Time to sack mocking Tebow

Making fun of Tim Tebow for his on-field performances is one thing, but piling on the Broncos quarterback when it comes to his outward displays of Christianity is another.

For the second week in a row, Tebow took taunting from rival fans. Oakland Raiders’ fans held signs that read “Welcome to Hell,” directed at Tebow during the pre-game warm-ups.

Last week, Detroit Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch mocked Tebow’s prayer pose, which became an internet craze known as Tebowing, after sacking the quarterback in the second quarter.

After I posted a blog about the “Tebowing” phenomenon, I was contacted by ESPN columnist Jemele Hill. She interviewed me about Stephen Tulloch openly mocking Tebow’s prayer pose. Since I had written about Tebow in my recent Sports In Focus article for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, she wondered what I thought about him being ridiculed for his faith.

She concluded her column by saying, “Prayer is a sacred component of any religion. Making fun of someone else’s spiritual connection is on par with ridiculing them about their family. You don’t have to be a Christian to get that, just someone who understands the concept of respect.”

Thankfully, she wasn’t the only sportswriter that opposes mocking someone’s faith.

AOL FanHouse columnist David Whitley wrote, “I believe Tulloch wasn’t trying to mock God. But this wasn’t your garden-variety NFL taunt. Unlike Ray Lewis’ pregame dance, kneeling in prayer is universally accepted as a religious expression. Perhaps the ultimate show of reverence and humility.”

Being mocked for one’s faith is nothing new. In fact, the best-known evidence of this was Jesus being mocked at the cross.

“And the soldiers led him away inside the palace, and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him. (Mark 15:16-20)

While many sermons and Bible writers discuss the physical suffering in this passage, it is the ridicule of Jesus that I want to focus on. The crucifiers saw Jesus as a joke. In fact, historians tells us that one of the things that people did in that day was taunt those who were mentally deficient. They teased and they mocked those who were considered the “village idiots.”

The soldiers who mocked Jesus treated him as the village idiot, a lunatic who in a deluded way thinks himself to be a King and whom the Jews also try to pass off as some threat to Caesar.

So how should Christian athletes respond when they are mocked or persecuted for their faith? While persecution is not something we should pursue, when evil is spoke against you for Christ’s sake, realize that it carries with it the blessing of God. Matthew 5:11 teaches, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” In fact, the next verse teaches there will be a great reward in heaven for those who are persecuted in this way.

Mocking or taunting is nothing new in sports or life. Make it your goal to glorify God when you score a touchdown or when you’re mocked for your faith. Nothing pleases the Lord more than an athlete or coach who desires to please Him with their attitude and actions regardless of the circumstances.

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Discussion

1. Would Tebow have been mocked if he believed in a different religion? Why or why not?

2. Detroit’s Stephen Tulloch said he was only making fun of “Tebowing.” He said, “Have a sense of humor,” Tulloch tweeted. “I wasn’t mocking GOD.” How would you respond to him with a tweet?

3. Why is Christianity mocked or ridiculed so much in our society? For example, a crucifix in a bottle of urine is displayed as art and supported by the National Endowment of the Arts.

4. Should Christian athletes ever mock or taunt opponents? Why or why not?

5. Tim Tebow seems to be ridiculed more than most athletes. Do you agree or disagree? Explain.

6. How can you support someone who is showing respect for the Lord on the field/court and enduring persecution?

7. Describe the different ways Jesus was mocked. Which of the acts do you think is more disrespectful? Why?

8. Discuss how God can turn bad circumstances into spiritual victory. How was this true in the persecution of the early church? (Acts 11:19-21)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Gordon Thiessen has served on staff with the Nebraska FCA since 1986 He has also founded Cross Training Publishing (www.crosstrainingpublishing.com). He has written Team Studies on Character and edited The Athletes Topical Bible. He is married to Terri and has four grown children.

 

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5 Comments

  • I think when Tebow bows to God… he should not be wearing any Nike clothes on himself! He should also NOT be endorsing the Nike products and promoting the company named after the pagan goddess Nike. I promise you that you would never see Jesus wearing anything with the name of another god or goddess on Himself. If Tim wants to be honored by God… he needs to drop Nike! If you want to please God… you need to drop it too… in the trash and never buy it again! God Word says… in Exodus 23:13… “Be careful to do everything I have said to you. Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips.” I hope to help rid the world of Nike products till Nike is no longer talked about… except by people when they talk about how God and His people helped bring Nike down!

  • Suomy Nona says:

    Even though I really want to comment on this whole post, I’ll limit my self to just a few of the discussion points.

    1. Would Tebow have been mocked if he believed in a different religion? Why or why not?

    Of course he would. I’m not sure if your just busy most Sunday’s, or don’t actually watch much football, but mocking your opponent is actually quite common in the NFL. Every player who celebrates following a play (regardless of justification) opens themselves up for people to take jest in their celebratory ways (regardless of what they are). There are plenty examples of this on almost a weekly basis. For instance, one of the new rising stars of the NFL, Cam Newton, has a victory dance he does every time he gets in the end zone. Cam takes a few high steps and then motions a gesture similar to Superman ripping open his shirt. A few weeks ago, a player from Jacksonville (although I could be wrong) was able to pick one of Cam’s passes off and return it for a pick-six. Although I’m sure you can correctly make this assumption at this point, the player took a few high steps and mocked Cam’s celebration. So to reemphasize, if Tebow had any other signature celebratory gesture, it would be mocked just the same.

    2. Detroit’s Stephen Tulloch said he was only making fun of “Tebowing.” He said, “Have a sense of humor,” Tulloch tweeted. “I wasn’t mocking GOD.” How would you respond to him with a tweet?

    Since I’d be limited to 140 characters, let me try to be genuine:
    @stephentulloch – Keep doing what you’re doing man. People need to get a sense of humor.

    3. Why is Christianity mocked or ridiculed so much in our society? For example, a crucifix in a bottle of urine is displayed as art and supported by the National Endowment of the Arts.

    It’s mocked because it’s easy to mock and because Christians don’t exactly hold the best track record of tolerance. Granted, other religions aren’t much better, but that leads me to another point. Other religions are mocked, it’s just that when Christianity is mocked, it seems to get the most attention. When you mock something that a majority of the country at least says they believe in, you’re going to get some attention. Also, the arts community is fairly liberal, while the majority of the Christian community is fairly conservative. These two ideologies generally don’t see eye to eye. So it makes sense that one is going to mock the other.

    Here’s another thing that is seemingly being glossed over. One of the major purposes of art is to evoke emotion and discussion. Sometimes this is done by being controversial. However, religion isn’t the only thing that is attacked. Political views and other ideological views are often common targets.

    How is an artist attacking Christianity any different than say a Christian mocking/attacking someone’s sexual orientation or lifestyle choices?

    Regardless if you agree or disagree with the message, the fact they can say it is what makes this country great.

    4. Should Christian athletes ever mock or taunt opponents? Why or why not?

    Sure. It’s part of the game and it’s done in good fun. Even if they’re purposely trying to get under their opponents skin, there’s really no harm in mocking. Does being Christian mean that you have to be nice to everyone every moment of your life? Of course not. No one is perfect. If you can’t take a little mocking, you have no business being a professional athlete.

    5. Tim Tebow seems to be ridiculed more than most athletes. Do you agree or disagree? Explain.

    No he’s not. Where is your justification for this? Here’s what’s going on. There was a lot of hype around him, and he’s (debatably) not living up to that hype. Also, he’s a rookie. Rookies are given a hard time. There’s nothing exceptional about the ridicule Tebow is experiencing.

  • Clayton Bennett says:

    1. Would Tebow have been mocked if he believed in a different religion? Why or why not?

    Yes. Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Sound familiar?

    2. Detroit’s Stephen Tulloch said he was only making fun of “Tebowing.” He said, “Have a sense of humor,” Tulloch tweeted. “I wasn’t mocking GOD.” How would you respond to him with a tweet?

    Most people get that. But some fans wear jerseys with Tebow’s number 15 and the name Jesus, and don’t understand such subtle humor.

    3. Why is Christianity mocked or ridiculed so much in our society? For example, a crucifix in a bottle of urine is displayed as art and supported by the National Endowment of the Arts.

    If you have to reach back 24 years for an example of ridicule, your self-pity is misplaced.

    4. Should Christian athletes ever mock or taunt opponents? Why or why not?

    Taunting varies by sport, but it’s definitely part of professional football. Whether players are Christian makes no difference; some choose not to participate in this theatrical aspect of the game for their own reasons, which may have nothing to do with faith.

    5. Tim Tebow seems to be ridiculed more than most athletes. Do you agree or disagree? Explain.

    Disagree. Look at any athlete who boasts, struts, and preens before the season. Even if the athlete is successful, braggadocio is an invitation to smackdown.

    6. How can you support someone who is showing respect for the Lord on the field/court and enduring persecution?

    By speaking up truthfully in the spirit of my own faith. Haven’t seen it happen, though.

    7. Describe the different ways Jesus was mocked. Which of the acts do you think is more disrespectful? Why?

    At no time in his life was Christ mocked more brazenly than today. For example, consider his words from Matthew 6: “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” That would include making a pious show of prayer in a crowded stadium.

    8. Discuss how God can turn bad circumstances into spiritual victory. How was this true in the persecution of the early church? (Acts 11:19-21)

    The early church suffered more from obscurity than persecution, and pursued power rather than righteousness. God sent us a prophet who showed us in word and deed how to live. In his life, he transcended oppression of the body and the spirit. Such an example is difficult to follow, so Paul told others how to live instead. The church has followed Paul ever since—not Christ. Maybe Tebow should read the Gospels for himself.

  • Barbara says:

    Two points:
    To Charles, you have taken it one step too far. Pharisees come to mind off the top of my head. The Nike swoosh is just that, a swoosh. Do not judge Tim Tebow because of a swoosh. Admire the young man’s character in a sport lacking.

    To Suomy: If he was Muslim, and bowed to Mecca, he would not be mocked.

    I watched the game when this happened. My son who is 16 and a member of a FCA huddle was offended. I saw a bit of humor in it, but had to re-think it when my son felt the mocking was out of line. Yes, players mock, taunt and talk trash, however this was a bit over the line.

  • Samuel Sheats says:

    Of course, Tebow would be mocked regardless of what religion he follows. I’m not a fan or apologist for him, but he’s already under a microscope as one of fickle America’s reluctant heroes we periodically put on a pedestal, justified or not. He’s actually in a no-win situation but some of it is his own doing from his college days. Nevertheless, If he walked on water critics would complain he can’t swim.

    It’s a complex issue, but anyone who wants to openly promote something as precious, personal and private as their religious beliefs in a stadium full of people who are really there just to watch a football game should be prepared for the consequences. With all due respect, some of us are as adamant that freedom of religion should also mean freedom from religion. Meanwhile, can you imagine Tebow with Qu’ran quotes on his eyeblack, whipping out a miniature prayer rug, facing Mecca and openly praising Allah as the source of his accomplishments? As unfavorably as Islam is regarded, he’d probably need a body guard just to safely exit the stadium in one piece.

    Maybe the broader issue is that after a successful play, athletes who pray or point heavenward (how do they presume to know what “direction” heaven really is, anyway?) while giving glory to God, imply that God finds more favor in them or they share a stronger relationship with Him than their hapless opponents do. That’s why they won and the other guy lost. In any case, how uncool is it to actually pray for the other team’s kicker to miss a field goal or for your opponent to fail in any way? It’s easy to observe these inconsistencies and other “I’m more religious than thou” attitudes in sports. How do sports figures reconcile their actions with Matthew 6:6 and the admonishment of non-ostentatious prayer?

    Another question. How come none of the refs, officials or umpires — who are as much a part of the games as the players, whether we like it or not — ever praise God, like after they make a great call or ruling (as verified by instant replay, for example)? And why do you only see prayers of thanks at big ticket sporting events, as opposed to more obscure sports like the USA Rock Paper Scissors League (a real organization complete with regular tournaments)? Maybe Big Money brings out showboating in all its guises.

    Finally back to football, ever see losing players who miss making the critical play that could have saved or won the game still give thanks to God because on that play they at least ran faster than they ever had or physically excelled in some other way because of Him? You won’t. No matter what, winning isn’t just everything. It’s still the ONLY thing.