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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. Dean

    This article doesn't belong on the Belief Blog. This has nothing to do with believing in God. Once again, the belief blog is an epic fail. Maybe they just didn't have anything else to post.

    December 12, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  2. Tom T

    Stephen, I usually HATE your articles. But his was fun and I really believe what you said is true and well said.

    December 12, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
    • PC Wizard

      COME ON PEOPLE!!!!! IT'S JUST FOOTBALL!!!

      December 12, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
  3. Akahn

    Come on, everyone knows God is a Miami Dolphins fan, and even then, he's not making any miracles to help his favorite team win...

    December 12, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
  4. Tebow Believer

    Everyone is missing the point...it is not about God, or how good/not good Tebow is...the guy has faith, whether it is misguided or not is not the question...but it is all Tebow needs to drive him to believe he can win. As an agnostic, and a Denver fan, I don't care what "it" is as long as Denver wins, Tebow can have faith in whatever he wants.

    December 12, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
  5. Kendall

    As a minister of the gospel I cringe reading such an article. As I've been watching the 'Tebow' saga play out in the media several thoughts come to mind. It's inspiring to see a Christian unapologetic of his conviction and faith in Christ. It's obvious the media is gagging at the thought of anyone having a platform to share that conviction. But do you really think God is helping him win games? What then is the nature of faith? Has faith become 'the force' from Star Wars? Does God pick the winner of the Super Bowl? The tragedy in all this is when Tebow inevitably fails this year or in the years to come (no-one can win indefinitely) skeptics will line up to scoff. I say we affirm Tebow for sharing his faith: the belief of salvation from sin from Jesus Christ, but refrain from accepting the corruption by this same media as to the nature of faith. Tebow is a winner! He will be successful in the NFL despite his non-prototypical quarterback makeup. There is no doubt this past game against the Bears was an unlikely win, but miraculous? Last time I checked feeding 5000 people with 2 fish and five loaves was miraculous.
    God cares about everything in our lives: even football, and Tebow testifies of his relationship with his maker, but are we going to question that faith when he loses? Is God's favor only evidenced in winning? The majority of life's valuable lessons God has packaged them in trials and difficulties. Read James 1:2-4 "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

    December 12, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • Shifter

      Well said Kendall...well said. The same things my wife and I ponder around the house when we see the "faith" media mongers talk about Tebow.

      December 12, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
  6. Brent

    Tebow played horrible all game as he has in the vast majority of games this season. The only person who was performing miracles last Sunday for Denver, was their kicker, Matt Prater, who tied and later won the game for the Broncos.

    December 12, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • Jesus

      True....and Matt Prater is an atheist!

      December 12, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
  7. Kendall

    As a minister of the gospel I cringe reading such an article. As I've been watching the 'Tebow' saga play out in the media several thoughts come to mind. It's inspiring to see a Christian unapologetic of his conviction and faith in Christ. It's obvious the media is gagging at the thought of anyone having a platform to share that conviction. But do you really think God is helping him win games? What then is the nature of faith? Has faith become 'the force' from Star Wars? Does God pick the winner of the Super Bowl? The tragedy in all this is when Tebow inevitably fails this year or in the years to come (no-one can win indefinitely) skeptics will line up to scoff. I say we affirm Tebow for sharing his faith: the belief of salvation from sin from Jesus Christ, but refrain from accepting the corruption by this same media as to the nature of faith. Tebow is a winner! He will be successful in the NFL despite his non-prototypical quarterback makeup. There is no doubt this past game against the Bears was an unlikely win, but miraculous? Last time I checked feeding 5000 people with 2 fish and five loaves was miraculous.
    God cares about everything in our lives: even football, and Tebow testifies of his relationship with his maker, but are we going to question that faith when he loses? Is God's favor only evidenced in winning? The majority of life's valuable lessons God has packaged them in trials and difficulties. Read James 1:2-4 "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

    -reflex with the media

    Several thoughts on Tebow. 1)

    December 12, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  8. Chris

    I don't remember Tebow patting himself on the back a whole lot. It seems that it's the commentators doing most of the talking.

    December 12, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  9. mobetta

    This article cheapens true religious faith.

    December 12, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Rob

      True "religious faith" is also called cowardice! You are afraid of the real world.

      December 12, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • Jesus

      I don't think so. "religious faith" is pretty darn cheap even before this article was written.

      December 12, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
  10. Believe

    Scoffers or not. Believers or not. Football fans or not. Tebow is doing something. However he is doing it. He is a positive influence, even if it takes til the 4th quarter....again, to influence the rest of the team to stand behind him. I don't profess to belong to the Church of Tebow, in fact, from what I can gather, that name would offend him. I think that, in all honesty....Tebow has been given a platform for God. He isn't ashamed to honestly say that he believes in a higher power. In this day and age where people pass laws to forbid praying in schools or saying "One nation under GOD" is ridiculed, he has managed to get a lot of people talking about God again. So who cares if the Bears handed the Broncos a win (Bears fans). Who cares if he gets the credit and is scoffed for it. As simply a Broncos fan, I'm glad Tebow is the quarterback and that he enjoys playing football.

    December 12, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  11. Dennis Green

    The Bears are who we THOUGHT they were! And they let us of the hook!

    December 12, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • Lovie smith

      Well played, sir!

      December 12, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  12. SorryNo

    Barber went out of bounds when he should have stayed in bounds, no miracle there, just stupid playing. Barber fumbles ball, no miracle, just bad ball control. I seriously cannot believe people are taking this seriously let alone writing an article on it. Aren't there real stories to research?

    December 12, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • 2bnfl

      Hey read it – bozo.

      December 12, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
  13. Chilean Misfit

    Even down here in Chile we believe Tebow will lead us to the football promised land.
    C'mon people get on board the Tebow express.

    December 12, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  14. neil il

    This article is almost satirical.

    The scoffing I provide isn't at TTebow, it's the 'click me' and 'don't change the channel' bandwagon journalism we have today. Great journalist research and reporting, Prothero /sarcasm

    December 12, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  15. Fred

    Anyone who thinks God has something to do with the outcome of a Football Game is an fool. I would like to say something else, but I don't want to get flagged for dury language.

    December 12, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • Dan

      Is a fool. FOOL!

      December 12, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • HerpDerp

      I didn't know 21/40 passing and 1 fumble justified someone being good? I think this is some Christian propaganda. Where the heck is Cam Newton in the reports? Oh wait, he doesn't openly pray in front of millions of people. Cool story, bro.

      December 12, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
  16. mouse

    If Tebow had never held a football in his hand, ever, and then came out and played like he did, well, I just might have to agree something special was happening but when an athlete practices his whole life to be in the position Tebow is in, playing well is not all that spectacular.

    December 12, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  17. mouse

    Scoffers come out TG because how come no one is saying "Tom Brady" or Kobe Bryant are gods chosen, both those men play thier sport way better than Tebow......so why is it you guys claim god is on Tebow's side??? Where do they get their great playing from????? From practice, practice practice.....kinda like Tebow?

    December 12, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
  18. Ditka

    Idiocracee is right. The Bears gave them that game. Tebow is getting blown way out of proportion.
    He's just not that great, sorry... time will tell though.

    December 12, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  19. TG

    Good writing Stephen Prothero.

    As always at the mention of his very name the scoffers will come out.

    December 12, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  20. idiocracee

    Tebow didn't win this game. The Bears handed it over.

    December 12, 2011 at 3:49 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.