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My Take: Confessions of a Tebow convert
Tim Tebow's habit of praying on the field has given rise to a new word: "Tebowing."
December 12th, 2011
09:57 AM ET

My Take: Confessions of a Tebow convert

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

I must confess that until this weekend I was an agnostic when it came to Tim Tebow. I wasn’t a believer or a non-believer. As America’s cultural warriors debated the virtues and vices of the Denver Broncos' miracle-working quarterback, I played the role of the disinterested academic.

I enjoyed listening to skeptics scoff at evangelicals for actually believing a guy who couldn’t throw could lead his football team to the NFL playoffs. I enjoyed listening to evangelicals scoff at the skeptics for dismissing not only the miracles of Tebow but also the miracles of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In an earlier post I asked, “Is Tim Tebow performing miracles?” But I didn't answer the question.

Today I must confess, however, that the Broncos’ 13-10 come-from-behind victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday has made a believer out of me.

Yes, I doubted when the Bears were ahead 10-0 in the fourth quarter and Tebow had completed fewer than a handful of passes. But doubt, as they say, is part of faith. And I am now a true believer.

I don’t just believe that Tebow is a bona fide NFL quarterback, however. Of course I believe that he can lead his offense on scoring drives with the clock ticking down in the fourth quarter. I have seen him do that with my own eyes. But Tom Brady of the Patriots can do that.

What is truly miraculous about Tim Tebow is his ability to affect a game even when he is sitting on the bench. The Broncos defense? Tebow’s got it covered. The Bears’ offense? Tebow can force a three-and-out.

Why did the Bears’ running back Marion Barber run out of bounds when his team had almost run out the clock on Sunday? Tebow!

Why did Barber fumble in overtime just as the Bears were driving for a score? Tebow!

Why did the Broncos’ kicker Matt Prater make a 59-yard field goal to send the game into overtime and a 51-yarder to win it? Tebow and again I say Tebow!

In short, I agree these words from the Denver Post: “there is no antidote, no potion for Tebow Magic.”

Only it’s not magic. It’s faith. And now I’ve got it too.

With every faith comes hard questions, however. So here is the theological conundrum for my fellow parishioners in the Church of Tim Tebow. If Tebow is the “Mile High Messiah” why don’t his miracles work in the first three quarters? Why did he have a dismal 9.5 passer rating in the first half on Sunday? Why did it look like Denver receiver Demaryius Thomas was being paid to drop his passes until it came to Tebow Time?

To which I can only exhale and say, “Oh ye of little faith!”

To those of us who truly believe, the answers to these questions are obvious: Because a little doubt never hurt anyone. Because there is nothing miraculous about the Packers’ running roughshod over the Raiders 46-16. Because this is religion we are talking about people, not football.

The Church of Tim Tebow isn’t just about winning. It is about snatching faith from the jaws of victory. It is about sitting back at the end of the game, as I did this Sunday, and thinking, "Did that really happen?" only to realize it really did.

"If you believe," Tebow said after the game, "then unbelievable things can sometimes be possible." To which I can only say, "Amen."

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Belief • Celebrity • Christianity • Faith • Sports

soundoff (490 Responses)
  1. Brooklyn Boy

    This is one of the dumbest, wooly minded articles I have ever seen. CNN should be ashamed of itself for publishing this pile of hot steaming tripe that merely seeks to pander to "people of faith". By the way – "religion scholar is a contradictory term".

    December 12, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • Robert

      Who hurt you as a child Brooklyn Boy? Why are you so angry?

      December 12, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • Alex

      I am an agnostic, Brooklyn Boy, but I thoroughly enjoy articles by Professor Prothero. This one was obviously a bit of fun for him–a light piece certainly–but he also uses it as an opportunity to point out certain aspects of faith that skeptics and people who simply adopt the faith of their parents seldom think of. By writing about something like an, might I say, overly zealous religious football player, Prothero can address issues of faith and religion in a fun manner and reach a new audience as well. Look up his other articles. They are intelligent, informative, and not at all dogmatic, silly, or worthless.

      December 12, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
  2. Busted

    What an odd article. Winning football games have nothing to do w/religion and is not a miracle. When Tebow truns water into wine we can start talking miracles.

    December 12, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • Sam

      You haven't heard he is the second coming of Jesus Christ.

      December 12, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
    • Jesus

      The guy who won the game was the kicker!! Hitting from 51 and 59 yards out was remarkable....especially since Prater is an atheist!

      December 12, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  3. TG

    Excellent Article! Enjoyed reading this one.

    December 12, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  4. Jeremiah Johnson

    I AM A TRUE BELIEVER IN SARCASM.

    Dolts, he was kidding!

    It was Tebow taught me this!!!

    December 12, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  5. the jaysus

    every time i read an article like this i just shake head. this article is proof positive of why the rest of the world thinks evangelicals are complete buffoons. and before anyone lashes out, i am fully aware that the bible states very explicitly that the "world" should see christians as strange and weird and different, ad nauseum. but believe me, the world scoffs at modern christianity for all the wrong reasons.

    December 12, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Jeremiah Johnson

      another one with no humor

      December 12, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  6. Jeremiah Johnson

    "The Bears’ offense? Tebow can force a three-and-out."

    Kindly remove tongue from cheek.

    December 12, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
  7. us1776

    The Bears made huge mistakes in this game.

    There was no excuse for Chicago to lose this game.

    Tebow had nothing to do with it.

    .

    December 12, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • Jesus

      Tebow didn't kick those 51 and 59 yard FGs either. It was done by an atheist!

      December 12, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
  8. Linda K Smith

    Spectator sports and religion are for sheep.

    December 12, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • Michael Jones

      so is talking crap anonymously on the internet, Linda K. Smith. what is that, the name of your dentist?

      December 12, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
  9. Robert

    Whether you are a Christian or not; whether you are a football fan or not; whether you are a Broncos fan or not; whether you are a Tebow fan or not, all the hype and wildness surrounding this issue surely is fun to watch.

    December 12, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
  10. ArcFire213

    This article is pathetic. There are a ton a ways that Tebow's success can be explained, albeit complicated and multifaceted. Leave it to the religious to assume that since it is too difficult to explain, some higher power must be responsible. After all, this is how religion got started in the first place.
    '

    December 12, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  11. JESUS

    i will just say this. I rather believe in a fairy tale, like a get out of jail free card. I look at like this. Yes i believe in the fairy tale. Second if the fairy tail is not true i loose nothing, but if the fairy tail is ture, then I loose my soul like the rest of you who, don't believe in the fairy tail. So i got the upper hand, because of my beliefs. In the end we win..Jesus knoks at your door..

    December 12, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • Jack

      Love it. Great way to think.

      December 12, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • William Demuth

      WRONG

      Basic logis says your prtemise id flawed, but believe it if you will.

      Men like me will use your weakness to take your homes, your jobs, your wifes and your futures.

      Go right ahead and live in the Bronze Age, but remember Allah has a special punishment for the Jesus freaks. He uses YOU as the virgins for his suicide bombers.

      December 12, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • Joe

      Do you think that is a good reason to believe in something? Just in case? I would think that the almighty can tell the difference and if you only believe to cover your own ass.

      December 12, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • OhMy

      I better start believing in Santa Claus just in case because I want presents under the tree! Dear Santa sorry for all my naughtiness so please send presents my way!

      December 12, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • jw

      You do lose something. When you abdicate your actions to some "higher power" you diminish the achievement. Tebow may not have the greatest ability but he does have "heart". By that I mean he believes he can win. That sort of confidence is hard to find and rare. His team mates pick up on that. When people claim it's a miracle carried out by some "fairy tale" they take away from the individual who actually won the game, the kicker. So "god" manipluated the air molecules, the pressure in the football, the swing of the kickers leg. A 59 & 51 yard field goal isn't miraculous, damn good, but not miraculous.

      December 12, 2011 at 3:55 pm |
    • brico

      1: its 'fairy TALE' 2: to believe in god simply to cover your bets in case he does exist is (with all due respect) a pathetic reason for having faith. in fact, if god exists (and im not saying he does or doesnt) i imaging he would be insulted that the reason you believe is simply so you might not go downstairs after this life is done. and even if that is not the ONLY reason you might believe in god, the fact that you are leveraging THAT argument to others is so shallow and non-thoughtful that god would have to be insulted by your argument alone. you may want to examine your real reasons for your beliefs and see if there is something...ANYTHING there besides fear of what you have heard might lie in store for you in those possible fairy tales that have existed and evolved over countless centuries.

      December 12, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • Ummm

      I can't believe someone is dumb enough to try and argu Pascal's Wager. A testament to the fact that the uneducated are the believers.

      December 12, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
  12. keith beard

    I am not the biggest believer, but Tebow won me over somehow. I believe Tebow will give everything hes got and i am happy he is an American.

    December 12, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • cardsfan65

      tebow wasn't born in in the united states....he was born the Philippines

      December 12, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • Jesus

      Tebow is not a native American. He is a Philipino by way of Sumatra. Some say that his mother's mid-wife threw the baby away and kept the afterbirth (which grew up and became Tim Tebow).

      December 12, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
  13. JT

    In the meantime, as Tebow's #1 fan Jesus helps him win another game a child is abducted, r*ped and thrown into a trash compactor. Hundreds of other children with boated bellies die in the dirt from starvation and neglect. Ain't Jesus just swell!

    December 12, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • w247

      So if you are really concerned about the starving children and the r-pist running around, what are you doing about it? Stop complaining, get off your back side and do something.

      December 12, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • William Demuth

      We stand on the brink of the cults beloved Armadeddeon, and we find their beloved savior sits on a sofa eating Cheetos and watching a redneck throw a ball?

      Christians have a savior whose lack of gravitas makes them all seem like fools.

      December 12, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • HellBent

      "Stop complaining, get off your back side and do something."

      Exactly, because we sure know that god won't

      December 12, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • ChefBorOzzy

      w247, you clearly are not comprehending what JT is saying.

      December 12, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • William Demuth

      w247

      So now this man has to pick up the slack for your underperforming savior?

      Only a redneck would believe God is a jock!!

      How painfully silly, to believe the supposed creator of time space and dimension wastes his weekends watching men in tight pants tackle each other.

      Perhaps in his omnipotence, he might have been watching Sandusky's victims close enough to keep them from getting buggered?

      December 12, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
    • TG

      Since your statement is more about Jesus than Tebow.........here is your answer....... It's called SIN and the Fall of Mankind. Don't be ignorant any longer. Search and you will find what your looking for because the Truth will set you free.

      December 12, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • William Demuth

      TG

      Non believers know your religion for better than you do. Thats why we don't believe!

      I wonder how the Jesus freaks are going to respond when Tebow comes out of the closett?

      I bet they crucify him on the goal post!

      December 12, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • JT

      TG, you poor deluded imbecile. You Christians have to make further absurd ridiculous statements to explain a previous absurdity and contidicti-tion. So...fall of mankind is the reason your jeeeezus takes care of an over-rated QB but couldn't care less about the r*ping and abuse of children. If only you folks could step outside your delusion and view yourselves with a rational mind. Frightened, brain-dead Christians like yourself disgust me.

      December 12, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
  14. JustSaying

    Much better example of a role model than say... Plaxico Buress, Albert Haynesworth, or "Big" Ben Rothlesberger.

    December 12, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • Jesus

      Not really...Tebow is a either a fool or a con artist. Frankly, I think he is too dumb to be a con artist. I think he truly believes in an invisible , imaginary friend-in-the-sky. He sets a lousy example for young people. Tebow just morphed Santa Claus into Jesus as Tebow grew into his teens.

      December 12, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
  15. Daniel

    Tebow isn't winning because of God. He's using his platfrom and God's gift to be a role model to all of us by showing his faith and devotion to Christ. Jesus promised eternal life to those that believed and followed his commandments. He did not promise a great life on earth, and he for sure did not promise Tebow touchdowns and wins. If Jesus, our God, was beat and crucified in a horrible death what can we expect for our lives? To the contrary, it is in suffering that we come closer to Christ, and it is not having great things happen to us as Joel Osteen has been preaching for years. Tebow is doing great things on the field but hes doing even greater things by using his success to promote his faith. So don't fall in to the age old trap of either believing your success or the good things that happen to you are a result of good behavior or faithfulness. And don't look at a tragedy as punishment or how could God let this happen?

    We have heaven to look forward to and thats it. If you are blessed with a great life than you better use it for great things like Tebow has done. If you have been through a tough life and have seen tragedy than God will reward your faith that much more and when you die you will receive your reward. It amazes me sometimes how little people understand what the actual Christian philosophy is. Then again it shouldn't because Christians have been such a poor example of what the faith should be.

    December 12, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • CarolinaGirl

      Amen! Well said my brother. Tim Tebow has said Jesus doesn't care about football. He cares that the gifts that have been given to us are used to spread the Good News.

      December 12, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • david

      daniel, i was all ready to give you a huge two thumbs up for describing the Tebow story. Then you had to throw a zinger at Joel Osteen when he too is spreading God's word. As far as the author of this article, I see him as a smartass and the writing as tongue in cheek. You, Daniel, have hit the nail on the head, Mr. Tebow is using his popularity to promote his love for Jesus. More power to him.

      December 12, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • Livelystone

      Pretty good post Daniel

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts

      I would add that in addition to what you have said, God has prepared a way for us to receive a significant portion of our inheritance in this life rather than having to wait until after we die to receive it

      Please take a look at "Modern Day Prophet" by Douglas Duncan

      December 12, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  16. HN

    Matt – "The Tim Tebow Foundation and CURE International are teaming up to build a children's hospital in the Philippines, where the Denver Broncos quarterback was born. The Tebow CURE Hospital in Davao City on the island of Mindanao, a particularly poor area of the Philippines, will be a 30-bed surgical facility focusing on orthopedics. The groundbreaking will be held in January and the $3 million hospital is expected to open in 2013.

    Try getting your facts straight before pointing fingers.

    December 12, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • Jesus

      NO ABORTIONS ARE ALLOWED THERE!!! Tebow is helping build a baby factory in a place where population contrtol is essential.

      December 12, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
  17. D'zac

    Was the Giants come from behind a miracle too or is it just that Romo is mediocre at best?
    I think it is just the fact that the Bears aren't that good either.
    Wait until they play a good team. they will lose. The Tebow effect is just hard playing and BELIEVING in yourself.

    December 12, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
  18. William Demuth

    I was just wondering:

    If a 400 pound defensive linesman breaks his back when he is out of the pocket, will they Jesus freaks give JC credit for that as well?

    Or will they just blame Satan or Obama?

    December 12, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • Jimmy D

      Obama. Any other questions?

      December 12, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • JESUS

      What a freak

      December 12, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • JustDad

      You are the reason this country is on the wrong road my friend, cold, faithless, and mean.

      December 12, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Freind?

      Not in my eyes.

      December 12, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • Jack

      I'm sincerely sorry that such hatred has motivated you to such sarcasm.

      December 12, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  19. Matt

    Perhaps if he decides to donate the large sums of money he will be accruing to charity, then I may believe. Until then, parading around like an evangelic fool on a football field is no act of Christianity.

    December 12, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • HellBent

      I'm neither a fan of the Broncos, Tebow, or religion, but the guy does a LOT for charity.

      December 12, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • DD

      Ask yourself, if your comments/criticism of Tebow are acts of Christianity......

      December 12, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • Ryan in Miami

      Maybe if you go and help people in a third world country you will have room to criticize. Tebow routinely goes on "mission trips" to the Philippines. I would encourage you to examine your own level of charity.

      December 12, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
    • Jimmy D

      Ummm....the guy just opened a Hospital in the Phillipines.

      December 12, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • JustDad

      The article and some posts miss trhe point entirely, which is understandable in an era when Religion is constantly slurred by the major media outlets. Much in the tradition of David and Goliath Tebow is not the center of what you would believe in, his faith makes him strong, but he is a human being. A man's character and faith give him strength and clarity of thought and purpose, it has always been that way, and always will be. As a country we are the same, as we lose faith we become more capable of corruption and less clear in our thoughts. Blurred concepts of right and wrong are what cripple us as a nation and as people. I especially like the line in the movie Cinderella man when the down and out boxer who is now winning answers the question of what he is fighting for with the word "milk".

      December 12, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • JP

      Pls do a little research before you comment. Tebow does donate most of his money to charity. In fact he not simply donating but actively building a hospital in Philippines for underprivileged children.

      From all that I could see, the guy is genuine. A good-hearted fellow who does much more good than most of us would/could. Give him a break?

      December 12, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • TerrenSentient

      Re "in an era when Religion is constantly slurred by the major media outlets.", no, the reality is that more and more, religion is being exposed for the nonsense that it is, and it can't stand up to critical examination. That is the case not just across "major media outlets", but also across minor blogs and websites and social networks.

      The mainstream religion known as Christianity has no substance and is on its way out. Put your anti-media biases aside and really look at the information that is in front of you.

      December 12, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • batteryinme

      As an atheist with nothing to contribute (see above!!) I will say that as a human....Tim Tebow seems okay. He does things for charity, and the less fortunate, but one does not need a supreme being orchestrating one's actions for that!!! And I would assume that a supreme being could care less about the outcomes of sporting events (unless she has a couple grand on the spread....then she might make Tim throw a decent pass!).

      December 12, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • Sanity

      I don't really care, but from what's been reported in the news by unnamed sources (if you believe that), he gives the majority of his pay away. He just doesn't want that information publically divulged, so he doesn't address the questions either way when asked about his monetary charitable giving.

      December 12, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  20. tea bowling for the Lombardi

    What would happen if it all happened? What would everyone think if the unthinkable actually became a reality. If the Broncos actually won it all? I don't think it will be this year, but soon, they will be there in the big game...tea bowling their way to the Super Bowl!

    December 12, 2011 at 2:55 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.