The Holding household hasn't turned a football game on in at least a decade, but I've been kept abreast of some of the latest scuttlebutt concerning designated Christian superstar Tim Tebow -- not in the least because he attended college not 50 miles from me, and now as well, thanks to a reader in the Denver area who is a close follower of Tebow's professional team -- and to whom, I am indebted for many of the descriptions below.
The reader wrote me with some observations made as he typed several permutations including Tebow's name into Google. Early on, the reader noted, he was suspicious of Tebow's religious profession, for by his accounting (which I have no reason to doubt), Christianity in professional sports (especially football) has become something of a spectacle, a game in itself. Players routinely (especially in their rookie years) talk about how their "momma's raised 'em up" with the Bible, poke at the sky whenever they score touchdowns or make big plays, and thank God when they win the Super Bowl. Then next week, they get busted selling sex-slaves out of the back of trucks for cocaine. For this reason, many people roll their eyes when a player professes faith and say, "Aw, how cute. Let's take bets on how long before he's arrested."
So far, this has not happened with Tebow. He's come out playing better than expected (even I know that, as little as I watch sports!), and has walked the walk his talk professes: He bows for prayer during games, works with charities in his free time, and starts all of his interviews by thanking Jesus for his life. Not his wins, just his life.
But then there's those Google searches. Our reader plugged in everything from, "Tebow's a creationist dumbass" to "Tebow wants to kill Muslims" to "We should kill Tebow" and found these popping up in the atheist blogosphere. Then there's what's beyond the blogosphere: Everyone from Bill Maher to "Tex the atheist Quizboy" find it necessary to denigrate Tebow as much as they can.
It is not, apparently, because he claims God is helping him win games. Lots of Christian sites, and ESPN analysts, our reader tells me, make that stupid assertion for him, but he never has actually done so that he has seen recorded. Not once.
Although I have not seen any of this myself, I think our reader hits it on the head when he says that the problem is that they see a person in the midst of, arguably, the largest and most active American popular culture center (the NFL), who:
1) Fails to make stupid claims about God that they can poke fun at later, like "Jesus was there with me on the field", or, "I believe the Bible never makes an error, like when it teaches women to shut up."
2) Fails to play by the game's mockery of "I'm a Christian but I'm gonna do all the drugs and women I can get my hands on cause I know Jesus looooooves me and we all make mistakes right?"
And personally, I can relate to that. My own career in apologetics has meant plenty of atheist hatemongering. But of course, the best they can come up with is 1) "Uh, he's mean to people." 2) "He's fat." 3) "Dah. his name is Turkel. I mean, it used to be Turkel. Dah. Whatever."
But it's not hard to see how Tebow is a threat even if he's devoted his life to throwing touchdowns instead of atheists. How terribly threatening to a place (pop culture) where atheist/secularist ideals have had free reign for so long, for there to appear a popular Christian who is both outspoken and -- so far at least -- not able to be pegged with some moral indiscretion or some exegetical wackiness.
Little wonder criticisms of Tebow are so vitriolic (even for online atheists). If you're of a mind, check some of those Google results -- it's screwball city.
And one more thing. Pray for Tebow -- there's a lot of temptation in the world he's in.