Jeff Pearlman

  • Twitter Icon
  • Twitter Icon
  • Twitter Icon

Tim Tebow can save you

120707tebow1

Early this morning I read the latest Sports Illustrated cover story, titled, You Gotta Love Tim Tebow.

In summation: Tim Tebow is the University of Florida’s star quarterback. But, even more important, he’s a devout Christian with a literal belief in the Bible. He spends his free time peddling Christianity to prisoners and the poorest denizens of third-world countries. His father is a minister, so Tim’s been told since Day One that there is a single route toward salvation, and it is via Jesus Christ. Because of all of this, he’s a great guy, and someone you should admire.

Before I go on, let me say that the author, Austin Murphy, is a writer I greatly respect—truly one of the best in the business. The story is beautifully presented, with the flawless transitions and word choices you’d expect from Murphy.

That said …

After reading this piece, I don’t feel Tim Tebow. Not. At. All. If you’ve been anything but Christian in this country, you’ve certainly been approached (in a mall; in a store; at your door) by missionaries seeking to save your moral soul. And if you do this job long enough, you’re inevitably asked to profile hard-core Christian athletes. Hell, I’ve done everyone from J.D. Drew to Mike Sweeney. The pieces almost always come out the same: Not only is he a great player, but he’s just as amazing off the field!

Blech.

Personally speaking, I consider missionary work to be incredibly—what’s the right word here?—disturbing. Why are we celebrating young people serving as moralistic salesmen? Why are we celebrating the practice of, literally, going to poor outposts to peddle a particular (historically questionable) vision of Godliness to the “savages”? A closer look at missionary work offers up a sad, frightening history of mistreatment and sleaziness; of pitching The Word by any means necessary. Of manipulation to the Nth degree.

It goes without saying that Tim Tebow believes homosexuals to be sinners (“We’re all sinners,” he would reply—a lame prejudicial concealment); believes that contraception is wrong; believes that … well, on and on and on and on. What I find most disturbing about people of Tebow’s ilk is the actual message being sold: That salvation is the reward worth living for.

Hypothetically speaking, there are two people: One, an agnostic, spots a homeless person and buys him a hamburger because her heart hurts when she sees the man. She wants to help him because he is damaged and in need. The other person, a “Christian,” sees a homeless person and buys him a hamburger because she seeks eternal salvation, and knows that status only comes with living a righteous life. She wants to help because she wants to be saved.

According to the Tim Tebows of the planet, the first woman is damned to an eternity in hell. The second is golden.

Ludicrous.

Say what you want about agnostics or atheists (or, from my experiences, Jews), but they never try and sell you on their beliefs based on the outcome. In other words, you shouldn’t turn to Christianity because you crave eternal salvation, should you? I mean, doesn’t that seem a bit, ahem, un-religious?

Mostly, while reading the piece I kept asking myself, “Who the hell would take life advice from Tim Tebow?” I’m sure he’s a friendly kid. But he’s a sheltered 21-year old whose life has been lathered in football and religion. I’m sure he believes in the realness of his spiritual moments, just as I believe in the realness of mine.

But, really, what’s to celebrate?

  • http://otrsportsonline.com/ Micah Warren

    Excellent post!! I couldn’t agree more. I can’t stand obnoxious Christians.

  • http://thearenablog.net Andy Hutchins

    You’re putting a lot of words in Tebow’s mouth and making a lot of assumptions.

    I, like you, don’t agree with a lot of the tenets of conservative Christianity or missionary work. But I certainly agree with Tebow’s dedication to his life, and, though I could take or leave the motive, I cannot knock the products of his work.

    If the point is to make the world a better place, and we accept that as a world, we’re always in dire need of help, are we going to look every gift horse in the mouth?

  • http://pitchersandpoets.com Eric Nusbaum

    This isn’t about whether or not Tim Tebow is a good person, but whether he is deserving of the weird messianic worship he gets from the likes of so many Dan Shanoffs for his religious devotion.

    He’s a hell of a player. He’s legitimately charming and in a way the virginity question has only made him more likeable. While I don’t understand or even vaguely approach his religious devotion in my own life, I guess I admire it in an ignorance-is-bliss sort of way.

    But the point is this: There are a lot of nice guys out there. Is it really fair that religious devotion is judged by so many to augment that nice guy status?

  • Ted Mark

    Amen, Jeff.

  • Duncan Idaho

    Great post – thanks for saying all that. And I really agree with comment #3 above, too…no doubt that Tebow is a good guy and means well, but the level of worship he receives from men twice his age is downright creepy.

    Anyway, I’m glad you wrote this. Keep up the great work!

  • http://thearenablog.net Andy Hutchins

    @Eric:

    I think we’re far too quick to ascribe godliness to Christian athletes, which translates into the messianic stuff; I wish there were more openly atheist or Muslim or Jainist or Rastafarian athletes we could look at simply for variety’s sake, because it would put some of the messianic fervor in a different light.

    But I agree with you: If someone’s open and vocal and devout in their faith, does that really diminish their standing? Not in my eyes.

  • Matt Leighow

    I could not disagree with you more. Where should I start? First, missionaries don’t go”to poor outposts to peddle a particular (historically questionable) vision of Godliness to the savages”. I for one am doing missionary work in Seattle. I am trying to help spread God’s word to one of the most educated and affluent areas in the world(Microsoft, Boeing, etc.) Second, missionaries do what they do to be obedient to God’s calling in their lives. Christians dont save people, God does. Next, in your buying a homeless person a hamburger example, believers do it because they see a need in that persons life, not just one meal, but for an opportunity to spread the Good News. We don’t do it to try to earn salvation. That’s impossible. Salvation is through Christ alone. God is sovereign. It’s His gift to us. It’s not anything we can do to earn salvation. Lastly, I would definitely take life advice from a person like Tim, who has been to hard places in this world and seen a lot more than you, Mr. Pearlman will ever see in your life. He has seen poverty and tragedy and it has enabled him to become a better person. But that wasn’t Tims goal. That’s not my goal. My goal is to be obedient to Christ. To serve Him. To love Him more everyday. And to spread His word to the ends of the earth. Not for myself, because I am a horrible, sinful person, but for my precious God who alone is worthy.

  • James Longstreet

    This article reminded me strongly of one a few years back, the 2006 article ‘The Gospel According to Ray’ by S.L. Price (a writer who I generally enjoy) which, with bated breath, followed Lewis as he traced a cross of ‘consecrated oil’ on the foreheads of his defensive teammates before games and concluded with a description of the former ‘sinner … plunging forward to greet his flock.’

    I find both these articles not so much disturbing as… honestly, annoying. I never read sports illustrated to hear about how Tim Tebow just adores Jesus or what Lewis does with his olive oil. All I want is to hear them talk about barreling into people, and then periodically what they were thinking over the course of this process, and ideally how they did it.

    If Tebow wants to spend his spring breaks circumcising infants instead of hitting on coeds, that’s his business, not mine. What IS my business is if he beats Michigan or not, and that’s all I ever will care about, and that’s why I hate this kind of article.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is… I hope that Mr. Tebow lives a long, happy life devoted to God. But deep down, I hope even more that around age 23, we all learn he’s been addicted to crack cocaine for years, hates puppies, and – surprise! – had a fling a few years backed with a few unnamed S.I. writers.

  • http://www.padsandends.blogspot.com The Third Gonzalez

    It really bothers me when individuals take advantage of their fame to further their agendas, whatever that agenda might be, as though his ability to throw a football has anything whatsoever to do with the validity of his opinions. Even more irksome is when the media and the general public blindly decide that somebody’s way of thinking is right for everyone because he’s a “nice guy”. I’m happy for Tim Tebow; I’m glad he is at peace and has something that works for him. What I can’t stand is the implication that everyone who doesn’t think like him is wrong. I also believe that if he were doing charitable acts in the name of any other religion, this article would never have seen the light of day.

  • ronnie ownes

    jeff pearlman=douchebag

  • http://www.brandonsneed.com Brandon Sneed

    I say we celebrate the jump pass.

  • Taft Ayers

    Jeff,

    I respect you as a writer.

    I don’t know you as a person.

    It wouldn’t be fair for me to question your position or the authenticity of what you believe because I don’t know you.

    It does strike me oddly, though, that your tone in this writing is very similar to the one that you used when covering the Christian schools in Nashville in the late 90′s. David Karkau and some of the Ezell Harding boys are my friends and your words aobut Christians and sports really hurt them.

    If any Christian ever hurt you or acted hypocritically, let me apologize on behalf of my brothers and sisters.

  • James

    its wierd we say athletes should stand for things(tiger woods Michael jordan) but when does come out and take a stand if we disagree we say he shouldn’t say anything…also christians give more to charity than anyone else so what would happen if they decided to not give anything

  • Andrew

    Jeff,
    You are confusing man-made religion with the teachings of Christ. I suggest you research the teachings of Jesus more before you bash those teachings.

  • KMD

    Matt Leighow: Are you reciting those lines from memory? Jesus…enjoy the conversions my friend.

    Great article Jeff. I’m in Absolute agreement with The Word(s) from Eric.

  • Paul McKenzie

    God, what a great piece you wrote there Jeff. I am more of a spiritualist than a practicing Christian, but i do not have a problem with Christianity at all. Missionary work is by its definition pretentious and condescending. Whether it be a Protestant trying to convert a Catholic, or a Christian trying to convert a Native American, who in the Hell is the missionary to feel that he is right and the unconverted is wrong.

    I remember about a decade ago, the Southern Baptists targeted NYC’s Jewish population as their number one missionary destination for that particular year. How arrogant. Who is the Christian to tell the Hindu that his many gods are blasphemy. Who is the Jew to tell the Arab he is wrong and vice versa.

    The real, true fact is that proselytizers like “God’s QB” work only to divide the human race. Isn’t that what is exactly what is plaguing the human race?

    Best blog going, period.

  • http://brandonsneed.wordpress.comcom Brandon Sneed

    I think it’s the people selling him as “God’s QB” that actually do that dividing, man. Tebow never asked for all this attention.

    People know that people will buy his jersey, will pay to go to his games, will pick up a magazine with his face on it right now. His strongest selling point aside from his talent–and the jump pass, of course–is his faith.

    I haven’t done much research on Tebow. I don’t care to, to be honest.

    I ramble further on my blog–click my name up there to check it out.

    But basically, the conception everyone has here is wrong. Christianity, contrary to popular belief, isn’t about converting the masses or manipulating savages.

  • http://brandonsneed.wordpress.com Brandon Sneed

    Apparently I’m also too retarded to put by web site in correctly. Fixed it here.

  • Robert

    I have to say, I used to have some respect for you, but this is just pretty ignorant.

  • The Pride of Curry

    I myself am not a huge fan of people shoving religion down my throat.

    What I dislike even more is when someone puts words in others mouths. Jeff Pearlman does this. I know he believes all Christians to be horrible, closed-minded hypocrites, but spend more than 2 minutes in any church, you’ll hear the “We’re all sinners.” It’s not some “lame prejudicial concealment.” It’s what every single person who has ever been “saved” has said.

    You can believe what you want about Christianity. You can even despise Tebow for spreading the word (although the article itself mentions it’s something he does, not something he pushes on people). But don’t start making him out to be Elmer Gantry in a blue and orange uniform. So far, nothing he has done has proven that.

  • http://rynoyak.wordpress.com ryno

    what? this is all way to obvious and cliche: the intolerant calling another intolerant! haha.
    the issue is not whether tebow is a good guy, at all. sure he is. but so what!? who cares? his fans, yes. some others, yes. but in the end of his life, end of my life, who cares what type of person he was?
    the issue is the fundamental difference of WHY tebow is a good guy: selfishness, ignorance, belief in something/faith.
    just as jeff pearlman is acting out his beliefs (namely that his beliefs about life and reality, or rather disbelief in the existence of a personal Creator God, are authoritative) because he is being honest about his worldview just as tebow and others do that are serious about their beliefs about reality, which of course includes understanding of faith-things/religious beliefs/the metaphysical.
    to define a person by What They Do is a wrong undertaking, because this is easily proved wrong.
    if you knew something that would keep someone who was doing something that led to danger or death, what would you do? through a hatred for “intolerance,” you would say that we should not tell them that they were wrong in what they were doing. is that being “tolerant”? i would say No, it is not tolerance but foolishness. i’ve had buddhists and hindus both tell me that i am wrong in my belief in a personal God that is loving and merciful as well as the ultimate judge and decider of eternal life or death after i die. if i accept Jesus Christ’s death, the Son of God, and accept his resurrection to new life as the only hope for me an imperfect person, God who is perfect and holy will accept me as also holy and give me his love and peace and joy in this life now and forever with him after i die.
    i am not saying that “I say you are a sinner or imperfect or ….. whatever.” i am saying that i believe that there is one God, and he has said such things. this does not make me or any other Christian “better” nor does it give any of us a position to judge others that are Christians or are not Christians: on the contrary, we must be humbled by the knowledge/or belief we have in our utter inability to please a perfect and holy God, unless we accept Jesus as our only savior and then follow his example of living. we claim our own sin, our own shortfalling from perfection, so how can we judge anyone?
    of course, as imperfect people, all Christians like all others in the world, are subject to error and pride, etc. this is not the point, though it is a tragedy, and i apologize for myself and for others for any pride or wrong attitude/action we may and certainly too often have done.
    my plea to all is that we would truly seek with all of our being what is the truth.

  • Gen. Stoopnagle

    Perhaps it’s my own particular brand of post-modernist Christianity, but somehow I don’t think so. So, I’ll just say it:

    Works get you no where. It’s all about grace. Christians *should* be doing works because it is who they are, not because of some reward in the next life.

  • Geoff

    “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast”

    I would buy the homeless man a hamburger because God first loved me. My salvation (and yours) is a free gift that I do not have to earn.

  • http://ThePhillySportsJournal.com Chris D

    Amen, Jeff! Excellent article.

    Chris
    Philly

  • Hunter Brewer

    Jeff:

    I seriously doubt you will read this, but I could not help but to respond. Before I begin, I want you to know that I am a Presbyterian minister so you know my bias or, more particularly, my worldview. I was saddened by you article. I am not sure if it because of the impression that Christians have left in your mind or your thorough misunderstanding of the theological tenets of the Christian faith. I was going to respond to each falsity, but that quickly proved exhausting. I understand that this was a wonderful opportunity for you to address the misgivings you have about Christianity, I just feel it was done in an immature and unprofessional and uneducated and unloving and intolerant manner.

    In this life, we must choose the words that we use carefully and I am not sure that you have done that properly. But, that is simply one’s opinion. I would love to have an in-depth conversation with you about this issue. I am sure there is much I could learn from you about the world in which I live and the people I minister to on a daily basis. If I could suggest two things to you, it would be this. First, I would encourage you to watch Penn (of Penn and Teller) response of YouTube to a man giving him a Bible. Second, I would encourage you to read Reasons for God by Tim Keller who is a Presbyterian minister in Manhattan (I think it would give you a better understanding of the philosophical and theological points you raised in your article).

  • Jon

    I need more traffic to my website so I will write about one of these items:

    1. A controversial religious item
    2. how much I love/hate Obama
    3. Naked women

    Congrats! You got me to look at it.

  • Greg P.

    So you disdain people who judge others by their own values.

    You do this by using your values against Tebow’s.

    And the difference is . . .?

    “I went to kill the monster and found out it was me.” Or more to our discussion- beware when pointing out the speck in your brother’s eye that you do not ignore the plank in your own.

  • Robert Eden

    I am with you wholeheartedly on this one, Pearlman.

    I have one quibble, however. You said,”If you’ve been anything but Christian in this country, you’ve certainly been approached (in a mall; in a store; at your door) by missionaries seeking to save your moral soul.”

    I am certain that the harassing missionaries cannot pick out those who are “anything but Christian” to approach. They go after everyone. Plus, I expect that most missionaries work just as hard to convert people who are the “wrong kind of Christian” as they do the non-believers.

  • M.R. Perry

    Hmm… where to start on this article, Jeff?

    First, you don’t like Tim Tebow selling his absolutist mindset about Christianity and his beliefs, yet you are writing an article about your absolutists beliefs regarding spiritual matters. You get on Christian missionaries because they believe they are right–but you use a mindset where you believe YOU are right. The Clash of the Worldviews–you’re peddling religious worldviews (in your case, there is no “Christian” worldview worth listening to). Interesting.

    Secondly, way to go in lumping EVERY Christian missionary in your box. Have you talked to every missionary? Has EVERY missionary been sleazy? The answer is no. But way to go and pulling the jerks and malcontents who happen to misrepresent Jesus and say they represent Jesus. To use your term, “Blech.”

    Thirdly, we hear all sorts of junk regarding illegal activities of sports players. Yet, an article (or articles) regarding someone who is working on humanitarian efforts as well as having a concern for a life that doesn’t end here–this is what you take time to rail against?

    Fourthly (this is repetitive), you consider missionary work “disturbing” because they are selling something? Jeff, you’re a missionary for your own worldview. You’re trying to persuade. You’re trying to convince. Amazing you want us to give you a forum, but you won’t give Tebow one? If there is no god, then everything is random–nothing is true or not. If this is your worldview, stay consistent. Why should this bother you?

  • Mike

    Andrew,

    All religions are man-made. Every. Last. One. Of. Them.

  • Becky Johnson

    Jeff, you have read a story about Tim Tebow and you are being judgemental about his christiantity? That my friend is ludicrous. Perhaps you should travel alongside Tim Tebow on his next missionary trip and learn firsthand about the heart and soul of this young brave man. Report the truth, not just hearsay. Who knows, you too may be a changed life because of what God has to offer. God says, Come to me Jeff, you are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.

  • Mercedes

    When someone goes out of their way to help in the name of Christ why is it that the same people who feel such loathing don’t try to do what the missionaries are doing which is sacrifice. You speak about a subject that you judge without any knowledge of the message of what Christ is, and that is hope and love! Too many people are too busy in their self absorbed ways to even notice that there are poor people that need our help domestically and internationally, and the ones that are doing something get critcized by folks as yourself who rather just believe that people will do something for the good of other people! The only message so far coming from those that hate Christ that I have seen is ignorance of the bible and a total hatred towards those who are involved in ministries helping out those who the world has forgotten. It’s free will and choice that God gives us to believe in His son Jesus, and it’s not forced on anyone, so read up and get your facts straight. It’s your choice to not want to believe just as others when real Christians are out there giving a message of hope that you don’t get. Christ died for all our sins, the choice is yours to believe that “God so loved the world” and anyone else, in the end it’s about you and God!

  • Don C.

    While I agree with the author, I am suspicious of both Tim Tebow’s and the the author’s motive for the same reason: tribalism.

    Tebow tries to convert people to his belief, Christianity.
    Jeff Pearlman is a subtle Christian basher.
    I have no room for either in my book.

  • Randall

    Are you suggesting, sir, that this kid would be better off talking about sex exlploits, beer, who he beat up in a bar? You’re the true idiot. Tim Tebow probably read your so called “article” (if he’s ever heard of you) and prayed for you. Tim’s no idiot, like you. He’s not blindfolded, deceived, or a simpleton. He’s not weak like you suggest. He knows something about manhood you will never know. Sir, try living for Jesus Christ on a secular football team–in the locker room. Try it for one week. You don’t have the guts to. You’ve never stood for anything in your life, really. And the truth is, you probably are at war with God way down deep inside where yout guts use to be, and you know it. Some one has stole your brain and your thinking capacity. You have been owned by the world system. It’s easy what you do. Easy. Anyone can go down stream, go with the mass. Tim is that rare, rare kid, who goes the opposite direction, as a gentleman, as a Christian. Keep writing your stupidity. I hope every moral person in the country reads it as well as every Christian. It should inflame all of us to do more for Christ. PS, I’ll challenge you, sir. I dare you to go the Florida Gators locker room, introduce yourself, tell of your exploits and experiences, your “education” and your “thinking” habits, and then see how many of them boys stay to hear one stupid thing you say. I dare you to do it!

  • Mary Reeg

    Jeff, I challenge you to read The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith, and The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel.

  • Chelsea Marie

    I would just like to point out you should really do a little more research concerning missions work. Oftentimes, missions work is done in areas of a country where there is already established Christianity, or whatever religion. Mission work isn’t about educating and converting the foreign masses, it’s about helping people less fortunate than you. In helping these people, you hope to be an example of Christ. Mission work isn’t preaching or indoctrinating, it’s doing and helping. The only way for Christians to truly love God is through loving people (aka mission work). And those “Christians” you see yelling on street corners and handing out pamphlets are extremists. Every religion has them. It is possible to have faith in salvation without a sliver of doubt without being crazy. I was not raised in church and researched many other religions, and Christianity filled a hole that nothing else could. I find it very insulting that you assumed that CHristians only do good things to earn salvation. We already have salvation. Doing good things comes with being a CHristian. Your heart feels the pain of others and longs to help the hurting. Faith without deeds does nothing for others and deeds without faith does nothing for the individual. There is so much more to the Christian faith than you are touching on. And while Christians may view people as sinners, they do not hate them, and they know they can overcome it through Christ. Being a Christian means living in love and self control.

    You can’t judge a religion or institution by the few that act out in extreme ways. There are always going to be people who give Christianity a bad reputation, but Christianity isn’t about Christians. It’s about everything they are supposed to stand for–you can find these things in the Bible. Basing your opinions on the mistakes of others is truly misguided. I’m sure you don’t agree with everyone assuming that all Muslims want to kill Americans. We know that isn’t true. THe majority of Muslims are peaceful and wonderful people. Give Christians the same credit. Don’t assume that we all want to throw our Bibles into your face and warn you of your inevitable damnation to Hell.

    Being a Christian means having a higher being to turn to. It’s living by an example to be an example. It isn’t letting people walk all over you. It isn’t beating yourself up over knowing you are unworthy of God’s mercy and love-you are not save by worth, you are saved by birth. It isn’t just a ticket to heaven. It’s a way of living that changes the lives of others and yourself.

    I think reporters like to write about CHristian athletes because they don’t come around very often–genuine ones anyway. They are trying to find that perfect example for people to live by. Is this right? No, of course not. We’re all only human. But it’s nice to hear about people doing good things in the world instead of pumping themselves full of steroids or getting caught cheating on their wives. Not all athletes are guilty of this, but it seems to be a recurring theme on sports news shows. They’re just looking for the next big story. And if they find Tim Tebow’s mission work to be newsworthy, then it’s their artistic license to believe so.

  • Ron Mandeville

    THINK ABOUT IT!
    What if Tim is right?
    What if there really is a God? What if he did send His Son to this earth to die so He could pay a payment that I could not afford to pay myself?
    And what if He did it because He loves me?
    Wouldn’t it just be right to appreciate and accept this gift that he offers?
    And if I love Him in return, wouldn’t I want to do things that are good and right if he asks, because of our relationship?
    Wouldn’t I want to tell others about this great friend that I have?
    Wouldn’t I want all of my friends to know Him, and the fact that He has already paid off their debt as well?
    Wouldn’t it be right to let them know that before the payment can clear, they must first accept and acknowledge the payment as true and right?
    And what kind of a friend would I be if I refused to tell my friends about Him?
    Check it out, it’s all in writing, in The Bible.

    • Dee Miller

      Thank you for standing up to defend Tebow as well.

  • http://www.hcdhggfjv.com Dean Rarey

    Very efficiently written article. It will be helpful to anyone who utilizes it, as well as yours truly :). Keep doing what you are doing – i will definitely read more posts.

  • Dee Miller

    First off, I understand that everyone has their own opinions and beliefs when it comes to religion. However, I do not understand why Tebow is being attacked personally for his convictions??!! He is doing what he believes is helpful to those who are morally or spiritually “lost”, whether it’s sharing the word with others or just listening to someone in pain and trying to help them, they are both good deeds and in this day of age with all the hell we have suffered as a country and as individuals, so why is he being judged by you and the likes of your “fans” because of how he assists with positive reinforcement in this world of hate? He should be appraised for his good deeds and undying faith in humanity, not criticized and ridiculed!

    Secondly, NO human has a right to judge others for how they conduct their lives. Sir, respectively, this does include you. We all bash others for how they lead their lives, maybe the world would be a better place if we looked to improve our own lives for the good of our own and for others rather than to criticize others who are actually doing what the believe is best to not only help themselves, but to help others as well.

Showtime Book
Love Me, Hate Me Barry Bonds Book
Sweetness Walter Peyton Book
The Bad Guys Won Book
The Rocket that Fell to Earth Book
Boys Will Be Boys Book

Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life