America Does Not Understand Tim Tebow, Christianity

Nick R. BrownContributor IIIJanuary 14, 2012

Tim Tebow
Tim TebowJeff Gross/Getty Images

I hate Tim Tebow.

I love Tim Tebow.

Tim Tebow is a fluctuation of my hatred and love. For most outside of the Bible belt, that won't make much sense.

But as one born on the afternoon of Georgia star Herschel Walker's first collegiate touchdown against Tennessee and a master's degree recipient from The Florida State University, my hatred of the University of Florida is fierce.

One must understand that prior to the glamorous stage that the Southeastern Conference began to walk upon in the '90s and then float across in the 2000s, the University of Florida was the SEC's second Vanderbilt.

Not many in the modern age of college football realize that. Florida was a doorstop, a try-hard, a team that couldn't get past its own feet, constantly smelling SEC titles or big wins and tripping all over itself to failure.

But when I had aged enough to the point where I started actually paying attention to football around 10 years old in 1990, everything fell apart for the Georgia Bulldogs team that was passed down to me from my elders.

Twenty-one years later, I'm still paying for the sins of the father, relishing in three victories for my Georgia squad in 20 years and equally stymied as an FSU fan until the past two college football seasons.

That pain sticks with you as an adolescent into adulthood, and Tebow's collective performances against—nay, demolitions of—Georgia and Florida State teams past is a sore subject for me.

But when Tebow went pro, I couldn't help but root for the guy. For one, he's just a solid dude. Timmy does things right, and works hard for his achievements, and his constant detractors remind me of a career world I personally had to fight through to succeed.

I also tend to have a love for the underdog who proves the professional analysts wrong. When I surf to or listen to sports radio on a daily basis, it's normal to hear about some professional athlete in jail, on drugs, or whatever. Having someone around that does things right is a welcome change.

The ordeal that is made about Tebow's relationship with Christ is quite perplexing, though, and likely would only occur in the modern state of the media. He's certainly not the first professional athlete, or football player to confess Jesus as his Lord.

Going back only a decade can one find the outspoken Jim Harbaugh or Kurt Warner. Individual reporters would often try to cut things off so that the acknowledgment to Christ for their performance, won or lost, would go unheard.

Then there are, of course, current players like Troy Polamalu or Tony Romo who, while less outspoken are equally as committed to their Christian faith.

It was this week before the Denver Davids faced the New England Goliaths when I heard Rick Reilly on ESPN's Colin Cowherd radio show, The Herd, that I realized that Tebow-mania was evidence that our country has lost any and all general understanding of what Christianity means or is to an individual in a personal way. As a Christian, that's depressing as hell heck.

Reilly explained on Cowherd's radio program and subsequently in his ESPN column that he believes in Tebow. To him, Tebow is a guy who backs up what he says because of the things he does, like visiting hospitals and spending time with sick kids after football games.

In the end, Reilly's understanding, like much of America's, of Tebow's Christianity is all about what Tebow does or doesn't do.

Reilly went on to say on The Herd that he had hired a lip reader to make sure Tebow wasn't swearing on the sidelines at football games, and he hired a private investigator to make sure Tebow wasn't going to strip clubs or involved in any similar behavior during the week.

If this is America's understanding of Christianity, then any of us calling ourselves Christian have failed...miserably.

What Reilly described is an evaluation of works. "Good things" done, "bad things" not done. But central to Christianity isn't about doing things. Tebow loves on hurting kids in hospitals because he has a heart for them. It's an opportunity to help them.

That's something he does that thousands of other Americans do every day. And Timmy would no doubt tell you that too.

Tebow also does those things because he believes that good works show himself to be a witness of his faith, but Tebow is not working on a system of karma. And karma is exactly how modern America perceives Christianity.

Which is precisely why America doesn't understand Tim Tebow, and doesn't understand the Christianity he claims to hold.

Modern America has all but forgotten its Judeo-Christian heritage, and with it has a total misconception of what it is to claim to be a Christian. Today for the average American, Christianity is about works. It is a lifestyle choice that when failed illustrates to the voyeur that the claimer must have been fake.

Those same individuals would never perceive others in the same light. No one does not think of Michael Jordan as a basketball star because he played baseball at one point in time, and no one would say that a vegetarian is not a vegetarian because they gave in and ate a steak that one time.

The public view of Tim Tebow has him on a scale, weighing his deeds, and up until now he's done everything far as what is visible to us. But what the media and America doesn't understand is that Tebow doesn't claim to be perfect, and his Christian faith doesn't make that claim of perfection of its followers or make him perfect either.

Reilly is on a journey to catch the guy saying a cuss word. But the problem with America's apparent understanding of Tebow's faith, is that if Tebow one day is caught on the sidelines saying, "Damn it," after a bad play he's not any less of what he claims to be, because his claim in Christianity is that he is nothing.

Tebow's claim to being a Christian is not a claim of karma, a belief that if he does enough good things he can one day be weighed on some ubiquitous scale of right and wrong and be proven righteous. Tebow's claim of Christianity is that he believes that something in this world is not right. The world moves, acts and behaves in a way that it is not meant to behave.

He believes that he has a father, a creator, and that he has been separated from him, and nothing he can do out of his own volition can unify him with the one he's been separated from by his own works.

Central to Tebow's belief system is the idea of grace through faith. His "works" are simply evidence of that. He doesn't believe that his deeds make him righteous, rather his hope in one day being redeemed to his father eternally provide him with the tenacity to honor the one he claims to serve through his works.

This is something that America, or at minimum the media that hounds him does not understand. Tebow is "human," and he realizes this even if the majority of us do not.

Tebow may one day slip up on camera (and trust me when I say that he already slips up every day), but that won't be evidence that he was a fake. It would simply be evidence that Tim Tebow is like the rest of us, searching for the answer to something that we know internally is not right with the world. He would tell you that himself if you asked him.

Tebow doesn't believe that doing the right thing makes one a Christian. Rather, he believes that he is incapable of doing the right thing on his own, but that doing the right thing is evidence of the strength he has received through the one he calls God to be a better person.

Considering public perceptions like Rick Reilly's, Tebow has been set up for failure, and that is not only frighting but also frustrating. One wrong move and he will find himself persecuted by the media for not living up to their ridiculous doctrine of deeds and works that is not actually found in Christianity in such absolute terms.

His lifestyle choices should be admired, and his testimony appreciated by his brethren in the Christian faith. But the "deeds" pedestal the media has placed him on is not a place he should be, especially for the Christian. For those of us that make that claim, Tebow is not our hope, and Tim would tell you that.

I still hate Florida, but I can't help but love Tim Tebow.


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