The Tebow Phenomenon: Two Kinds of Prejudice

I know—I’m coming really late to the dance. In the last several months, everyone and his brother has jumped into the fray to beat up on Denver Broncos’ starting quarterback Tim Tebow.

Actually, though, what I want to do is something quite different:  I want to use this winsome young man as a foil, merely to talk about PREJUDICE.

I have in mind two kinds of prejudice:

  1. Prejudice Against Faith.  The prejudice against Tim Tebow and, by extension, against all people of faith.  The prejudice on the part of sports reporters, the entertainment media, even his teammates.
  2. Prejudice Against the Catholic Faith.  The prejudice of the Tebow family, especially his father Bob Tebow, toward Catholics.

Let me explain.

First, reporters and writers from the secular left have decried Tebow’s “in-your-face” expressions of faith.  Religion is okay, they tell us, but should be kept private—not flaunted on the field nor vocalized in every post-game interview.  Athletes, even Tebow’s own teammates, have mocked his on-field bended-knee prayer posture.  All the “Tebowing” talk has become a cliché on late-night talk shows and radio sports channels.

Actually, though, the sports pages are replete with stories about athletes who take their faith seriously. 

  • Brian Dawkins, a teammate of Tim Tebow’s on the Denver Broncos, is actually more outspoken about his faith than is Tebow.
  • Pittsburgh Steelers star Troy Polamalu is known among his teammates for his spiritual devotion.  The Greek Orthodox Christian prays during the action—crossing himself before every play and sometimes after.  Of the team’s 2006 Superbowl win, Polamalu said it was “really beautiful and a blessing.  But success in football doesn’t matter.  Success in anything doesn’t matter.  As Mother Teresa said, God calls us not to be successful but to be faithful.  My prayer is that I would glorify God no matter what, and not have success be the definition of it.”
  • New York Giants kicker Jay Feely, who was second in the NFL last season with 148 points, is a devout Catholic who seeks to use his football stardom to affect people’s lives in a positive way.  He described a particular meeting with a sick little boy:  “That was my moment of clarity.  It solidified my faith.  That was when I understood my life as a man….”
  • Minnesota Vikings backup quarterback Mike McMahon, a lifelong Catholic, carries a rosary and prays every day.
  • German soccer legend Franz Beckenbauer recommitted himself to his Catholic faith after meeting Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.  “Benedict XVI leads people to the Church,” Beckenbauer told aMunich newspaper, “and I am the best example of that.”

So why, then, is there an outcry among some groups, who urge Tebow to keep his faith private?  Is it possibly that his strongly pro-life television commercial filmed with his mother, that aired during last year’s Superbowl, has offended some  viewers?  Or has the climate just become more toxic for faith?

Then, there’s another kind of prejudice—that demonstrated by believers of some Christian denominations toward adherents of the Catholic faith.  And unfortunately, it would appear that Tim’s father Bob, and probably Tim himself, fall into this group.

Somehow as we’ve cheered Tebow’s public acts of piety, we’ve failed to notice some discriminatory messages emanating from his father’s Bob Tebow Evangelistic Association (BTEA), the missionary organization in the Philippines to which Tim contributes both financial and hands-on support.

Bob Tebow’s missionary efforts in the Philippines began in 1985.  Bob, his wife Pam and their five children lived in the Philippines from 1985 to 1990, preaching the gospel, planting churches, and establishing a staff of Filipino national evangelists, which now number 52.  In addition to training the BTEA staff, Bob also began holding seminars and conferences to train local Filipino pastors.

Among the BTEA’s missionary efforts is an orphanage, Uncle Dick’s House, which is now home to 50 orphans, and a boat ministry intended to reach every small island in the Philippine island chain.

On the BTEA website, Bob Tebow claims, “In a country of 92,000,000, it is estimated that over 65,000,000 Filipinos have never once heard the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Currently, there are 41,949 barangays (villages), and 26,675 (64%) of them have no evangelical church of any kind.” And, he adds, “…many Filipinos would believe in Jesus if they were just given the opportunity.”

BUT….  In actuality, the Philippines are a strongly Catholic country.  According to the most recent data, fully 82.9% of Filipinos are Catholic.

Bob Tebow believes that Catholics are not Christian, that they do not believe in Jesus, and that they need to be converted to Tebow’s particular brand of Evangelical Protestantism.  His life-long ministry has been devoted to “converting” Catholics away from their faith.

That is an insidious prejudice, and one which must be countered by Truth.

  • Arh0101

    Agreed, as a recent convert to the Catholic faith from a Southern Baptist Tradition we oft heard this message of the non-belief of Catholics from the pulpit and in Sunday School, the whole sola scriptora doctrine. Praise our Heavenly Father God that by the power of the revelation of the Holy Spirit, scripture and tradition as taught by the Church, I came to the knowledge of the truth, my prayer is that many will come to this same saving knowledge!

    • Kathy Schiffer

      Welcome to the Catholic Church! May you grow in closeness to Jesus in the Eucharist, and may the whole body of believers be enriched by your presence in the pew. God bless.

  • Pingback: Reader Feedback Time: Is Tim Tebow a Religious Bigot?

  • Brian Sanders

    You are accusing Bob Tebow of anti-Catholicism, I am not certain that is an accurate assertion, but is the very nature of your article anti-evangelical?

    You do not share the same faith; end of story.


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