Tim Tebow and Modern Evangelism

Tim TebowOn this blog we have readers from around the world but if you aren’t from North America then you might not have ever heard of a man by the name of Tim Tebow. Which is simultaneously unsurprising and amazing.

It is unsurprising that you haven’t heard of him because he is an average to bad player in a sport that is really only popular in America. He has poor statistics, a less than .500 winning percentage as a starter and has only just recently managed to climb off of the bench of one of the worst teams in the National Football League.

It is amazing that you haven’t heard of him because he is TIM TEBOW! He is a winner! He is a leader of men who can inspire them to feats of courage and greatness that amaze and mesmerise. His sheer presence lights up rooms. He has ‘intangibles’ that far outweigh any perceived lack of actual playing ability. He will succeed. He has more miracles under his belt than Moses and he hasn’t even gotten started. The only reason that he hasn’t destroyed every foe in his path is because his coaches are not setting him up for success, they want him to fail. Critics should simply be silent and behold. Seriously he has even spawned the follow up to planking – tebowing.

How is it possible that a young man who is incredibly consistent in his own self and message can generate such wildly divergent opinions.

Simple. Tim Tebow is the crown prince of the new American Christendom.

A little history. Tim Tebow won two national titles as the quarterback for the University of Florida Gators while he was in college. He is legitimately regarded as one of, if not the best college football players of all time in a place where rabid doesn’t quite describe the passion of the fan base. As such he had a lot of national attention despite the fact that he was not expected to succeed at the professional level. After a couple of miraculous victories in the pros though the story of Tim Tebow – miracle man, has quite a following.

Unlike so many athletes Tebow always came across as the boy next door, not the thug from the wrong side of the tracks. However not only is he the boy next door but he is clearly the ‘Christian’ boy next door. He is the son of missionaries and went of missions trips every summer back to the Philippines where his family ministered. He painted scripture references on his face when he played, was humble and passionate, a confident and self declared virgin, and last year declared himself publicly prolife in a nationally televised commercial. He represents everything that the American Evangelicalism (and more and more Worldwide Evangelicalism) wants to be seen as. Successful, humble, conservative, relevant, attractive, moral, happy, popular. A winner.

I’m not suggesting in anyway that Tebow has crafted this image for himself or that this has been his goal. Everyone; Jews, Gentiles, men, women, slave and free man is a fan of Tim Tebow even though many rightfully judge that he is not an NFL calibre quarterback right now. Every report is that he is just as genuine as everyone says, that he is honest, humble, caring and likeable. Nothing even close to a bad report about Tim Tebow has surfaced despite the fact that there are many who would search for one. I don’t know his personal theology but I believe he loves Christ and that he is truly seeking to serve him and be the best witness for him that he can be.

What I find fascinating however is the unspoken importance that seems to be placed on Tebow’s success by many Evangelicals. The prominence of the ‘prosperity gospel’ and the basic belief that ‘God wants you to win in life’ has meant that biblical heroes such as David and Joseph are not looked at as pointing to Christ but as ends in themselves. They were rich, powerful men who overcame humble beginnings to win in life. This is the story that has (wrongly) in many circles become the story of what Christianity should be and perhaps no modern person represents those ideals better than Tim Tebow.

As a result it feels as though the success of Tim Tebow is proof of the new (un)Christian message that God blesses those who are good. Tim Tebow is moral and upright and good and so therefore it makes sense that God would bless him (or so the story goes). It is not unlike the old tests of trial by combat played out on a football field every week. If our representative knight wins then God is real…and he’s on our side! Again I don’t wish to suggest that Tebow himself sees things this way but its my impression that this is on some level how many supposed evangelicals see him. He is one of us. His success proves we are right. The funny thing is that you kind of get the sense atheists and other opponents of Christianity want to see him lose to. It cuts both ways.

Of course if Tim Tebow loses modern American Christendom will not come crashing to its knees. The false doctrine of the prosperity gospel is far too entrenched within the myth of the lone hero of the American conscience to fail just becuase one of their heroes has. But for now American Christendom has embraced Tebow as their representative knight and the whole world (forgive the hyperbole) is fascinated by a man who declares Christ is king. I can live with that.

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