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Vilified for faith

“Blessed are you when people insult you … because of me.”
Matthew 5:11
It speaks volumes on just how far our society has digressed when a commendable young man like Tim Tebow is vilified by mainstream media for mere public profession of his Christian faith. While we are all too familiar with professional athletes who resort to such detrimental behavior as drunken driving, assault, drug abuse, promiscuity, and abusive language, many in the media have, nevertheless, fixated their primary denunciation on the Denver Broncos’ high profile quarterback.

Tim Utter

Tim’s biography is truly striking. Born to missionary parents in the Philippines, he might well have had no story for us to tell. While carrying her unborn child, Tim’s mother was informed by doctors that they expected stillbirth and recommended an abortion to protect her life. She refused. What an obvious tragic loss — for the entire family — if she had decided otherwise. Today, Tim’s parents run an orphanage in the Philippines where Tim continues to make summer mission trips. The Tim Tebow Foundation he initiated supports numerous charitable projects. Perhaps most significantly, he remains a humble, genuine individual who never responds negatively to his detractors.

In a sane world, Tim Tebow would be placed on a societal pedestal.

Now, in a sane world, Tim would be placed on a societal pedestal. But, as columnist Jen Engel recently said, “What this [media criticism of Tebow] has revealed about religious discourse in America is ugly — that Tebow invites such scrutiny with his willingness to live publicly as he privately believes calls into question what exactly it is we value.”

That’s the kind of guy he is

As Lutherans, we are well aware of the tremendous challenges that our congregations face in outreach programs designed to augment church growth for God’s Kingdom. Meanwhile, Tebow has been uniquely blessed with the marvelous opportunity as an athletic celebrity to complement others’ local outreach efforts. For example, while leading the Florida Gator college football team to the national championship three years ago, Tim inspired more than 90 million TV viewers to google John 3:16 — the scripture reference on his eye black.
Yet the unjust condemnation is relentless. Jen Engel explains further: “We want him to be revealed as a hypocrite or insincere, and when that fails to happen, we settle for gleefully celebrating his failures on the football field.” As Christians who carry a much lower public profile, we are, nevertheless, fully aware of our own personal risks that we take as witnesses to our neighborhood communities and work environments. Perhaps we can take courage from the exemplary conduct of Tim Tebow as we speak boldly, accepting — as often happens — pejorative responses with the same grace and blessing.
Still, it is tragically sad as well as pathetically humorous how so many people — even parents! — feel no hesitation in denigrating this handsome, wholesome, eligible young single man. A former Florida teammate, Mike Pouncey, perhaps put it best: “If I have a daughter someday, that’s the kind of guy I want her to marry.”
Tim Utter is an admissions counselor at Concordia University, St. Paul.

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