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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. Charles

    Go Tebow!! You're my favorite player in the NFL. Everyday i pray to my GOD that Tebow does well and continue to succeed. I love the fact that he wears his faith on his shoulders. Good luck, Tebow. Our WORLD could use millions more like you.

    November 29, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • JT

      Oh puhleeeeeze

      November 29, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • HideAndSeekChampion

      Prayer, how to do nothing and feel good about it.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • X Your Fingers

      It is quite common for athletes to be superst-itious about their successes. Most have more sense than to show everyone their lucky socks that they have worn – unwashed – in every game.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • Anita Bleaujob

      Die, Chucky, Die.

      November 29, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • I-so-much-agree

      so does a pittsburgh steeler.........Troy P. I think alot of players where there faith upon their backs because its not a game you want to mess around with. See, Troy blesses himself each and every time. So, its more then one person who is reconized for this. 🙂 I am proud of you Troy and glad your my Pittsburgh home team...........yahoooooooooooooo

      November 29, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
  2. Roland

    Storys like this add to the cynicism toward Tebow, As a Raider fan I "DETEST" the Broncos but the kid is playing good ball because he's a good athlete. Using this logic, Jesus must be screwing with the other players cause he doesn't like them as much. Should they start blaming Jesus when they miss a pass of drop the ball. "I had it ball but Jesus started messing with me and made me drop it! That's why I'm converting to Judaeism,!".

    November 29, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Jon O

      He's an arrogant, self-righteous d-bag. That is all.

      If you believe that God hurts other people so that you can succeed... you're the worst kind of narcissist and it makes your God a cruel jackhole who plays favorites over trivial matters.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • goddog

      Do not assign the failings of man to the God our Father.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • Jon O

      Then do not give credit for our successes to him either.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • goddog

      Jon O... I am actually an Atheist. I am disguising myself as a believer. These people wont listen to real people words so I'm trying to show them their hypocrisy through the teachings of their own faith. Shhh... don't rat me out. Haha.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • pgraham52

      Jon0 you better be careful you Mom is going to come home from work and catch you playing on the computer.

      November 29, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
  3. Amber

    Lighten up people! This was a great article.

    November 29, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • goddog

      This artical was insulting to the Atheists and Blaphemous to us true followers.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
  4. Daniel

    TT is winning because there are many things about TT game that do not show up on stat sheets. Check out the Real QB Ratings that Tebow is putting up that are different then the passer ratings. The QB Ratings include things like sacks, fumbles, and running. Quite simply he is doing the little things great, but isn't very talented at throwing the football. He makes good decisions, rarely is sacked for a loss (even on broken protection he finds a way to scramble for a few yards), fumbles less often then any quarterback in the league (which is saying a lot for how much he has the ball in his hands while running), and rarely throws interceptions.

    The defense is playing better because the Broncos are controlling the football, and the defense is spending less time on the field.

    November 29, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
  5. pgraham52

    Where is the big mouth Bill Maher now? What a complete loser.

    November 29, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • Jon O

      A complete loser... who has more love, adoration, money and success than you'll ever have.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • Mr Biill Maher

      I'm right here ***hole, what do you want?

      November 29, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • pgraham52

      Your cancellation and soon.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • goddog

      fellow believer. Why are you letting Satan drag you down to such low levels. It is not for us to judge so harshly on this earth lest we be judge so harshly for it in front of our Lord. We are all God's children and you are insulting one of them.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • Jon O

      pgraham, you're the biggest failure of a troll I've ever seen.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  6. Jon O

    If your God is more concerned with delivering touchdowns than feeding the millions of starving, disease ridden children in the world...

    Your God is a monster.

    November 29, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • pgraham52

      An athletic prayer consists of asking God for safety for their teammates and opponents. Second, they pray to give their best during the event. Obviously you have never been on the field.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • pgraham52

      Now how would you know that Jon 0. Good last name zero.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • Jon O

      I've watched this idiot thank God for his PERSONAL good performance, out loud, on camera.

      Apparently you don't want to hold people accountable for the words they speak.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • goddog

      Tim Tebow said that he was praying for a missed or blocked field goal in OT. That is horrible.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • TBN

      Correct... God listens to millionaire athletes and ignores starving children...

      November 29, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • Jon O

      Derp... derp derp zero... derp.

      Or that's a capital O, like in O(h) my God you are stupid.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • Jon O

      Or... the far more likely reality is....

      His God is a fairy tale, any success his team has is due to his and his teammates' skills on the field.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • HideAndSeekChampion

      @pgraham52, the same way you know things about your "heavenly father". Delusions mostly I suppose.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
    • pgraham52

      Obviously JonO God has been very unkind to you. Maybe there is a good reason for that.

      November 29, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
  7. AvdBerg

    All articles written by Stephen Prothero are after the wisdom of this world (1 Cor. 2:4-7) but the above one about football and Tim Tebow is just another confirmation how laughable this CNN Belief Blog has become. Then again Stephen Prothero is a self-proclaimed religion scholar at Boston University.

    Matthew 15:9. But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of me and this includes Tim Tebow. It is the same as the Pope praying for peace and there never is any.

    For a better understanding of the mysteries of God we invite you to read the article ‘Boston University ~ School of Theology and Stonehill College’ listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

    Also, to give people a better understanding of the destructive forces behind CNN, Fox, US Politics and the issues that divide this world, we invite you to read the articles ‘CNN Belief Blog ~ Sign of the Times’ and ‘Influence of the Media’.

    All of the other pages and articles listed on our website explain how this whole world has been deceived as confirmed by the Word of God in Revelation 12:9.

    Seek, and ye shall find (Matthew 7:7).

    Don’t pay attention to the troll alerts. They are either atheists, members of the gay community or religious zealots.

    November 29, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • Jon O

      Religious zealots...

      Says the goober preaching from his self-righteous pedestal.

      Hypocrisy, anyone? This poster has an awfully inflated opinion of himself for someone attacking the author of the article and his credentials.

      What a loser.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • ......

      TROLL ALERT – click the report abuse link to get rid of the TROLL – they are only here to promote their CULT by selling their book and website.

      "Don’t pay attention to the troll alerts. They are either atheists, members of the gay community or religious zealots."

      This is a great example of the LIES they tell. Their website is full of LIES and FALSE teachings. You are LIARS and that is a SIN against GOD!

      November 29, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • Yeah

      "‘CNN Belief Blog ~ Sign of the Times’"

      Yeah the LIE throughout this entire blog, so I do agree they are LIARS.

      November 29, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  8. goddog

    As a true believer in our savior Jesus Christ I am appauled by this public display of arrogance and self satisfaction. Jesus told us how to pray and told us not to do it out in public for all to see. And for others to condone this behavior? We are given the gift of God's love and mercy and should pray for worthy causes. Praying for ones own success at the expense of anothers failure is an act of Satan. To love God is not the same as respecting and honoring him. And to compare the works of our Lord Jesus for humanity and our very souls to a football player winning a few games gives me little hope in our salvation.

    November 29, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
  9. Santa Claus

    Why is everybody picking on us non-existent people?

    meanies. I'm poopin' in your stocking this year

    November 29, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  10. Bruce

    As Jesus taught the Our Father to his disciples, Tebow has taught a new prayer to his teamates.

    Our Tebow, Who art in Denver
    Hallowed be My Name;
    Thy football field shall come,
    Thy game will be won,
    in Denver as it was in Florida.
    Give us this day our daily touchdown,
    and forgive us our poor passes,
    as we forgive those who try to pass against us;
    and lead us not into penalties,
    but deliver us to the play-offs. Amen.

    November 29, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  11. I-so-much-agree

    who is this joker..........college material I am but your college material is off its rocker. Sorry, but in reality you need some soul searching but better yet, you need to find yourself first and then find it through others. Also, this is the weakest comment made by CNN and its not looking good for you at all. I think its time to think about it and examine what you just said on this article.

    November 29, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  12. Matty

    This is God!!! Leave Tim alone.

    November 29, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  13. Brian

    Wow people.... i think the man was making a point and a joke at the same time... relax its not like hes winning a super bowl anytime soon....

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

    "We don't believe in an imaginary one. You say He's imaginary.....we don't"

    I'm talking about a belief in a god other than Jesus. Genius.

    November 29, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • J.W

      Who are you talking to?

      November 29, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • HB

      He's talking to me and he's correct. I misread the post. Thanks for the correction wayne.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
  15. Tom

    America gets a positive role model whose only chink in the armor is too few touchdown passes and we want to crucify the guy. Tebow is not pushing his faith on anyone. He doesn't have to because the liberal media is doing it for him. Anybody who makes a public proclamation of faith is wacky in the liberal eye. Leave Tebow alone and let him do his thing, win or lose.

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

      Anybody who makes a public proclamation of faith is wacky in the rational thinker eye.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • TBN

      Positive role model????? To me praying is not what a role model should do. Religion rots the brain, critical thing skills are degraded (purposely) and one is taught to be a sheep (accept without question). These are not good things to be passed on to children.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • TBN

      Your "Liberal" bashing was contradictory... I suspect you're a "believer" with degraded logic center?

      November 29, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • goddog

      A public proclamation of faith is not the same as praying! Does not anyone follow the actual faith that they proclaim?

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

      I'm not for or against Tebow's actions. If the libs leave it alone, it won't be an issue anymore.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  16. wepukhulu

    What a completely moronic article. The day TT starts taking credit for winning football games is the day of his decline into obscurity. God couldn't care less about a football game but cares a great deal about the people who play on both sides of the ball. As for being a scholar of religion, really? Jesus prayed to God and TT prays to Jesus? Really?

    November 29, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  17. mj2280

    I don't often post and rarely is it negative, but this article is the weakest article I have read on CNN in a long time. You're a religious scholar and you are trying to compare Tebow to Jesus? I am not a religious individual, but that seems like a ridiculous stretch to me. Also, you comparisons are insane... They both prayed? Really? How is running money changers out of a temple similar to running a spread option? Sorry, but I truly do not see how this article is worthy of any news site, let alone CNN's.

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

      Psst. I've got a secret, but don't tell anyone else...the author of this article was making joke. Lighten up.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • mj2280

      Not really getting the "joke" aspect. Instead, I just read a mediocre viewpoint that somehow was worthy of being linked to on CNN's front page. And, the comparisons, even as a joke, still do not make sense.

      November 29, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
  18. John _Atlanta GA

    Religion flies you into a building.

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

      Which one?

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

      North or south tower... take your pick.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • I'm The Best!

      @ Cojo
      Any of them.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  19. Steve Powell

    I really do not like this article because it implies that Tebow is somehow a first. Football players have a long history of praying before Tebow ever came along. When a player has a serious injury you will often see both teams get together in prayer. After games you will see players from both teams get together and pray. Teams often have preachers on the staff. Football is a dangerous game where injuries are gruesome and careers short lived. The only difference between Tebow and the many football players who are spirtual is they are not putting it in our faces or just are not famous.

    I am not sure what the agenda for this article is. But I doubt that God favors anyone in a football game because someone prays harder then someone else. When it comes to scores there are no God induced miracles. If the San Diego fans are more spiritual then the Denver fans, did God turn his back on San Diego? First dibs on the franchise in Rome. We will win the SB every time, providing God really is Catholic.

    I have no problems with individuals being a little evangelical as long as they do not get in my face and get self rightous. In an age of me first, it is nice to see individuals being humble and giving credit to God for all of their accomplishments after the fact. But it should stop if there is any implication that God rewards those who pray with spurious rewards like winning games or falling into wealth. I know the wealth churches would disagree.

    Ultimately Tim Tebow is a bad QB on a team with a sound running game, a good defense, and in a weak conference. Trent Dilfer was probably about as bad when he led the Ravens to a SB. There are no miracles in football. If the Colts trade their #1 pick to the Broncos for Tebow and start him over Payton Manning and go 16-0 and win the SB next year, then perhaps that is a miracle.

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

      Tebow's faith would not be an issue if the liberal media would leave it alone. America gets a positive role model whose only chink in the armor appears to not be enough touchdown passes, and it wants to smear the poor guy. Tebow appears to be a man of good moral character. That means more than any statistic.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
  20. victim

    dghgd

    November 29, 2011 at 4:11 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.