January 8, 2009

Football and God

Just watched the NCAA national football game and it was a heartbreaker for OU. Florida played a very good game, and I think OU left some points on the field. But overall, a good game and one that national observers would have to agree was worthy of the 1 v. 2 matchup.

Hard to watch. Tough for me, but only because I am a fan, and it is fun cheering for your team. This isn't life, and I know that very well. Many around me take this game, and every sporting event at OU very seriously. For some, it is a distraction from life. For others, an obsession. For many, just fun. This was a very good game, however, and I am glad I watched it. It was not an embarrassment as so many have been, but a well-played (for the most part) and well strategized game.

But in the middle of this, I have to note an issue I have with athletes and Christianity. I ignored the post-game conferences, because I don't want to hear Tebow credit Jesus for his win. It isn't just Tebow. It bothered me, frankly, when Sam Bradford made a point of connecting his Heisman Trophy win to God. If God chooses the Heisman Trophy winner, then I have to ask what the hell he is thinking. I remember Ben Roethlisberger saying that God made him a starter on his college squad. The guy who was benched, of course, wasn't worthy of God's favor. Or the time a mike caught David Carr thanking Jesus for a downfield completion. (Considering Carr's career, perhaps I should be more kind. Perhaps he was thanking God for any completion.) God reduced to the puppet master for the rich and powerful, and throughout the land, churchgoers who should know better nod their head, or say "amen," because they have been taught to do that. And since they believe they are "under siege," they see these vapid displays of "faith" as something far more meaningful than they are.

Tim Tebow does that kind of stuff on a daily basis. He grew up in a missionary household, and for all I know, doesn't know any better. I know he thinks that is ministry and "witness," but it makes me a little ill. I have to imagine that God finds it pretty demeaning that he evidently prefers one Christian athlete over another in a game with no intrinsic meaning. Or prefers one Christian over a non-Christian in points scored and yardage gained. Or prefers one Christian over a "lesser" Christian. Or prefers one pretty-boy athlete for fame and fortune over another one.

Many have noted that success is often a horrible teacher. Tebow and Roethlisberger learn the absolutely wrong lessons from success. They look like the body builder troops who attribute their muscle mass to God, without even considering what that means to the weaklings and handicapped. The look like the John Rockefeller types who believe that God wanted them to become wealthy, while ignoring the poor workers who built his empire. Failure, as many far wiser than me know, is often the best teacher. Not because it leads to some ultimate football or political success. But because it teaches you who you are.

Jesus didn't hang with the pretty people in South Beach, nor the star athletes in Norman. He didn't go to soirees in the gated communities, nor wear the Italian suits of the wealthy and the powerful. He didn't ride in limos. He didn't attribute arbitrary points to God's favor, nor affluence and wealth. Those are American creations, and American creations that have become some kind of perversion of faith.

To quote from Holden Caufield, "Jesus would have puked."


mary said...

Amen. Preach it, Brother Streak...

ANewAnglican@gmail.com said...

One of the best posts in a long time! Love that quote from "Catcher."

ubub said...

We watched it with other Sooner transplants and were all struck by the same thing. The media is falling all over themselves to praise Tebow's character, yet it struck is that his opulent displays of religiosity were more about Tim Tebow than any higher power.

We also got to speculating about whether if he was an equally devout Scientologist, perhaps of the couch-jumping, you-don't-know-the-history-of-psychiatry-I-do Tom Cruise variety, if those same palm branches would be laid at his feet.

At the end, we had to resort to cracking each other up, when he was acting like a jackass and finally got flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. "You can't flag him! He's a young man of impeccable character! He's fed orphans and healed the sick!"

As you noted, Streak, the biggest problem was points left on the field. They should have kicked the field goal on that goal line stand (Murray might have scored on several of those close ones, but we'll never know) and the INT just before halftime was just a wild fluke and a great play by Florida.

leighton said...

I almost (but not quite) feel bad for the sports announcers doing the commentary, since I can't imagine that many of them really think low-key histrionics like that actually demonstrate good character; they just have to fill up airtime and make everything sound exciting and interesting, even (especially) the stuff that is neither. Having a player say weird things like that is a 30-second gift or better on a slow day.

But as challenging as their jobs are, they are still reinforcing a vapid idea prevalent in many churches that good character consists not of doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with God, but of mouthing the right words and belonging to the right group.

Firefly said...

It drives me crazy too - anytime someone claims they got the win, the job, the reward, whatever, because of God. What about the people that didn't win? Was Bradford not in Gods favor, so thats why Tebow won it? Actually during the Heismann program they showed Tebow doing his Christian volunteer work in some third world country, and I thought, wow, and they just happened to have a camera when he was doing his good works....

Bootleg Blogger said...

Tebow is a great quarterback who led his team to a national championship in the BCS. I wish it had been my team on Thursday night. I also think Sam Bradford is a great player and a great guy- watch his interviews for some cool under pressure. There's another 40 or 50 guys on each team that are probably mostly quality guys. Anybody hear any of their names mentioned other than when they did their job, were injured, or flagged for a penalty? The gushing over Tebow was embarrassing.

Tebow's history is interesting if you dig a little. I don't know him so I don't want to knock him personally. I WILL say that his PARENTS are missionaries, he was homeschooled, and, due to a law allowing it in Florida, he was allowed to play for a local PUBLIC school football team while being homeschooled. I find that somewhat ironic but I'll leave it at that.

My point in all of this is that Tebow is a 21 or 22 year old male (with plenty of thoughts and urges that have nothing to do with feeding orphans, as great as that is). I'll guarantee you he's not perfect and I'm pretty confident much of his wonderful volunteering has as much or more to do with his parent's influence than his own choices. I know I'm speculating here an maybe not giving him enough credit. The pressure put on with this level of gushing from the media for personal as well as athletic standards tends to be a formula for disaster at some point. I don't think anyone is doing him any favors.

The "god blessing" thing is a topic for volumes. l guess every secularly successful christian has a bit of Creflo Dollar in them. I'm particularly disgusted with this way of thinking (i.e. success is from god, I'm successful, therefore my life is in tune with god) has lots of bewildered casualties- lots of them on the "mission field" that has evidently shaped much of Tebow's thinking.

Jesus indeed would have puked, Streak, because we all know he' a Sooner fan!

Later, BB

Tony said...

Sorry I'm late to add my two cents worth to this conversation, but I need to say first of all, I wish I had written this post. Daggone good stuff.

Just for the sake of irritation I thought I would link this Baptist Press article. Though I am very sympathetic to parents and their children, I find ascribing "Miracle Child" status to Tebow a little disconcerting. (In my mind every child is a miracle child.) That makes his status as celebrity Christian that much more predictable and nauseating. I cast no aspersions toward his faith and the sincerity of it, but I am tired of seeing faith used in this way. I read one blogger who said that Tebow's eye black was like a "gang sign" in that it signified who he was and that he was approved by God, implying others aren't. You know, like OU. Its like flashing the colors, letting another know you are a member of the club, and you have standing in that club. Jesus taught that Christianity was less about outward expression but inward change--which works itself out in much deeper, meaningful ways. Eye black doesn't cut it.

They will know we are Christians by our love for one another. Tebow can just be lumped in with all the others who think Christianity rests in a symbol and not in working that faith out.

Streak said...

Tony, I already mentioned puking and you link to that story? :) Sheesh.

Leighton's comment the commentators fits into our other thread about media stupidity, and perhaps with a bit of sympathy. They do have to fill space, and some do it better than others. I personally can't stand that particular crew, but I think Al Michaels is a complete moron.

I think you all make good points. If Tebow were a devout Muslim, would the media fawn? ("Couch-jumping," of course, is a specific sub-sect of the Scientologists...) If anyone thought it through, they would understand that assuming that God prefers Tebow to Bradford is just stupid, but I don't think people are trained or encouraged to think things through. And that is the real tragedy for me.

Tony said...

If Tebow were a devout Muslim, would the media fawn?

I think that is an important point. How would the media have treated him if he had a verse from the Koran inscribed on his eye black? Much differently, I presume, and Fox would have eaten his lunch. There are other sports stars who practice religion differently, or not at all, and have excelled. Religion really is a non-issue where sports are concerned.

Bootleg Blogger said...

Tony- thanks for the link. First Baptist Jacksonville- all things are now crystal clear.