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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. The Pope

    I would like to give Tebow a knob Gobblin.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
  2. jack spratis

    I say to all those impatient Fannies in Denver release him if you don't like him. There are 3 teams in Florida who would give there right arm to get him signed up. This young man has tremendous potential and does it the old fashion way hard work/training and prayer DRUG FREE! Please, please let him go as you don’t know what you had until you lose it fools 😉

    November 29, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
  3. Curt Dotson

    Come on folks. This is a fun opinion piece. Why is everyone getting so riled up? Tebow is a man of faith with the ability to lead. Somehow he has the team believing in him, and they are playing As A Team. Tebow has helped to unify this team, and when there is unity there is power. Who cares if Tebow prays? Why does that offend people? I'd rather see that than some of the goofy stuff other players do on the field.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  4. jack

    What a bunch of crap.....Everyone knows Tom Brady is the real Jesus Christ.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • TheTruthFairy

      AMEN!

      November 29, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  5. mike

    I personally think Tebow is a phony with a fantastic PR rep.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
  6. David Cadran

    I found myself praying to the Lord to Bless Tim Tebow. Not to be a better football player but give him the strength to be what he really is.... an inspiration to those of us that are sickened by the way people treat each other and disrespect the values that made this country great. Tim Tebow's Foundation is building a hospital in the Phillipines to help people in need. I don't say any "Bling" hanging around his neck or any pictures of his house on "Cribs" or his new ride with shiny 22's all around. Go ahead and bash Tim Tebow... as for me...........I'll stick with the polite respectfull kid .... Any Comments people?????

    November 29, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • Jim

      Your comment is laced with racial innuendo.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • Tara

      Amen David Cadran!

      One of the Wisest Posts on this entire Thread!

      May GOD bless the faith and Strength of Tim Tebow and those whose faith never withers!!

      November 29, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Alfonzo Muchanzo

      @David C. – Well said. Finally a post with decency. God bless 🙂

      November 29, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • Tonelok

      @David Cadran
      Apparently you haven't seen Tim's casa...
      .
      He does great things for people in need, and he tries hard. That's all I care about, he's a good role model for those. I don't care for the God stuff but at least he is sincere about it, not like most athletes that you know drop his name for the heck of it.
      .
      @Jim
      Lolz, totally agree. His comment seems more like a commentary on the heathen black athlete and the penitent white underdog.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • kpb

      Nicely put. I often wonder why the thanking and praising of our Lord & Savior is so intimidating and upsetting to folks. Almost initimidating. I don't believe God cares one way or the other who wins or loses football games. However, I do believe He cares about those who are not afraid to proclaim Him, praise Him and thank Him for His blessings and His goodness. I believe Tim is sincere in his faith. If I remember correctly-he and his mom were involved in an anti-abortion commercial a few years back during the super bowl. I suggest people work more towards following his example than criticizing his beliefs. Try it-you may like it!

      November 29, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • Madtown

      kpb
      I do believe He cares about those who are not afraid to proclaim Him...
      ------
      He cares about ALL. Not just those who do things the same way you do.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  7. mike

    It's blasphemy of the worst sort to think God would intervene in a football game but not in on wars and starving children.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Fortunately, blasphemy is a victimless crime.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • Tonelok

      ^winning

      November 29, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
  8. HenryC

    Tebow is not preforming miracles, his team however is doing something near it under his leadership. His play has been decent, not making mistakes, but the team has played better than teams with significantly more talent. Whether his leadership has anything to do with his religion is debatable, but its existence is undeniable.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  9. Al Gore

    I would love for him to Tebow my hineyHole.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  10. Kenrick Benjamin

    I just wanted to say apart from this story, Many have asked the question what does the face of GOD looks like. We can all attest(Bare Witness) to what Love looks like and GOD is LOVE.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • mike

      Never read the Old Testament, I see.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • ????

      Whaaa?

      November 29, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • TruthPrevails

      And what is the physical description of love? The last I recalled love is an emotion pertinent to the individual, so are you saying god is only pertinent to the individual? If so, how does that make god real? At that point it is not testable.

      November 29, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  11. Todd

    Tim Tebow has done enough to help his team win. The offensive scheme for them is unorthodox because it is not a typical pro style offense, but I credit the coaches for tailoring a game plan that takes advantage of his skills. He is a skilled athlete and a very strong person to be playing QB. That said, the Denver defense has done much to help the Broncos win.

    None of what I wrote before here had anything to do with his faith. I admire him for his faith. I blame those that would say that his faith makes him a great QB or a special QB. All of the other football players are graced with Gods gift of size and skill to make it to the elite level. Why is Tebow parceled out for special attention, positively or negatively?

    TT may or may not have a long career in the NFL. It's very early yet. It may not even be at QB, but because he is so forward about his faith it should not have any bearing on his skills or results from football.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
  12. Andrea M

    I live in Denver and have to listen to this crap constantly. Think about it kids, god does NOT care about football. He's currently too busy dealing with making children starve, giving them malaria, and orchestrating all the killing in the world. Clearly he doesn't have time to kick back and pull Timmy's strings.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • Diann

      The sickness, starving is not the fault of God but of man. It is up to us to solve our problems and many times with the help of others.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • Tara

      Grow up!

      Ignorant Statement...

      November 29, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @Andrea M,
      lol, nice twist!

      November 29, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • TruthPrevails

      @Andrea: Ignore these ignorant brainwashed children! They never allow their god to take credit for the bad things in this world but yet that same god is apparently all knowing and all loving. They have never read Gregory Paul's article 'Holocaust of the Children'. They believe word for word what the buybull teaches and don't care what evidence is set forth to refute their dumba$$ claims. They refuse to live in the 21st century but yet enjoy all the amenities that science has provided them. They don't seem to understand that the makers of the computers they use were non-believers. They are yet to give an accurate description of their god and yet tell us we are the ones who need to prove it doesn't exist. They have some serious issues and if it wasn't for the cover-up of religion, they'd be considered mental health patients.

      November 29, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  13. Binky42

    Kurt Warner was a very religious quarterback, but he was never "in your face" about it. Shouldn't the humble be more likely candidates for God's QB?

    November 29, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      It looks like he is praying at the back , almost in the dark, on the side lines in this picture. Should that achieve your definition of being humble?

      November 29, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  14. I-so-much-agree

    Its something how CNN preys on the younger generations because they are too young to know but If you can give the pointers about certain things like the full picture to let what you know goes on out there, it will make most wise up to understand what the media is really doing. I am glad I lived over half of my life but to grow even further into my life is scarry because this world is so mixed up and to bring god into a football game is like bringing him to everything that he has been alway a part of everything. Its just what generated from it and who manipulated the system to believing but to believe in other ways.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • JohnMark

      Wow, what drugs did you do before writing this??

      November 29, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  15. Sarah

    You pointed out that Jesus prays to God and Tebow prays to Jesus. Why do we pray to Jesus and not directly to God? Maybe our prayers would have more success if we eliminated the middle man and went directly to the source?

    November 29, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • Heinz Doofenshmirtz

      Sounds logical to me.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • I-so-much-agree

      Pray to the 3 persons in one god............THE ALMIGHTY GOD. AMEN!!!

      November 29, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • Heinz Doofenshmirtz

      In fact we should not listen to man at all for issues about god. God and religion are two seperate things.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • Glenda

      We pray to God in Jesus name. Jesus is the name above all names. Look it up for yourself in scripture. King James Version.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • Diann

      Jesus died for out sins, God can not directly communicate with us without belief in Jesus. All of us are not perfect; no one is without sin. Read the new Testament to understand what Jesus has done for everyone.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • Tara

      Wise up!

      GOD in his infinite Spirit being is *Triune* Father Son, Holy Spirit...GOD is One
      GOD is Father'
      GOD is SON...The Christ
      GOD is Holy Spirit.
      JESUS CHRIST is the SON of MAN when he was on earth and when he comes back to earth..He never ceases his Kingship as being *Father* The GREAT I AM WHO I AM.

      We are created in the IMAGE of GOD
      Flesh
      Spirit
      Soul...

      GOD is a *Triune* GOD...3=1

      November 29, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • Andrea M

      Unless you're Catholic in which case you have to go through one of the secretaries, uh, I mean "saints" first.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • Luigi

      Sarah, in Christian theology, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are all God. It's called the Trinity and sometimes called 3 in 1.

      One way to look at it (and I think this is how the Eastern Orthodox church looks at it) is that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are 3 aspects of the same God.

      For those who are decent at math, consider the cone. A cone is a 3 dimensional object. If, however, you look at it from different 2 dimensional perspectives, you get a triangle, a circle and an ellipse. Those are 3 aspects of a cone. Yet, it's still a cone.

      For the others, teach your kids that when the math teacher says math will present itself in surprising ways in your life, perhaps your child should believe the teacher.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Lindsey

      Sarah: Jesus is his savior! He can be yours too if you ask him!

      November 29, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • Luigi

      Glenda, the appropriate way to cite Scripture is provide the reader with chapter & verse. Saying it's in the KJV and "go look it up" is just going to alienate people. If you alienate people, how do you fulfill Matthew 28:16-20?

      As for Names above all Names, try Philippians 2:9. Better to read verses 8-12 for some context. (The entire chapter for even more context.)

      November 29, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • JohnMark

      To Dian – So if Jesus died for our sins, then what happened to all those who lived BEFORE Jesus? Do they get eternal damnation?? And as far as eternal damnation goes, what could any person do that would warrant ETERNAL damnation?? I mean that sounds like cruel and unusual punishment to me..... Yeah, maybe a 100 to 200 years in Limbo for some crappy things we do to each other, but eternity in (supposed) Hell seems quite disproportionate to any crime someone could commit. Except maybe Justin Bieber's music (JUST JOKING!!!!)

      November 29, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • royj

      I Timothy 2:5 " For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus"
      From: Bible

      November 29, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @Dian,
      "God can not directly communicate with us without belief in Jesus."
      Can not or will not? One seems limited the other seems arrogant.

      @JohnMark,
      You non-beliebers shall burn... which might actually be better than listening. lol.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • CaptUSMC

      Jews pray to G*d. To pray to anything else, whether it is Jesus, The Holy Ghost or some combination thereof through triune, whatever that is, or trinity, is in violation of the 1st Commandment. To bow down before a cross, statue of Mary, statue of a saint or a golden calf is a violation of the 2nd Commandment. If it is your plan to have your prayers heard by the G*d of Abraham and avoid offending our G*d, you may want to review those two Commandments as a starting point.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  16. Heinz Doofenshmirtz

    Here is another comparison. Jesus was just a man trying to make trhe world a better place, but just a man. TT is just a man trying to make the Broncos a better team, but just a man.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • Nonimus

      ... and a whole sh1t-load of money.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  17. Binky42

    Exodus 20:8 "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work..."

    Hmmmm...who works on Sundays? Oh yeah, football players!

    November 29, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • Sarah

      Maybe this is why they are called football players and not football workers.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • Heinz Doofenshmirtz

      Who wrote that?

      November 29, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • Binky42

      Then Sarah, maybe Tebow should give back his salary for every Sunday game he plays.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • Sarah

      @blinky42, it's not really a salary, it is God's blessing.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • Kristopher

      Traditionally the Sabbath day falls on a Saturday actually...

      November 29, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • Paul

      Sarah

      I used to work with children in poverty. I should of told those children they were not poor they just didn't have the blessing of God.

      I hate prosperity Christianity.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • Tim

      So, you're going to quote the old testament about the Sabboth day? What day to Pastors work? I bet you still sacrifice goats for your "sins" don't you?

      November 29, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • Lindsey

      Binky: Ministers work on Sunday. Teebow is a minister in his own way!

      November 29, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • Luigi

      Binky, the seventh day is Saturday. I believe Christians go to church on Sunday because Sunday is the "Third Day," the day Jesus arose.

      Regardless, Christians are freed from the law. Galatians 3 (entire chapter; it's not long.)

      November 29, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Chuckles

      @Luigi

      False, christians go to church on sundays because it used to be a pagan holiday and when Rome converted to christianity, instead of forcing their entire citizenry to change their weekly schedules, they made christianity more palatable to them by switching the sabbath.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • hello... :)

      Colossians 2:16-17

      "Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink in respect to a festival or new moon or a Sabbath day - things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ."

      "Religious" activities/traditions really mean nothing; that is honestly one of the world's biggest deceptions. What is important is having a true relationship with Jesus Christ. In that you have conviction thru the Holy Spirit and guidance with the Bible. That's why it's important to read the whole thing... 😉

      November 29, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  18. Louis

    World's dumbest article–idiots who think their god influences the outcome of sports events should talk to all of the non-religious champions who have won based on their athletic ability alone.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • Luigi

      Louis, while football isn't baseball, I think this quote from Yogi Berra fits well. "Baseball is 90 percent mental; the other half is physical." Something like that could be said, with enough accuracy for metaphorical soundness for almost all physical sports including football. A player's mental state is critical when facing foe with comparable talent.

      God influences Tebow regardless of whether the God of Abraham exists or not.

      Louis, what I've presented is a math proof. I'd like it treated as such. If you object, then object on the merits. Calling my proof dumb is pointless. Attacking the author is pointless. Challenge the proof.

      Now that I've said that, I'll challenge your proof. Perception doesn't match external reality. It can't because the perception of some people is that the God of Abraham exists and the perception of others is that the God of Abraham doesn't exist.

      I challenged your proof with a proof by contraction. It is never true that "A" equal "not A."

      If you successfully complete a college course in discrete mathematics, you can do this too and you won't get blindsided.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  19. Bob

    Why so angry at Timmy? He is a nice guy (maybe that is why).

    November 29, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
  20. holdem

    Winning football games in not a miracle unless you're the Colts.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:10 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.