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'Tebowing' prayer stirs debate, but quarterback is OK with it
November 9th, 2011
01:16 PM ET

'Tebowing' prayer stirs debate, but quarterback is OK with it

By Steve Almasy, CNN

(CNN) - Tim Tebow is used to being a lightning rod. While he was the quarterback at the University of Florida, he drew a lot of attention. And we mean a lot.

He won the Heisman Trophy (the only sophomore to ever win the award), and his team won two NCAA football titles. Plus, he was very public about his Christian faith. He wore Bible verses on his eye black. He invoked God frequently at news conferences.

No one doubted that Tebow was a great college quarterback and a good kid. But all the media attention made some people weary of the name.  He's good, they said, but he's no messiah.

Being a great college quarterback doesn’t always translate into being a good pro quarterback and, let’s be honest, there are more than a few people taking great glee from the second-year player's recent struggles with the Denver Broncos.

And even some of Tebow's better moments on the field are sowing controversy. During an October 23 contest against the winless Miami Dolphins, the Broncos trailed until a last-minute touchdown and two-point conversion by Tebow tied the score. Denver won in overtime.

Afterward, Jared Kleinstein, a Denver-born Broncos fan who was watching the game from New York, noticed that Tebow had knelt in prayer, alone on the sidelines, while his teammates celebrated on the field.

Kleinstein decided to take a picture outside the New York bar where he had gathered with friends. Six of them knelt on their knees with their balled-up right fists to their faces, Tebow-style.

Kleinstein started a website, www.tebowing.com, defining Tebow as a verb: “To get down on a knee and start praying, even if everyone else around you is doing something completely different.” His photo was the first one posted.

More photos came in from around the world. People Tebowed from the Philippines, the Vatican, Iraq, even in front of the Great Pyramid. They Tebowed at the airport, at the hospital, even at an "Occupy Chicago" protest. As of Tuesday,  Kleinstein had posted more than 600 photos on his site.

Tebow, for his part, approves. “Love it,” he wrote on Twitter.

But did he love it when Detroit Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch sacked him in an October 30 game and proceeded to “Tebow?”

“He was celebrating and having fun with his teammates. I don’t take offense to that,” Tebow said during a session with the media last week.

Tebow, who has started three games for the 3-5 Broncos, does not shy away from criticism of his quarterbacking - or of his faith. The son of missionaries, he embraces his spotlight to draw attention to his Christianity. He and his mother appeared in a Focus on the Family anti-abortion ad that appeared during the Super Bowl in February.

That kind of faith-based boldness separates Tebow from other religious sports figures. His more public displays hearten supporters and enrage detractors.

Some commentators, like ESPN.com writer Jemele Hill, think making sport of Tebow's beliefs is offensive. She writes of Tulloch's Tebowing pose:

Prayer is a sacred component of any religion. Making fun of someone else's spiritual connection is on par with ridiculing them about their family. You don't have to be a Christian to get that, just someone who understands the concept of respect.

Former Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy, a Christian, says there is some jealousy of Tebow among other NFL players. But he doubts the Lions were making fun of the quarterback, even though another player Tebowed after scoring a touchdown during the same game against Denver, a 45-10 rout.

“I don’t believe people are saying, 'I am going to mock his faith,'" Dungy said on his website, All Pro Dad.

Former NFL quarterback Phil Simms isn’t surprised that other players want a piece of a player who is new to the league and whom the media obsesses over.

“They want to see you [succeed] on the field first,” Simms said in a video on Sports Illustrated’s website.

Tebow acknowledges that some who have sent their pictures into the Tebowing website are making fun of him and some are mocking religion. But he told the Denver Post he prefers not to judge anyone. He told reporter Lindsay H. Jones:

"It's not my job to see people's reasons behind it, but I know (of a kid) with cancer that tweeted me, 'Tebowing while I'm chemoing' — how cool is that? That's worth it right now. If that gives him any encouragement or puts a smile on his face, or gives him encouragement to pray, that's completely awesome."

What do you think? Are people being disrespectful of religion by Tebowing? Was Tebow asking for it?

- Producer/Writer

Filed under: Celebrity • Colorado • Prayer • Sports

soundoff (799 Responses)
  1. Sports Fan

    Cheap display. No need to force people who came to watch sports to watch your religious displays.

    Shouldn't prayer be reserved for more important things than sports performance?

    Sorry. Cheap display and selfish use of prayer. Guess the others should lose because you are asking God to help special old you.

    January 14, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Sports Fan

      When I pay to go see a professional football game I go to watch the skilled athletes perform. Not to watch a supernatural being interfere with and fix or throw the game.

      Can we justify someone praying to and asking God to fix the lottery so they can win. Isn't that against the rules? Remembering when we get preferential treatment in winning we have stolen the chance from someone else.

      If we truly loved our neighbor as ourselves, could we, in all good faith ask God to favour us over and at the expense of that neighbor? Is that what being a Christian is about?

      Might prayer and displays of fatih be reserved for issues do not pit God into helping one of his children win over another when neither is pursuing a selfless task?

      January 14, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  2. Owen M

    I’m such a huge fan of Tim Tebow, as is my eight-year-old son. I honestly can’t think of a better man for my son to want to role model. His unwaivering belief in God, in a world that has all but tossed religion to the wayside, is refreshing. After all, isn't this the type of stability we want to instill in our children rather than allowing them to live life without value? For more information on Tim Tebow's views interesting facts and quotes at http://www.squidoo.com/tim-tebow-gifts. Thought it might be cool to check out.

    January 11, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
  3. Mary Davis

    Dear Tim Tebow, You are a man of great faith. Thank you for being the christian role model for all of mankind. It takes great faith
    in God to STOP, DROP and PRAY. And ,yes, you could live right next door to me anytime. You have shown your team the true
    importance of prayer. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me. This is the motto of my heart. God Bless you for
    standing up for your faith in God. God Bless You and your family. Happy New Year to everyone. I started my new year with God
    in it as well.

    January 4, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
  4. The Guy

    I love that the media has started to claim that "something magical" is happening with Tebow. That because he prays he is winning games.

    Think of the logic behind that. Tebow prays to god and god says, "yeah, you know what – you should win this game". On the other side of the planet children are dying of typhoid, pray to god for just one more day, and god says, "nah. you're life isn't worth saving. im concentrating my time in Tebow's win."

    Of course the responses to this post will be, "god works in mysterious ways". More like the god you believe in isn't there and Tebow is just a hell of an athlete.

    December 16, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • SPA Knight

      Perhaps God wants you to do something about the poor children that are dying on the other side of the planet. God can answer using miraculous means but he can also rely on other inhabitants on the planet to "love their neighbor". Sign up soldier!

      December 20, 2011 at 10:59 am |
  5. Bonnie Hawkins

    How refreshing to see a young man be such a shining example to our youth. It is not easy to stand up for good when we live in a world full of broken families, incest, blatant immodesty plastered everywhere. God Bless Tim Tebow for standing up for what he believes in. It certainly does no harm and the alternative certainly does. Exactly what this world needs!!

    December 2, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
  6. Alysia

    So very proud of Tebow's response. Regardless of what others mean by their "Tebowing," he is clearly determined to encourage others and continue to be a positive example. What a breath of refreshing air in a culture where so many in the spotlight refuse to accept their responsibility as role models.

    November 24, 2011 at 6:42 am |
  7. Mike

    Figured I'd throw my hat into the ring...though a bit late.

    I'll go ahead and answer Alien Orifice's question: Yes and Yes.

    Good, now that's out of the way.

    I will say that a certain post was never really acknowledged. But even if you are an atheist or agnostic or whatever you want to call yourself what you believe in (big bang, randomness, etc...) requires faith. Science requires faith. The argument could be made that believing in a randomness theory takes more faith than believing in a creator. The book factory metaphor used earlier is a classic simplification of this: To randomly create our circulatory systems, DNA, and so forth would be like throwing thousands upon thousands of letters in the air and having the book War and Peace manifest itself from the falling letters. Is this IMPOSSIBLE? No. Is it IMPROBABLE? Yes. Highly Improbable.

    Now, the God allows children to suffer from cancer, abuse, and other horrible occurrences argument really is quite old. Yes, God allows for bad things to happen. Yes, God allows for wonderful things to happen. I'll be the first to admit that I have no answer for why God allows for hurricanes and other natural disasters that kill hundreds to thousands of people. However, having the response of "God can't exist because evil and sadness exist" (in response to these disasters) doesn't make you learned or intelligent. It's only an accusation and opinion.

    Additionally and finally, let's drop the idea that Christians (and believers in other faiths) are not intelligent and are ignorant; they need to be saved by education. There are books written by Atheists turn Christian and Christians turned Atheist depicting their fall from religion or road towards religion. When it comes down to it do you have faith in a creator or faith in science and all of the explanations that come with either choice. I have been around research for a long time now and fully understand that the researchers can create environments to prove just about anything they want to. Of course not all of them do this, it's unethical. But, there are those that certainly do. So science can be corrupt and religion can be corrupt. But, when it comes down to it my personal choice is to believe in a creator. I have seen both glory and tragedy in my life and my faith in unshaken. However, this is a PERSONAL belief and experience. We are all different.

    When you read a complex textbook you believe inherently that there is an intelligence behind it, an author. But when it comes to our DNA code, the most complex system on our planet, the belief is that it was random; created by chance. If we threw out religion entirely. No one believes in God, then would it be considered logical to believe in the randomness of the most complex code on the planet? Or would it be more logical to believe in some type of creator or author behind the code?

    To respond to the article Tebow seems to be a good man. He stands up for what he believes in, reaches out to others, and plays football with passion. Don't be afraid to show and stand for your beliefs. Good message he is putting out there for people to learn from.

    November 12, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  8. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    I think Heaven Sent is just another manifestation of this behavior. It's not about any personal relationship with god. It's all about appearances and reputations. It's no more about belief than is a diamond ring about love.

    It's nothing but superficial. Nothing but the show.

    November 11, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
  9. Reality

    Dear Tim, (in case you missed the first time )

    You are suffering from the Three B Syndrome, i.e. Bred, Born and Brainwashed in your religion specifically Christianity.

    Some added details:

    “John Hick, a noted British philosopher of religion, estimates that 95 percent of the people of the world owe their religious affiliation to an accident (the randomness) of birth. The faith of the vast majority of believers depends upon where they were born and when. Those born in Saudi Arabia will almost certainly be Moslems, and those born and raised in India will for the most part be Hindus. Nevertheless, the religion of millions of people can sometimes change abruptly in the face of major political and social upheavals. In the middle of the sixth century ce, virtually all the people of the Near East and Northern Africa, including Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt were Christian. By the end of the following century, the people in these lands were largely Moslem, as a result of the militant spread of Islam.

    The Situation Today
    Barring military conquest, conversion to a faith other than that of one’s birth is rare. Some Jews, Moslems, and Hindus do convert to Christianity, but not often. Similarly, it is not common for Christians to become Moslems or Jews. Most people are satisfied that their own faith is the true one or at least good enough to satisfy their religious and emotional needs. Had St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas been born in Mecca at the start of the present century, the chances are that they would not have been Christians but loyal followers of the prophet Mohammed. “ J. Somerville

    It is very disturbing that religious narrow- mindedness, intolerance, violence and hatred continues unabated due to randomness of birth. Maybe, just maybe if this fact would be published on the first page of every newspaper every day, that we would finally realize the significant stupidity of all religions.

    November 11, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • J.r Blackwood

      incase you have not realized this article did not relate birth place of religion to "tebowing". Even so to touch on your opinions on religion, birth place does have a significant impact on what religion you are raised into as well as your family and their values, but to say it is brainwashing people is a false statement. Every religion does not force their followers by giving false promises. Each religion is fulfilling a spiritual and emotional need of that person specifically and it is their belief not yours. Everyone especially in their time of need, need someone or something to believe in, and ignorant people like yourself tend to be very weak in faith and turn on your religion as soon as you are tested. Blaming religion which provided structure for government, values, morals and society for centuries go deeper than you can ever go and your attempt of an inspirational plea to differ others from faith by quoting others is a poor attempt sir. Keep your lack of faith and opinions to your "narrow minded" self and allow Tebow to enjoy the fact that he can inspire others in their religion to perform public gestures without fear of being ridiculed by people like you.

      November 12, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • Jon

      I enjoyed your opinion and also the evidence supporting your reasonable assertion. I too believe that people having no prior knowledge assume as true the belief systems handed down from their familial and communal teachings through acculturation. In retrospect as knowledge builds, communities have given up many gods through the loses on the battlefield and through football games to more victorious belief systems. I do not believe the reality of a god is why one prays. I believe one Tebows for victory and self-exaltation, holding within themselves the true god others will come to worship, an alpha-primate.

      January 23, 2012 at 1:26 am |
  10. Paul Park

    Love the Jemele Hill quote. Addresses the issue at hand. Respectful dialogue is the key ingredient to religious pluralism AND freedom of speech.

    November 11, 2011 at 11:06 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.