The Tebow Effect

January 12, 2012

It’s only natural to expect that Tim Tebow’s full-frontal Christianity on the football field would please lots of fellow Christians, football fans or not.

While this religious effect is a sure bet, his effects on the secular world are not so easy to forecast. Here’s my bold weekly picks:

Tebow vs. The New England Patriots: 3 to 1 odds against Tebow. That New England defense isn’t unbeatable, but its offense will score more points than Tebow’s Denver Broncos.

Tebow vs. The Growth of Unbelief. 8 to 1 odds against Tebow. His public spectacles of pious religiosity annoy far more people than the few people who convert because of him. The growth in the numbers of nonbelievers might even accelerate if more ‘stars’ acted like Tebow.

Tebow vs. Jesus Christ. 12 to 1 odds against Tebow. Does Christianity really want to be known for being there when a fabulously rich white man narcissistically needs more Jesus? Christians surely prefer a reputation for caring more about the forgotten and truly needy. Atheists can’t tell Christians how to pray and we needn’t resort to outrage – but it does look like Jesus needs to have a serious talk with Tebow far more than any of the rest of us.

Tebow vs. Separation of Church and State. 20 to 1 odds against Tebow. Separation of church and state will survive just fine. Tebow isn’t running a church on the taxpayer’s dime or buying up the national airwaves to preach, or demanding any special government favors (so far) so that he can pray in sports stadiums.

Tebow vs. The Future of Civilization. 50 to 1 odds against Tebow. The way that professional sports can dominate our public life is depressing to friends of intellectual culture, but this isn’t Tebow’s fault. It’s hard to see how he could make matters worse, so he probably can’t bring about the downfall of civilization.

Tebow vs. Angry Atheists. 7 to 1 odds against Angry Atheists. Atheists pouncing on this opportunity to ridicule and denounce Tebow’s sincere convictions and his courage to publicly express his beliefs (all protected by the Constitution) doesn’t really put those atheists in a good light or arouse any sympathy. Besides, don’t atheists want the same opportunities when they can get in front of the television cameras?
Odds are that sports figures will keep on praising Jesus, or Allah, or whoever. I don’t have psychic powers to know Tebow’s religious sincerity, and the Constitution protects expressions of faith anyway. But I bet our Founders expected more from free speech than just a prayer.