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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. Karl Rickard

    Who cares about the 40,000 children that die every day of starvation and malnutrition. As long as Jesus is helping Tebow complete 45% of his passes, that's all that matters. God is great!

    November 29, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • Really?

      Get off your wallet and feed some of them then, it not, who are you say what God is or is not doing?

      November 29, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
  2. Vulpes

    "Jesus: turned a ragtag band of 12 apostles into the number one religion in the world." - you know better than that ... For more than 3 centuries Christianity was a religion practiced in the shadows ... it grew some, but not until Constantine made it the state religion did it flourish.

    November 29, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
  3. stvnkrs10

    Let me clue you idiots in to one undeniable fact................ God doesn't care about the outcome of football games.

    November 29, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • Really?

      Wrong! If he can get glory from it he does and Tebow is willing to give him the glory! Jesus Christ's is now a hot topic of ESPN! You go Tebow!

      November 29, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • stvnkrs10

      Do you think God only exists for Glory? Wouldn't he get more "Glory" from just appearing in the sky as opposed to a horrible Quarterback stealing the attention from the rest of his team mates who are doing the real work. If I were Tebow I would pray for accuracy.

      November 29, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  4. Really?

    Okay... I cant do this anymore; I almost peed myself laughing several times. Sorry everyone, I'm a bit schizophrenic and was really just being a troll. I did succeed at getting all the holy rollers out waving their hands over the holier-than-thou game player named Tim Tebow. All you FOOLS who chimed in to support my ridiculous rantings, ask yourself this: How could a "God" love football more than he loves all those who are suffering in the world? How could he/she/it put his/her/it's favoers up for "vote" for the one who gets the most prayers. If there was a God, such an assumption would be borderline sacrilegious.

    FOOLS!

    I denounce even the remote possibility of a God. George Carlin said it best:

    Religion convinced the world that there's an invisible man in the sky who watches everything you do. And there's 10 things he doesn't want you to do or else you'll to to a burning place with a lake of fire until the end of eternity. But he loves you! ...And he needs money! He's all powerful, but he can't handle money!

    November 29, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • Really?

      To the pathetic soul who feels the need to steal my name, get a life!

      November 29, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • Really?

      Hippypoet.....you up to it again. You love trying to be me don't you. So sad.

      November 29, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  5. Cody

    Are you out of your mind? You are actually weighing the "similarities" between Jesus and Tebow? As a Christian, I am disgusted that you would lessen who Jesus is by saying that the truly miraculous actions that he took throughout his life are similar in nature to a "mediocre quarterback". Further, I struggle to see how it is acceptable for you to trivialize the meaning of the word miracle by stating that the comeback wins in the past few weeks have been miraculous. This is ridiculous. You said it yourself, Tebow is a mediocre quarterback whose wins are more likely attributable to the Broncos defense. Don't make Jesus synonymous with mediocrity, some would call that ignorance, or worst, blasphemy.

    November 29, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • mike

      you are taking life, and this article, WAY too seriously

      November 29, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  6. edvhou812

    I wonder how the Brocos would be doing without the play of their defense and special teams. I also wonder if anyone would really care so much about Tim Tebow if he was athiest of agnostic.

    November 29, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  7. Luke

    fuuuuuck you haters

    November 29, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  8. Joe

    When did the Broncos become a juggernaut? They are 6-5 with a great defense and have played not one good team since Tebow started, excecpt Detroit and they lost.

    November 29, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
  9. Luke

    5-1 idiots! hahahaha and if even one of you knew Tim your opinion would A change or B be completeley invalid. Your all pathetic. Looking for a chink in his armor and ignoring your own. Im not a god man, but if I was I would hope he see's to it that you all get yours. Yes I like my god to be vengefull

    November 29, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
  10. mike21954

    Short answer? No.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • GodPot

      Long Answer: Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo...

      November 29, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  11. Mike

    Tebow is performing the miracle of belittling prayer even more than talking to imaginary deities to solve your personal problems already belittles itself.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • Really?

      Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. I see it as a man who is not ashamed of God in the midst of a bunch of worldly sinners. God gave him life and the talent and the job so he gives him the glory and is not ashamed.

      November 29, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  12. open400

    I know the American Religious Right wants to promote this guy, but over the long haul, an NFL QB has to pass beter than a 40% completion rate. He plays in the AFC West – by far the weakest division in the NFL. An NFL QB that runs the ball a lot ends up to being an injured NFL QB.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  13. Chris

    This might be the worst article ever written. Are you serious?

    November 29, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  14. K3Citizen

    Is the nickname Touchdown Jesus already taken?

    November 29, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  15. Granger

    Tim Tebow's a respectable role model, yet the liberal media wants to condemn him for anything he does, and idolize Michael Vick and the the other ghetto thugs that have populated the sport. If Tebow were black, they wouldn't be saying a word....There are many quarterbacks who have better statistics than Tebow, but none have a bigger heart for the game or his fellow man; so you liberal, Christianity-hating boobs will just have to learn to deal with the truth.....

    November 29, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  16. John Wright

    God bless Tim Tebow!

    November 29, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • GodPot

      Why?

      You would think that if your God created the universe he would have something better to do than watch football on Sunday.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  17. Barry G.

    So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

    The Apostle Paul to the Corinthians

    November 29, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • Yeshua

      Paul was a Peter puffer.

      November 30, 2011 at 11:23 am |
  18. Kenrick Benjamin

    Mike, I did read the Old Testament.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  19. Cheree

    I just want to say. Tim Tebow is not a bad passer. He just does not pass often. Many people look at the wrong stats. Yes Cam Newton Passes alot but the INT /eff ratio is not great.... I have watched Tebow play since HS in person. He wins. At Florida he won,unconventionally but nonetheless... WON

    November 29, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • Madtown

      No, he's not a very good passer at this point. Misses many, many open receivers.

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

      LOL - stats don't lie ... he is LAST in passing percentage .. how is that a "wrong" stat? but hey, if he gets the wins that is what is important. Personally, I think he is a bit overrated by some and maligned too much by others.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  20. Barry G.

    Way to go, Tim!

    November 29, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
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About this blog

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.