Tebow and God

My Problem with Tim Tebow 


The day the Forty-Niners were going to play the NFC championship game, I was sitting in front of my TV set, brooding about Tim Tebow and trying to sort out what I found so irritating about his praying-after-every-touchdown ritual.

The Chronicle’s Don Asmussen had a Bad Reporter cartoon panel one day in which the headline read, “God Denies Tebowing During Disasters.” The subhead read: “God accuses NFL of hiding world hunger from him.”

Amusing, yes, but I don’t think Asmussen nailed it, quite. In fact, I found his failure to nail it illuminating .  For one thing, I could not help but notice the premise of his joke: that God would waste time helping Tim Tebow instead of alleviating world hunger or mitigating all these terrible disasters in the world.  It’s the “instead of” part that catches my attention. 

The joke assumes God can’t multi-task.

Actually, the God-concept inherently implies the ability to focus on every conflict, problem, and phenomenon throughout the universe simultaneously. That’s what “omnipotent, omniscient, and ubiquitous” means. If you’re talking about a power that can’t be there if it’s here and can’t be working on this problem if it’s working on that problem, well, you’re not talking about God but “a god.” Omnipotence, omniscience, and ubiquity are the God-concept . Without those attributes, we’re talking about a super-hero.

And if most people who believe in God think of Him as a immense superhero who is on their side, I can see why people fight over religion. Driving around in my car once, I heard an evangelical pop-tune on the radio with a refrain that went: “Our god…is a very very mighty god…”

That sentence implies the correlative: “and your god … isn’t….”

In short, “My god can beat your god.” That’s the premise I’m hearing.

And if that’s the premise, then yes: it makes sense for Tim Tebow to kneel and pray each time he wins a football game. He’s celebrating the victory of his god over the other guy’s god. The god he’s thanking is part of the Denver team, like a coach, only higher. In this scenario, football games are actually contests between supernatural super-coaches. We’re back to ancient Greek times and Mount Olympus.

But if Tebow’s really thinking of God as an omnipotent, omniscient, and ubiquitous will, then his ritual is perhaps even more offensive, because he’s not just saying “I won because God loves me,” but also “and he doesn’t love you.” I’m one of God’s favored creatures–and you’re not.” It’s that implicit, unspoken “you’re-not” that I take exception to.

I can accept that helping Tebow doesn’t mean that God isn’t also saving the Titanic and alleviating world hunger. What puts my back up is the notion that God has a dog in this fight. Why would he prefer one outcome to another in a football game? Is he part of a fantasy football league? Is he betting on NFL games? Speaking of which, if the outcome doesn’t derive from the passion, skill, drive, and determination of the players and their coaches, but from divine intervention, doesn’t that sorta’ undermine the purpose and integrity of the game? A god might do that–they tend to be jealous, petty sorts–but would God? And if that’s not why he threw the game to Tebow, then what was his motive? Was he just rewarding Tim Tebow for worshipping him? If that’s the case, I can’t help but note that the Titanic did sink and that world hunger continues unabated. Philosophers have long wrestled with the problem of reconciling evil with a universe created by a just and loving God. I can get my arms around the problem if I say, “There’s more going on here than I understand.” What doesn’t work for me is the answer embodied by Tebow’s public religious devotions, which seems to be: “God could fix everything, but he only helps people on his team, and the only people on His team are the people who worship Him.”

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