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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. Patty

    You nay sayers are just jealous because Tim Tebow is doing well. A "W" is a "W", is it not?
    Just see how the rest of the games play out. If he continues to lead the Broncos to a victory
    then get over it.

    November 29, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • Really?

      AMEN SISTER!
      Jealousy is such an ugly thing, ain't it!!

      November 29, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • Grumpster

      Teebow isn't doing well, he's doing average to slightly sub par. Aaron Rogers is doing well, and doesn't need to put on the show like this either.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
  2. perk

    Tebow may not be the greatest QB of all time, but his character is surely one of the strongest in the NFL, anywhere for that matter. The excitement he brings to the game is indisputable, a young man who still loves to play the game. He also appears humble, unlike many of his blinged out, ego-maniac counterparts that are in the news for their criminal acts instead of their godly acts. So many people out there are just hoping to see him fall, it's sick. I hope he never loses his enthusiasm, his integrity, or his faith he is doing his part to make the world a better place. TEBOW FOR PRESIDENT!

    November 29, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • Really?

      Got my vote! And looks too!!!! Now Then!

      November 29, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
  3. Henry

    What is going to be really sad is what happens when Tebow does not succeed. His religious fans have put him on such a high pedestal that he is not likely to survive the fall.

    November 29, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • Really?

      If he's truly a child of God he'll catch Him come what may.

      November 29, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • Brian

      .. Much like the historical Jesus. Hey, there's another similarity.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • Henry

      That is a nice out for his fans. If he wins through his fans fickle nature he is a true follower of God if not he is a false prophet.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • Really?

      Nope God catches us win or lose! We don't turn our back no matter what! Like Jesus, sitting at his right hand, to die is to be present with the father, losing a football game can't touch us.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • Henry

      God may catch him but his fans will most likely abandon him.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
  4. Grumpster

    Thanks God for touchdowns, but doesn't blame him when he throws an interception. Never once did I hear a receiver say "I would have caught it, but God made me drop the ball". Did God will the other team to lose? Does he play favorites? Does he know the over/under or point spread and influence that in the mob's favor?

    November 29, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • Really?

      Give thanks in all things!

      November 29, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • I'm The Best!

      @ Really?
      But only the Bronco's fans right? The other teams fans can go scr.ew themselves?

      November 29, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • briks

      Then you aren't paying attention. Steve Johnson blamed God last year for dropping a big pass.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • Really?

      Just like you all blame God you're miserable.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • Grumpster

      Briks....thanks for that! I'd like a link of this if there is one...that's a classic! Guess we can thank God for a world that has conflicting religions that are bent on killing each other, famine, pestilence, debauchery, rap music, Pee Wee Herman, and a population that is about to be the ruination of the world thanks to people who breed like rabbits but never want to do anything to prevent it. Yep....thanks a bunch there, Jebus and friends. No go away.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • semper fi '95

      Here's a link about Steve Johnson blaming god. He did it via twitter.
      http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/blog/shutdown_corner/post/Steve-Johnson-blames-God-for-his-overtime-drop?urn=nfl-289770

      November 30, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
  5. Really?

    Let the boy pray if he wants to. Don't like it, turn your head and close your eyes!

    November 29, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • Rock

      Exactly!

      November 29, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
  6. Barbara

    If you don't believe in God, tell me WHO is answering 99% of my prayers and WHY they would care to do so???

    November 29, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • Colin

      Weak argument. Millions of Hindus, buddhists and Muslims believe the same thing. So do Australian Aboriginals, Native Americans and sub-saharan Africans, about their myriad gods. No Barbara, you have good fortune and bad fortune like the rest of us. There is no sky-fairy looking over you.

      November 29, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • Grumpster

      Yeah...right...you're so bloody special. He didn't answer the prayers of those to plunged into the World Trade Center. You must be praying that the sun doesn't burn out within your lifetime.

      November 29, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • Skipper

      Fortune cookies and horoscopes work about the same way.

      November 29, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • John

      THAT'S you argument for god's existence!?! Obviously you're not praying for world peace, the millions of starving kids dying of AIDS in Africa, or even all of the people who need jobs here in the US and around the world...

      November 29, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • Really?

      Colin...........their gods are false Gods, our it the REAL DEAL! DEAL WITH IT!

      November 29, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • Henry

      Flying Spaghetti Monster?

      November 29, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • Really?

      spaghetti or whatever suits you, false god the same!

      November 29, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • JasonInKC

      @Really? – "Colin...........their gods are false Gods, our it the REAL DEAL! DEAL WITH IT!"
      Well, they basically say the same thing about your god. So, we'll deal with it when you actually prove it.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  7. Skipper

    Tim Tebow's antics are nothing more than a marketing act. Without the show, he would be average and invisible.

    It is unimaginable that the all being ruler of time, space, and dimension would give a flying rat's a$s about Tim Tebow's GAME being played in a small corner of earth.

    November 29, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
  8. sue

    I certainly hope that if god exists, he has more important things to do than help the Brocos win football games.

    November 29, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • Really?

      Like maybe, reaching out to all the lost, drunk soul, spending all their time following football and missing the real picture? Got to get their attention someway.

      November 29, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • Jim

      Really?

      I know that Tebow running into the endzone caused me to embrace sobriety and God. Maybe not.

      November 29, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
  9. Joe

    Wow. Where to begin....
    First of all, Lennon's comment about Beatles and Jesus was said out of a sense of ridiculousness, not achievement.
    To this day, many people do not get that.
    I do not begrudge Tebow his religious faith, because he doesn't constantly push it in everyone's face. Jesus does not "let" him win any more than He makes other teams lose.
    As far as "Tebowing" goes...players have been doing that for years now. But it's funny that not many of them pray when they lose, do they? Maybe Jesus doesn't like them, right?
    Jesus and religion do not belong in a sports discussion, especially if you're asking Him to take sides.
    If you did ask Him, he probably ask you why you weren't feeding the hungry or housing the homeless.

    November 29, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  10. Chris

    Jesus was also crucified by Pilot, and I fear Tebow will be as well, by the likes of Elway and the Broncos front office.

    November 29, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • Ben

      Roman Empire...Denver Broncos...yeah I can see the similarity...Oh wait no I can't.

      November 29, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • cw

      Pilate.

      November 29, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • John

      Then what was the co-pilot doing during all of this?

      November 29, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  11. treblemaker

    He is a ROOKIE, for God's sake (pardon the pun). The mass media couldn't screw in a lightbulb properly, much less get this story in its proper perspective. That young man is showing mental toughness that few people have. He seems to be a born leader, like Joe Montana, with the ability to rally the players behind him, no matter what his athletic inexperience may be. Even if Denver doesn't make the playoffs this year, it doesn't matter. At some point in the next five years they will be the champions as long as they allow him to start every game.

    November 29, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • Binky42

      Dude, the second Denver gets the chance to hire another REAL quarterback, Tebow will be sitting on the sidelines praying all game long. He's had a lucky streak, but it won't last. The Bronco's see no long-term future in this guy.

      November 29, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • Really?

      An if God can get some glory on the football field, IT'S ABOUT TIME!

      November 29, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
  12. Brian

    He's praying for money, more money and more money and more money and more money, please Jesus fill my bank account even if it means taking from others so be it.

    November 29, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      That's the same prayer offerred by a lot of Evangelical Pastors!
      He truly is a holy man...

      November 29, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
  13. Binky42

    If God picked a chosen son of football it would be Peyton Manning. He will rise again!

    November 29, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
  14. Guest

    And somehow I think that an omnipotent god would have far more important things to do than to rig the outcome of football games. Things like, say, cure kids dying of cancer or bring peace to wartorn regions. I wouldn't think a football game even ranks on the same list as these.

    November 29, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • Really?

      There are a lot of lost drunk souls at the football game. The great american past time. Can't think of a better place to fish!

      November 29, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • Rock

      Really? Right on!

      November 29, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • twiddly

      Oh, such blasphemy!

      Don't you know that letting thousands of children die horrible and painful deaths every day is all part of this all-powerful, all-loving, god's plan?

      November 29, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
  15. Colin

    Praying in a nutshell:

    Step One – you think certain thoughts, like, "dear [Christian] god, let me win this football game."
    Step two – the being that created the entire Universe about 13.7 billion years ago reads your mind (or "hears your prayers" as Christians like to euphemistically call it).
    Step three – if it is so minded, this being intervenes to alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to suit your request.
    Step four – if things work out as you wanted, your prayers were answered. If they don't, they were not answered, but for some broader good, such as god "moving in mysterious ways".

    This makes the Christian god immuned to disproof and allows miracles to be declared everytime the facts happen to coincide with the telepathic request/prayer. A stopped clock is right twice a day.

    Superst.itious garbage that should never have made it out of the dark Ages.

    November 29, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • Binky42

      Wrong! The world is only 6,000 years old according to Tim Tebow.

      November 29, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • twiddly

      And all the good christians cover their eyes and ears and go "hyah, nyah, nyah".

      We can't let reason get in the way of what someone was brainwashed with as a child, right?
      That is so cruel (almost as cruel as the idea of an all-powerful deity allowing children to suffer horribly every day).

      November 29, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
  16. Stephen

    Yawn.....

    mmmmmm....Doug Floutie did this type of thing on a weekly basis. I guess he was just missing the belief in a mythical sky fairy for them to be considered "miracles".

    Bless you, Doug.

    November 29, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • AKB

      If Doug Flutie had been gifted with Tim Tebow's body, he would be in the Hall of Fame.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
  17. Walter

    If God were interested in the outcome of the NFL, wouldn't it be likely that God would be a Saints fan? If Tebow is God's chosen QB why is he a Bronco?

    November 29, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • Chuckles

      Yeah....because we've seen how much love god gave to New Orleans......too soon?

      Honestly though, god isn't a bronco's fan, he's a Colorado fan, the broncos just happen to be a byproduct. I mean honestly, who could hate CO, it's the best mother fuc.kin state there is.

      November 29, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • fred

      Read your Bible Walter
      Jesus rode in on young colt on Palm Sunday. Get on the phone to Vegas and bet the farm on Denver.

      November 29, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • Walter

      So what you are saying is God is a Colts fan. It's worked well for them.

      November 29, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • JohnnyDH

      Also, Mile High stadium is closest to Heaven so Jesus has the best view of the Broncos games...hence why he is a fan.

      November 29, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
  18. Russ

    THERE IS NO GOD!!! PRAYING IS FOR THE WEAK. FOR THOSE THAT CAN'T HELP THEMSELVES AND NEED AN EXCUSE TO FAIL. IF THEY FAIL OR SOMETHING GOES WRONG THEY CAN FALL BACK ON "IT WAS GOD'S WILL" INSTEAD OF OWNING UP TO THEIR FAILURES. KEEP RELIGION OUT OF MY SPORTS AND MY GOVERNMENT!!!!!

    November 29, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • Really?

      One nation under GOD!

      November 29, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Really
      That's what you money has said since the McCarthy era, at least.
      McCarthy was such a fine Christian man, wasn't he?

      November 29, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • HM

      Please prove your case, Russ.

      November 29, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • Barbara

      Good luck with this view when you're ready to check out of this world. It's amazing how atheists suddenly get faith when they're dying.

      November 29, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Barbara
      You've been at a lot of atheist death beds, have you?
      "There are no atheists in foxholes" is a contemptible lie.
      It's amazing how many Christians are anything but Christ-like.

      November 29, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • Colin

      Barbara – you must be kidding!! I am currently awaiting the tests of my cancer screening and I am a proud, vocal ahtiest. My buddy is in the last stages of cancer and is still a vocal atheist. This myth of "death bed repentence" by atheists has no factual support.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • Bob

      Why so angry?

      November 29, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • joe d

      iif tebow and others like him are correct, you have a serious problem ahead of you, according to what "they" believe awaits the unbeliver. the existence of god can`t be proved or disproved-we all have faith in something. fortunately jesus believes in you even if you don`t believe in him.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • fred

      Colin
      EHH, wrong would you like to pick another catagory? I have personally witnessed confession of faith in Jesus at the side of a dying atheist. Now, he may have just done that to get me the heck out of the room or latter changed his mind. I may never know as the Bible says I will surprised who is and is not heaven.

      November 29, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
  19. johnfrichardson

    We live in an era of many great quarterbacks. Tim Tebow isn't one of them.

    November 29, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
  20. Jim

    "Judge not lest you be judged. For the measure you give will be returned to you" Or something like that. You be the judge.. or not.

    November 29, 2011 at 1:37 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.