing; for me that has to be much more direct, like say Jehovah’s Witnesses knocking at your door. I’m just waiting for the first Tebowing flash mob (no, I’m not volunteering)! It’s a cultural difference. I tend to be more of a New Englander in terms of not wearing my religion on my sleeve, but for others I guess showing is important. However, those people may want to consider Matthew 5:5-6.

    “5And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

    6But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”

  33. Some Teacher Says:

    Christopher, #32, you say you are “waiting for the first Tebowing flash mob”. You missed it last month.


    The kids were “Tebowing” in the school hallways, slowing traffic between classes and, according to the Superintendent it was causing unsafe conditions.

  34. Joe S Says:

    Just to make your day - here is part of what the SUN editorial has to say on the subject:

    “Tebow exhibits great humility and leadership in victory and splendid character and resilience in defeat. He’s part George Washington, Joan of Arc, John Wayne and Martin Luther King Jr. all rolled into one.”

  35. Lynne Says:

    He’s a crappy quarterback and the jury’s still out on whether or not he’ll develop, but hey, if the world wants to hero worship the guy for being kinda meh, I guess it’s their prerogative…LOL

    Joan of Arc? Yeah maybe on the zealot thing. :) But John Wayne? Wayne had an edge, man. Don’t insult the Wayne. Of course, it’s a total insult to MLK to even mention him. *rolls eyes*

  36. joe from Lowell Says:


    Think of “Tebowing” as his touchdown dance. Most NFL players have their own touchdown dance. Tim Tebow’s incorporates a religious reference, because that’s that kind of guy he is.

    In that light, what you’re asking is, “Why is Tim Tebow’s touchdown dance so public and demonstrative?” Um…because it’s a touchdown dance!

  37. Lynne Says:

    Yeah, a proselytizing guy who goes out of his way to make his public life about his religion. I have a right to be annoyed by this when I’m just trying to have fun watching a football game.

    Not to mention, the NFL already puts quite a kibosh on TD celebrations as it is. I’m surprised they allow The Gronk’s megaspike, to be honest.

    Besides, it’s plain that *Tebow* doesn’t consider it “just a TD dance” either.

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