I have a confession. I may have a man crush on Tim Tebow. I love that he kneels to pray on the sideline and prayer for protection for him and his teammates before a game. I love that he sings worship songs (off key) during his warmups. I love that he is a talented football player, seems to be a good teammate, a good sport, and has a drive to succeed. I have been a fan of Tebow since his playing days at Florida, when I learned that during the offseason, he joined his missionary parents to help the impoverished. I love that he uses his talents not for his own glory, but for that of Christ. Simply put, I am drinking deep from the Tim Tebow Kool-aid, and I don’t care who knows it. I do so knowing full well that it brings my allegiance to OU into question. Rest assured though, the diploma on my wall will bring me back home.
What concerns me though is the pedestal that Tebow has been put on. Because of the things I just mentioned, Tebow now has the weight of all of Christendom on his shoulders, and that is simply not fair to him. Even with his faith, he is a sinner in need of forgiveness just like anyone else. Having never met him, I am sure there are things that he struggles with just like every other believer. Tebow is not perfect, and not the only person that has the ability to make a difference in regards to spreading the Good News of Jesus. That job belongs to everyone, not just the starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos.
There can be no argument that Tebow is a great example to follow. There are several things that I find interesting though about Tebow. The first is that his Christianity was not that big of a deal last year when he was on the bench. It wasn’t until Tebow was on the field, and subsequently winning, did we begin to hear all of the chatter about his faith and his character, both of which were still present even when he was on the bench. I imagine that Tebow’s faith would not nearly get so much press, both postively and negatively, if Tebow was say 2-8. If you don’t believe me, ask yourself this: why isn’t Jon Kitna getting as much press about his faith as Tebow? Kitna’s testimony is just as powerful as Tebows. Being a superstar athlete is not a precondition of being a superstar follower of Christ.
What I love about Tebow is that his prayer are offered independently. The Broncos don’t force Tebow to kneel and pray before the game, he does that all by himself. I love that Tebow does it on the sidelines, and not at midfield. His prayers seem genuine, and not simply for show. There is a lesson here for the followers of Christ to learn. Humility and authenticity are, in my opinion, will spark a revival within the church.
Recently, there was a group of students in New York who were suspended for “Tebowing” in the middle of a hallway at school. Their suspension was not because they were praying in school, but that they were blocking the hallway, and presented a safety risk. There were people who got upset that the students were disciplined, because of the perception that the school was stopping them from praying. Even Tebow himself even addressed it by saying that even though he respects their courage, but that it is important to follow the rules. This ignited the debate about prayer in school, which is always fun. I find it curious that those who are for small government conservatism do not share the same view when it comes to school prayer. For people who think that government is incompetent in every area, it is interesting that they are calling for a mandate that students, who are compelled to be there, must engage in prayer.
Let’s play out a hypothetical. Let’s say that there is someone in a school who is charged with leading a class into prayer that isn’t a Christian. Let’s say that they are a Muslim, or a Buddhist, or an Atheist. Are we really comfortable forcing someone to lead a group of young people in a Christian prayer that they don’t necessarily agree with? Isn’t that a potentially dangerous proposition?
Even if we remove that particular variable from the equation, which flavor of Christianity would we like? Should we have a Pentecostal prayer? Should we pray in Latin? Should it simply be the Lord’s prayer? Even the Lord’s prayer is problematic, because I think if we add “for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever”, it would be awkward for our Catholic friends.
It’s not like Baptists are without disagreements. I imagine even if we had three Baptist ministers writing out a verbatim prayer, there would be no less than eight opinions about what should be in it. With most every denomination thinking that their understanding of Christ is the absolute right one, and everyone else is completely wrong, does this not open up a Pandora’s box of problems?
I once read a bumper sticker that said “as long as there are tests, there will be prayer in school.” The truth of the matter is this, there is prayer in school..even without the tests. I graduated high school in 2001, and the debate about prayer in school was just as contentious then as it is now. There will always be prayer in school as long as there are parents and pastors who teach their children to follow Christ independently and with abandon. As a high school student, I prayed frequently throughout my high school career, and at no point was I stopped. Each September, I joined my fellow believers at the school’s flag pole for “See You At The Pole” and prayed, and at no point were there school officials stopping me from doing so. The concept of freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion is something that I wholeheartedly agree with. Freedom of religion though means that you, me, we, are free to practice our religion in any way we see fit, without intrusion from the state, which includes compulsory prayer from the disingenuous.
If prayer in school is the answer to the problems we are facing, then perhaps we should teach our children to pray for our schools, teachers, leaders, and peers outside of one Wednesday in September. If a teacher or school official stops THAT prayer, then the church be outraged about the lack of prayer in school. Until then, saying that Christians are persecuted in the United States, where churches are free to meet wherever and however they please, even in an elementary school, is an insult to those who are going through actual, I could be killed for following Christ, persecution.
As far as Tebowing goes. Perhaps we should take a page out of Tebow’s playbook and instead of praying in the middle of crowded hallway, go to the sidelines, in secret, and pray. I think I read that somewhere (Matthew 6:6).