Magazine article The Christian Century

Can There Be Too Much 'Tebowing'?

Magazine article The Christian Century

Can There Be Too Much 'Tebowing'?

Article excerpt

Thanks to Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, sports and religion have become the topic du jour. Arguments over Tebow's path to the Hall of Fame can be waged, but it's clear that his name is a rarity: the proper noun (Tebow) can be used as a verb (Tebowing--or getting down on one knee to pray).

"Tim is who he is," said Brent High, the associate athletic director for spiritual formation at Lipscomb University, who saw an event sell out when Tebow was a guest speaker there. "If you are a Christian, he is your absolute flag-bearer in the sports world. You cheer for him and you hurt for him when he takes the beating that he takes."

But High added: "If I am putting myself in the shoes of someone who is offended ... and Tebow is getting down on one knee with all cameras trained on him, that's in my face.... So I can see why it's like the fingernails on the chalkboard to those people."

Tebow's actions aren't new; athletes have been thanking God longer than they have been thanking mom, and many fans have pledged loyalty to a higher being in exchange for a touchdown, a first down or a fumble.

"We've had athletes being very vocal about their faith and using their status as athletes to promote their faith for a long time now," said Tom Krattenmaker, author of Onward Christian Athletes: Turning Ballparks into Pulpits and Players into Preachers. "But Tebow seems to have taken it to an extra level of intensity."

So why is a quarterback who has started a dozen games in his professional career the dividing line in the debate over religion and sports?

"People have a sense that he is shoving religion down our throats," said Patton Dodd, managing editor at Patheos, a website that is dedicated to religion and spirituality, and author of The Tebow Mystique. Dodd, who believes that "it is a little bit unfair" to criticize Tebow, says there is now "a piety about his piety."

Not all religion and sports connections are controversial. Brent High used to work for the Nashville Sounds, a minor league baseball team, and was a cocreator of Faith Nights at minor league baseball parks. …

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