Criticizing Tebow's Faith Didn't Happen, Would Be Ok If It Did

With Tim Tebow’s accuracy he couldn’t throw a football in the ocean. He’s getting flack for it, which Jemele Hill is ok with, but the other day she told us just how far is too far.

Ridicule Tim Tebow for his slow release, for missing open receivers, for throwing passes that sail out of bounds, and for sometimes dancing in the pocket like someone put a firecracker in his cleats.

That’s fair game.

But mocking Tebow’s Christian beliefs is not.

His beliefs are so silly they invite mockery. If you publicly think someone rose from the dead 2,000 years ago, prepare to be mocked. Personally, I’d love to hear some of the other players mocking his Christian beliefs, I just haven’t seen them do it. Did they razz him for believing Jesus walked on water? Did they call him a bigot for his opinion on LGBT rights? I’d love to see these things!

Jemele points me to where this infraction took place.

Detroit linebacker Stephen Tulloch openly mocked Tebow’s prayer pose — a new phenomenon known across the Internet as “Tebowing” — after sacking Tebow in the second quarter.

Hold on a sec. I don’t see anybody mocking his religious beliefs. I see them mocking Tim Tebow and his public (literally) holier-than-thou displays, which I’m frankly also ok with. Lots of players in the NFL believe in god. Not all of them put it on display as though they have god on speed dial.

Tulloch and Scheffler probably didn’t intend to disrespect Tebow’s faith with their celebrations. But if Tebow were Muslim or Jewish, would Tulloch and Scheffler have been so quick to execute a prayer parody

Look at how bad we Christians have it! Piffle, says I. I hope they’d be just as eager to poke fun at Tim Tebow in all his pomposity. If he were Jewish, he’d still look just as silly for making a display of his godliness in whatever showy way strikes him at the time. If you’re gonna fall to a knee and thank god for taking time off from giving people AIDS in Africa to help you win a football game (because FSM-knows, Tebow’s play for most of the game against Miami didn’t help), you gotta be willing to take it when god helps the Detroit defense destroy you and people note the inconsistency.

And when someone like Tim Tebow thinks he knows better how I should live my life (or how women wanting abortion or gay people should live theirs) because of a silly belief he cannot support, then he has opened the door to mockery whenever he flies that kite in public and I hope everybody who feels so moved will walk through as far as they wish.

Yes, from the beginning, Tebow has willingly used his platform as a high-profile athlete to promote Christianity. In college, he wore eye-black with Bible verses on them and revealed to the media he was a virgin. During last year’s Super Bowl, he appeared in a pro-life commercial that was sponsored by Focus on Family, a global, conservative Christian ministry.

If using your platform to preach fills your sails, knock yourself out – but you don’t get to expect protection for it. If you use your platform to advance a political opinion, that would be fair game. If you used it to say martians helped build the pyramids, that would be fair game. Religion is no different.

“But JT!” I hear Christians saying. “If you were in his shoes, would you be quiet about your atheism?” No, I wouldn’t. I’d say my team got no help from Jesus during press conferences after a win. I’d use my platform as a prominent athlete to criticize the Christian faith. But I wouldn’t expect protection for it. I’d be willing to defend the things I said and did. I would sure as hell not demand that people lay off me for doing it.

Tebow is a juicy target because he receives so much media coverage and he’s often depicted as a Goody Two-Shoes. It’s not Tebow’s fault, but it makes it that much easier for his critics to revel in his failures and give extra motivation to his opponents.

It’s not his fault? Of course it’s his fault! You think people dreamed up Tebowing without his help? You think the anti-abortion commercial didn’t have something to do with it?

Tebow didn’t create the headline or narrative that he’s a golden boy.

Yeah, he did. He has frequently thanked god for helping him perform well (Tebow even looked like he was counting on god to stop the Lions’ blitzes). You don’t tell the world you’re a virgin at a press conference if you’re not trying cultivate that image.

I don’t care if Tebow is cemented as a NFL failure, that doesn’t give people license to mock his faith.

He doesn’t need to be a failure for people to have that license. Beliefs are open to criticism, especially when they’re public and foolish.

Imitating someone’s prayer pose after a sack isn’t the same as Clay Matthews flexing his biceps following a big play. It’s not the same as Shawne Merriman doing his “Lights Out” dance after demolishing a quarterback.

But if a religion found them holy, then they’d be off limits? Um, no. Absolutely not. Religion does not get protections not afforded elsewhere. Tebow’s display isn’t special because it’s prayer, nor is it any less vain.

Prayer is a sacred component of any religion. Making fun of someone else’s spiritual connection is on par with ridiculing them about their family. You don’t have to be a Christian to get that, just someone who understands the concept of respect.

Bullshit! Absolute bullshit! You have no sway over your family. No amount of research or dedication to reason will alter your family. But you can damn sure apply diligence to what you believe about the operation of the universe and, if you fail that responsibility, particularly if you then want to tell others to emulate you, you are wide open for criticism.

Jemele is right about one thing though: it’s disrespectful. It’s disrespectful with a smile on my face and a song in my heart! It’s supposed to be. I do not respect Tebow’s beliefs, I do not respect his actions on account of them. I think he looks like an utter imbecile. I have as much problem saying this as I do saying the sky is blue.

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About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.


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