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Why Ridiculing Tim Tebow’s Faith Does Progressives No Favors

January 19, 2012, 3:00 pm | Posted by Nick Sementelli

Robert Wright at the Atlantic has an important reflection on the message pop culture humor about Tim Tebow’s faith sends to religious conservatives:

When secular liberals who shape the culture fulfill the religious conservatives’ stereotype of them as threatening–by, say, seeming to ridicule Jesus, or seeming to ridicule Tebow’s faith–conservatives will be more inclined to stay within their walls, avoiding engagement with the secular world. So they’ll find it easier to reject the entire liberal agenda, ranging from gay rights to uncensored science education in the public schools. (Don’t get me started on the damage that I fear Richard Dawkins is doing to science education in the heartland by embodying a false equation between Darwinism and a militant, contemptuous atheism.) In short, when liberals are seen as ridiculing Christianity, they’re energizing their adversaries and making it harder to turn adversaries into allies, or at least neutral parties, on particular issues.

Wright is exactly right. Churches across the country are filled with proud people of faith who often have progressive or sympathetic views on a host of issues including economic justice, immigration and environmental stewardship.

By emphasizing the religious foundation for their views on a few divisive social issues like abortion or same-sex marriage, the religious right seeks to broadly paint progressives (and subsequently their issue agenda) as hostile to faith itself.

To further bolster the claim that Christians are a persecuted minority, conservative leaders point to liberal “elites” in cultural channels who they see as mocking religion and traditional family values. As the preponderance of Christian alternatives to everything from radio stations to dating sites shows, many Christians very much desire their own spaces outside of the “mainstream” outlets they presume have little interest in or tolerance for them.

Unfortunately, cheap humor at the strangeness or “backwardness” of religious belief only confirms these anxious stereotypes in ways that empower the narrative religious right leaders want to tell and shuts doors to broader coalition building. Progressives don’t have to compromise their values in their attempts to combat this frame, but it’s probably not a good idea to unnecessarily shoot themselves in the foot for a quick laugh.

Via Rod Dreher

4 Responses to “Why Ridiculing Tim Tebow’s Faith Does Progressives No Favors”

  1. I try not to mock, but I do try to expose hypocrisy. The faithless share a lot of common values with some of the faithful and should work together for good causes. The faithful that talk of this being a Christian nation and ignore the benefits for all when we have a healthy church-state separation, they are the ones that make non-believers nervous.
    Re:Tebow, I think the most interesting question about Tebow’s sideline piety is whether the Jesus he’s praying to would in fact Tebow. The quick answer is NO. Check out my blog post on the topic at http://biblefunmentionables.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/would-jesus-tebow/

  2. Rev. Richard S. Gilbert says:

    While I do not share Tim Tebow’s faith, I respect his humanitarian work. However, I’m afraid his pious displays on the football field trivialize religion. The idea that God really cares about a football game minimizes deity. I believe Jesus said something about praying in one’s closet in private, not making a show of it. I do not laugh at him, but question his understanding of the New Testament and prayer.

  3. Jonathan Villalba says:

    If you want answers you must go to the source, in this case the Bible.

    God does care about a football game as much as he cares about a starving kid in Africa, or the wealthiest Arab in the world. God cares about people and at a football game there at thousands in person and millions over the TV that have access to see a man display God’s greatness whether He loses or wins a game. What an opportunity to show A Lord and Savior in front of many and make Him the most important thing over a NFL game. That speaks a lot about humility and character.

    Christ did say to pray in a closet but you are missing the message and focusing on the literal words. Study the passage and you’ll see God is talking about the attitude of the heart (God exalts the humble and lowers the proud) You can pray all you want at a football game with all humility and give great testimony about God. It’s about the attitude, do not miss the point reverend. Otherwise Why then Daniel would pray with his window open and everyone would see and then gets cast into the dean of lions? Really? Come on.

    People, listen to this words: Why do you make a big deal of a guy that is trying to set a good example to many young athletes? (Because to them that are perishing the Gospel is offensive and foolishness, I even know the answers to my own questions! that’s what’s up)

  4. TJ Hanlon says:

    The Tebow’s idea of humanitarianism is to try to get Catholics to become Protestants in the Phillipines. When he prays for a touchdown, he send a signal to secularists like myself that, “My God cares more about my football game than he does about real suffering.” How can one NOT mock that kind of hypocrisy?

    Rather than criticize secularists who point out that Tebow does no one favors by his nonsense, the faithful ought to be joining secularists in criticizing him for his hypocrisy. Failing to confront evil-doers in their evil for fear of turning off people who wish to imagine that the evil is actually a good, and so don’t want to offend them does nothing to address the evil. Not confronting the religious when their behavior is demonstrably harmful by increasing the amount of suffering for fear of offending is a cop-out.