Christianity,  Sports

Tebow’s Narrow Religion

Tom Krattenmaker has taken a whack at Tim Tebow in a recent article for USA Today. He complains that Tebow’s conservative Christianity has afflicted sports culture in general:

“Jesus’ representatives in sports aren’t just practicing faith. They are also leveraging sports’ popularity to promote a message and doctrine that are out of sync with the diverse communities that support franchises, and with the unifying civic role that we expect of our teams.”

The problem, Krattenmaker argues, is that Tebow’s brand of religion is too narrow and exclusive for pluralistic American sports fans.

“Tebow does his missionary trips to the Philippines under the auspices of his father’s Bob Tebow Evangelistic Association. The Tebow organization espouses a far-right theology. Its bottom line: Only those who assent to its version of Christianity will avoid eternal punishment. The ministry boldly declares, ‘We reject the modern ecumenical movement.’ . . . The Bob Tebow organization is working at cross purposes with the majority of Americans — indeed, the majority of American Christians — and their more generous conception of salvation.”

Krattenmaker also alleges that Tebow’s Christianity is abusive to non-Christians:

“This exclusiveness sometimes morphs into a form of chauvinism and mistreatment of non-Christians. Witness the incident with the Washington Nationals baseball team in 2005, when the Christian chaplain was exposed as teaching that Jews go to hell. Then there was the New Mexico state football team, which was the target of a religious discrimination lawsuit in 2006 after two Muslim players reported being labeled ‘troublemakers’ and were kicked off the team by their devoutly Christian coach. The case was settled out of court and the students transferred.”

What are we to make of Krattenmaker’s charges? Are Krattenmaker’s complaints valid? In short, the answer is no. Here’s why.

Tim Tebow didn’t invent the idea that Jesus is the only basis for eternal salvation. That idea is the 2,000 year old teaching of the Christian church. Jesus himself said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6). The apostles taught this as well saying that “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Tebow is no innovator on this point. He’s merely holding forth the ancient faith in hopes that others might come to Christ. If that’s too narrow, then so be it. Culture may change, but the gospel doesn’t. Faithful Christians must never trim their theological sails to accommodate the prevailing winds of a godless culture.

That is what makes Krattenmaker’s examples of “mistreatment” appear pretty lame. The Christian message is not that “Jews go to hell,” but that everyone apart from Christ will go there—including Jews, Baptists, Muslims, and all others who do not know Christ. There is no singling out of any particular group. Every person is spiritually destitute apart from faith in Christ. Krattenmaker makes it sound like conservative Christianity singles-out Jews for persecution. That is simply not the case.

At the end of the day, Krattenmaker’s problem is not with Tebow, but with Christ. Christ is the world’s true King to whom we all owe our allegiance. Christ was crucified and raised to provide forgiveness and eternal life for humanity in rebellion against Him. That’s the message that offends Krattenmaker. This should be no surprise, for unbelievers often find Jesus to be “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” (1 Peter 2:8). Krattenmaker is tripping all over the stumbling stone, Jesus. Nevertheless, God’s arm is not too short to save. I’m living proof of that. I hope and pray that somehow Krattenmaker might be too.


  • Ali

    They are also leveraging sports’ popularity to promote a message and doctrine that are out of sync with the diverse communities that support franchises, and with the unifying civic role that we expect of our teams.

    Wow, I didn’t know sports teams such a big responsibility! I thought they were all just playing a game.

  • Lucas Knisely

    What amazes me about people who take stances against Christianity in the way that Tom Krattenmaker has, is that they are doing exactly what they are complaining about. They are demonizing a group of people (ie: “far right” conservative Bible believing Christians) simply because they aren’t aligned in the area of belief. In other words, Tom Krattenmaker accuses Tim Tebow and other Christians of doing what he must do in order to write his article.

  • Nathan

    Also, the media has been fixated on Tebow’s abstinence until marriage, which brings to light his Christian beliefs. I didn’t see Krattenmaker denouncing the intrusiion of the media into Tim Tebow’s personal convictions on this point. In fact, they came loaded for bear when they pursued the question. However, they don’t pursue the “extracurricular” activities of other players in their interviews.

    If Krattenmaker doesn’t want Tebow expousing his beliefs then he should be chiding the media for asking about them. To my knowledge, Tebow has never used his position on the team as a bully pulpit for his Christianity. But, if you ask him about it, he certainly will tell you.

  • Ryan K.

    Yeah it is a no win situation with the media.

    Often all we hear is how all athletes are thugs and poor role models. That these young men have an obligation to use their influence for good and and to have a positive impact on people’s lives.

    Then Tebow does just that and he is mocked, and endlessly taunted for being too good or trying to be pure and live with integrity. How hypocritical of our media and shame on them.

  • Zach Nielsen (Vitamin Z)

    What Tom is getting as here is that we shouldnt’ be concerned with Truth, but rather simply live our lives and stay out of each other’s way.

    Whether something is “out of sync” should not be the issue. The issue should be, is it true? The case for Truth should be made by providing reasons rather than simple assertions. These fail to lead us anywhere.

    When he speaks of a “unifying civic role” he is simply asserting a different religion that he believes we should all adhere to. That religion would be the amorphous, non-descript religion that says that Truth doesn’t matter, only personal experience. From this point of view, unity is achieved by not communicating anything that one believes to be Truth. Unity is seen as a community of people who don’t really talk about anything, they just want to keep the peace. I am all for peaceful discussions. I have never once had a discussion about worldview with anyone that erupted in violence, but to claim that our “civic duty” should be comprised of an anaestetized community that can’t speak about Truth in reference to worldview would be a grave disservice to all. Why is that religion better anyway? No reasons are giving that are compelling.

    This whole discussion has nothing to do with “religion”. (Don’t let people use that word.) And has everything to do with worldview. Everyone has a worldview. The question is, which one is right? They all can’t be right. That is logical nonsense. What is important to see is that Tom is advocating for a different worldview (a religion, if you want to call it that) that you can read more about in his piece. It’s the religion of “no one is right, so let’s stop talking and just get along”.

    The question is not, “Should Tim Tebow shut up?”. But rather, on what basis should anyone speak about what they hold to be The Truth? I would submit that we should have a culture that is free to exchange ideas based on reasons for why one worldview may be superior to another. The starting point for Christians is not our experience, but rather the facts of history. Jesus rose from the dead or he didn’t. Which is it? If it is the former then I would hope we would be willing to communicate this truth at every turn, with grace and humility, but without apology.

  • Pat

    The subtle flaw I see in the article’s thinking is that somehow an athlete represents the people. He (or she, in other cases) doesn’t. The athlete plays sports, and has a job (or in Tebow’s case right now, a scholarship, but the $$ will come) because people will pay to watch, or will watch on TV and sit through the ads, or whatever. It’s ridiculous to think that an athlete can’t espouse views that other “normal” people can espouse… unless the author doesn’t actually think it’s okay for you and me to believe what Tebow believes either, which is quite possible–and problematic.

  • Paula

    They are also leveraging sports’ popularity to promote a message and doctrine that are out of sync with the diverse communities that support franchises, and with the unifying civic role that we expect of our teams

    This sounds awfully familiar! Aren’t these the sames charges that were leveled against Rush Limbaugh to keep him from buying an NFL team? His views are out of “sync” with the mainstream views of the players and perhaps the fans, so he didn’t deserve to own an NFL team? [disclaimer: not saying Rush is suffering “Christian” persecution]

    Frightening mindset these folks have. Stay tuned for more of this as Christians and conservatives stand against what is quickly becoming the mainstream.

  • Linda Griese

    Tim Tebow did not write the Bible. It is the Word of God and in that Word is the way that God provided salvation for ALL people. Mr. Krattenmaker attacks Tim’s beliefs and yet I don’t hear anything from him about the beliefs of the Koran or other written religious works. The Koran says if you don’t follow Islam then you an infidel and should be put to death. How does he answer this? Christ came to give us life, and life more abundantly. Maybe Mr. Krattenmaker should read the Bible and see what God shows him.

  • David Benson

    Tim Tebow is an absolute embarrasment to college football as well as himself. He should keep his stone aged views to himself. The fact that Americans in general give credence to this guy is comical. So, he can play football. So what. Unfortunately he has parents who are idiots and he’s sadly formulated his sorry opinion based on their archaic, ignorant beliefs.

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