Tebow mania… I don’t get it… and I don’t think many other people get it either, much less the ones who are actually maniacal about it all. He’s not that great of a quarterback, at least not yet; of course, that’s not the reason people are wild about him anyways.
It’s because he’s a Christian. And how he goes about being a Christian is iconic. There are plenty of Christians in the NFL, but they aren’t star quarterbacks, nor do they have a pose, so they don’t stand out.
But I’ll be honest, I don’t think it’s because he has Christian faith, or his position as quarterback. I do think it’s about his iconic way of going about his Christian faith.
It’s not that simple, though.
Tebow mania is due in part to America’s culture of celebrity, Christian culture’s complete inability to get away from it and bad theology. And just for good measure, I’ll throw in the lack of sufficient Christian role models.
America has an obession with celebrities. Do I need to go more into that? Is it not painfully evident? TMZ, Perez Hilton, all pay homage to it, even the evening news does and, to think, it used to be only ET that was our source for celebrity uselessness; of course it all started with a crappy paper in 1843. This is a problem, and I’d love to briefly analyze it sometime, but not now. Tebow awaits.
But nonetheless the problem with American culture is that it’s like a virus, for it good or bad (in this case bad). I remember being in South Africa and being quizzed about whether or not I knew certain celebrities, which of course I did not, and being surprised at the infatuation of a few guys of 90’s gangsta rap. Surprised because when it was big, these guys were like 5 years old. I myself was around 10 and was aware of it only because it was on the radio.
So, the culture spreads… everywhere. Especially into Christian culture, the unanalytical side of it. I’m all for satire… but I have a hard time seeing much of Christian culture as satirical counterculture. It’s more or less just assimilating culture carte blanche and then reinterpreting it to suit its purposes. Ever seen those “Abreadcrumb and Fish” shirts? It resembles a brand… I’ll let you guess as to which. But there’s a whole line of Christian t-shirts that are parodies of big named corporate brands, from Coca-Cola and Hershey’s to Sony.
Christianity is good at this. Always has been, it comes from its from their Jewish roots. (I won’t fully substantiate the claim for it would be a huge long rabbit hole, but I will say Ancient Near Eastern sources bear a lot of resemblance to numerous Scriptural sources.)
But why does it occur? This is a Pyscho/social question and any reasoning I’m about to give is pure conjecture, but I think it can trace back to its common historical usage. In other words, its in Christianity’s genes, and Christianity is surprisingly good at it. It’s also a survival mechanism that’s a lot easier to utilize than working through disillusionment. That is, it’s a lot easier to reinterpret culture to suit one’s needs than it is to wrestle with a disillusionment over a culture that you are of and cannot truly leave.
Thus, this assimilation has occurred with the American celebrity culture. It’s just taken it and celebritized people who fulfill the role of ideal Christian, as opposed to ideal American. Alas, Tebow fits the bill of an ideal Christian, much in the same way that a great pastor does, or evangelist, or business owner, etc. So instead of trying to be like Snooki, Britney, Steve Jobs, or numerous others, Christians strive to be like John Piper, Tim Tebow, Truett Cathy, and so on.
Of course, the fact that the culture celebritizes people sheds light on what it think resembles the fulfillment of Christian living. In the case of Tebow, its giving glory to God when something beneficial happens in ones life… even if that means doing it in front of hundreds of thousands of people in person or on TV… a take of being unashamed of the Gospel. Tebow is bold about his faith and doesn’t care, which makes him a GREAT Christian.
Well this is just bad theology coming to light. What makes a good Christian, according to the culture, is a person’s evangelical fervor, of which they go about in a devil may care attitude. That’s what boldness is, and people idolize this because they don’t have the confidence and surety to do so. And since we don’t know much else about Tebow but this and his mission work, this is what is being idolized and this is what the idea of a good Christian is.
I’m sure, however, that, when pressed on the issue, any Tebowite would deny such a thing and their thought out theological framework would arise, but clearly it’s not the working assumption, because, if it was, they’d idolize someone else, or go about their lives in a completely different manner. So, even though there is a different doctrinal theology that is probably a better theology, it still needs to make the jump to a living theology.
Another theology comes to light in this as well, prosperity gospel. This is one that would definitely be shot down my most everyone charged with the accusation, but again the living theology leads me to believe that this holds true: A Christian is blessed by success from God when they fulfill and live out their Christian duty. If one can just do what Tebow does, they’ll meet success just like Tebow has. It’s related to same assimilation concept, be sexy like Kim Kardashian and you’ll get popularity and hot guys.
I’ll add one last idea that is unrelated to my prior line of thinking: lack of role models. I think there is an utter dearth of competent Christian role models, which drives the need of Christian celebrity. If there is no one to look up to and say, “Yeah my mom/dad (or Mr/Ms. so-and-so), that’s the kind of Christian I want to be.” There can still be famous role models, but the power of celebrity won’t be driving it and I think with that the inherit bad theology has nothing to cling to establish itself. But the problem is Christian role models are hard to come by because all Christians are sinners. Granted this is the theological reality, but the problem is that Christians are all sinners but don’t know it or wrestle with it. The very thing that should be being modeled is not, and eventually one begins to see everyone as flawed and on even terms, cause “nobody’s perfect”.
So, because there are no role models near, sought out is someone distant and there’s no modeling their either, because how could there be? Oy vey!