Saturday, November 28, 2009

Tim Tebow: Football and Christian Privilege

One consequence of my being home for the holidays is watching a lot of football with my dad. I'm currently watching Florida destroy Florida State, but the conversation at the McCreight house isn't focused on football - it's on Tim Tebow.

Tebow is the senior quarterback for Florida. He's well known not only for his great football skills, but for his evangelical Christianity. He was home schooled by missionary parents and noticeably writes Bible verses across his face while playing. For example:Personally, I have no idea why he's allowed to do this (and neither does my dad - yay ranting about religion with your family). I have a really hard time imagining a football player being able to write "Allahu akbar" across his face in Arabic, or even worse, "There is no God." Even if the NCAA would legally allow these other sayings, the fallback from fellow players, coaches, and fans would be so great that a Muslim or atheist player probably wouldn't even consider it. I don't know about you, but I feel uneasy enough labeling myself as an atheist on the internet - I'm not going to do it when 300 pound men are actually supposed to come tackling me.

But it's not just because of its religious. By writing anything distinctive on his face, he's drawing attention to himself. Showboating after touch downs is explicitly forbidden in college football, yet drawing attention to yourself with Bible verses is okay? I guess the news network is partially to blame for this. CBS is currently using every chance to zoom in on Tebow's face and use that as TV filler - would they be doing this without the Bible verse? No, at least no where near to this extent.

If that's not enough, the CBS announcers took the time to read the actual verse that Tebow was referencing today. It was Heb 12: 1-2, though they only read the first line:
1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Good call leaving off all the Jesus heavy part, at least. They claimed they should read it since it was obviously important enough for him to select and write on his face. So do I get to select passages I find meaningful and have them read on national television? Yes, if it's a Bible verse.

This isn't about censoring Christians so that they can never talk about their faith. There is a time and place for such discussions, and representing a public university in college football is not it. This is about illustrating that you're rewarded for expressing your Christianity, but everyone who disagrees better keep it to themselves. Christians are a privileged group, and crying "Oppression!" as loudly as they can doesn't change the facts.

37 comments:

  1. Despite my deep seeded dislike of Tebow, I'm inclined to disagree. You'd get just as much attention on him even without the bible verses. It's all part of University of Florida's image.

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  2. I was read to start disagreeing with you from the start of this (and I don't really think there is anything wrong with having a bible verse on your face if you want to look like a tool) he could just as easily have it tattooed and even on secular TV that would be ok.

    And then I read your last paragraph and I agree totally. I think I may start linking this when ever I see Christians complaining about being 'oppressed' or 'censored'.

    Excellent post and I hope this comment is more cogent that I feel it is (that's what marking does to you).

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    1. But see as a Christian it is his duty to live as one whenever and whereever he is..
      As a citizen of the U.S We as Christians have our right to do what he did..

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  3. Assuming of course that there are atheists in dugouts (or whatever they're called), an alternative would be to write some of the less flattering verses across their faces.

    Something about shellfish, unicorns, mixing fabrics or the taintedness of men who's had sex with menstruating women. The bloody ones are good, too, since people love to point to the "kill the heathens" parts of the Koran.

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  4. I am having a real hard time seeing your point. Who care if he writes a bible verse on his face. It is covered by a helmet when he is playing anyway.

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  5. Well said Jen! I don't care for his christianity, but the fact that it gets continually highlighted bothers me too.

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  6. Btw...here's what the Lolcats edition of the bible says for Heb 12:1-2

    1. K, we has lots of othar kittehs to halp us liv gud, so dont be lettin ur sinz wai u down, kthx. Ceiling Cat haz uh race, he wunts to show u it. U gots to run teh race fur him.2 When u runnin ur race, be lookin at Jebus--hes teh champion!!!!1! He halp u. Srsly. He dide on teh cross, he pwn shame, n now he livs wit Ceiling Cat.

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  7. Read the constitution and the 1st amendment.If a player wrote allahu akbar acrosss his face in arabic he would be protected also,just not very marketable.Guess what nerd girl, Jesus sells ;-D

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  8. Normally I enjoy your blog posts, but this one is exceptionally dumb.

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  9. He may be legally protected, but would he be praised by the general public? That's my point about Christian privilege.

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  10. If I were playing against Tebow, I'd where Matthew 6:1 on my eye black.

    "Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven"

    Is it strange that I find it more annoying that people wear that stupid shit in the first place? It has no actual effect on vision.

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  11. I personally hope he references a Leviticus verse one of these days.

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  12. Personally, I don't see why allowing him to do it is a problem. It's his face. If I don't like it, I just don't look at it.

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  13. CBS is currently using every chance to zoom in on Tebow's face and use that as TV filler - would they be doing this without the Bible verse?

    They would still focus on him since he is not only the quarterback for the #1 team in the nation, but the best player in college football right now. Thankfully he won't be allowed to do this if/when he makes it to the NFL. They have extremely strict uniform rules, something that the NCAA should look into.

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  15. I'm sure he'll try to pull this in the NFL (when he's eventually drafted... in the 2nd round or later, hopefully), but I'm also sure, as Rev says, that the NFL will fine him for it every week since the way they fine players for wearing the wrong-colored socks not pulled high enough -- then again, Ocho Cinco does have the grill on his teeth. It'll be interesting to see, for sure. I'm curious.

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  16. Even more missing the point here; I'd be shocked if it weren't so common. Jen, I agree with you for the most part.

    I don't give a damn what some idiot football player decides to paint on his face; it's his body, after all. However, the television network shouldn't be focusing on it, and the fact that they are is a significant indicator of societal trends.

    Christian privilege has never been particularly shocking to me, because I grew up Jewish and I always noticed it. However, it's always seemed to me that it's not so much Christianity that possesses a privileged place, but religion as a whole (I doubt anyone here would quibble with me on this one); it's just that Christianity is most noticeable because it has the most privileged place of the religions. It's probabilistically unsurprising that we therefore notice more events such as this occurring as a result of Christianity than of other religions.

    Perhaps because of this, Christianity seems to me to be the easiest target and it seems slightly odd to me that we spend so much time attacking it (I know I spend too much time on it). That could be why people have a problem with this post; I don't know. I would prefer to attack religion in the general case - generic religion, rather than any specific instance - but it's much more difficult to do so when commenting on specific examples like this.

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  17. "Christians are a privileged group", you say?
    Just try and come to live here in Italy for a few months, then you'll see what "privileged" means for catholics.
    At least now you have a not-so-bigot president right now...wanna talk about Berlusconi?
    Wanna see how many soccer player make the cross gesture when they score a point (of course, nothing to say to their god when they miss..).
    You know, we were not even allowed to write "There is probably no God" on a bus, it was deemed offensive...
    Any room left around there?

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  18. Don't you know that Tim Tebow is the second coming of Christ?

    http://deadspin.com/5407814/tim-tebow-messiah-watch-body+painted-mary-magdalene-edition

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  19. This reminds me of an e-mail I was sent some time ago listing what's expected of teachers. Written in first-person plural, it said that "We teachers are expected to be educators but also counselors, psychologists, social workers..." and so on. It ended with, "You expect all this of us and then tell us we can't pray?"

    Of course it was a ridiculous statement because no one's preventing teachers--or anyone else--from praying. The issue was (and remains) whether there should be teacher or administrator-led prayer in school. No one can prevent students or teachers from praying privately in school. How secure are they in their faith, though, if they feel compelled to force others not only to acknowledge it but participate in it?

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  20. Religion and sports seem to be irretrievably intertwined in the USA. I don't stand for God Bless America at baseball games and often get abuse for that. Why is that song even played? Winners routinely thank God for making it happen. This is portrayed as humility, but seriously - you are saying the supreme being chose you personally to win the 100 metre gold medal and that's more humble than thinking you worked amazingly hard and had some good luck with genetics?

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  21. I agree. If I were a football player, I would probably start writing slogans in other languages, leaving it up to media watchers to decipher. When they find out it's about the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Zeus, Allah, or whatever, that would be hilarious (to me)!

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  22. It's too bad Richard Dawkins didn't do "The God Delusion" in chapter and verse format so we could hang "Dawkins 3:16" signs behind the goal posts.

    Seriously, Tebow has a right to make a strutting, preening ass of himself. It comes with the quarterback territory. And we have a right to tell him he's being a douchebag. And then move on to actually meaningful items.

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  23. Cycle Ninja:

    lol. Very funny.

    Science is never about memorizing verses from a book. It is about finding evidence to prove or disprove a theory. I'm totally against that.

    However, it may be fun to do it with "The God Delusion" because we can make fun of crazy bible reading Christian zombies. ;-)

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  24. @ Egoist Paul,

    My first paragraph was stated with tongue firmly in cheek, I assure you.

    I will say this...If I could take out an advertisement for one of the "There's Probably No God" banners and have it run on the scoreboard at the Alabama-Auburn football game, I could die in peace having set off all kinds of merry mischief.

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  25. Because I agree with everything in you post, I have to say this:

    When you said "fallback from fellow players"

    you probably meant "fallout from fellow players"

    :-)

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  26. Remember, "christian persecution" in the US means things like, they aren't allowed to use government resources to promote their religion.

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  27. I thought quaterbacks were supposed to be smart...

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  28. Zarathustra,

    Quaterbacks are not the smartest guy in a football team. The smartest guy is the coach which comes out with wickedest play against the enemy.

    The war between religion and science can be viewed as a football game. In the Dark Ages, the church dominates the game. After the Enlightenment, scientists make religion fumble many times and gain many territories.

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  29. Do you suppose the CBS announcers would have read from the koran, if Tebow was wearung *this*?!?
    hXXp://i19 DOT photobucket DOT com/albums/b190/fark_raving_mad/TEBOW_akbar.jpg

    (I think you've got a filter in place, so let's see if my lame obfuscation can get past it.)

    Nice blog, BTW - I'll make sure to add you to my daily check-in list - right after Pharyngula!

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  30. Oh, and correct spelling is overrated. ;-)

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  31. Here's a new one in honor of today's SEC Championship game; http://i19.photobucket.com/albums/b190/fark_raving_mad/Tebow_PWNED.jpg

    Too soon?

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  32. tebow crys everywhere. ya wanna know why? because Alabama Crimson Tide beat the outta the world.

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  33. if i was on his team, i would rock deuteronomy 21:18

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  34. God is in control. Tim Tebow is the greatest player to take the field and most important, a Christian. It just burns atheist up that he is a superstar and getting the message of Jesus Christ out to lost souls like yourself. Tebow is a God Send !

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  35. You all talk so much trash. Tebow is truly a better person that any of you but sense he has talent and all of you dont you judge him but it is not your place to judge it is gods. God wants you to spread the word so what if tebow spreads it threw verses on his eye black get over it

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  36. SHUT THE HECK UP! Gosh your not in charge! Man the guy wants to wrote a Bible verse on his face! So what! Why do you care?
    What do you have so much against God you gotta hate or bash this guy?
    He is twice a man your ever be Beacuse he can put his pride aside and say yes, teir is a God, and yes I am a humbled servant of His... Just Beacuse your pride is to strong to even image a God doesn't mean you need to hate on somone who belives in one.. So yeah how about you shut up.

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