Religion & Philosophy

Thinking the unthinkable: Pat Robertson may be right about Tim Tebow

Televangelist Pat Robertson doesn’t mince words when it comes to faith and this time is no exception. The outspoken faith-keeper blasted Saturday Night Live‘s recent skit of Denver Bronco’s quarterback Tim Tebow on Monday, calling the parody a “disgusting” attack on Christianity.

 “There’s an anti-Christian bigotry that is just disgusting and I think Saturday Night Live did a parody of that, had Jesus come in,” Robertson said.

Robertson even went on to suggest that if SNL had done a similar parody mocking Muslims, there would be “bodies on the street.”

This morning it was reported that Pat Robertson slammed the SNL skit making fun of Tebow and chalked up much of the anti-Tebow sentiment to “anti-Christian” bigotry. And he’s right.

There are two basic reasons not to like Tebow. First, he’s not a conventional quarterback. His motion takes a week to complete and the resulting throw is pathetic. I’ve seen better velocity on stuff coming out of freshmen’s mouths after a frat party.

But the other reason is that he pushes his religion in his our faces, a habit evangelicals feel is completely appropriate and indeed required by their religion, and the rest of us feel is invasive and annoying–just like the way Islam forces itself on people in Saudi Arabia. I know both evangelicals and Muslims feel they are doing us a favor and saving us from ourselves, but I don’t want to be saved from myself. (And no, I am not comfortable with my fellow liberals trying to save poor people from themselves either.)

So yes, it’s true. Part of the reason I don’t like Tebow is that he sticks his Christianity in my face. If you want to call that bigotry, OK. That’s not quite the right definition of the word, but Pat’s not the sharpest thorn on the crown. Of course, what Robertson didn’t say, and is also contributing to the whole thing: Tebow only has his job in the pros because of pro-Christian bigotry. He never would have gotten past third string without it.

Nonetheless, I like to think I am better than Pat Robertson (not a very high bar) and his closed-minded ilk, and when I evaluate Tebow on his merits, I come out thinking he’s not a bad quarterback. No, Tebow doesn’t look like a quarterback, but Ryan Leaf did look like one, and see where that got us. Quarterbacking is about a lot more than having a cannon sewn to your shoulder. It’s also about vision and anticipation, and Tebow seems to be pretty good at that. My rookie quarterback, Caleb “Heinous” Hanie, is throwing three or four picks a game. Tebow isn’t, because he only throws to wide open recievers. At least he knows what he can’t do.

And the hoopla about Brady schooling Tebow yesterday is nonsense. Brady doesn’t play Tebow, his cornerbacks do. And Tebow doesn’t play Brady, Von Miller does. The truth is Tebow had a pretty good game, with almost three hundred yards of offense.

No I don’t buy all that hyperventilated nonsense of fools like Skip Bayless (“HE’S A BALLER. HE’S A BALLER”) who believes Tebow is the second coming of Sammy Baugh (or Fran Tarkenton or Steve Young or somebody.) Tebow may very well go to the Pro Bowl, but if he does that will say more about the Pro Bowl than it does about his prowess as a quarterback.

At best, I still think Tebow is Bobby Douglass without the arm. But even that is better than I expected.

18 replies »

  1. Stop. Robertson ISN’T right. The Tebow hate isn’t anti-Christian bigotry. It’s very specifically about what you say after that – stop shoving it in my face. If it were anti-Christian bigotry you’d be hearing the same kind of backlash against a good 90% of the players in the NFL. After all, 85% of Americans are Christians and there seems to be something about football culture that refines that even further.

  2. Well, as I said, Pat doesn’t quite get the definition of bigotry, but my reaction is still a backlash against Christianity. And you’re right, the NFL is very, very Christian, e.g., Kitna’s and Warner’s prayer circles and all that pointing stuff that RG3 etc do.

    • There are no doubt individuals who are backlashing against Christianity in general. Some days I’m probably one of them. But to pretend that a minority THIS FUCKING SMALL can effectively “backlash” in a way that is meaningful enough to merit public discussion is to exhibit a profound weakness in arithmetical skills.

      As a young boy I was taught that the whole damned evil world was out to get us Christians. That we were persecuted, endangered, etc. I can’t say for sure without doing some research, but my guess is that at that point in time Christians comprised well over 90% of the American population.

      I’m just sick of this massive body of people, this supermajority from hell, who not only try to legislate their morality on the rest of us, they usually succeed, howling like they’re being thrown to the lions. You’ve got us outnumbered eight or nine to one. Shut. The fuck. Up.

  3. Tebow upsets me in two ways.

    1. The rabid fandom is annoying. He’s still barely starting his career in the pros, and there seems to be some sort of machine trying to build him up into the kind of stardom we expect for players who’ve played for 7 years or more and responsible for multiple years of going to the playoffs. He’s still a shaky player who might turn into a great quarterback, but he isn’t there yet. So why all the love, when previous quarterbacks post Elway have been treated like unrepentant plague carriers?

    2. He’s a bad Christian. No really, he is. I’m not a Christian anymore but I was as a child and teen. Any one raised in the church and who read his/her Bible knows there are multiple scriptures warning against grand-standing your religion. Christians are cautioned to pray in private, to do their good works quietly, and let their actions speak for themselves. Tebow is very public about his religion. He’s allowing himself to be turned into an Idol, not American Idol, but a the kind warned against in the Bible. That’s what the televangelist and the mega-church pastors forget, it’s not supposed to be about THEM, it’s supposed to be about the community. You want to thank God for a touchdown? Do it when you get home when you pray before bed.

  4. I agree that it’s a massive supermajority of ’em out there, but my problem with Christians as a group is broken down by looking at them as two rather simplified camps, 1) the ~25% of Christians that are the evangelical howling, hypocritical minority, and 2) the other ~75% of them that, for all intents and purposes, don’t call out the other 25%. Generally, I don’t have significant issues with, e.g., Methodists or Presbyterians. When’s the last time I’ve had one come a-knockin’ or stop me in public to give me a threat of hellfire wrapped in a Chick tract? Never, to my knowledge. That 25%, though? Fuck ’em with a big pointy stick, and for more reasons than I can count easily. For starters, there’s their flamboyant hypocrisy. There’s the constant whine as they play victim card after victim card. There’s the un-American insistence on having the government take their position on matters of faith. The worst, for me, is their usurpation of otherwise mostly good principles and then turning the language over on its head. “I am a CHRISTIAN! How can you tell? I ignore every damned red letter in the NT, act counter to what my own deity preached, and make it a point of pride to rub my faith like a giant religious crotch right in your face.” If Christian essentially means “Christ-like,” not only are these assholes no actual kind of Christian, but the other ~75% of the flock ought to be righteously ashamed of themselves for not politely piping up now and again to say, “excuse me, but your behavior is decidedly un-Christian, therefore you are decidedly not Christian.” The 25% is, for all practical intents and purposes, a radical schism from the main body of faith and should be treated as such…tolerantly under the law, but as a minority nonetheless.

    • I don’t know what the numbers are, exactly, but let’s use your 75-25% split for the moment. I have minimal patience with a lot of the 75%, too, for the reason you note. If you want to hear me get REALLY jacked up, go out in public and start spewing bullshit in my name.

      So if the “quiet majority” you hypothesize sits around and lets the noisy assholes speak for them, then they are just as guilty. This is why I always appreciate it when social justice Christians – you know, the ones who have read the New Testament – speak up and behave in pro-social ways. I have a lot of Christian friends and am always proud to see them making their communities more humane places to live.

  5. I think Otherwise is correct in his original post. The backlash is clearly anti-Christian. I’m fascinated by the anti-Tebow hate and read these threads to try to understand it. From what I gather, Tebow’s chief offense is that he “shoves it in your face”. By which, I presume you mean the “Tebowing” and references to Jesus in interviews. I question why either of these activities is worthy of your hate, but that’s not relevant. The fact is if Tebow developed a signature dance move to honor his high school coach and praised his mentor in each interview there would not be such a widespread backlash against him. It’s not the actions or the words that are causing a backlash, but the object of those actions and words.

    • Jeff: It isn’t that simple. I mean, it’s obviously anti-Christian at one level because the thing being argued about is nominally Christian. But most NFL players are Christian and the only ones there’s similar bitching about are receiving attention because of the public displays. I haven’t checked to be sure, but I suspect that most of my favorite players are, like Tebow, Christians.

      I know that when I tune into a game I mainly want a game. There are athletes who are Muslims, Jews, Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, pacifists, warmongers, geniuses, idiots, you name it. There may even be some pagans, Hindus, Buddhists and atheists, although going public about those things would mitigate against one’s endorsement opportunities, I suspect. I don’t really want to hear any of that, either. If you’re being interviewed about the amazing catch you made to win the game, I don’t want to hear an endorsement for Obama or Gingrich or Ron Paul. If you’re an atheist I don’t want to hear you lead with I’d like to make clear that there is no god. And so on.

      So structurally, if I buy that my reaction to Tebow is anti-Christian, then by the same token I’m also anti-atheist, anti-GOP, anti-Democrat, and so on.

      I won’t pretend that I don’t have my issues with organized religions – I do, and I’ve been clear about that in the past. Those complaints include organized Christianity, but they are hardly limited to it. And the kinds of things that I complain about have very little to do with the theological belief sets. Instead, they have everything to do with the projection of a political will.

      Maybe I am anti-Christian, but it would probably come as a surprise to my best man and one of the groomsmen who stood with me when I got married. I can tell you for a fact that a number of Christians agree with me about Tim Tebow. So like I say, I think it’s more complex than the way you’re framing it.

  6. Eh, we don’t know if Tebow can throw yet since Urban Meyer never bothered to teach him the necessary mechanics. When the announcers Sunday were trying to show how Tebow throws just like Brady, the side-by-side actually showed very poor mechanics that led to exaggerated and forced mimicry of the same motions Brady makes elegantly. I dislike the guy, but i’ve seen spread QB’s with terrible mechanics devote themselves to the teachings of offensive minds that bother to teach those fundamentals: the improvement is both large and rapid. If Tebow applies himself this off season, the hype might be matched by performance next season.

    The bigger question is whether the Broncos can stick with a read option spread and how long it will work in the NFL. It won’t work for long if Tebow can’t create defensive constraint with his arm.

    As for the religious aspect of this whole thing, what’s unsettling is how much the guy is being hyped … even for a Heisman winner … and that hype is directly related to his vocal religiosity. So he’s a Christian. Of course any criticism of him will be taken as persecution. This is a religion that’s still carrying on about shit the Romans did nearly 2000 years ago, and most of the Roman persecution stories probably aren’t even true. (I leave the dissertation length comment about relationships between Christian persecution paranoia and the religion’s selling out to the Roman state out of this for now.)

    There isn’t the widespread backlash that Jeff claims. The guy made SI for being a mediocre quarterback that’s barely won against the bottom half of the NFL. There are a few of us who find the guy and his hype machine nauseating. We’re persecuting Christians.

    Whatever, the NFL is fucking boring anyhow…a chimp could predict 85% of the play calling. Now, if we started televising the feeding of Christians to lions, i’d tune in and buy all the t-shirts. (Sure, we can feed Muslims and Jews to lions too; that’s just more shirts for me to buy.)

  7. Complex? Certainly. But it’s interesting to note that most of the comments in this thread and others regarding Tebow do not revolve around him. Rather, they quickly devolve into somewhat angry screeds on past negative experiences with other Christians. The point is that Tebow is drawing attention to something (namely Christianity) that arouses strong negative emotions in these threads. The backlash then is not Anti-Tebow as much as it’s anti-Christian.

  8. Pah. Referring to Jesus in interviews is not “in your face.” And no one is saying that, I don’t think. 90% of the NFL thanks god constantly. But doing a Pro-Life Super Bowl ad sponsored by one of the most horrific fundamentalist groups–Focus on the Family–fits the definition pretty well.

  9. wufnik helps make my point that the backlash is due to Tebow’s faith. Or if not his faith but in the fact that he expresses it. Or if not the fact that he expresses it but the manner in which he expresses it. Or if not the manner in which he expresses it but the fact that he expressed it in a public forum. Regardless, the issue is the faith that he’s expressing.

    As for the ad, the Huffpo link above characterizes it as follows, “They do not contain any overtly pro-life message and are tamer than many may have expected. The ads mostly consist of Pam Tebow, Tim’s mother, talking about her son”

    Yep, that’s in your face alright.

    • Jeff, you can’t possibly ignore the context that Focus on the Family represents. If they did an ad saying we think puppies are cute, it would still be an ad from a horrifically fundamentalist organization that works diligently to impose its narrow, reactionary beliefs on those who disagree with it…saying that puppies are cute. When you ally yourself with a group, you assume their baggage and are presumed to share their agendas, right? I know I’ve always been very sensitive to this, which is probably why I have historically been such a bad joiner. I’m not really a member of many big organizations because I tend to take the things I disagree with so seriously.

      Now, on this: “The point is that Tebow is drawing attention to something (namely Christianity) that arouses strong negative emotions in these threads” – I think you’re absolutely right. As I said before, the belief underneath it all is part of the question, and if he were answering every question with “let me begin by saying that I like chocolate cake” probably nobody would be mad. They’d think he was odd, probably, but not objectionable.

      Still, there’s the point that Frank and I talked about earlier today (see exchange upthread). That word “Christian” doesn’t mean one thing. All told, the number of things it means is probably in the double digits. There’s a lot of stuff that falls under the label that I not only have no objection to, I find it downright admirable. I have Christian friends back in Winston-Salem, for instance, who work diligently for a variety of social justice oriented charities that are sponsored by churches. I wish to hell we had more of that.

      So maybe we should try it this way. I can’t speak for everyone, but if the charge is “Sam, are you anti-Christian?” I guess I’d respond with “define Christian.” If we’re talking about some of the Christians I know who bust their asses for things like AIDS care organizations, I’m very PRO-Christian. If we’re talking Focus on the Family I’m as anti-Christian as they come.

  10. Sam said it better than I did. Tebow is a Christian. But he’s a kind of Christian that I, also a Christian, find odious. Pat Robertson (and you, Jeff, perhaps) would consider Tebow a Christian, but not me. So who’s right here?

    • My earlier “double digit” remark actually goes to something I’ve been talking about for a long time, and I think the point is relevant here. I believe I was told by an academic colleague once that someone did some research that identified as many as 11 distinct Christianities in the US, but my memory could be lying to me here. In any case, there are a lot of Christians who hew closely to the precepts of Matthew 6: 1-5, and they find public displays of piety especially annoying. As for those groups:

      1: Moderate Mainline Protestant denominations, like Presbyterians.
      2: Conservative mainline denominations, like the Southern Baptists (who were far more moderate up until the conservative takeover of the SBC in the early ’80s).
      3: The Episcopalians even joke about how unlike other American Protestants they are.
      4: American Catholics (white).
      5: American Catholics (Latino).
      6: Even within the American Catholic church there are significant schisms.
      7: Non-denominational Protestantisms (which can vary a lot in their practices and philosophies, but this is the source of much of the socially conservative political activism we see).
      8: African-American Protestantism.
      9: The Mormons.
      10: And I’m not even going down the road to some of the small, more isolated groups, like the Amish or Mennonites.

      So yeah, at some level this is about non-Christians not liking the PDPs on the part of a religious supermajority that it sees as a threat to its beliefs. But it’s also VERY much about Christians themselves.

  11. In one of my novels, I called evangelical pastors the entrepreneurs of the South and the many small churches start-ups. They basically do the same thing the ones in Silicon Valley do: Create a product, get monetary backing, and take it to market. And just like the ones in Silicon Valley, they are fiercely competitive with other belief systems, as the point about Bob Tebow bringing Christianity to the Philippines pointed out.

    I think much of what’s going on here is good old fashioned capitalism. Pastors try to grow their businesses, trash the competition, and convince the government to legislate against other competition, just like technology companies and grain farmers do. What muddies it is that just like lobbyists for export subsidies, they’ve learned to wrap their messages in cleverly crafted marketing campaigns. So a plea for support for dominance is disguised as a plea for relief from persecution, etc.

  12. wufnik: I’m not sure what you’re asking. My definition of a Christian is someone who believes in Jesus. Tebow does, so he is. Sam’s point that there are many different types of Christians is certainly valid. I don’t presume to suggest that some of those types are more or less deserving of being considered Christians. It’s really not my place to judge.

    I think too, that Sam’s seemingly solid disapproval of Tebow belies the complexity that Tebow himself brings to the table. His prolife stance clearly rubs Sam the wrong way, yet he is also very active in causes that I presume Sam would support (e.g. caring for Orphans, building a hospital in the Philippines, running a Wish program for terminal kids, etc.). Admittedly I haven’t done a complete analysis of Tebow’s charitable activities but it strikes me that one might find he is far more active in areas that would be considered acceptable than in those “odius” areas described above. Were that true would it change your opinion of the man?