Tebow and Faith in Denver

Brad Greenberg, at the Jewish Journal, on Tebow:

Just because Tebow has strong religious beliefs that he has not been shy about sharing publicly does not mean that he poses a threat to members of other religious communities. Tebow certainly sees his performance on the gridiron as an opportunity to glorify God but, like Kurt Warner before him, he’s never been about making this an us (evangelical Christians) versus them (everyone else).

Very interesting sketch of how people of faith(s) in Denver are responding to Tebow.

In Denver, where the Broncos are the closest thing to a universal religion, the faith for football is so fervent that it sometimes supersedes other beliefs—especially since the arrival of Tim Tebow. In catapulting Denver to first place in the AFC West, Tebow has defied his skeptics in ways that might make even the most secular of pigskin purists consider the possibility of divine intervention.

And with the Broncos prospering under Tebow, different religious communities in Denver’s metropolitan area have embraced the starting quarterback, even if their beliefs don’t line up with his. The devout evangelical Christian, who isn’t shy about praying on the football field, has catalyzed such a pervasive conversation about the role of faith in public that some religious figures in Colorado’s Front Range even consider Tebow fodder for the pulpit.

Around 10 p.m. on a recent evening, the rabbi at Denver’s Temple Emanuel was asked if he would ever sermonize about Tebow. Joe Black responded as if he had just chugged an espresso.

“Oh, absolutely!” he said. “Here’s the sermon I would deliver and probably will deliver: Tim Tebow is broadcasting the fact that he believes in God. God is actively involved in his life. We call ourselves people of faith. Is that how we perceive God? And if not, how do we perceive God?”

Another Denver rabbi, Temple Sinai’s Rick Rheins, said he might feel “compelled” to preach about Tebow if the Broncos sneak into the playoffs. Then he reminded himself of this week’s Torah portion. It’s about Jacob wrestling with uncertainties of his own. “He’s not the most accurate thrower in the world, and he obviously has questionable NFL quarterback skills, and yet he doesn’t doubt himself,” said Rheins, who roots for the Bengals, Colts and of course the Broncos.

Tebow’s appeal stretches beyond Denver’s Jewish population. Khaled Hamideh visited the United States from Jordan in 1977 and fell for America’s Team: the Cowboys. He moved permanently in 1985 and still pulls for Dallas and, now, the Broncos. At the Colorado Muslim Society, the mosque where Hamideh is the board’s chairman, the Broncos don’t come up usually in conversation. But Tebow is often a topic for discussion when Hamideh and his friends gather for weekly barbecues and potluck dinners. He counts himself as a Tebow fan mostly because of the quarterback’s winning pedigree.

“I know I’m a Muslim and he’s a Christian, but I admire somebody who thanks God for everything that he gave him,” Hamideh said. “The team has rallied around him not because of his religious beliefs but because they believe this guy has something in him that pushes him the right way.”

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • David D

    My favorite player! Now my favorite team…

  • Kevin Glenn

    First, Tebow’s faith expressions might be somewhat aggressive, but I’d rather my kids hear about Tebow’s latest accomplishment than the Kardashian’s latest scam.

    Second, what’s being lost in the conversation is that in addition to his religious fervor, Tim Tebow, the athlete is a fierce and determined competitor. He hates to lose and will never give up on the possibility of victory as long as there’s time on the clock. In this aspect, Tebow’s actions are reminiscent of another Denver QB who never seemed to know when to quit.

  • http://tothetuneoftim.blogspot.com Tim M

    Tim Tebow just killed my fantasy football hopes, and since fantasy football is about us vs. them, I’m starting to doubt my post-evangelical perspective….

    Seriously, though, too much is made of Tim Tebow as an individual. What is clear is that he is inspiring his entire team to play at a level they were not playing 8 weeks ago. He is showing a character that can and should be emulated, regardless of the religious faith behind it. And the result isn’t a religious conversion of his teammates or fans, but a coming together of unity around common goals and desires. That – the common goals and focus approach – is what we should be examining and contemplating.

  • Rob Dunbar

    “I admire somebody who thanks God for everything that he gave him.” I tend to think that anyone who takes his or her faith seriously will likely feel the same way, whether or not the person in question is a Christian. When Tebow bows, he really does seem to do it out of authentic humility. As in, “I really wouldn’t be here if You hadn’t given me these gifts/opportunities/passions.” I hope it always stays that way.

  • TJJ

    I admire that he is proving all the experts and skeptics and naysayers wrong …..on the football field. That fact that he is a Christian who gives thanks and glory to God is icing on the cake.

  • ScottAR

    Matt 6:5-6. One guy is praying in public on a street corner. Jesus suggests being like the other guy who prays secretly behind closed doors. Little did Jesus know his future followers would advocate praying in the center of packed football stadiums! Jesus – not a fan of Tebowing.

    Now before one suggests that Jesus’ public prayer was doing it only for show and that Tebow is not, why then does Tebow pray visibly? Isn’t it partly a passive-aggressive evangelism attempt?

    What happens in the bedroom stays in the bedroom. When it’s out on the street corner (or a football stadium) it is something else entirely.

  • Joe Canner

    I’m starting to get the impression that the reason Tebow is a polarizing figure has more to do with words that are put in his mouth, rather than things he has actually said or done. According to this article, his pastor is quoted as having said that the Broncos’ recent success is due to “God’s favor.” That’s the kind of stuff that makes believers (of whatever faith) look stupid and in the process making Tebow guilty by association.

  • Simon in the UK

    I find this idea of tebows victorys down to Gods favour rather narrow minded. When Denver eventually lose a game, does that mean God has lifted his favour off Tim? I think not. As a long time British fan of the Raiders does He not favour His sons on that team as well? On past results it seems not. If you take that view to it’s extreme, any team that has a Christian in should never lose, which is quite ridiculous.

  • TSG

    Phillip Clayton and Steven Knapp have a new book called “The Predicament of Belief:…” It is squarely in the center of science/religion debate. They argue that because the experiences of believers or non-believers depend on their communities, they are not accessible to outsiders. The lesson to draw from this inescapable fact is the need for a profound humility about one’s beliefs, and a certain minimalism.

  • http://RankinFile(steverankin.wordpress.com) Stephen Rankin

    RE: Simon in the UK.

    Actually, Tebow made it explicit in a recent interview after Sunday’s game that he does not believe that God favors one team over another. He does not credit God for Denver’s wins.

    Eventually, the hoopla about Tebow will settle down.

  • http://Fox Cris Darbonne

    we thought it was great that Bill Orilley (sp) on Fox network took on the lady who wanted to stop Tebow from praising God. Made her look very silly

  • nathan

    related to comments made about praying in public &the what Jesus actually said …Jesus’ statement there was about the attitude of the heart (pride, self-love, personal reward) this is quite the contrary with tebow. additionally, we consistently see Jesus in the market teaching, healing, etc. the market (weather a football field or an office lunch room) are the places we’re to be witnesses.


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