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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. tkogrady

    Yeah, yeah, yeah – they used to say the same thing about Kurt Warner . . . until he started losing. He was thanking God for that though!

    November 29, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • Binky42

      Kurt Warner was never like this. He kept his beliefs to himself. I don't ever remember him putting a fundie commercial on during the Superbowl.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  2. William Demuth

    What a farce.

    Some Jughead throws a ball for a living, and we get this!

    Send his redneck rear end to Afghanistan and let him and Jesus win the game over there!

    November 29, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
  3. Argle Bargle

    Why is it that whenever something unusual happens, it's automatically labeled a "miracle"? Tim Tebow's only miracle is that he has a team good enough to make up for everything he lacks. Eventually his run of good fortune will end and his pillars of support will come crashing down as well. Then he'll become another Reverend Schuller, shucking and jiving his way into people's wallets for Jesus while driving expensive cars and living in a mansion. The hypocrisy never ends.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
  4. I-so-much-agree

    If he wishes to use his religion for football it will not pan over well. It will grow old and the other thing that does not mix with religion or a discussion about it is Politics. These are 2 things you should not discuss and if you do, they bring controversey. I think you know this CNN..........but why do you insist on putting this kind of crap out there that is not NEWS.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • Tara

      What *Religion* is Tebow Spouting about????

      Since Jesus Christ was a Jew when he was on earth, is Tebow proclaiming Judaism????

      Wise up and learn of Jesus Christ before you talk about a Man Made Religion you think Jesus represents...

      November 29, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
  5. Tara

    Tim Tebow is NOT preforming Miracles..He is the Miracle...A Life not Aborted...

    Matthew 19:26

    Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

    November 29, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • Binky42

      Yeah, there were also a few dozen passages about false idol worship and not putting humans on the same level as God.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • anonymous

      Binky has a good point. But Tebow is becoming an idol above God by media and fans, not by himself. Anyone who is putting him before Christ needs to repent of that.

      November 29, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
  6. Brandon

    I lost my respect for humanity after this ridiculous article.

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

      Now go and read up the national debt, that might help you regain your faith in humanity!

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

    CORRECTION: Tebow did NOT lead Florida to 2 national championships, only ONE. Chris Leak led Flordia to the 2007 championship (Tebow was the backup). Tebow led Florida to the 2009 championship.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
  8. Michael

    So who does he thank when he misses?

    btw, the biggest miracle performed by Tebow is getting to believe he's straight.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • Colin

      I've heard that. Is there any factual support for it? Oh god, I hope so. Can you imaging the slobbering evangelicals when they learn their poster child likes men!!

      November 29, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • Binky42

      I'm sure it's only a matter of time before they find him high on meth naked in the back of a car with Ted Haggard.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Binky
      Haggard took a course on how to be straight, so all his gay is gone now.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Quarterback Priest?

      I for one am SOOOO amused by the outing of all the coach pervs. Preachers and coaches, a match made in HELL!

      I have said since the 60's that any man who plays with children when he dosen't have to is there for the baby booty.

      Perhaps its the cynic in me, but BEWARE THE MAN WHO WANTS TO PLAY WITH YOUR CHILDREN!

      November 29, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  9. killallthewhiteman

    If any of you really think that God is preforming miracles for a football game, then maybe you should tell Africa to start playing football.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • Esi

      Do you know any history at all? Africans practiced Christianity long before it came to the western hemisphere. We may have our problems, but football (btw we paly football!) shouldn't be one of them.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
  10. Tara

    GOD takes Ordinary People to do Extra-Ordinary Tasks..

    He did that with the likes of a Fisherman, a Pharisee, a Tax Collector and the unforgotten.

    Matthew, Peter, Saul/Paul.

    GOD does not *rig* games he blesses those who bless him with a sincere heart. Tim Tebow is not lucky, he is blessed to play football and to show the World the *Glory of GOD*

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

      God should bless him with a greater than 50% completion rate.

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

      Tara, you're a nut job, babe. Im sorry, but you are so mislead in your faith. I challenge you to pick up a science book and know it like you know the bible. wow.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
  11. Don

    Give. Me. A. #$#$$%^&*. Break.

    November 29, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
  12. Jim

    "I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!! AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? HOW???!!! ILL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER! THX THO..."

    Tweet by Steve Johnson after dropping a game-winning pass against Pittsburgh.

    November 29, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
  13. Linda Smith

    Sports and religion are for sheep. Aren't you ever the least bit curious as to why flakes like Tim Tebow and Billy Grahm have so much money and you don't? Ever wonder why your town supports a football stadium with YOUR taxes and the local church, down the street from you, doesn't have to pay ANY taxes? Grow up. Be your own person. Be here now!

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

      Linda, your an idiot. Tebow got his money playing football. Billy Graham earned it. He never has had any control over finances of his ministry. Can you read? Do some research instead of spouting out stupid nonsense like the loser on here named colin.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • I'm The Best!

      I get hours of amusement out of sports. And I'm fine with the city/state useing my tax money to pay for a stadium. It pulls in people from all around and brings them to my town. It helps small businesses thrive during football season.

      Churches on the other hand, I do agree are for sheep.

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

      Actually no stadium has ever brought in as much revenue as has been conceded in tax breaks and/or partially funding by the municipality. This includes secondary revenue sources (taxes on hotel rooms ect). Local government is actual better off not funding sports stadiums.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • joe d

      what if, just what if, all those "sheep" are right in there belief and the bible is true, and jesus is who he says he is, where does that leave you?

      November 29, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  14. Anne

    Tebow would lighten up a bit if he got laid. Lots of his fans are willing to help him out in that.

    November 29, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • beedabeedow

      Not everyone wants to be a ho like you Anne. Rumor has it, you have been ridden more times than Seattle Slew.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • Anne

      beedabeedow –

      It's been a long time. Do you still like to be ridden with strap ons?

      November 29, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
  15. David

    Colin you need Jesus as your Saviour. There is something missing in your life. You need Jesus.

    November 29, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @David
      And you, sir, need Quetzlcoatl in your life.
      That or an introductory course in logic.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
    • Colin

      David, not Allah, Buddah, Krishna or Vishnu? Why your god?

      November 29, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
    • Jason

      That is true. But the author is a religious scholar not a believer. 2 very different things. "Religious Scholars" are often synics who hold a grudge against people of faith. I find it upsetting that CNN lets this guy write for them. It is also sad that most readers don't really understand what a religious scholar is.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • J.W

      Colin would do best with Jesus, but either Buddha or Krishna are cool too.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
  16. Iconoclast

    Oy Vey

    November 29, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  17. Chris

    Say what you want about Tebow but I have been following his career from college to the pros and he has always just been regarded as a class act human being. I don't care how religious he is or even what religion he follows. I'm not even particularly religious myself but when I see a good person, I see a good person. When Tebow is praying or bowing after a touchdown, that's who he is. It is not an act. If an atheist carries him or herself like Tebow I would like that person quite well too. Too many people in today's society just want to look for the chinks in somebody's armor instead of identifying the positive attributes. If Tebow succeeds in football, great, and I'm rooting for him. If he doesn't, well, he'll be just fine too.

    November 29, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • Mary

      Well said.

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

      That was a great comment. Every person needs to be measured by their actions, not some pre-conceived assumption of what they or who they are. Why can't more CNN readers see the light?

      November 29, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • tiazu

      Excellent comment!

      November 29, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
  18. us1776

    Meyer did Tebow a great disservice by building an entire team devoted to making him look good.

    It remains to be seen whether Tebow can actually become a self-sufficient athlete.

    And doing all those dangerous runs himself in the NFL is only going to get him seriously injured. That stuff works at the college level but not in the NFL.

    .

    November 29, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • Chris A.

      Tebow my not ultimately be a great quarterback, but he most assuredly is a great athlete. He will succeed in the league but most like it'll be at tight end or something. I'd like to see him play linebacker. The second coming of Reggie White.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
  19. hippypoet

    god, please let the retarded tebow sh!t come to an end SOON!

    now lets see if my prayer works...

    wait....

    still waiting......

    i'm gunna be here a while! I could use a stiff drink! yummy scotch on the way..... no ice!

    November 29, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Might I suggest sacrificing some livestock?
      OG (Original God) from the OT seemed to respond to that kind of thing...

      November 29, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
  20. Dawn

    wow, I would hate to think that Jesus is choosing to answer Tebow's prayers over those of his opponents by making these 'miracles' happen.

    November 29, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • Jim

      Jesus is a Broncos fan. Always has been.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:01 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.