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. Teri is licking my hairy manButt

    Since he cant play football worth a darn, TeBow wants to be known as the holy Guru of football.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
  2. Jim

    This article is the single dumbest thing I have read yet on CNN.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
  3. Your son is playing my meat flute

    Tebow is a holy man and wants to give his followers a hand jobbie.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
  4. DDiggity

    When did Christianity become the number 1 religion... it isn't even close to number 1

    November 29, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • Unfortunate

      Actually, it USED to be without a doubt. I would say that Christianity might not be number one any longer.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  5. Travelling Man

    I respect Tebow for not being afraid to practice his religion, guaranteed by our Bill of Rights. I'd much rather see Tebow kneeling in prayer than the moronic unsportsman like antics of most NFL players.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  6. KBatch

    I appreciate the tongue-in-cheek approach here, but as a Christian, I find so much about Tim Tebow-worship to be counter to the teachings of Jesus. Jesus told people to pray privately and not to show off their piety. He spoke out against the powerful over the powerless and denounced greed and serving wealth. He urged nations (not churches) to be blessed by feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, welcoming the stranger/outsider, and visiting the prisoner–and made the outrageous statement that he was among each and every one of these. And he told the Pharisees that justice and mercy were as important as faith, criticizing them for ignoring the "weightier matters of the law."

    November 29, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • Amanda

      Very well said. I find all the tebow worship to be offensive. One of our 10 commandments says you should worship no idols.... well "christians" are putting Tebow's face over Christ's on the cross, and then complaining that those who are offended are Un-Christian. All of this talk is blasphemous. Tebow is just a man, he is just a football player, stop treating him like he is a God.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  7. Tonelok

    Tim Tebow prayed to be made a winning quarterback, and the lord gave him a crazy-good defense. There isn't a team out there that can put up less than 20 offensive points a week for 6 weeks(oakland had an int returned for a td) and be 5-1. Tebow is bad, they have scored 18-10-24-17-17-16 in his starts. Good job defense.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
  8. jack

    He will met the real Jesus of football when they play at New England, Tom Brady. God can't save his ass on that Sunday.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
  9. mightyfudge

    Maybe if God wasn't so busy answering the prayers of over paid, professional athletes, we'd have less suffering in our world. But who am I to question the Big Guy's priorities...

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

      God doesn't want or enjoy seeing see us suffer. Therefore, by his grace, he gave us a way. It was always up to us to choose it or not.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
  10. Moelips

    Teabow is a gritty footballer.....but not a good QB. As time goes by, the newness of his running the option or running the ball will get shut down. Teams will plan for him the way they plan for other QBs, but not as serious. As far as his "I just want to thank my Lord Jesus Christ........." stuff, he should just sack it. It takes the discussion away from his game and creates more problems. People don't like to have to hear him put it in their face. People already know he's religious...they just don't want to hear it every time he get in front of a microphone. By the way, teams will start shutting him down and he'll be old news before the end of next year. His coaches...whoever they will be later, need to plan to use his skill set in different ways....RB, slot receiver, etc. He's not going to be QB for very long.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • Dr. Elliot

      "By the way, teams will start shutting him down and he'll be old news before the end of next year."

      How is this any different than the critics that said "He will NEVER win in the NFL!" The skeptics game is always changing.

      November 29, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • melvinslizard

      I want to see him thank Jesus Christ AFTER A LOSS. That would be the more impressive statement... when things go wrong, when you look like an ass, when it's all your fault, and yet, in spite of all of the obstacles, you still have this as the first thing on your mind and out of your mouth. Otherwise, after a while, it's just lipservice.

      November 29, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • Steve

      @melvinslizard – On the rare occasions when he does lose, his priorities never shift. I'm not sure how much exposure he has gotten throughout the nation, but here in FL we have gotten to see him weekly for 5+ years and he stays consistent.

      November 29, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  11. Bates

    As a life long Broncos fans I have to say that the Defense has been saving Tebow's ass every game.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Yeah, those touchdown passes had nothing to do with ....

      November 29, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  12. BowTee

    He's made my erection last longer than four hours!

    November 29, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  13. Owl

    Football, World War 2, Prayers for victory, polemic prayers for peace. Nominal Christians do not get it. First: Jesus died for the whole world. His Father sees no boundaries, no flags, no ethnicities, (no championship rings). Logic leads inexorably to the futility of prayers in football or war. But let's not whitewash it, prayers in these settings are not just futile, they are a reproach. Could it be the result of being damned to the mental predisposition of "mine being better than yours", whether we are talking about football, hairdos, skin color, race, gods, or just position in life. My, my, if there is a true God He must be laughing at the folly.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  14. jack

    He should pray for Jesus to teach him to throw a football correctly, maybe God Elway would like him.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • Duane - St. Pete FLA

      you don't see Elway complaining about the crowds he draws.....or the games he continues to WIN.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  15. AvdBerg

    All articles written by Stephen Prothero are after the wisdom of this world (1 Cor. 2:4-7) but the above one about football and Tim Tebow is just another confirmation how laughable this CNN Belief Blog has become. Then again Stephen Prothero is a self-proclaimed religion scholar at Boston University, so really no surprises.

    Sports is a stronghold of Satan’s divided kingdom (this present world), with religion as the number one stronghold (Matthew 10:26-28; 2 Cor. 10:4). To use the term 'miracles' in the above article is an abomination.

    For a better understanding of the mysteries of God we invite you to read the article ‘Boston University ~ School of Theology and Stonehill College’ listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

    Also, to give people a better understanding of the destructive forces behind CNN, Fox, US Politics and the issues that divide this world, we invite you to read the articles ‘CNN Belief Blog ~ Sign of the Times’ and ‘Influence of the Media’.

    All of the other pages and articles listed on our website explain how this whole world has been deceived as confirmed by the Word of God in Revelation 12:9.

    Seek, and ye shall find (Matthew 7:7).

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

      "Sports is a stronghold of Satan’s divided kingdom"

      You need help Andy.

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

      I would invite you to read Jesus' words and teachings more thoroughly as I think you've missed many points there. And Satan in Revelation, or 6-6-6, conforms to the name of the Roman Emperor Nero.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • JW

      I just sought, and found, passages in the Bible where God allegedly told your predecessors, the Jews, to kill women and children while they were taking the "promised land." Can you confirm this for me? Interesting messages from God in the Bible . . . don't think Jesus would have approved.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • Madtown

      Sports is a stronghold of Satan’s divided kingdom (this present world), with religion as the number one stronghold
      This is backward. Religion is the divisive force, sports tends to bring people of different persuasions together.

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

      TROLL ALERT AvdBerg is a here only to sell their book and website, this is a CULT. Click the report abuse link to get rid of this TROLL.

      November 29, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
  16. Your son is playing my meat flute

    Tebow is just trying to distract everyone from his lackluster QB abilities.

    Tebow is a LOSER!!

    November 29, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • Duane - St. Pete FLA

      loser? bet he make a bunch more $$ than you....hahaha

      November 29, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • Your son is playing my meat flute

      Maybe you could suck his D!CK.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  17. JK

    I also heard he parted the Red sea and cured cancer.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  18. hamburger steak

    For his next trick, Tebow will start a church, reach into your pockets, and take all your money for him and his ho's.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • Duane - St. Pete FLA

      that's Obama;s and all you liberal's job....taking money out of hard working Americans to prop up the slackers....like yourself.....GET TO WORK YOU HACK!!!!

      November 29, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • KBatch

      Duane, are you my cranky uncle from 1973? And Obama plays basketball, not football, by the way.

      November 29, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
  19. Jim Jones

    This has to be the most idiotic tripe I've ever read on CNN, and I've read my share of tripe. You clearly state you know nothing about football, then go on to prove it, by completely ignoring the fact that it's been the Denver defense and running game that's been the reason the Broncos have in the game for Tebow to finally start playing like a football player the last 5 minutes of the game.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • Dr. Elliot

      Being the football mind that you are, you'll know that it's the threat of Tebow's running ability that has opened up the lanes for the RBs. You'll also understand that with Tebow behind center the Broncos have a +4 minutes in time of possession, which roughly translates to 2 series, compared to Orton. Keeping the ball from the other team is another way to stop them from scoring. Same RBs, same D, different results. Perhaps he inspires those around him to play harder.

      November 29, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
  20. Beetlebaum

    These are the same kind of morons who get their roosters "blessed" for the c-ock fights.

    November 29, 2011 at 2:31 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.