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SNL Tim Tebow controversy continues debate over quarterback's faith
A "Saturday Night Live" sketch imagined a meeting between Tim Tebow and Jesus.
December 21st, 2011
11:23 AM ET

SNL Tim Tebow controversy continues debate over quarterback's faith

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – When “Saturday Night Live” parodied Tim Tebow’s relationship with Jesus last weekend, not everyone was laughing.

Televangelist Pat Robertson called the sketch, in which the Denver Broncos quarterback is met in a locker room by Jason Sudeikis playing Jesus, an example of “anti-Christian bigotry that is just disgusting.”

Speaking on the Christian Broadcast Network on Monday, Robertson wondered aloud about how other religions would have reacted to a similar parody.

“If this had been a Muslim country and they had done that and had Mohammed doing that stuff, you would have found bombs being thrown off and bodies on the street,” Robertson said.

The SNL sketch had Jesus meeting Tebow after the Broncos come-from-behind win against the Chicago Bears the previous Sunday. In it,
Sudeikis jokes that instead of reading the Bible, Tebow might want to read the playbook so that he (Jesus) doesn’t have to intervene in the 4th quarter.

“First of all, you are welcome – yes, I, Jesus Christ, are the reason you have won your past 6 football games,” says Sudeikis.

The skit and the controversy continues a narrative that combines religion, sport, and seemingly miraculous come-from-behind victories and that is turning Heisman-trophy-winning Tebow into a cultural icon.

From Rick Perry comparing himself to Tebow in a recent Republican presidential debate to Sarah Palin describing herself as “pro-Tebow” in an interview on Sunday, Tebow is gaining public admiration far outside of the world of football.

“I am so pro-Tebow,” Palin, the former vice presidential nominee, said on Fox News. “He is so unashamed of his savior, Jesus of Nazareth. He knows that Jesus is going to rock your world when you give it all over to him. He knows that the son of God should be honored a praised and Tebow does that and I respect it.”

Tebow’s on-field calling card has become his habit of getting down on one knee to pray while everyone else on the team celebrates, an act known as “Tebowing.” The gesture had been mocked by Tebow opponents and has led to high school students being suspended but has also spurred a Tebowing website and has been adopted by some other NFLers.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger Tebowed during a Monday night game.

Tebow has remained mostly silent about all the drama around him and his faith. An avid Twitter user with over 700,000 followers, Tebow hasn’t commented on the SNL skit or Roberterson’s or Palin’s recent comments.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Christianity • Sports • TV

soundoff (553 Responses)
  1. Ricky Bobby

    Little baby Jesus – the best Jesus – doesn't care about football. He is too busy learning His numbers and colors. Shake and Bake!

    December 28, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  2. tommyg

    Robertson says bombs would go off if it were done to a Muslim. THAT 'S WHY WE ARE BETTER THAN THEM. We have respect for all life and they are crminals who will rot in hell. Get a life Roberston.

    December 28, 2011 at 11:48 am |
  3. ARthur

    Is he a virgin? Otherwise, he should be put to death like the bible states!

    December 28, 2011 at 11:31 am |
  4. Phil

    Religion is finally being exposed for the nonsense that it is. FINALLY! The fact that the earth is billions of years old, but some books written by a bunch of farmers in the middle east 2000 years ago, is even considered the least bit relevant – is just astounding. And ridiculous. Magical talking snakes, living to be 950 years old, separating an ocean, living inside a whale, coming back to life after being dead for 3 days, condemning people to sin, then impregnating a woman with yourself so you can be born and sent down to earth to save us from what you originally condemned us to... PLEASE EVERYONE, USE YOUR HEAD FOR SOMETHING OTHER THAN A HAT RACK. Think for yourselves.

    December 28, 2011 at 10:56 am |
  5. Greg Shaffer

    What Robertson is communicating, without meaning to, of course, is his own jealousy: a Muslim country would stone the heretics that did this, but the supposedly "Christian" US doesn't have that luxury, more's the pity for him. He would like to have people believe that the reason for that is some sort of intrinsic difference between Christianity and Islam, when the reality is that Christianity's history is every bit as bloody and intolerant toward its infidels as the Muslim world is today.

    The only thing that changed is that, in the Western world, from a political perspective, Christianity lost. Secularism defeated it. That's why we have a separation of church and state in the USA and Europe, and that's why we don't get to set people on fire because they disagree with our sky god, much to Robertson's lament. So Tebow is free to believe that Jesus guided the ball from his arm, just as SNL and anyone else is free to mock the lunacy inherent in that statement.

    Personally I think that if your belief system can't stand up to a little mockery, it could stand a little re-thinking, but I guess that's just me.

    December 28, 2011 at 9:53 am |
  6. Matt

    I actually thought the skit presented a pretty favorable and charismatic depiction of Jesus. If it was disparaging anything, it was (correctly) disparaging Tebow's skills as a quarterback, which as Jesus pointed out, were inconsistent with his record of success. Pat Robertson should use his time on more important things. If anybody represents an unfavorable view of Christianity, it's Pat Robertson himself.

    December 28, 2011 at 9:18 am |
  7. chuckly

    I am a chrisitan. I love watching Tebow play, and don't mind one bit that he wears his christianity on his sleeve for everyone to see. And I thought the skit was hilarious. If people can't take a joke, why are they watching SNL? That is their business, to make fun of ANY thing that is top news at the time. People's are too thin skinned now a days. This is a free country. You DO NOT have a right to NOT be offended. Grow up people.

    December 28, 2011 at 9:06 am |
  8. ____

    It's not about Tim Tebow. It's about bigotry and the people who can't wait for a chance to vent it.

    December 28, 2011 at 7:05 am |
  9. burgie

    Wow! I am amazed at the close-mindedness of those mentioned in the report and those who have made comments. David, may I remind you that you are living in a country that supports freedom of speech and religion. Not to mention expression. Pat Robertson, also too spiritual for any earthly good; His comparison to a Muslim country is absolutely ridiculous considering Christian's are to model love and kindness to all people. SNL makes fun of every situation. When it is in a religious context, people tend to remove themselves from what they truly stand for and allow their emotions to call the shots. Lighten up people. CHRISTIANS: read your bible! Know that you are going to be offended. If you say you are a Christian, then live the life of a true Christian, remain grounded, and don't be moved by those who offend. In other words, stop flapping your gums and be a light, not a dagger thrower. Tebow it out!

    December 27, 2011 at 11:15 pm |
    • David

      Actually, burgie, you neatly made the bookend point to my point. People should know that you're a Christian because of your actions, not because you run around telling everybody. "Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven." If the football player is really so moved, okay. I'm just saying that with this weird super-Evangelical movement in this country, there's a fine line between passion and marketing. Tim's getting a lot more press from his antics/passion/thanksgiving than he would by simply playing well.

      December 28, 2011 at 11:59 am |
  10. David

    If you are gay and want to kiss another man, it doesn't bother me, but don't make public displays about it. if you're married to a hot chick and want to show your affection, do it in a hotel room. If you're enraptured by your close relationship with God, that's spectactular. Go back to your locker room and do your theatrics, or say a prayer in your head, or look upward and smile. But any public displays of rapture are too many. If you have to put your faith on your business card, or delay games with your dramatic displays of thanks, it's no longer a display of religion, it's an advertisement.

    December 27, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • Eric M

      Delay of game? Instead of doing a touchdown dance, the man drops to a knee for a few seconds and says a prayer, just like tons of players throughout NFL history have done. TO or Chad Ochocinco deliberately disrespect their opponents with celebrations, and the whole world tells the NFL to lighten up, it's entertainment. But this kid takes a knee because he genuinely wants to thank God for the tremendous opportunities he has received in his life, and suddenly it's the invasion of Poland.

      December 28, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
  11. One one

    Pat Robertson said the earthquake in Haiti was god's punishment because the Hatians made a deal with the devil to free them from slavery several hundred years ago. So, according to Robertson, the devil frees slaves and god kills thousands.

    December 27, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • ____

      You're full of crap. He never said that. It came off of an atheist website.

      December 28, 2011 at 7:07 am |
    • Phil

      He is not full of crap. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQ4dA6kZsEs

      December 28, 2011 at 10:59 am |
  12. jen

    Oh Tebow this!!!!

    December 27, 2011 at 10:52 am |
  13. AthensGuy

    what a miserable, irresponsible, self-centered is the christian god (as well as "its" followers): so god is helping a player score points while millions dye of disease, famine and wars every year. Way to prioritize. Keep your god Ms. Robertson.

    December 26, 2011 at 11:37 am |
    • rick

      he needs to threaten hell to people to have a relationship with someone. must be tough being god. either that, or people feel they know "his" mind (which, miraculously, agrees with theirs) and need to preach it to others to give it added credibility.

      December 27, 2011 at 8:24 am |
  14. tomicT

    Ol' Pat R.....he's at it again, is he? See, people like that man see it fit to complain when it offends him but laughs with the rest of us when it doesn't. Get a life, Pat! This is 2012...we've left you and the likes of you behind. Freedom of speech & expression is, and should very well be a given. If you don't like it, turn off your TV, close your Laptop, cancel your News subscription. The rest of us are trying to make the best of this crapy world.

    December 25, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  15. dude

    “If this had been a Muslim country and they had done that and had Mohammed doing that stuff, you would have found bombs being thrown off and bodies on the street,” Robertson said wistfully with a far off look in his eyes.

    December 23, 2011 at 11:11 pm |
    • jen

      I guess he forgot about freedom of speech and religion in this country!!!

      December 27, 2011 at 10:53 am |
  16. Mike

    @Rick: Do you have children? I wouldn't be laughing with someone making fun of mine...

    December 23, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
    • Rick

      Mike: I would not have mine whacked for my own perverted joy. So, I guess there is a difference

      December 24, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
  17. windwitchx

    Mr. Robertson does not understand freedom of religion. In this country no one can tell us how to worship. The Pope, the rabbi, nor the goverment can tell Americans how to feel about others ideas. Here we respect the thoughts of others and we do not bomb others that do not believe as we believe.

    December 23, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
  18. Angela Matera

    Pat Robertson's comment about if this was a Muslim country... is by far the most inappropriate comparison I've heard recently. Shame on you Sir, it is a comedy skit and this is America. A person of your supposed stature should use better judgment.

    December 23, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • ozzy

      Pat Robertson is correct. If this had happened in a Muslim country there would an uproar. Shame on you for trying to say otherwise. Live in reality.

      December 25, 2011 at 9:54 am |
    • Rick

      ozzy: sort of a strange thing to say to those who believe that a spirit knocked up a virgin

      December 26, 2011 at 6:21 am |
  19. tvugly

    Pat Robertson is an evil, stupid man. Christians ability to laugh off issues like this is one of its redeeming features and he's complaining? Embarrassing.

    December 22, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  20. morris

    Easily the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. I'm pretty sure it can be in MVP talks if they appear only in the fourth quarter every week and somebody comes out with a win. i can inform you all to access http://www.tebowformvp.com/ thanx.

    December 22, 2011 at 3:09 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.