Not being much of a follower of the NFL any more, I have not had the pleasure of enjoying the antics of Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. He is a fundamentalist Christian who sparks deep emotions among many people, pro and con. He’s also famous for his much-parodied special prayer pose on the field.
One of his critics is Rabbi Joshua Hammerman of Stamford, Connecticut who blogs at joshuahammerman.blogspot.com and writes for the New York Jewish Week. Rabbi Hammerman decided to write about Quarterback Tebow and the shit flew off the fan mighty fast:
People are always looking for signs of God’s beneficence, and a victory by the Orange Crush over the blue-clad Patriots, from the bluest of blue states, will give fodder to a Christian revivalism that has already turned the Republican presidential race into a pander-thon to social conservatives….
If Tebow wins the Super Bowl, against all odds, it will buoy his faithful, and emboldened faithful can do insane things, like burning mosques, bashing gays and indiscriminately banishing immigrants. While America has become more inclusive since Jerry Falwell’s first political forays, a Tebow triumph could set those efforts back considerably.
Having once been a big sports follower, I remember how fans would infer earth shattering consequences from the results of big wins. Though I probably have no reason, I expect more from a liberal rabbi with a national reputation. Does he really think football is THAT important? And could he possibly really believe that “buoyed” Tebow fans were going to run out and burn mosques? History teaches us that fans wait until a championship win and then they burn everything!
Here’s more of the rabbi’s “thinking” on the importance of Tebow:
His story is so improbable that if he were to win it all, a part of me would be wondering whether there is a Purpose behind it, just as I saw a divine hand in the equally unbelievable Red Sox victory of 2004. And it makes me wonder whether other Jews, the ones who don’t happen to have advanced degrees in religion and a few decades of rabbinic experience, might be even more seduced by this unfolding drama. Will legions of Southern Baptist missionaries hit the college campuses the very next day, spreading this new gospel of Tim? Already there is a “Jews for Tebow” Facebook page.
I hope Rabbi Hammerman is kidding about the “divine hand” involved in the Red Sox’s victory. I don’t think he is. This is the problem with superstitious, magical thinking. It clogs up your brain with fantasy scenarios like this one about Baptist missionaries leveraging a Broncos victory to convert the Jews.
Hammerman was roundly condemned for his article. Apologies were issued and the column was scrubbed from the internet. (It took a lot of patience to find an intact version.) There were all kinds of charges of “bigotry” against Christians and so forth from all of the usual places (I’m looking at you, Fox News).
I happened upon another article about Tebow on the ESPN site Grantland, written by Charles Pierce. There certainly is legitimate criticism that could be leveled at Tebow:
Tim Tebow became “compelling” because he became a character in the great national dumbshow that is our culture war. And we should be very clear about one thing — he wasn’t dragooned into this. Nobody drafted him. He walked into this role with his eyes open. Before he ever took a snap in the NFL, he appeared in an anti-choice television ad with his mother that was sponsored by Focus on the Family, an influential anti-choice, anti-gay-rights organization founded by the Rev. James Dobson. He knew what he was doing.
This is why Tebow’s views are open to criticism. He put them in the public sphere.
It has been argued paradoxically that his faith is both vital to his success and off-limits to criticism. This is, of course, nonsense. He put his business in the street that way, and he did so by allying himself with the softer side of a movement that contains other organizations that the Southern Poverty Law Center, which knows about this stuff, recently designated as hate groups. There was considerable thumb-sucking about the propriety of criticizing — or, gloriosky, perhaps even mocking — Tebow’s conspicuous religiosity. This was an ironical moment in that it came in the week that journalist Christopher Hitchens died, and it was Hitchens whom I first heard say…that the only proper answer a journalist can give to the question “Is nothing sacred?” is “Yes.”
Now back to Rabbi Hammerman’s inane article. Seeking to remind people that he is a RELIGIOUS rabbi, he states:
…I do not fear people of faith. I fear people of certainty. The worldwide struggle going on right now is not between good and evil, but between certainty and doubt. It cuts across denominational lines: Progressive and Modern Orthodox Jews lie on one side of the divide, joining mainline Christians and moderate Muslims; and those on the other side are also Jews, Christians and Muslims; the people of certainty.
The rabbi loves faith. He simply thinks that the liberally religious are superior because of their doubts.
He misses the point completely. He’s just as certain that HIS god is mysterious and unknowable and really loves gays as the other side is certain that their god wrote a best-selling book and isn’t crazy about same-sex relationships.
They’re both certain that they have access to the mind of this deity and they both engage in ridiculous behaviors that indicate their certainty. That’s the whole point of their “faith.” It’s anything they want it to be and it still carries divine authority.
And while Tebow is praying in the end zone, is he really so different from Hammerman? The rabbi concluded his column with this:
For me, only one thing is certain. On Sunday, I’ll be praying for the Patriots.
Well, they won, so I guess Yahweh likes the gays.