Sunday, September 09, 2012

Tebowmania: The Reason Behind It

I have started about a dozen posts on the Tim Tebow phenomenon, but each one has ended in not being able to finish, until now.  One thing I learned from other areas of life, in the mean time, is that it is not always in the heat of the moment that we can get any kind of point across.  Not that I will this time, either, but I have an opinion as to why Tebowmania was such a big deal.  I'll share it here.

It has to do with the well established sub-culture of evangelicalism.  In the evangelical world view, there is no greater thing than personal evangelism.  It has been exalted to the highest position on the Christian duty list.  It has become not merely means to an end, it is the end itself.  An end which justifies its own means.  And it is revered over and above all other things.  It has become almost a form of worship itself.

In the evangelical sub-culture, "personal witnessing" is pretty much equated with the first great commandment itself; loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.  So much so that the second great commandment - loving neighbor as one's self - is optional.  If you "witness" for Jesus, it doesn't matter how tacky you are in bringing it, or who it offends, or who else it puts off, who it walks over in the process, or even if your boss is paying for it instead of the work you are supposed to be doing.  It doesn't matter if the waitress gets a good tip for her service, or even any tip at all, as long as she gets witnessed to before you leave.

And this is where Tebow comes in.  He publicly announced last year that the media would be his platform for his personal evangelism.  And there's no greater exposure for this type of thing than a nationally televised football game combined with a post-game interview, especially when a last-minute comeback victory is seen as being directly tied to God.  Nevermind taking into consideration Jesus' words cautioning against practicing one's religion to be seen by others.  No.  There is no such consideration in the evangelical subculture.  Forget that "Well, I'd like to thank my personal Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ" didn't answer the reporter's question.  Witnessing is witnessing.  All this was an explosive combination.  But this is less about Tebow than about his giddy followers.

Tebow was ranked as the worst quarterback in the NFL before they tanked their last three games to obliterate any chance whatsoever of making the playoffs.  Outside of a complete Oakland Raider meltdown and complicated tie-breaker situation, of course.  And when the Denver wide receiver took a relatively moderate pass from Tebow and made a stunning 60 yard run to beat the Steelers on the last play of the playoff game, you'd never know from my Facebook page that the receiver had anything to do with it.  I mentioned this on Facebook, and a friend who lived in Denver asked me what in the world I was talking about.  The receiver's name was all over the Denver media.  Real football fans in Denver knew what happened but evangelical facebookers didn't.  But the following week, Tom Brady gave Tebowmania a mortal wound by slicing up the Denver defense in a very short amount of time.  No kneeling and praying for Tebow in the end zone.  No post-game interviews.  Nothing but silence.  It was in an instant like Tebowmania never happened.

I'm no stranger to the exaltation of personal witnessing myself.  I've been within evangelicalism almost 20 years now.  One church I attended passed out bible tracts by the millions.  Quite literally.  People there would spend 8 hours on Saturdays at shopping centers and train stations passing them out.  When asked to leave by management, they considered it hostility toward the gospel.  Really?  With annoyed patrons and thousands of tracts littering the ground?  I never heard of a single convert by using such means, either.  Another church I went to had a prayer meeting every week, and one of the items of prayer was for the non-Christians.  People recounted in detail all the conversations they had the previous week with unbelievers in failed attempts to "steer the conversation toward spiritual things."  Imagine talking to somebody who tried to change the subject after every sentence you spoke.  Would you want to convert to their religion?  Do they care about you or their own agenda?  It was even frustrating for me as a Christian because I didn't feel free to talk about the weather or what I did for a living because everybody else had an agenda of changing the topic.  Yet another church I frequented had door-to-door evangelism.  We were all instructed on what to do before we were sent out.  Keen observers asked what to do in case we encountered "no trespassing" or "no solicitors" signs.  The answers were "trespassing is against the law" and "we'll leave it up to your conscience" respectively.  Dude?  You have to appeal to the civil law in one case, and you allow your church members to disregard the wishes of a homeowner in the other?  The kingdom is at hand for sure.

Before I go, I'll just say that I'm a baseball fan and don't pay much attention to football until after the World Series.  I saw a headline a few minutes ago that said Tebow was booed in New York.  I have no idea what that's all about.  They would boo Santa Claus in New York.  No, wait.  That's Philly.


  1. I watched the Peyton Manning era begin in Denver. They are saying Tim Tebow who? Tebow is a sub par player, a back up quarterback, who gets way too much attention. I will be glad when Tebow mania becomes an odd footnote in NFL history.

    Go Reds.

    1. Bruce, thanks for the comment. I missed anything about Manning because as a baseball fan, I have no time for football until after the World Series. Maybe I'll do some review then.

      As for the Reds, yes it looks like they're going to make the post-season very interesting. Should be a good autumn.

  2. I am proud to be from New England, since, as you mentioned, our New England Patriots were the team that finally killed Tebowmania. Anyway, the Christian culture loves it when they can have their own stuff, i.e. Christian music, Christian movies, Christians books, so it is fitting that Tim Tebow would become the Christian sports figure. I think that had a lot to do with it, especially because Denver is quite a Christian culture area. Tebow will not garnish the same following in NY, because, as everyone knows, those people in the northeast region of our country are godless atheistic liberals (almost as bad as those hippies in San Francisco). In NY, Tebow the football player will actually be judged by his ability to, I don't know, throw a football. The good thing for us in New England? Now we get at least two chances to crush that Bible-thumper this year!

    1. Dan,

      Just across the bay in Oakland, if you wore a Tebow jersey, you'd probably end up in the bay. And as for crushing him twice? He has to play for you to do that.

  3. Steve - I connect with you so much on the evangelism agenda of tracts, evangelizing in places where there are 'no trespassing signs", where the mall security asked them to leave the week before for passing out tracts/evangelizing. "That" church also was big on evangelism - it was practically their trademark. I cringed when my family went out on Friday nights. Yes, it really made me cringe. I'm sure current members are even today searching my name and will find this post and say that my comment proves that I'm a heathen. Oh well!

    Pastor Ken Garrett has an excellent series and I think you would really connect with him as well:

    My daughter, Hannah 25 yrs, who left the church abruptly and hasn't been back and doesn't want anything to do with Christianity recently met Ken to pick up something I left. She spent an hour on his porch downtown Portland talking with him. So many homeless people walked by and he acknowledged each one by name with a quick greeting as they conversed. My daughter said she loved Ken - that he's the real deal. Steve, to me THAT is true evangelism. Ken didn't tell me all of this, my daughter did.