Even if you’re not a sports fan, you probably have heard of Tim Tebow. The obsession of our 24/7 news agencies and Tebow’s public prayer on the field has everyone talking about his football stats, his fans, his faith, and God’s intervention in the game. How one feels about Tebow, seems to rest on a complicated mix of a person’s faith and their sports allegiance. But his God PDA brings up a lot of good questions about the nature of prayer and Divine Providence.
Devout faith or showmanship? Some Christians and skeptics alike are offended, but why? Christians can quote Matthew to back up their discomfort.
Mathew 6: 5-6 KJV:
And 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.
But 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.
Skeptics also despise what seems like showy faith and one skeptic on a USA today Live Chat with Tom Krattenmaker: author of Onward Christian Athletes brought up a great point that Krattenmaker acknowledged saying, “Let’s face it, If Tebow were Muslim and praised Allah in those post-game interviews, we’d be having a much different conversation.”
Indeed. Would Americans begin appreciating France’s law against public prayer if those praying in their line of site were not on their “team?”
Much of the debate about this being inspiring comes from people’s questioning Tebow’s abilities in relation to his faith. The implication is that loving God has helped Tebow be a great athlete and perhaps even encouraged God to intervene in a sports game. So what are the implications Tebowing brings to the free will and divine providence debate?
A Christian theology professor, Owen Strachan, weighed in for his article in The Atlantic titled, Does God care whether Tebow wins on Saturday? Strachan says it’s complicated. Different denominations of Christians hash out the free will debate with varying degrees of disagreement, but Strachan outlines the Calvinist stance on Divine Providence and relates it to the Evangelical Tebow:
“… God ordains… what king rules when, how many hairs grow on our heads, and every twist and turn our lives on this fragile sphere take (see Prov. 16:33; 21:1;Matt. 10:30). I believe that God is overseeing all of Tebow’s passes, but he’s also overseeing the typing and reading of this paragraph. He’s overseeing the Denver Broncos, but he’s also overseeing the Boston Celtics (much as it may seem otherwise at present), the Museum of Modern Art, and the playtime of your nephew. …But is God directly intervening on the football field in the same way that, for example, he did to cause the virgin birth of Luke 2 (in what is called “primary causation”)? That I don’t know. … I do know that the Lord is working everything out according to his wise and mysterious counsel which, try as we might, we cannot fully understand.”
Tebow has inspired a public prayer meme, Tebowing, but is it based in inspiration or mockery? This website is dedicated to posting pictures of others Tebowing and was started by Jared Kleinstein, a Jewish fan of Tebow, who put up the site one day after seeing fans in a bar go wild in response to their sports hero’s faithful display. He bought the domain, took a picture of himself Tebowing outside the bar, and then posted it to Facebook. 350,000 views later on Tebowing.com and he’s got a business selling shirts and apparel.
He says in this article on Mashable.com, “Some see it as humor, but some see it as a way to inspire hope and say that it’s okay to pray in public. It’s something you can do without being absurd, without looking like you’re even trying to make a fool of yourself or be goofy.”
So what do you think? Is Tebow embarrassing or inspiring to the Christian faith? Do you have a visceral reaction to his public prayer?