From Ross Douthat in this morning’s New York Times:
Why is Tim Tebow such a fascinating and polarizing figure? Not just because he claims to be religious; that claim is commonplace among football stars and ordinary Americans alike. Rather, it’s because his conduct — kind, charitable, chaste, guileless — seems to actually vindicate his claim to be in possession of a life-altering truth.
Nothing discredits religion quite like the gap that often yawns between what believers profess and how they live. With Tebow, that gap seems so narrow as to be invisible. (“There’s not an ounce of artifice or phoniness or Hollywood in this kid Tebow,” ESPN’s Rick Reilly wrote last year of the quarterback’s charitable works, “and I’ve looked everywhere for it.”) He fascinates, in part, because he behaves — at least in public, and at least for now — the way one would expect more Christians to behave if their faith were really true.
But the fascination doesn’t end there. Tebow’s religion doesn’t just promise a path to personal transformation. It claims that every human life is actually a story with an Author, and that a genuinely Christian life should make that divine Authorship manifest.So in Tebow’s case, the link between faith and football can’t actually be broken. The more that his professional career seems like, well, a storybook — with exciting up and downs, new opportunities and unexpected twists — the more credible his faith in providence becomes.
Note that “a storybook” is not the same as “an inevitable success.” In Christian theology as in young-adult fiction, even the author’s most beloved characters can suffer pain, temptation, failure, exile. The lives of the saints often end in martyrdom. The gentle, brutalized Peeta Mellark is as much the hero of “The Hunger Games” as the indomitable Katniss Everdeen.
So even the most pious of Jets fans shouldn’t expect a Super Bowl title. But if their new quarterback’s story really has an Author, they’re in for a pretty interesting ride.