This just in from the Department of Bizarre Feats of Religious Jackassery:
The New York Jets backup quarterback is trademarking “Tebowing,” the move in which he goes down on one knee and holds a clenched fist against his forehead while praying during games.
After Tebow led the Denver Broncos to a handful of fourth-quarter comeback victories last season, “Tebowing” swept the country – with actor Robert Downey Jr. even doing it at the Oscars.
Newsday first reported that the trademark was approved Oct. 9. Tebow says Friday he wasn’t aware the trademark was official yet.
The devout Christian says his representatives filed on his behalf not for financial gain, but “to just control how it’s used, make sure it’s used in the right way.”
In the words of one Huffington Post commenter: “I cannot believe this guy. He trademarks an act of THANKING GOD for profit.”
The hubris of Tebow’s public prayer has attracted cries of hypocrisy from Christians pretty much since he started doing it. It’s an easy argument to make: after all, in Matthew 6:1, Jesus is pretty explicit in his condemnation of religious observances done for human attention. (Whether Tebow’s public prayer is an attempt to call attention to himself or a genuine act of devotion is the main locus of debate amongst evangelicals.)
But there’s something more alarming to me in Tebow’s use of the trademark. I personally would be happier with it if he were seeking profit from the gesture. That kind of motivation is at least limited to Tebow’s own interests. What disturbs me is his own justification for it: “to just control how [the gesture]’s used, make sure it’s used in the right way.”
I haven’t partaken in the tebowing meme, but this, more than anything else, makes me want to do it. When you trademark something to control what other people can do with their own bodies, you are abusing the private sector. I’m not worried about a sudden rash of tebowing lawsuits or being fined when I stop to tie my shoelaces. I am worried about the broader trend this trademark reflects.
Evangelicals are a strange breed, as committed to laissez-faire economics and minimal government as they are to stringent moral control. This unholy blend has spawned huge, privately owned religious revenue factories like Chick-fil-A that seek to install socially conservative morality police in government under the guise of “private” donations and “personal” convictions.
When Tebow says he’s trademarking his ridiculous prayer pose to control how it’s used, he’s demonstrating more of that attitude. The attitude that says, if I can’t make everybody agree with me, I’ll just buy their compliance. Tebow has taken a gesture, something that has belonged to millions of people before him (not least proposing boyfriends!) for centuries and put his stamp on it to make sure that his version of Christianity is impervious to mockery. He doesn’t seem to grasp that when people “tebow,” they’re not making fun of Jesus. They’re making fun of Tebow. They’re even (dare I say it) making fun of the way he infuses an inappropriate amount of religious fervor into something as frivolous as football.
There’s a word I’m looking for. It describes people who think that their opinions, beliefs and practices deserve special reverence from people who think differently. It describes the attitude that “just control” is an acceptable way to deal with other people’s actions when they offend you.
Oh, right. It’s called entitlement.
Now, pardon me while I go trademark the headdesk. I don’t care how you use it, but I could use the cash.