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. JK

    For me this isn't about football, although I am now a Denver Bronco fan. I just love the way Tim Tebow makes me want to be a better Christian, I am twice his age yet I want to some day carry my self the way Tim does. I had to cut out the article and put it in my wallet were he was responding to Plummer comparing his relationship with Jesus Christ to that of a husband and wife. Look it up it is inspiring.
    No Jesus, No Peace, Know Jesus, Know Peace...

    December 12, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
    • biohazard

      Is Tebow gay? I knew it!!!

      December 12, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
    • Lucas

      Know Jesus, know peace? You must not live in the real world. I wonder how the 15,000 African children that were tortured, burned, and murdered after being denounced as "witches" by Christian pastors feel about that. I wonder how those dying of AIDS as a result of the Catholic Church preaching the sins of condom use feel. I guess we must have different definitions of the word "peace".

      December 12, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
    • novoodoo

      How about the Inquisition?

      December 13, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  2. carruth

    This has nothing to with religion, but faith.......if you don't understand that's OK. Faith combined with positive mental outlook is very powerful....to be honest I didn't think Tebow would make half the season with his style of quarterbacking......

    December 12, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
  3. Dana

    How extraordinary that serious Christians think that God looks with favor upon a meaningless if not sinful pursuit. With the time and money spend on professional football we could eliminate poverty in this country.

    December 12, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
  4. Mr. Izz

    This is a fun, tongue in cheek, article. I think some of you are really taking things a bit too seriously here. Tebow wins games, in strange and unique ways. It's fun. Fun to watch, fun to talk about, and fun for football.

    December 12, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
  5. Lucas

    What absolute drivel. Tebow gets credit for the Broncos defense now? Tebow gets credit for forcing turnovers and 3 and outs? How about crediting the ACTUAL DEFENSE for playing lights out for the better part of 7 weeks. How about crediting the defensive coordinator? Give credit where it's due, not to some hack quarterback who plays terrible for three quarters and is gifted an opportunity to win thanks to a defense that just refuses to give up points.

    Absolute trash writing. Week after week no one will give credit to the defense. Instead, people talk "Tebow performing miracles". I guess God is too busy prepping for the game on Sunday to do anything to help the 26,000 children that will die of starvation every single day. If God is willing to meddle in the affairs of man to help some shlub win football games but won't help alleviate the incomprehensible suffering that people endure every day, then he's a sadistic, immoral being not worthy of our praise.

    December 12, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • jd

      Lighten up, Francis.

      December 12, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • Ask the question

      But do you hear Tim Tebow taking all the credit for the defense?? NO! Do you hear Tim Tebow saying God wants Denver to win?? NO!! It's all these stupid writers and talking heads saying those things. Start listening to Mr. Tebow himself if you want to form an opinion on what he believes!

      December 12, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
    • Bigboard

      Golly, Lucas, read any satire before? The faith that I see at work here is that the Broncos have faith in Tebow as a leader (and that's not faith in the religious sense, but rather confidence.). The guy does win.

      December 12, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
  6. A fan, not a worshipper

    Tim Tebow would no doubt be the first person to NOT want to be called "the Mile High Messiah" or have some writer talk about "the church of Tim Tebow." Don't ridicule his faith in God and his relationship with Jesus, THE Messiah, by using those terms. Tim Tebow may not be a great NFL quarterback...yet, but he is definitely a man I would want my sons to look up to.

    December 12, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
  7. Chris L

    Ive been watching tebow since his days in high school at Nease. Ive always been a self proclaimed good judge of an athletes skills and assets. I knew from the start that this guy was the real deal. why it was so hard for people to see? I will never understand.

    December 12, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
  8. Observer

    It's Obama's fault.

    December 12, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
  9. LouAz

    Hey, I'm learnin' about this god stuff . . . you mean that the next team the Broncos play that has a MORE christian quartback the the currently blessed Tebow . . . they will lose ? Man O Man, whait till there hear about this at the Sports Book in Vegas, and the locker room at the Vatican. This is GREAT News ! Shut down the Space Program . . . there is nothing out there. It is all rightr here at the Church of the NFL. Hallejulia Jeebus, Halepenos ! ! !

    December 12, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  10. novoodoo

    How funny.. Arrogant Tebow thinks he's god special treat..

    Yep, god helps Tebow and ignores hungry children.

    December 12, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
  11. TG

    Our Creator, Jehovah God, has nothing to do with any sporting event, but will bring to completion his everlasting purpose of the earth being a paradise for "meek" ones.(Ps 37:11, 29) Jesus told the evil-doer to his side: "Truly I tell you today, you will be with me in paradise."(Luke 23:43) The paradise that this Jew would have been familiar with is the one spoken of in the book of Genesis, where Adam and Eve resided until God put them out of it because of rebellion.(Gen 3:1-6)

    Individual efforts can cause a person to win certain sporting events, being quite skilled at it. However, no human can always win, for factors beyond his reach can and do occur. Solomon wrote at Ecclesiastes 9:11, that "I returned to see under the sun that the swift do not have the race, nor the mighty the battle, nor do the wise also have the food, nor do the understanding ones also have the riches, nor do even those having knowledge have the favor; because time and unforeseen occurrence befall them all."

    December 12, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • novoodoo

      delusional stuff.

      December 12, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
  12. Myles A.

    puh LEEZE

    Believe THIS: the Broncos are gonna need aLOT more than some hokey fanokey cheerleader from the GodSquad to make it past the 1st round of the playoffs...that is, unless God reaffirms his support for the Patriots...

    December 12, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  13. Steve

    Do you morons REALLY think that, IF THERE IS A GOD, that he has nothing better to do in a world of starving, HIV infected, dysentery struck, bomb victim, parentless, hopeless children but to worry about whether some jack wagon wins a football game or not......this thread is why the rest of the world hates our guts....you know that right..??

    December 12, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • JohnnyDH

      They hate our guts because we have Tebow and they don't!!

      December 12, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  14. Passion4Music2

    Aside from his oft-mentioned spirituality, notice Tebow's selfless personality. He is always a bit self-effacing, never fails to compliment and appreciate his teammates, and he always stresses the "you gotta believe till the clock hits 0:00" mentality. He makes his teammates look good and they in turn make him look good. He leads by example. He is humble. It has been mentioned that he has a strong work ethic. He doesn't blame others when things go wrong, he blames himself. All of these qualities conspire to bring out the best in the guys on the team. And there is some tremendous talent on this Broncos team on both sides of the ball. No bitterness, no resentment, no hassles-just the sheer collective joy of winning. Can the Broncos win every game from here on out? The Patriots will pose one of their biggest challenges; they are powerful, potent, and too often technically flawless. But the Broncos have shown us time and time again that they can make up for their technical deficiencies and inconsistencies.

    December 12, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  15. Aaron

    It's amazing to see how much people get worked up about it.

    I'm a Broncos fan, but I still think Tebow is being paid under the table by dozens of cardiologists – he sandbags the first 3, and comes out in the 4th quarter to give as many people heart attacks as possible.

    December 12, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  16. nfl

    So while the world is disintegrating, God has decided to take an interest in football.... according to the Christians. The kid is a leader, but the only "miracles" occurring Sunday came in the form of Marion Barber. People need to get a grip...

    December 12, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
    • Tom Howard

      Who says God has taken an interest in the outcome of a football game? No one that I know - aside from yourself. No Christians, now Jews, no Muslims and no other religion either. Chill, man.

      December 12, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • nfl

      I'm sorry, I might have spoken hastily. It just bothers me that Stephen Prothero suggests Tebow may be performing "miracles" when there's an endless list of other places a "miracle" may be needed. The press seems to have taken Tebow's ability to win as an athlete and used it as an example of "faith", while around the world more important issues than football are taking place that could be rectified through proper application of "faith".

      December 12, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • nfl

      And in no way am I criticizing Tebow; rather, I'm criticizing the press's treatment of him. I've been a huge Tebow supporter since his days at Florida.

      December 12, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • The Satan Santa

      "...It just bothers me that Stephen Prothero suggests Tebow may be performing "miracles" when there's an endless list of other places a "miracle" may be needed..."

      C'mon, people, read Prothero's article five times more, and, in that hoary sixties phrase, "lighten up".

      It was an exercise in gentle whimsey, like Tim parting the Bears defense and later ascending Mount Mile-High and seeing a burning seat-cushion.

      December 12, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
  17. bob

    tstorm – if you actually listen to Tebow himself, he would AGREE with you that God is not interested in who wins an NFL game. He has said that very same thing explicitly in the past. So, you and Tebow are in agreement.

    December 12, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  18. streetsmt

    This guy (Stephen Prothero) is purposely being provocative

    December 12, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
  19. Lardeau

    Let us say I do believe in God. However I am certain that God does not follow football. Please .. that is blasphemy. To see football players openly praying sickens me. These athletes get very well paid and do not deserve spiritual help. That's a self promoting gimmick Tebow uses. Gimme a break !!!!!!

    December 12, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • biohazard

      What makes you so certain God doesn't follow football. Someone else said he had time for everything. Do you know more than that other guy?

      December 12, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • HellBent

      I'm not sure about god, but Santa I hear is heavily into curling and the Easter Bunny is one of those fans who doesn't know the first thing about soccer, but still claims to root for ManU

      December 12, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • calimaldos

      You're wrong. God cares for all his children and cares for everything they're involved in. Any GOOD parent would be, God being perfect is the standard of parenthood. It's not that difficult, stop mking it harder than it is.

      December 12, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
  20. tstorm

    Tebow is an overpaid bigot. He hides behind his religion and judges people. God is not interested in who wins an NFL game. I wonder how dedicated Tebow would be if he were in the NFL making a teachers salary??

    December 12, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • Tom Howard

      How do you know such things? He was doing this long before he became an NFL quarterback. He knows well that God is not interested in the outcome of a football game, for Pete's sake! You may disagree with him, and that's your right. But don't slam him because you disagree. He has as much right to his belief as you do to yours. I don't hear him talking about others as you've talked here about him.

      December 12, 2011 at 5:19 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.