Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tebow, tolerance and the NFL. (and a litle bit of faith)

I've been thinking about this for not only days, since the Denver/Pittsburg game, but really for weeks and months...since the whole "Tebow becomes the starting QB for the Broncos" headline came out.

What has caught my attention is just how much attention he has received. To be honest, in the beginning, I wasn't a big Tebow fan, only because he was from U of Florida and they are the "we win everything" school and that just annoys me. But what I find facinating now, is what I see written about him everywhere. It seems a few extremes.

On Facebook, social networking sites, and other commentary written by just regular people on news stories, there is a lot of hate out there for the man. Lots of nasty sentiment and "down with Tebow." There are many Tebow lovers out there too, but I am surprised by how many intensely negative feelings exist and what appears to be why.

The why of the hate...because he is a man of faith and is open about it. He believes in something, acknowledges it, prays openly, makes gestures towards heaven, talks about it openly, etc. Now, as a Christian myself, I have no qualms about it. But I also get very frustrated about how some Christians shove their faith down peoples throats, telling people their going to hell, how to live their lives, and are intolerant of differences. And I personally have not seen that in the man (not that I know him personally, just going by my observations). Just because he acknowledges something he believes, I don't see him force feeding anyone anything.

Additionally, from what I have seen and read, he has gained much respect from his teammates and other professionals in the league for his genuineness, positive attitude and natural leadership. Any interviews I have read, he appears humble, never hates back at those who criticize him, and never blames anyone else for his mistakes or losses.  I know he isn't perfect, but who is?

Here is what bothers me the most. While there is a guy garnering lots of negative publicity about believing in something and adhering to a religious faith of somesort, somehow the media or naysayers conveniently overlook all of the guys who do the following: beat their wives/girlfriends, rape women, kill/harm animals, sell drugs, shoot people (or themselves) in nightclubs, or complain about how their 5 million dollar contracts are not enough. They might make the news for a day, but then all is forgotten.

We can overlook and be tolerant of violent crimes, hate, hurt, entitlement and greed. But we certainly cannot tolerate or overlook someone who has a religious faith!

The counselor in me wants to understand why. But that part of me also feels like I already know the answer. Someone close to me describes it as the world just "going to hell in a handbasket". I'm not quite on that bus. Without trying to sound cocky or overly-pscyhoanalytical, I think that people tend to push against what they don't understand or what their own insecurities are. Perhaps Tebow makes people uncomfortable, because either they don't understand where he's coming from or because something or someone about religion or faith or God has hurt them in the past.

Sadly, in my opinion, religion has hurt people. When it is taken away from what it was meant to be. I actually am not a fan of the word "religion" for various reasons, but to me it is/should be synonymous with "spirituality" and "faith" and I believe we all are as much spiritual as we are physical, emotional, intellectual, social, etc. Faith is meant to be for all people, fill people with love, compassion, life, healing, hope, meaning,  values, connection to something greater than yourself and other people. Too often, broken people (and aren't we all broken to some degree?) have used it to protect themselves, hurt others, control others and separate, divide and degrade others.

Its my hope that Tebow can be consistent and live out the faith he prescribes too, especially being in the spotlight. But for me, it is a hope that I can be the same. That I not be the one who hurts others, but the one who shows the love, sincerity and compassion of the God I claim to believe in, and create a better quality of life for all around me. Making THAT the norm... instead of hate and hurt.

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