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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. MagnumPIE

    Unbelievable, like God, Jesus, Budda or any other godly being would give a dam about whether Denver wins or not.

    November 29, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • Gumby

      We woulda won that game, but Jesus made me fumble on the two yard line!!!

      November 29, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  2. HideAndSeekChampion

    When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called religion.

    November 29, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • Gumby

      Abso-freakin-lutely. Tebow is nothing more than just another brainwashed delusional babbling godbot. I get so sick of these smug sanctimonious morons.

      November 29, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  3. Bill Duke

    Denver's defense is winning the games. Timmy is just along for the ride. They tell him not tto try to throw passes because they'll just be intercepted anyway.

    November 29, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • Gumby

      So much for Touchdown Jesus.

      November 29, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
  4. tstorm

    Tebow needs to leave his religion at home. I doubt God really cares who wins in the NFL.

    November 29, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • o.k.

      If Tebow kept his religion "at home," it wouldn't be the religion he professes to adhere to. Jesus directed his believers to go and make disciples of all nations, and to teach others to obey all that He commanded ("The Great Commission"). Why don't you keep your atheism at home–no one is commanding you to do otherwise.

      November 29, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
  5. colin

    What a terrible example for young children. A grown man openly believing in the supernatural nonsense of some sky-fairy reading his mind and intervening in games to help him. this stuff should never have made it out of the dark Ages.

    November 29, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
  6. jkINC

    How does he fit that helmet of his halo? Seriously, as much mud that's been slung at him he remains positive and just wins baby!

    November 29, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
  7. Randy

    Tebow can't play traditional football. His defense is the one keeping him in games. Yes, he has pulled some wins out of his butt against lesser than average teams (the Jets can't score if their life depended on it). Any good team (Packers, Patriots, Saints, Cowboys, Ravens, Stealers) would score a lot more than 19 points a game and the Broncos won't be able to keep up.

    November 29, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • Bill Duke

      Exactly right.

      November 29, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
  8. Panthro

    I'm happy that Tebow is doing good, but his defense has kept him in the games and that's what has made it possible for him to look good at the of the game. How about giving the defense some praise. I'm all for thanking God or whomever you want to thank, but please tone it down some. We get it, you're a real relegious guy, but like Mike Ditka would say "come on man"!!!

    November 29, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Excellent point.
      Instead of praising God/Jesus, isn't Tebow just "dissing" his teammates who really deserve the credit?

      November 29, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
  9. Gumboz1953

    Tebow must have missed the command from Jesus to "pray in secret". That's understandable, since most other "Christians" nowadays seem to ignore that command as well.

    November 29, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • Panthro

      Come on Gumball....The topic is about Tebow, leave the rest of the other believers alone man. Some of you idiots are just looking for any reason to bring out your hate about someone's race, religion or political stand..Just discuss the topic haters..

      November 29, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • Kenney

      Please tell me where this "command" is at?

      November 29, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • goddog

      Kenny... I'm a better Christian as the Atheist that I am than you. No one should have to tell you where to find the rules of the faith that you follow. Google it and you will find it. god only helps those who help themselves. Then go get a new hobby, religion doesn't suit you.

      November 29, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • goddog

      “Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people can see them. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:5-6).

      November 29, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
  10. goddog

    When people ask me why I hate their religion I tell them; I don't hate your religion, I just hate the way you practice it!

    November 29, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  11. Doug Lynn

    HideAndSeekChampion... Are you really so arrogant and so foolish that think you know the mind of God?

    November 29, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • goddog

      Every Christian out there seems to think THEY do.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • Anita Bleaujob

      That which does not exist can never be known.

      November 29, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • HideAndSeekChampion

      Which one are we talking about? The one true god, Ninurta? Or Zeus? Otin? Wotan?

      November 29, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • jkINC

      In essence we are all the Mind of God since he created us in his image so he could be here himself.

      November 29, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • HideAndSeekChampion

      "There is something really pathetic in the statement that the universe was made for man... There are more than 300,000 million stars [in our galaxy] alone [whose total weight is] equal to about 270,000 million suns the size of our own. This is the raw material, the amazing cosmic ‘batter’, from which our planetary system came... It is like mixing a batter of dough as big as the sun to bake a single crumb of bread. A baker who worked on the basis of that much material as a means to an end would be considered a dolt... No mentality above the level of an idiot would devise such a madhouse ‘scheme’ as that of spinning billions of globes for amusement or of tossing them around aimlessly to prove itself intelligent."- Woolsey Teller

      November 29, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Are you really so arrogant to think that you know that he doesn't know the mind of God?

      November 29, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
  12. bspurloc

    He prayed for a blocked field goal and got it..... but the muslim coach denied it by calling a TIMEOUT.......

    November 29, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  13. stacy100

    I'm a Alabama football fan, so Tebow was not my favorite football player. When he cried at the end of the 2009 SEC championship game....I was soooooo happy. Saying all that to say this, Tebow isn't asking anyone to fall down and worship him, and he's not bragging about how it's him alone that is saving Denver's season. He's a Christian and he doesn't care how knows....he's not scared to tell people what he believes and why. He's a nice guy, who's never been in trouble, goes to church, witnesses in prison, tries to do the right things......and people trash him daily. If every Christian was living like Tebow...this type of article wouldn't be written....

    November 29, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • giant

      Stacy100; What is witnessing? I've herad of this but never found out what it meant.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • goddog

      ... you have a little bit of tobaccy spit running down the side of... yep, right there.

      November 29, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • goddog

      giant... witnessing is when you tell other people the same lies you have been telling yourself.

      November 29, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • giant

      goddog, Thanks. Might you be a recovering theist?

      November 29, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • tstorm

      Tebow's actions are arrogant and immature. He just showing his own insecurities and need to be the center of attention. Secure, confident people don't need to wear their religion on their sleeve.

      November 29, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • Panthro

      Stacy100: I undeerstand where you're coming from, but I disagree with you in that Tebow is doing it alone. It takes 11 on offense and 11 on defense to make it all come together. Let's not give him that much credit.

      November 29, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • goddog

      No... I'm fully healed, thank you. haha. Namaste.

      November 29, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  14. MKC

    love the post.. hilarious

    November 29, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • Mountain Rat

      I would laugh and love it if Tim Tebow took Denver to the playoffs and won the Superbowl. Would you all consider that a "Miracle" then?????

      November 29, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
  15. Jay

    Tebow is not performing miracles-–Any Idiot knows that--Don't know if they qualify as mircales....but they are devine Wins......Even a Super Bowl Champ. would not be a miracle....."Just Coincidence....Gods way of remaing anonymous.......

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

      yes, the god(s) are all really good at that. One thing they all have in common.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
  16. Reality

    Apparently, you missed this prayer during the last review of your "miracle-filled" life:-----------–

    The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven?????

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
    Jerusalem.

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
    ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    Amen

    Some of the references used to update the creed:

    o 1. Historical Jesus Theories, earlychristianwritings.com/theories.htm – the names of many of the contemporary historical Jesus scholars and the ti-tles of their over 100 books on the subject.
    2. Early Christian Writings, earlychristianwritings.com/
    – a list of early Christian doc-uments to include the year of publication–
    3. Historical Jesus Studies, faithfutures.org/HJstudies.html,
    – "an extensive and constantly expanding literature on historical research into the person and cultural context of Jesus of Nazareth"
    4. Jesus Database, faithfutures.org/JDB/intro.html–"The JESUS DATABASE is an online annotated inventory of the traditions concerning the life and teachings of Jesus that have survived from the first three centuries of the Common Era. It includes both canonical and extra-canonical materials, and is not limited to the traditions found within the Christian New Testament."
    5. Josephus on Jesus mtio.com/articles/bissar24.htm
    6. The Jesus Seminar, mystae.com/restricted/reflections/messiah/seminar.html#Criteria
    7. Writing the New Testament- mystae.com/restricted/reflections/messiah/testament.html
    8. Health and Healing in the Land of Israel By Joe Zias
    joezias.com/HealthHealingLandIsrael.htm
    9. Economics in First Century Palestine, K.C. Hanson and D. E. Oakman, Palestine in the Time of Jesus, Fortress Press, 1998.
    10. 7. The Gnostic Jesus
    (Part One in a Two-Part Series on Ancient and Modern Gnosticism)
    by Douglas Groothuis: equip.org/free/DG040-1.htm
    11. The interpretation of the Bible in the Church, Pontifical Biblical Commission
    Presented on March 18, 1994
    ewtn.com/library/CURIA/PBCINTER.HTM#2
    12. The Jesus Database- newer site:
    wiki.faithfutures.org/index.php?t-itle=Jesus_Database
    13. Jesus Database with the example of Supper and Eucharist:
    faithfutures.org/JDB/jdb016.html
    14. Josephus on Jesus by Paul Maier:
    mtio.com/articles/bissar24.htm
    15. The Journal of Higher Criticism with links to articles on the Historical Jesus:
    mtio.com/articles/bissar24.htm
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    November 29, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • greg

      dude,you need to get a life, most of this is fiction anyway,get out more in nature,it will tell you more than any book will..listen,breathe slow,this stuff is consuming your life..

      November 29, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  17. Liam

    Tim Tebow has a college education...is making millions playing a game he loves and is giving praise to his faith. Leave the kid alone....he is doing just fine.

    November 29, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • JT

      Just goes to show being college educated doesn't cure being supersti-tious and ignorant.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
  18. Jon

    If he's performing miracles, then the 11-0 Packers are, too.

    November 29, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  19. Chaiah

    ... like G-d gives a big fat rat's rear end about football.

    November 29, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • HideAndSeekChampion

      He doesn't seem to care about all the real suffering around the world so I'm guessing you're right.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  20. 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,!". Leave his religeous belief alone and enjoy the games.

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

      Sure, because Judaeism makes a lot more sense than Christianity. Afterall, that's where we got the old testament from and who can imagine life without all those moral gems strewn throughout its pages.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:40 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.