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My Take: Is Tim Tebow performing miracles?
Tim Tebow’s penchant for kneeling in prayer has birthed a new word: Tebowing.
November 29th, 2011
12:01 PM ET

My Take: Is Tim Tebow performing miracles?

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

(CNN)–In 1966, John Lennon famously claimed that The Beatles were "more popular than Jesus." Today that title may belong to Tim Tebow, the Denver Broncos quarterback more famous for praising Jesus than for throwing touchdowns.

As anyone who has visited Dallas or Atlanta on any recent weekend can attest, America’s two great religions are Christianity and football. In recent weeks, these two great faiths have come together in Tim Tebow, the new starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos and America’s latest merger of faith in Jesus and faith in the Almighty Touchdown.

When viewed from the perspective of “the world,” Tebow is, at best, a mediocre NFL quarterback. When viewed through the eyes of faith, however, he is something like the Second Coming of Joe Montana. And maybe Something More.

On this burning question of Tim Tebow, I must confess to being an agnostic. But I understand the fervor on both sides.

Skeptics generally concede that Tebow, an outspoken Christian, was an extraordinary high school and college football player. After all, he won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore, and led his University of Florida team to two NCAA football titles.

But those who refuse to bow down before Tebow insist that NFL football is another game altogether, and when it comes to that game Tebow is a passing fancy. They attribute Denver’s near miraculous 5-1 run during his reign as a starter not to his offense but to the Broncos defense.

They point out that he throws about as well as Peppermint Patty, and that in one of his wins he completed only two passes more than Charlie Brown (which is to say two). His completion percentage (45.5%) is last in the league.

Skeptics are also turned off by Tebow’s public displays of religion. Tebow used to cite Bible verses on his eye black. And his tendency to be found praying while his teammates are strutting has added a new word—“Tebowing”—to the lexicon.

True believers say to hell with all that. What matters are the intangibles. Tebow is a winner. He may allow his team to fall behind, but in the end he leads the Broncos to victory, often in a fashion that can only be termed miraculous.

Which is to say, when it comes to the Almighty TT, you gotta have faith (or not).

In his book “Faith and Belief,” the Religious Studies scholar Wilfred Cantwell Smith describes how the notion of “faith” changed over the centuries from something like “trust” to its modern-day meaning of “belief in the unbelievable.”

And that, it seems to me, is what we are witnessing with Tebow.

It is simply not believable that a quarterback who cannot throw would turn a team from a 1-4 also-ran to a 6-5 playoff contender. But Tebow has done that, in part by running and in part, well, by faith.

There is, to be sure, Tebow's faith in Jesus. But perhaps more importantly, there is the faith of his teammates in him. Not to mention the adoration of legions of University of Florida alums, and of fans in Denver and beyond.

As a scholar of religion, I have little expertise in football, NFL or otherwise. But I cannot help weighing in on a few comparisons between TT and JC:

Jesus: turned a ragtag band of 12 apostles into the number one religion in the world

Tebow: turned a ragtag squad of 11 football players into an NFL juggernaut

Jesus: prayed a lot (to God)

Tebow: prays a lot (to Jesus)

Jesus: ran the money changers out of the temple

Tebow: runs the  spread option

Jesus: miraculously saved a wedding at Cana by turning water into wine

Tebow: miraculously led the Broncos to last-second victories against the Dolphins, the Jets and the Chargers.

Coincidence? You be the judge. As for me, I'm sitting back and waiting for Tebow to do something truly miraculous. Like winning a game without completing a single pass, or running back a punt for a touchdown, or kicking a 50-yard field goal to win a game.

Meanwhile, I am happy to report that Jesus is still more famous than Tebow. At least for now.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Christianity • Opinion • Sports

soundoff (1,398 Responses)
  1. Brian

    Baltimore won a Super Bowl with the same strategy. Great defense and a QB who does not turn the ball over.

    November 29, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • Tom

      Yep.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • TBN

      We keep running him like a running back and he'll be praying to have is head back... No QB that runs as much as he does lasts in the NFL.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • Johnny L

      That is a pretty good comparison. Tebow does not turn the ball over, has a 8-1 TD to INT ratio and inspires his teammates. Plus, he is improving, as all young QB's need to do. That and a good defense can lead the Broncos far. As for the article, weakly written by a novice, and not one who has read many of the other articles about Tebow.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  2. Plush

    Wonder what Kurt Warner has to say with this nonsense, "Thank You JESUS!!!!!!!!!!"

    November 29, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  3. Nonimus

    I think the miracle is that TT and other NFL players get paid huge amounts of money for playing a game. They produce nothing. They help no one. They play.

    November 29, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • HenryO

      Tebow is not performing miracles. Jesus is on Tebow's behalf.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @HenryO,
      "Tebow is not performing miracles. Jesus is on Tebow's behalf."

      Are you saying that Jesus is making sure TT gets paid millions to throw a ball around?

      November 29, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • boocat

      HenryO – you are a sad pathetic man.....

      November 29, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • Jessie

      I'm not sure people in the Philipines feel the same way or the kids he inspires or the cancer patients that he makes time to visit and pray for

      November 29, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
  4. noXcuses

    Let me say this because I know the cultist will say" i hate tebow because of his faith". I have been a tebow fan sense he was at florida. People let's be real, he is about 20% of the reason denver has been winning, along with a lights out defense, special teams, running game, and opponents that aren't that good. He's not turning the ball over because he is mostly running the ball or handing it off. Brady and Rodgers have more ints than Tebow simply because they throw it alot more. Tebow will be the first to tell you this, which is another reason i like the kid...he seems pretty humble. I am a Christian along with probably 90% of the players in the league. How many times do we see players praying before and after a game or when someone gets injured. My problem with the whole tebow thing, is that the media is trying really hard to create this narrative and to promote Tebow as the goo, christian, one of a kind, heck of a leader, all-american player that just wins..(stats be dammed)...with that said ...shy is it that the media tries so hard to highlight his faith and not other players???also, why are the same espn analyst that criticized and killed charlie ward, eric crouch, vince young, randall cunningham back in the day, michael vick, and others for not being a so-called "pure pocket passer". Oh but now stats and touch throws don't matter because Tebow is just a leader and a winner. I would venture to say all or most of the guys in the nfl are winners for getting to that level alone. One more example, i watched a game between the vikes and the bucs earlier in the season, and i listened to aikmen and joe buck rip mcnabb for a couple of bad throws that he made and talked about how he needs to be behind ponder. Keep in mind that it was the 3rd quarter and the vikes were up 24 to 3 and mcnabb had 188yrds passing with 1 td 0ints...they swore up and down that he was the worst quarterback in the league....why is this? why is it a different standard for tebow than any other qb in the league. if phillip rivers completed only 2 passes in a game they would say he needs to be cut.

    November 29, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Jessie

      With Tebow Denver ranks 5th in the NFL with time of possession before him they ranked 30th Tebow's style of play and lack of turnovers greatly benifit the defense its not coincidence there playing much better with him than with Kyle Orton because the opposing offense is on the field much less factor in that along with Tebow's undeniable ability to close out games even if trailing in the 4th quarter by 15 points its very obvious to me why Denver is winning games and its called Tim Tebow.. 1-4 vs 5-1 should say it all...

      November 29, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
  5. boocat

    To all of the Jesus freaks out there – google the Egyptian god HORUS. You may be surprised by what you discover.

    November 29, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • Really?

      Thou shalt have no other gods before me. No Thanks!

      November 29, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • J.W

      I am sure everyone already has. You have posted this enough times.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • HenryO

      Boocat, Jesus Freaks is a compliment to people who love Jesus. I am most certainly a Jesus Freak. I am not looking up any nonsense you recommend, however.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • Moe

      Horus story is so porous.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • William Demuth

      J.W

      I am reasonably sure you haven't

      You have posted alot, and seem reasonable, yet HIGHLY indoctrinated.

      I believe that if Allah came to you and tore the earth from its orbit, you would think Jesus could destroy the whole solar system.

      I have ALWAYS been open to testing the current "proof," as all scientists are, and I also believe that ANYTHING htat makes you question terrifies you so deeply that you go irrational.

      Are you REALLY that afraid of death?

      November 29, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • boocat

      HenryO – how do you know it's nonsense until you look it up? And since you already assume it's nonsense, then your Jesus is nothing but nonsense too. But you are too arrogant and clueless to even bother looking into it. Typical "christian."

      November 29, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • J.W

      I have read it William. There are some similarities, but some big differences as well. I am not sure that I understand what you meant about Jesus destroying the solar system.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • boocat

      J.W. – you must have me confused with someone else. What are you so afraid of? Finding out your Jesus is a fairy tale?

      November 29, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • J.W

      I don't remember saying I was afraid. Maybe you have me confused with someone else.

      November 29, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • J.W

      There was someone who has posted that same thing exactly about a million times. Maybe it was someone else.

      November 29, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
  6. Teblow

    He is not a great qb, by far. His numbers stink. I'm sick of hearing all the hype about this guy.

    November 29, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  7. Sarah Thomas

    The comparison of Tim Tebow to Jesus has been made a lot over the past few months. This article is none other than a carbon copy of a (funnier and better written) column from OMGG.com: http://www.omdoubleg.com/sports/god-takes-a-vacation-leaves-tim-tebow-in-charge/

    November 29, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • Pete Harris

      LOL, ur right, the other story is far better!

      November 29, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • Phil Weinstein

      hahahaha. the omgg.com story is the funniest thing I ever read.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  8. boocat

    Does anyone honestly believe that God, Jesus or some invisible man (LMAO) in the sky cares about a stupid football game? GET REAL!

    November 29, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • Really?

      He care about the lost souls watching and worshiping it instead of Him. So yes!

      November 29, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • boocat

      Really......GET REAL!!!

      November 29, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  9. awaves12

    Tim Tebow had a childrens hospital built in the Philipines this during this past year...he is giving back to society.

    November 29, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • John _Atlanta GA

      Tax shelter

      November 29, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • hey hey

      hope he doesn't pull a Sandusky..he seems like the perfect candidate~!

      November 29, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  10. wayne317

    One thing I find funny is the Christian use of the word "athiest". Any one who does not believe in Jesus is an athiest, because if you don't believe in Jesus, then you believe in an imaginary God. What is the difference between no bellief in Gods vs the belief in an imaginary one?

    November 29, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • Really?

      don't follow you, atheist call themselves atheist?

      November 29, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • HB

      We don't believe in an imaginary one. You say He's imaginary.....we don't. Don't bother blathering on about 'proof' either. I'm not interested in a debate and neither one of us will change the other's mind. I'm just correcting your terminology.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • wayne317

      "don't follow you, atheist call themselves atheist?"

      An atheist is someone who does not believe in God. Correct? What about someone who believes in any other God other than Jesus? That God is imaginary right? They won't get any speical reward points for beleving in a fake God under Chrisanity right?

      So it's not a belief in God that matters at all is it? It's choosing the right one. Which is IMPOSSIBLE to do. There is no way to distinguish one God from another with any sort of measurable accuracy.

      This makes the whole religion-belief in God worthless to me.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • shut_up

      madeline murray ohare had the power as a minority of one to get prayer in school stopped and was an atheist. she bilked millions of $$$$ out of people who thought atheism was great and they supported her. she was murdered and her murderer said her last words before he killed her was "oh GOD" he cut her up in pieces and the way they identified her remains was that she had a hip replacement and it had a serial # on it. funny what her last words were. wonder what your last words will be. "oh devil"

      November 29, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Once someone realizes ANY God is a lie, he inevitably begins to realize all Gods are!

      The belief, or the facade of it remains more from social pressure than rational thought

      November 29, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • HenryO

      God is more real than you. Maybe you're imaginary.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • wayne317

      HenryO,

      What an intelligent response. /sarcasm

      November 29, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • wayne317

      @shut_up

      As an athiest, I don't believe in the devil. I don't understand why the answers are so hostile. What is the difference between no belief in any god and a belief in any other God other than Jesus? Arent they both "atheist" or does the person who at least believes in some other god get less punishment than a person that does not believe in any? I didn't think it was that difficult a question!

      November 29, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
  11. William Demuth

    Religion seems to be losing its role as the opiate of the masses.

    It seems football is the new faith, a distraction for the foolish, indeed nothing more than bread and circuses designed to keep the feeble minded distracted from the gathering storm clouds

    It has been said we all get what we deserve, but in my heart of hearts I have always felt we all deserved more.

    My America is on the glide path towards failure, yet our media produces this?

    My, how the mighty have fallen.

    November 29, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • Really?

      Football has been around forever, it's just now that Jesus' names has been mentioned as a hot topic in football. He thanks God, he isn't praying to the football and it seems to have others praying too. Who are we to judge whether or not the attention on Jesus is welcome by Him?

      November 29, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • William Demuth

      I am here to judge.

      His prayers have as much validity as him invoking Odin.

      He is selling himself to an evangelical audience, and some of us won't buy it.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • shut_up

      since your on welfare, you should be able to spell it?

      November 29, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • hey hey

      @shut_up-OH, the irony of bad spelling! 🙂 silly goose!

      November 29, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  12. Cybersport

    I am a football fan. I enjoy watching Tebow, but here is the problem I have with his public pronouncement of his faith. he is giving the impression that being a Christian is a prereq. for winning.

    It's not....

    Whether he is a Christian, a Jew or a Muslim has nothing to do with his football ability.

    The problem occurs when athletes start to believe in the "God is on our side" that to me is a form of bigotry

    November 29, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • HB

      Interesting that you seem to know what TT is praying for. I didn't know that you could read minds. I would imagine, and I don't know for sure either, that he is not praying to win. He's thanking God for the gifts that he was given and he is giving the glory for his abilities to God. Just because you would pray to win doesn't mean that everyone else would.

      Just because you infer that TT is saying that you must be a Christian to win games does not mean that is what he is implying. That's simply your interpretation. He is free to pray in public just like anyone else. Everything about your post is you projecting your ideals on to TT. Very parochial.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  13. ELR

    I like Tebow as much as any Bronco's fan, but comparing him to Jesus might be a little much. I am glad he is comfortable with his religiosity, I suspect he will be a good role model for other people who struggle.

    November 29, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  14. D

    Wait... so Tim Tebow is the first athlete to take a knee to pray? Gotcha

    This Tebow thing is getting a bit ridiculous. QB's get too much praise when they win and too much blame when they lose, Tebow is no different.

    Doing absolutely nothing all game, have an outstanding defense keep it close, and putting together a single drive at the end does not make for a successful long term QB prospect.

    A great story? Sure
    A great QB prospect? Absolutely not.

    And please...save me the "he tries really hard, works really hard, and really wants to win" garbage. That is insulting to every single other NFL player that works hard, tries hard, and really wants to win.

    People seem refreshed that there is a good role model in the NFL, like players like Brees, Manning x2, Rodgers, and countless others aren't.

    Great, he likes Jesus...a football player who likes Jesus...what a novel concept.

    November 29, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  15. Seriously?

    What a stupid badly written article discussing someone's deepest beliefs and trying to explain it in layman terms wich make no sense whatsoever.

    November 29, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  16. dfadf

    such an ignorant and pointless article. . .

    November 29, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
  17. Matt

    Tebow is not winning games for the Broncos, their defense is. Sure, the team believes in Tebow. By everyone's account, he is a good, stand-up guy. While nothing the Broncos are doing is miraculous by any stretch of the imagination, the emergence of Denver's defense after being so god-awful last year is certainly closer to "miraculous" than anything Tebow has done. Let's stop praising Tebow so much until he truly performs up to a great level and start applauding Von Miller.

    November 29, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  18. Tripp

    yeah, nevernind the prayers of those starving children that go unanswered. but god needs a good team i guess.

    November 29, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • Really?

      You are the hands. Empty your pockets and feed them.

      November 29, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • shut_up

      Maybe those children were praying for you to go feed them. but you being an atheist can barely take care of yourself. good for tebow, to heck with any religion beside Christianity! dont TRIPP on the way to the welfare line................

      November 29, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Really Really?

      Your divine and omnipotent creator now wants to delegate responsibility for his creations?

      Sounds less like a God, and more like an irresponsible child if you ask me.

      November 29, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • William Demuth

      shut_up

      The MAJORITY of people on welefare are white southern republicans.

      It seems Christians wont abort, yet can't provide for the children they bear.

      So predictable, so childish, and so unwilling to grow.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
    • HenryO

      What did you think God put YOU here for? You're supposed to feed the hungry children. You eat, does God personally feed you?

      November 29, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • HB

      @ Wm Demuth

      Yes, he did delegate taking care of each other to all of us. Just because we fail miserably is no reason to blame Him. What are you doing? If you are helping others, great, but not everyone does. Can you imagine what this world would look like if we all stepped up?

      November 29, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  19. MarkTreeman23

    Anyone who's a starting quarterback in the NFL is an EXTREMELY talented and hardworking – and lucky – individual. If praying helps him so be it. I think we'd all be better off we if all prayed a little more.

    November 29, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  20. missianna

    It is so good to see someone with faith in our lord go far. Jesus is very much alive. There is hope for our country that with faith and prayer, we can go a long way. Keep on praying and keep the faith Tebow.

    November 29, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • D

      Too bad your pal Jesus is paying attention to what Tim Tebow is doing instead of all the other work that clearly needs to be done in this country and the world.

      November 29, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • HB

      @D

      That's what we're here for. He put us here to take care of each other.....we are the ones who fail miserably.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
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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.