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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. Barbarian

    THis guy claims to be a Religion Scholar and an Agnostic. Kind of an oxy-moron, considering a Religion Scholar would be on the pursuite of Truth in either direction; religious/athiests and an Agnostic is a fence sitter. He is the ultimate quack.

    November 29, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • sam

      Lame attempt at appearing hip.

      November 29, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
    • TR6

      How about Bart Ehrmann? who is an acknoledged biblical scoller and an atheist?

      November 30, 2011 at 4:54 am |
  2. Jeff

    Miracles? Really? This guy in another 20 years will be serving on the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse Roe v. Wade. He's against a woman's right of choice. He'll be as whacked as Michele Bachman and the rest of GOP crap that takes people's rights away and protects the rich. Hardly Jesus. This guy is good for football. Nothing else.

    November 29, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • Theftists

      Rights are something that can't be taken away by another man. The right to be bear arms. The right to practice your religion. The right to freedom of speech. There is no right to kill a child in a woman's womb. It was made up by the Supreme Court who do not have authority to do so. So please don't try to change the language. We all know 2+2=4, and that abortion is murder, not a right.

      November 29, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • TR6

      @Theftists: “Rights are something that can't be taken away by another man. The right to be bear arms. The right to practice your religion. The right to freedom of speech. “

      What rock have you been hiding under? The “rights” you list have been taken away from many people in many countries by other men. In fact in a great number of countries these “rights” have never existed at all. We have these rights in America because they are granted and defended by our legal system including the right to an abortion.

      It’s wing nuts like you that pose the greatest threat to our legally garneted rights; because today you would take away the right to abortion. Tomorrow you would take away my right to not practice a religion. And next week you would start limiting what I could freely say about religion

      November 30, 2011 at 5:06 am |
  3. rudix

    I am for Tebow as he is truthful and i wish most of us would be a litle more with Tebow spirit.....and i am Jewish....can anyone say that this guy is not nice? our society is on the way down...look around...read the Dimension Machine and you will Understand..all at wwwTheDimensionMachineDOTcom

    November 29, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
  4. Steve Larson

    I agree with another poster. This article was a pathetic attempt to gain notoriety by writing about Tim Tebow. He seems to know little about football and even less about Tim's faith. I respect Tim Tebow not as a football player, but a man who has put his faith first. He won't always win, and "God isn't on his side" when it comes to football; but Tim Tebow stands for what he believes and, although I don't know him, he seems to live what he believes.

    November 29, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • HideAndSeekChampion

      Faith means not wanting to know what is true.

      November 29, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
    • ......

      "Tim Tebow doesn't know what he believes in as he follows after an image of a false god and false Christ (Matthew 24:24)."

      TROLL ALERT – click the report abuse link to get rid of this TROLL – their book and website is supporting a CULT.

      November 29, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  5. Jon

    It takes a reasonably competent QB, not a miracle, to beat the Dolphins.

    November 29, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  6. hellhere

    He is the healer Jesus sent. He will heal the world.

    November 29, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • EatYouAlive

      ROFL

      November 29, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
    • sam

      lol that was pretty good.

      November 29, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
    • TR6

      OH NO!!! This is the anti Christ. Mark my words, he will receive terrible concussion (head injury) but he will completely recover from it and become a religious or political leader. Check out Revelation and you’ll see that I’m right

      November 30, 2011 at 5:11 am |
  7. CP

    Enjoy the improbable, it happens all the time.

    November 29, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
  8. Anomic Office Drone

    The only miracle here is coming from clever coaching and a strong defense.

    November 29, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
  9. Rich

    It may seem like nothing but I do not think the writer used the right words when referencing John Lennon. The word "claim" is missplaced. John did use those words while answering questions but he only said those words. He didn't claim it to be true. It was just his opinion. A professional writer should use their words more carefully.

    By the way a football "squad" is not 11 players. It's a lot more, 53 or 54, not sure of the exact number.

    November 29, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
  10. 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 and does not know what spirit he is of and what spirit he serves (Luke 9:55).

    Matthew 15:9. But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men and this includes Tim Tebow. It is the same as the Pope praying for peace and there never is any (Matthew 15:9). They are separated from God and God heareth not sinners (John 9:31).

    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 or members of the gay community or religious zealots.

    November 29, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • Francis Balliardo

      The wisdom of the world is far greater than that of the primitive words found in the bible. Plus, real world facts trump the contradictions of the bible. Pretty awesome, I know!

      November 29, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • ......

      TROLL ALERT – click the report abuse link to get rid of this TROLL – their book and website is supporting a CULT.

      When ever you see this TROLL post click the report abuse link quick!

      November 29, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • ......

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

      This is a GREAT example of the lies these people tell in their book and website. keep clicking the report abuse link to get rid of this LIAR! You would think being a Christian they would know LYING is a SIN!

      November 29, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • TR6

      The “wisdom” of the bible brought us the inquisitions. The wisdom of the world brought us antibiotics

      November 30, 2011 at 5:17 am |
  11. Juan

    So this is what journalism has come to?

    November 29, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • dudley0415

      "Journalism" on the Belief Page. It's pertinent and relevant to those who come here for this reason.

      November 29, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • Madtown

      No, CNN has been this bad for a long time now!

      November 29, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
  12. Apples2Apples

    Man, a gold nugget shows up in this world like Tebow (non-hypocrite, clean nosed kid who inspires greatness) and we witness the green eyed trolls come out of their closets. Christ said that the world would hate his true followers. Who is greater than the master? Certainly not Tebow.

    November 29, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • HideAndSeekChampion

      Christ also gave advice on how often and how severely one should beat their slaves. Let's just ignore the parts that we don't like though, huh?

      November 29, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • Francis Balliardo

      Oh yeah? Jesus also said this:

      "When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes." –Matthew 10:23 (NIV)

      And this:

      "Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom." –Matthew 16:28 (KJV)

      He was speaking to his followers in person, not to future fairy tale believers. By my watch, the jesus is about 2,000 years late on his promise. Don't you think? Nah, you don't think.

      November 29, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • Barbarian

      Hide and seek- Can you please give me the verse from one of the gospels that Jesus gave advice on beating slaves. I am assuming that you do understand the bible and what each book means and who it is written and for what purpose, correct?

      November 29, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • HideAndSeekChampion

      Exodus 21:20-21

      “Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.

      Jesus was so great. He also advocated men bailing on their families to "follow him".

      November 29, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
  13. post

    Being at the denver san diego game this last sunday, I can say that Tebow fans are about as irritating as raider fans, but for their own reasons. They incessantly shout about their precious tebow, despite his terrible performance and lack of responsibility for any of their success. It's just a bunch of people latching onto a hope, and blowing it way out or proportion. moreover, who gives a crap about his religion? No one talks about agnostic quarterbacks; that is their decision just as christianity is tebow's. The guy can barely shake a sack, gets one or two accurate throws in per game, and occasionally gets lucky with a short run when the opposing defense makes bonehead space for him. The whole tebow thing just stinks, as is as much about publicity and fame as any kardashian obsession. stats don't lie and I couldn't care less about his religion.

    November 29, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • Apples2Apples

      Agnostics play for themselves, just like every other player with bling diamond earings. Tebow plays for Christ. So inspiring to Christians, so annoying for unbelivers. When you hear the "S" word about a team that is only 5-4, God must be in it 🙂

      November 29, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
    • EatYouAlive

      Agnostics and atheists play for the TEAM just like anyone else. religion does not make you special, just deluded.

      November 29, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
    • post

      what's wrong with playing for yourself? that's what everyone in this world does. people make money so they can spend it, on themselves, their family, etc. What's the point in "playing for christ?" besides trying to impress some bible-belt nutcases and wasting your efforts. I'd venture most of the money you make in your own life goes to yourself, rather than burning it and chanting, this is for you christ. You grow up around people believing in these fairy tales, and it breaks your heart to even consider it might not all be real.

      November 29, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • hez316

      Wow, if he is as bad as you say, Denver must be in real trouble. It will be a "miracle " if they win another game. We'll just have to wait and see.

      November 29, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • post

      right, hez, right. everything that surprises anyone is a miracle. you people sound so desperate.

      November 29, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
  14. HapHazzard

    I feel kind of dirty after reading that article. The whole Jesus did/Tebow did section made me throw up a little in my mouth.

    November 29, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
  15. Randawg

    Whether or not Tebow is religious means nothing to me. The fact is he is not that good, its the Broncos defense that has been winning games lately. If a QB cannot pass in the NFL he will not last. I am looking forward to watching the Chi Bears play Denver in a couple weeks. Lets just see how a college offense does against a real defense. my prediction: Bears 6 Broncos 0 lol

    November 29, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
  16. TinMT

    Umm really? Like imaginary friend really give a rat's ass about football? Give me a break, how ego centric and selfish to even 'pray' to win football games, or the myriad of other crap people pray for!

    November 29, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
  17. Vincenzo

    When you run out of ways to mock Tebow and his Christian faith, try this headline:

    "Is White Racisim keeping Donovan McNabb on the bench?"

    November 29, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
  18. Master Chief

    To repeat an oft quoted line, "I would rather believe in God and be wrong then vice versa."

    November 29, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • giant

      You are already in trouble. If you believe in the christian god, Allah will torment you forever, or Zeus, or . You can't win.

      November 29, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
  19. Charles

    Holy crap...hate much? I am not a Tim Tebow fan, and I agree with you that his talent is blown out of proportion, but this article reads like an odd jealously letter. To all the people that love him because he is a Christian, let them. To all you who hate him because he is a Christian, get over it, and for all of us who are Cowboys fans! GO ROMO!

    November 29, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
    • J.W

      Tebow is probably better than Romo.

      November 29, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • Jenny

      "Tebow is probably better than Romo."

      Now that is a low blow...to Tim Tebow. Romo is pathetic!

      November 29, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
  20. BL

    He's lots better than boring Jesus. Jesus merely wanted complete personal transformation without the absurd combination of ritual, dogma and mythology that Christianity has become. Tebow wins football games, a trait our society values infinitely more. On the other hand, God may have an interest in covering the spread.

    November 29, 2011 at 5:43 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.