As an observant Jew (as well as a San Diegan who views the Denver Broncos as a rival), I have frequently found myself wondering how I ought to feel about Tebowmania. For those who might have gone on hiatus from American culture over the past few months, Tim Tebow is a quarterback for the Denver Broncos who helped turn around a moribund football franchise with his inspirational and clutch fourth quarter comebacks this season. But Tebow has been a lightning rod because he is a devout Evangelical Christian who quite publicly prays on the football field and proclaims his thanks to his “Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” whenever he is interviewed.
My initial instinct has been discomfort, to say the least, with the adulation Tebow is receiving. I have nothing against Tebow himself. But I recoil at the thought, espoused my many, that Tebow is winning because of divine intervention in his football games. For example, a recent poll found that 43% of people believed that divine intervention was responsible for at least some of Tebow’s success (an article discussing the poll is available here.
The theologian within me simply cannot embrace the notion that God cares about who wins which football teams because the consequence of this statement is that members and/or fans of the losing team are somehow religiously inferior to the winning team’s members and/or fans. Plus, given all the problems facing the world today, do I really want the God I believe in to focus attention on football games?
And yet, upon reflection, I realize that maybe I am guilty of over-intellectualizing God. I claim that I do not embrace a God who directly intervenes in our lives anymore because doing so leads to the inevitable theodicy problem of an omnipotent God who allows evil to occur. Instead, in my seminary studies, I have gravitated either towards a pastoral kind of God, i.e. a God who cries with us when we suffer and offers us support, or towards the kind of influential but not omnipotent God articulated within process theology. The problem with this approach is that, while it enables me to feel intellectually honest when writing term papers, it doesn’t account for why I do pray to God for specific things such as healing the sick or helping to eradicate poverty. Nor does it explain the miraculous things that do occur in my life from time to time, the things which have no explanation but which I am loathe to chalk up to serendipity.
So perhaps I ought to revisit my feelings about Tebowmania a little bit. While as a member of a minority faith, I am still wary of the Christian Evangelical fervor running rampant throughout American society, perhaps there is still plenty of good that can be gained from an enhanced belief in the possibility of divine intervention in our daily lives. Maybe being open to this possibility will help us to get more in touch with our spiritual, prayerful selves, rekindle our faith and reassuring us that we are not alone in navigating the vicissitudes of life. Even though Tebow and the Broncos are now out of the NFL playoffs, hopefully these lessons of belief, hope, and connection will continue to bolster us through the winter and well into the seasons (football or otherwise) to come.