Member of the reality-based community of progressive (not anonymous) Massachusetts blogs
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.
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