College football begins in one week and at the center of attention are the Florida Gators and their superstar quarterback, Tim Tebow. He is college football’s most celebrated individual player and he is also a devote Christian.
His father, Bob Tebow, is an evangelist in the Phillipines where his ministry, Bob Tebow Evangelistic Association, boasts having converted 10 million people and training the new generation of evangelists for the future. His slogan is “The Harvest is Plentiful, The World is the Field.”
But, the world is not the particular field of the Tebow’s. It is the deeply Catholic Philippines. According to Bob Tebow, “In a country of 87 million, the number of people who have never heard the Gospel is staggering.”
Now, almost every media outlet (including this from the New York Times) has done nothing but praise Tim Tebow’s impressive record on the field that comes with the rare, added nicety of what most seem to label as “humanitarian” work via his father’s ministry. However, if you take a close look at the beliefs and resources offered through his father’s website it becomes very clear that this is a straightforwardly fundamentalist evangelical effort that denies the validity of Catholicism (among other things, to be sure, like: evolution).
In response to a July 27th article entitled, “You Gotta to Love Tim Tebow,” (that reads like this similar piece available online) Sean O’Brien, from Milwaukee, made this very point in this letter to Sports Illustrated:
On the Bob Tebow Evangelistic Association website, it is estimated that 75% of Filipinos have never once heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Given that Filipinos are 80% Roman Catholic, the target of the ministry if obvious. And while Bob, Tim’s father, may strike a warm, inclusive note in an interview, his own website does not, stating, “We reject the modern ecumenical movement.” In other words, when it comes to salvation, Catholics need not apply. Tim is featured prominately on his father’s website. So, no, I don’t gotta love Tim Tebow.
What this means, for me (a son of an evangelist and missionary family), is this: Given the proclivity to mix Dr. James Dobson and Pat Robertson with Mother Angelica and Raymond Arroyo—and the Evangelical-right wing of the Republican party—among many pious Catholics I know, what will it take to realize that those who seem like role models and Christian allies may actually have real and serious reasons to see that the Church be replaced with an fundamentalist evangelical version of Christianity?
Maybe we can start by wondering how many of the 10 million converts were Catholic Filipinos seduced by Tim Tebow’s celebrity and his father’s fundamentalist mission to save them from the “paganism” of their Church.
Then, we might wonder why these fundamentalist, Campus Crusade, cousins of the “Chick-Tract” approaches to evangelism pop up in Catholic ministry from time to time (e.g. Life in the Spirit Seminar, Cursillo, and the Charismatic Renewal in general).
I am not sure if Tim Tebow is anti-Catholic, but I do know this: the Catholic Church is not fundamentalist.