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Christianity and College Football: Is Tim Tebow Anti-Catholic?

August 29, 2009
Tim Tebow

Tim Tebow

College football begins in one week and at the center of attention are the Florida Gators and their superstar quarterback, Tim Tebow. He is college football’s most celebrated individual player and he is also a devote Christian.

His father, Bob Tebow, is an evangelist in the Phillipines where his ministry, Bob Tebow Evangelistic Association, boasts having converted 10 million people and training the new generation of evangelists for the future. His slogan is “The Harvest is Plentiful, The World is the Field.”

But, the world is not the particular field of the Tebow’s. It is the deeply Catholic Philippines. According to Bob Tebow, “In a country of 87 million, the number of people who have never heard the Gospel is staggering.

Now, almost every media outlet (including this from the New York Times) has done nothing but praise Tim Tebow’s impressive record on the field that comes with the rare, added nicety of what most seem to label as “humanitarian” work via his father’s ministry. However, if you take a close look at the beliefs and resources offered through his father’s website it becomes very clear that this is a straightforwardly fundamentalist evangelical effort that denies the validity of Catholicism (among other things, to be sure, like: evolution).

In response to a July 27th article entitled, “You Gotta to Love Tim Tebow,” (that reads like this similar piece available online) Sean O’Brien, from Milwaukee, made this very point in this letter to Sports Illustrated:

On the Bob Tebow Evangelistic Association website, it is estimated that 75% of Filipinos have never once heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Given that Filipinos are 80% Roman Catholic, the target of the ministry if obvious. And while Bob, Tim’s father, may strike a warm, inclusive note in an interview, his own website does not, stating, “We reject the modern ecumenical movement.” In other words, when it comes to salvation, Catholics need not apply. Tim is featured prominately on his father’s website. So, no, I don’t gotta love Tim Tebow.

The Tebow website features a Good News For You! link that present the Campus Crusade for Christ—where Bob Tebow began his ministry—styled presentation of the four pillars of the Gospel, using a comic reel. It also emphasizes the fact that the entire family has been home-schooled from K-12 (which is only sociologically interesting to me here).

What this means, for me (a son of an evangelist and missionary family), is this: Given the proclivity to mix Dr. James Dobson and Pat Robertson with Mother Angelica and Raymond Arroyo—and the Evangelical-right wing of the Republican party—among many pious Catholics I know, what will it take to realize that those who seem like role models and Christian allies may actually have real and serious reasons to see that the Church be replaced with an  fundamentalist evangelical version of Christianity?

Maybe we can start by wondering how many of the 10 million converts were Catholic Filipinos seduced by Tim Tebow’s celebrity and his father’s fundamentalist mission to save them from the “paganism” of their Church.

Then, we might wonder why these fundamentalist, Campus Crusade, cousins of the “Chick-Tract” approaches to evangelism pop up in Catholic ministry from time to time (e.g. Life in the Spirit Seminar, Cursillo, and the Charismatic Renewal in general).

I am not sure if Tim Tebow is anti-Catholic, but I do know this: the Catholic Church is not fundamentalist.

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26 Comments
  1. Matt Talbot permalink*
    August 29, 2009 5:39 pm

    Is it possible that the great persecution of the Church predicted at Fatima will come from American Evangelicals?

    I’ve said it before: Catholic conservatives who ally themselves with Protestant fundamentalists are riding the tiger.

  2. August 29, 2009 6:31 pm

    This very issue, of course, was/is overlooked and/or denied when american Catholic conservatives claim(ed) Sarah Palin as an ally.

  3. August 29, 2009 7:14 pm

    “This very issue, of course, was/is overlooked and/or denied when american Catholic conservatives claim(ed) Sarah Palin as an ally”

    So Catholic Porgrssives don’t like Tebow? I must say on Sturaday nights when “we all the same” I am not seeing much partisan or religious partisship toward him

  4. August 29, 2009 7:19 pm

    “Is it possible that the great persecution of the Church predicted at Fatima will come from American Evangelicals?

    I’ve said it before: Catholic conservatives who ally themselves with Protestant fundamentalists are riding the tiger.”

    I have heard a similar theory. That is from my Seventh day Adventist relatives. That the Catholic Chruch in the final days will chop their heads off. Of course they are ignorant not to see that many of the sameforces are against both Orthodox Catholics and egainst Evangelicals. Who knew such a viewpoint was in Catholic circles too. I expect despite the predictions of the loons in both quarters Catholics and Evangelicals will find themselves at the end togehter. THose that despite their differences Call on the name of Jesus and those that hate his name will oppose both.

    It seems looking at current events that that is more likely than the grand Pat Robinson/ Hagee/ HUckabee or whatever persecution of Catholics

  5. August 29, 2009 7:52 pm

    So Catholic Porgrssives don’t like Tebow? I must say on Sturaday nights when “we all the same” I am not seeing much partisan or religious partisship toward him

    I had not heard of the kid until I read this post. Not much into sports.

    The idea that “we’re all the same on Saturday nights” demonstrates the religiosity of sports. We’re not even “all the same” around the altar, but we sure are when we gather around the tube to watch some advertisements peppered with some shots of quasi-soldiers kicking a ball around. Telling.

    • August 30, 2009 3:35 am

      The idea that “we’re all the same on Saturday nights” demonstrates the religiosity of sports. We’re not even “all the same” around the altar, but we sure are when we gather around the tube to watch some advertisements peppered with some shots of quasi-soldiers kicking a ball around. Telling.

      Very. And yes, it’s very religious. And I expect it is also very political as well (as all which is religious tends to be).

  6. ragekj permalink
    August 29, 2009 11:40 pm

    While I don’t care to defend Protestants preying on poorly catechized Catholics, I don’t see how this post does any good. I’m content now simply to note that Tim Tebow is a young man who takes his faith seriously. Unless he himself has said or done something proving bigotry against Catholics I don’t think this post has a leg to stand on.

    I am a student at the University of Florida who is involved with the St. Augustine Catholic Student Center. During one of our events last year Tim Tebow showed up and spent about a half hour in our general vicinity, watching the goings on in the bounce tent that was part of the Catholic Awareness Week display. Somehow he was able to stifle his urge to condemn us.

    I don’t see how working with conservative protestants to work to promote the cause of life (or the opposition to abortion, if that language is preferable) will end in the loss of our civil liberties to practice our religion. For starters, it’s not even likely to end abortion within the next ten years, even with the support of Catholics.

    Go Gators!

  7. August 29, 2009 11:57 pm

    I’m content now simply to note that Tim Tebow is a young man who takes his faith seriously.

    So what? Randall Terry and George W. Bush take their faith seriously too.

    “Faith” in this sense is a word without content. As liberation theologians have taught us, whether or not one believes in God is not really important. What kind of God one believes in IS important.

  8. Philip W. permalink
    August 30, 2009 9:26 am

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly states that ” Quite early on, the name catechesis was given to the totality of the Church’s efforts to make disciples, to help men believe that Jesus is the Son of God so that believing they might have life in his name, and to educate and instruct them in this life, thus building up the body of Christ.”

    (http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/prologue.htm#I)

    By wearing John 3:16 on his eye black, it would seem that Tebow is endeavoring to fulfill the Church’s highest call, “to help men believe that Jesus is the Son of God.”

    If you watch the video of him speaking to inmates and leading them in the prayer of salvation it is clear that his aim is to introduce Jesus to those who have either not heard the gospel or have not accepted Christ. It does not seem to be his aim to promulgate protestant ideals, i.e. anti-Catholic sentiment.

  9. jdennison permalink
    August 30, 2009 9:49 am

    The orphanage that the Tebows support is in Mindanao in the Philippines. Mindanao and Visayas are the two predominantly Muslim areas in the Philippines that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has sought to establish an independent Islamic state within the Philippines.

    The Tebow family are working in one of the most dangerous areas for Christians within the Philippines. Their efforts are in no way “anti-catholic” but instead are to introduce Christ to those who believe in a combined Muslim/animistic system.

    MILF and Mindanao

    http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&cid=1223905221911&pagename=Zone-English-News%2FNWELayout

    The following article describes how Tebow preaches the Christian gospel in the slums of Mindanao

    http://www.filipinas.inquirer.net/?p=2021

  10. digbydolben permalink
    August 30, 2009 12:08 pm

    The form of Protestant fundamentalism that I was the most recently familiar with was that of New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona. There, the Protestant Christian preachers clearly tell the members of their denominations that Roman Catholicism is not “Christianity,” and that Catholics are not “Christians.” I heard that many, many times during my time living there.

  11. David Raber permalink
    August 30, 2009 12:16 pm

    As Catholics, I hope we can all agree that Protestantism is not OK, no matter how well the ideology of some of them might jive with our own. While we cannot judge the hearts of individual believers, in the big picture we need to realize that Christian disunity is a bad thing–arising from evil and leading to evil.

    Cardinal Newman said that one who studies history ceases to be a Protestant. The thing is, who these days pays much attention history, when life is all about progress and moving ahead? And Americans are extremely parochial. Most Americans are not aware, for example, that the French get damned good health care and most Christians in the world are Catholics. Si it is easy to believe that the mega-church down the road represents “Christianity” in its true and pure form; after all, that nice preacher there assures us it is so.

    The problem on “our side” is that the Church is not serving its people as it should be. If Phillipinos and others are leaving the Church for churches with the little “c,” it is because they are not getting the spiritual food they need nor the fellowship and practical loving care they need in the Catholic Church.

  12. August 30, 2009 12:28 pm

    David – I agree that Christian disunity is “a bad thing” but I don’t think that it follows that Protestantism “is not OK.”

  13. Gabriel Austin permalink
    August 30, 2009 2:10 pm

    Michael J. Iafrate writes August 29, 2009 at 11:57 pm
    “I’m content now simply to note that Tim Tebow is a young man who takes his faith seriously”.

    So what? Randall Terry and George W. Bush take their faith seriously too.

    “Faith” in this sense is a word without content. As liberation theologians have taught us, whether or not one believes in God is not really important. What kind of God one believes in IS important”.

    Sounds quite jesuitical to me. What “kind of God”? What “kind of God” is the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob? Are there several kinds of God? I thought this was all cleared up with the abandonment of Olympus.

    No wonder it is difficult to take the liberation theologians. They sound like politicians and social workers.

  14. August 30, 2009 2:21 pm

    Sounds quite jesuitical to me. What “kind of God”? What “kind of God” is the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob?

    Take it up with God. In the Hebrew scriptures, God was quite concerned to point out what kind of God he was and what kind of god he was not.

    Are there several kinds of God?

    More like there are different kinds of “gods.” Heard of “idolatry”?

    No wonder it is difficult to take the liberation theologians. They sound like politicians and social workers.

    I think the reason that you find liberation theology “hard to take” is probably much much deeper than that.

  15. August 30, 2009 6:13 pm

    Isn’t it rather counterproductive to write with a silver pen into eyeblack ? :P

  16. David Raber permalink
    August 31, 2009 7:16 am

    Michael J.,

    I meant that Protestantism is not OK in the sense that Christian disunity is a bad thing. Or I could say Protestantism is OK, but does not possess the fullness of OKness.

    But seriously, I could foresee a time when certain Protestant churches are united with Rome in terms of holy communion, some sort of recognition of the Petrine ministry, social action, and in other ways too, with the Protestant groups yet retaining much of their organization and character–something like the “uniate” churches today.

  17. August 31, 2009 8:51 am

    In case it was missed, here is the sum of my post: “I am not sure if Tim Tebow is anti-Catholic, but I do know this: the Catholic Church is not fundamentalist.”

    The questions correspond to that point, not to what we think about Tim Tebow or college football.

  18. jdennison permalink
    August 31, 2009 9:05 am

    It may have been your intent to state that the Catholic Church is not fundamentalist, but it was couched in casting a very negative aspersion towards a public figure.

    It also demonstrated what seems to be a bigotry regarding protestants which ultimately casts a very negative light on Catholics.

    Tebow is a young man who has not been able to distinguish himself from his school, or his family, fully because he is a college athlete and is severely restricted in what is able to do and say publicly because of NCAA restrictions. He should be given the benefit of the doubt until who he is and what he believes as a man can actually be determined.

    This post was ill informed and ultimately misguided if your intent was to stir debate if the Catholic Church is “not fundamentalist”.

    We don’t even know how you define “fundamentalist”.

    If you don’t want a discussion regarding Tim Tebow or of college football, for which he is primarily known, then don’t pose a question about him.

  19. August 31, 2009 10:29 am

    You may want to read more than the title of my post. Here is the last third of it:

    “What this means, for me (a son of an evangelist and missionary family), is this: Given the proclivity to mix Dr. James Dobson and Pat Robertson with Mother Angelica and Raymond Arroyo—and the Evangelical-right wing of the Republican party—among many pious Catholics I know, what will it take to realize that those who seem like role models and Christian allies may actually have real and serious reasons to see that the Church be replaced with an fundamentalist evangelical version of Christianity?

    Maybe we can start by wondering how many of the 10 million converts were Catholic Filipinos seduced by Tim Tebow’s celebrity and his father’s fundamentalist mission to save them from the “paganism” of their Church.

    Then, we might wonder why these fundamentalist, Campus Crusade, cousins of the “Chick-Tract” approaches to evangelism pop up in Catholic ministry from time to time (e.g. Life in the Spirit Seminar, Cursillo, and the Charismatic Renewal in general).

    I am not sure if Tim Tebow is anti-Catholic, but I do know this: the Catholic Church is not fundamentalist.”

    So, clearly, “fundamentalist” is the empirical example of Bob Tebow’s ministry. And, as far as information, I never gave a verdict. Remember my final line: “I am not sure if Tim Tebow is anti-Catholic…”

    Reading is a rigorous task (as is writing), but, you will need to do it well to be able to engage in the intent I carried when I wrote it.

  20. August 31, 2009 12:20 pm

    I meant that Protestantism is not OK in the sense that Christian disunity is a bad thing. Or I could say Protestantism is OK, but does not possess the fullness of OKness.

    OK, good to hear. I just think we have to be careful not to say “Protestantism is bad” when what we mean is “disunity is bad.” The Church, on an official level, has moved past the “just come home already” approach to ecumenism. Many Catholics still need to catch up.

  21. digbydolben permalink
    August 31, 2009 4:36 pm

    Well I’m sorry, but I have to disagree with some of the folks here that I normally agree with: Protestantism IS bad because it’s soteriology is based on a fundamental misapprehension of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, which clearly demonstrate that agape-love is more essential for “salvation” (defined as spiritual regeneration, and NOT “pie-in-the-sky-after-you’re dead”) than so-called “faith” is. This fundamental misapprehension of the basic Christian message, which has its origin in certain Pauline epistles and in the writings of Augustine, has persistently subverted Christianity’s transformative power and, indeed, CAUSED its inability to recognise and respect the soteriological efficacy of other spiritual systems.

  22. David Raber permalink
    September 2, 2009 5:51 am

    I think Digby has the main point there. I would put it this way: As Catholics we believe that all good things come from God, including good deeds whether done by Catholics, Protestants, atheists or Zoroastrians. There is that strong (defining?) strain in Protestantism–salvation by faith alone–that says your good deed is trash without the sanction of a God who will save you only if you submit to his arbitrary will. So God is not like a loving father but an authoritarian parent who says, “You will do it because I said so!”

    So Protestantism can be a religion that is disconnected from morality in a fundamental way, which may explain the thinking and behavior of some on the religious right.

  23. S. Murphy permalink
    September 7, 2009 8:53 am

    There’s a strain of Evangelicalism that uses the sacrament of ‘accepting Jesus into your heart as your personal Lord an Savior,’ and believing from that point on that you are Saved, and nothing can change that. This viewpoint is wrapped up in shallow Biblical literalism (often smart people, but shallow theology), an anti-science mentality, and an inability to be professional in the workplace – because professionalism is seen as failure to ‘witness.’ So, bad theology has bad results. Leads to people telling others their loved ones are in Hell, because they weren’t ‘saved,’ and to condemn everybody who doesn’t see the economy of salvation in these particular Crayola colors. This isn’t necessarily true of all Evangelicals, and obviously not of all Protestants.

    If Catholics keep talking to Evangelicals, be it in the pro-life movement or in general, there will be conversion back and forth; but there will probably be a lot of folks ‘who reject the modern ecumenical movement’ who come around to seeing that the Romanists don’t have horns, or the fundies aren’t a theocratic conspiracy, etc. But I think Catholics need to get our point of view across to our Evangelical associates and allies, rather then let them persist in thinking that we’re pagans and Genesis is a science book, and to that extent, I agree (I think) with the caution raised in the post about fundamentalism.

  24. September 8, 2009 6:50 pm

    Murphy, that is a very fair analysis.

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