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.

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.

  • Glodson

    Hell, the fact is that Tebow brought it upon himself. I’m sure there are many, many football players that are Christian. They aren’t really mocking him for being a Christian.

    They are mocking him before his kneeling displace of religion when he was thanking God for beating the Miami Dolphins. If you need a god to help you to beat the Dolphins, you got bigger problems than a linebacker Tebowing after a sack.

    I suppose I might have a problem with it if Tebow kept his religion private. Not really, but I guess I would feel a bit bad for him. But he makes is public. He hits everyone in the face with it. Don’t want me to mock you, keep that shit to yourself.

    So, yeah, don’t kneel to pray in a public space for accomplishing something inconsequential. And Hill would have a point if the beliefs were private. His beliefs are not private at all. He made them public. You put your balls out there, don’t be shocked when someone takes a kick.

    And am I the only one that has a problem with Tebow outside of his religion? I mean, people talk about him being humble and all that bullshit, but it seems that it is his arrogance that won’t let him change his style of play. And his play isn’t work at all in the NFL. And am I the only one that hopes he starts a few more games so I can see him getting driven into the ground some more?

    • Mycomo

      Yes, yes and yes.

      • Glodson

        Good, it looks like I’m not alone. It should be fun watching Tebow at the Raiders. I hope that the Broncos ride him into the ground so I don’t have to listen to the insane people suggesting that he’s got “it” and he’s a “winner” anymore.

    • Judgement

      Says the man who probably got picked on as a kid… And all he does now is talk about other people because he has no life.

  • fastlane

    That whole article summed up:


    Glad I could help. =)

  • Jim Baerg

    Christians who act like Tebow should get Mathew 6:5 quoted at them.

    • Reginald Selkirk

      And they should put that chapter & verse on their eye-black.

    • Slaughter

      Oh, I so agree.
      Funny thing, though — I expect him to take a lot more lumps, but I’m conflicted, too. I would like to see him get better because he’s such an underdog. I blame Denver for that, though. The front office selected him way, way too early in the draft.

    • jod

      Dude, it depends in his heart. If Tim is doing that so he can be praised by the public, then that’s wrong…But if he is genuinely thanking God for what God did for him, then i don’t see it as wrong.

  • Raging Bee

    My first impression of Tim Tebow was when I saw him on TV, crying on a teammate’s shoulder because they’d lost a COLLEGE football game. It’s perfectly okay for men to cry, but not over a damn game! I was very relieved when he didn’t get picked up by any of the teams my GF and I root for.

    I also have contempt for athletes who inject the worst elements of the athlete’s mentality into their religion. Isn’t religion backward enough without being commandeered by ignorant jocks full of machismo, bluster, conformity, self-righteousness, contempt for non-jocks, and the belief that winning is everything?

    Oh, and you’re praying to your God, asking him to rig the game so you can win? Just break out the steroids and do your own damn cheating! Does your God really want to be bothered about stupid games all over Christendom, when we’re already crying to him about stuff like poverty, war and injustice?

  • Raging Bee

    And am I the only one that hopes he starts a few more games so I can see him getting driven into the ground some more?


  • Woof

    I saw that column on ESPN yesterday (?) and commented more or less thus: If you have ridiculous beliefs, you shouldn’t be surprised when your beliefs are ridiculed. Yeah, I know – not original. But I really like it.

  • JT Eberhard

    And am I the only one that hopes he starts a few more games so I can see him getting driven into the ground some more?


  • feralboy12

    I left a couple of blistering comments over there, mostly calling the writer out for insisting that everyone automatically respect a religious faith even when it teaches that you will burn forever in hell, and that you deserve it. Why would I respect such a doctrine?

  • jatheist

    I emailed jemele with my thoughts on this and pointed her to this blog post… I wonder if she’ll pop by? She’s out to lunch on this one, but sadly most will agree with her article.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Even though people often complain about how they wish more athletes had a wholesome image, there’s a sizable faction who find the media coverage of Tebow’s success and his commitment to his faith nauseating.

    Hidden assumption: that public displays of religious piety are wholesome.

    • JT Eberhard

      Good catch!

    • Glodson

      Someone on the radio made a comment like that today. It was something that I hadn’t considered. He stated that Tebow himself made a mockery of his own faith by disingenuously praying at the end of the game Tebow “won.” (If it is your fault your team is losing, you didn’t win the game. You saved your own ass.)

      And then he said suggested that if you accept Tebow’s prayer has genuine and wholesome, then why wouldn’t you accept a d-linemen praying for his sack as genuine and wholesome? Perhaps it was god’s will that Tebow got sacked. Perhaps god took the Lions last Sunday.

  • Mark

    Same old song and dance: “Drop the god, emphasize the beat.”

  • jolo5309

    I didn’t mind Tim Tebow at all, after all, his stunning display of offensive skills helped me win my Fantasy Football game last week (28 points from the Lions defence? Booyah!)

    Oh wait, lots of players salute their deity of choice when they score touchdowns, so who cares what faith he has? Of course, those players are scoring TDs, not getting sacker…

  • docsarvis

    I agree with the comment that believers should have Matthew 6:5 on their eye black. Tebow is a hypocrite.

    • Judgement

      Everyone on this site is a hypocrite.
      Who are you to judge him. Just because he believes in something doesn’t give you the right to ridicule him.

      • docsarvis

        Matthew 6:5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”

        I am not ridiculing Tebow because he believes in something, I am ridiculing him because he professes his love for Jesus by doing what Jesus said to not do.

      • Woof

        We’re not judging Timmy. We’re ridiculing his ridiculous beliefs. Seems pretty straightforward to me…

  • tommykey

    I don’t remember reading anything in the Bible about Jesus being a football player.

    It’s interesting that a religion started by a man who preached giving up your worldly belongings morphed into hypermasculinity and being associated with sports.

  • CoderHead

    I’ve got a blog post in the works about automatic, unearned respect for ridiculous beliefs. Now when I post it I’m going to feel almost as though I’m copying yours. :(

    • JT Eberhard

      Don’t feel bad. Just write. Take anything you want from me with or without credit. Ideas don’t belong to anybody.

      Just spread them.

  • Beaux

    People who wear a Tebow’s jersey might as well have a “I Love jesus” jersey.