I think I’ve figured it out. It’s not the answer to life, the universe, and everything (that’s 42), but it may be the closest thing we have these days.
Jen Floyd Engel wrote a column today for FoxSports that asks the question that’s been plaguing man for ages — or at least for the last few weeks of the NFL season (which, depending on what team you root for, may seem like ages) — “Why the heck do we hate Tim Tebow?”
As a side note, let me state that I’m not interested in the issues surrounding his abilities on the field. While there is validity to some of the arguments against him, they are mostly a smoke-screen that many of the Tebow-haters hide behind, claiming that all of their criticisms are only regarding his football abilities — male bovine excrement. Even Philadelphia fans don’t give their own players the kind of grief that has been heaped on Tebow all across the country.
Before delving into the “why” (which she never really resolves, but that’s why you have me), she notes that if Tebow was a Muslim, and Stephen Tulloch and Tony Scheffler mocked his faith-informed celebrations, “[a]ll hell would break loose.” And she’s right. In addition to the indictments and endless apologies that she cites, someone would probably fly an airplane into Ford Field (which, for many recent years, probably would have been welcomed by Lions’ fans).
But I’m not here to discuss a religious double-standard. Rather, I think I can answer Engel’s question. She notes (and others have before her) that Tebow doesn’t cram his faith down others’ throats. Even when he and his mom committed the ultimate sin by recording that pro-life commercial that aired on the Super Bowl broadcast, it was soft-pedaled (heck, if you look at the literal meanings of words –instead of how they get co-opted by a political affiliation — the commercial was really pro-choice).
And therein lies the issue. The guy lives his faith quietly. Yes, he’s on a big platform, so it’s also very public, but it’s still quiet (at least until you ask him, point-blank). You see, it’s easy to dismiss a whack-job like Fred Phelps, or a televangelist caught in a sex scandal, or the prominent pastor with the gold-plated toilet for his wife’s chihuahua.
But Tebow — he’s not so easy to dismiss. And that ticks a lot of people off. Here’s this guy whose life — not his words — butts up against theirs. Words can be argued against; they can be shouted down; they can be ignored. A life — not so much. And when you try to dispute a life, you get clumsy. You grasp at straws. You have all the grace of a newborn foal.
People don’t know what to do with Tim Tebow, largely because they don’t understand him. And unfortunately, we humans are programmed with a fear of the unknown. “Tebowphobia” may not be as catchy a word as “tebowing“. But it’s no less accurate.
BONUS APPLICATION FOR CHRISTIANS
In part of her article, Engel writes:
The defenses of Tebow, by Christians, are so ugly it defeats the point. This is where Christianity so often loses people, the ardent preaching of the gospel of “I’m Right, You’re Wrong” and the demand for tolerance and the unwillingness to grant it.
Now granted, she over-generalizes. Not all Christians’ defenses of Tebow are ugly (though, sadly, many are). And more importantly, her definition of Christianity bears no resemblance to what Christ taught. But sadly, her definition of Christianity is a fair representation of how it’s lived out by too many who claim the name of Christ.
And I don’t mean just the guys I cited earlier (Phelps, the televangelist, and the pastor). Yes, these clowns are often the most vocal, and so those who are too lazy to do any real investigation will simply assume that they are a fair representation of Christianity. But not that many people are that lazy. So the problem has to go deeper than those guys. It filters all the way down to random people like you and me.
Engel never really answers the question that she posed; but she is honest enough to examine the implications of it, and ends her article accordingly. I think I’m going to take a cue from her.
Does the way that you and I live out Christianity bear no resemblance to what Christ taught? Or at least less than it ought? Are we (to borrow from Engel), losing people? And if so, do we realize what we’re losing them to?