Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tebowing, revisited

I revise and expand my comments about Tim Tebow for this week's Scripps Howard column:
You know who would love to see Tim Tebow take it down a notch? Jesus.

At least, that's what the Bible seems to suggest in the sixth chapter of Matthew. That's where Jesus talks to his followers about prayer, and warns them against ostentatious displays: "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. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

Tim Tebow is, by all accounts, a man of great and genuine faith so perhaps he knows better than Jesus how to properly worship Jesus.

That seems unlikely, however.

Taken to its logical end, though, we would ask Christians to shut up about their faith entirely and stick it in a deep, dark hole. That's both unlikely and undesirable. Faith cannot, ultimately, be silenced.

But most of us have learned to live with boundaries -- to avoid thrusting our religion into arenas where it is unexpected or unwelcome. If you make a big sale at work, for example, you're unlikely to bend on knee in front of co-workers and customers to start giving thanks to God.

That would make them uncomfortable, and would be kind of rude as a result. Rudeness, in turn, makes few converts and conversions seem to be the point of Tebow's enterprise. Why be counterproductive? Tim Tebow, then, is the NFL equivalent of the telemarketer calling at dinner. He's free to make the call, but no one should be surprised if many of us are turned off by the salesman and his pitch.
Ben suggests that "Tebowing should be more emulated than scorned" in his take. You'll have to click the link to read the whole thing.


William Voegeli said...

Is it equally objectionable to thrust our political views into arenas where they would be unexpected or unwelcome? I'm thinking of the black power salutes at the 1968 summer Olympics, or Oscar acceptance speech harangues.

Joel said...

Bill: Always happy to see you weigh in!

I think, generally, Oscar political speeches are obnoxious and self-aggrandizing.

The black power salutes give me pause, admittedly, but that might be because of my liberal bias. I think there are times—and the late 60s might've been one of them—when the urgency of the times lend themselves to beyond-normal expressions. Is that the case now with Tebow? I don't think so...but if you're a conservative Christian, I can see how you might think otherwise.

Anonymous said...

I find it hypocritical that you feel the freedom to share TMI about the private details of your bodily functions in a public arena, but you think it is inappropriate for others to express their private faith publicly. It's a double standard.

Even though I REALLY did not care to read about the consistency of your waste, I supported your freedom of expression. You were being true to yourself. Why can't you extend that same freedom to others? Even when you disagree? Even when it makes you feel uncomfortable?

By the way, in the scripture you quoted, Jesus wasn't promoting a "closet faith" as much as he was addressing hypocrisy of the heart -something we all need to work on. We could all extend each other a little more grace & freedom.

Joel said...

Anon: Possible you make a good point. The difference being that this blog is pretty explicitly a place for my viewpoint and ponderings,but the NFL isn't (and isn't expected to be) a church service. Context matters.

Amie Babineau said...

I respectfully disagree with Anon. Poop is common to us all. Belief systems are not. Also, it's not the beliefs themselves I necessarily object to, it's more the implication that someone else's belief system is more valid than mine and I should subscribe to it. It's not Tebow's Christianity that annoys me, it's the fact that he's apparently taken it upon himself to negotiate an endorsement deal with Jesus. You, on the other hand, have never once tried to persuade me to your way of pooping. Bring on the lurid descriptions, my friend...I can take it!

William Voegeli said...

Joel, I was trying to make this point: We live in an age when people feel at liberty, even obligated, to demonstrate their beliefs and attachments in all kinds of ways. Millions of people have wildly exaggerated ideas about the rest of the world's eagerness to know about their inner lives. (Hence, for example, blogging.) People famous for their success in one field, such as athletics or entertainment, are especially susceptible to the idea that they are called upon to serve the world as sociologists at large.

If your point is that we would be better off rediscovering the value and satisfactions of reticence, I'm on board. If you're singling out Tebow because fundamentalist Christianity gives you the heebie-jeebies, I'm not. I would feel better if Tebow gave testament to his faith in more restrained ways, but wish just as much that movie and rock stars would refrain from leveraging their celebrity to advance the causes of vegetarianism, carbon-neutrality, same-sex marriage, etc.

So, are you going to pick-and-choose which demonstrations of which belief-systems are intolerable, or embrace a comprehensive, even-handed approach to the issue?

Joel said...

I'm working on a longer post about all of this, to address a specific point, but I want to thank Amie—whom I know to be a nurse—for understanding what I was trying to do with the poop thing.

After I originally wrote my by colostomy, I was surprised at the number of searches that started arriving at that particular blog post--often with the searched keywords being some variation of "I hate my colostomy." It's my hope (as it is for many writers) that sharing and articulating my experience with the surgery would somehow offer solace to others experiencing the same thing.

Which is why, at the end of it, I wrote so explicitly about poop. It was an ugly piece of work, to be sure, and I *know* that I'm guilty of oversharing many times—both online and in real life. There was no fecalphilia intended; it's just that the constant presence of poop was so associated with the illness in my mind that I suspected others had lived similarly. I wanted to give voice to that.

That's flattering myself, of course, that my writing makes any kind of difference at all in the world. But such was my intent. While I have a tendency to oversharing, there are some lines I cross only after careful deliberation. "On pooping" was one of them.