Tebow Vs. Collins – Christianity Is Not Under Attack
I make it a point to try to settle myself and engage in fair and tolerant dialogue with people who have differing opinions from me—especially as they relate to the LGBT community and Christianity as I have strong, meaningful ties to both. I have many friends from my former Christianity-centered life who are still connected to me and I understand where they are coming from most of the time. Plus, I believe that healthy, respectful dialogue and exposure to differing views are the only hope for real change/tolerance/acceptance in our world today.
However, when I woke up one morning this week and saw that this picture showed up 4-5 times on my Facebook newsfeed—I was completely stunned. This photo is not only disturbing to me but it is completely inaccurate AND evidences one of the most upsetting trends coming out of fundamental Christianity today with reference to the LGBT community.
Tim Tebow follows a long line of Christian athletes and coaches in the NFL: Reggie White, Kurt Warner, Joe Gibbs, Tony Dungy, etc. All of these men openly professed their faith and I doubt that any of them would say that they were bashed. I couldn’t find any quotes from them saying that they felt that way. Tebow has been a lightning rod for overall criticism and excitement since he began playing football on the college level. His unconventional and dynamic style of play makes him both exhilarating and frustrating to root for at the same time.
And yes, Tim Tebow is a Christian. He writes Bible verses on his eye black, mentions Jesus at every press conference, and can be seen praying on the sidelines and in the end zone often. In the 2011 season where he helped the Denver Broncos win their first playoff game in several years, Tebow’s faith and expression of it spurned a new social craze called “Tebowing” where people knelt on their knees and put their fists to their heads as if praying. This was as much of a celebration of Tebow as it was a derision.
The issue with Tebow was/is not that he is a Christian or that he expressed his Christian beliefs. It was that he displayed his beliefs so much and so often that people felt as if the beliefs were shoved down their throats and that religion has little to do with football. Even Kurt Warner, arguably the most “out” NFL Christian before Tebow came along, encouraged Tebow to tone down his Christian rhetoric. Warner, instead, advocated for Tebow to spread his faith by how he lives rather than constantly professing his faith and forcing people to hear about it—especially after a football game where religion has absolutely no import.
Does this sound familiar? Where else have we heard an urging for a people group to stop shoving their beliefs in the face of others who disagree? Ironically, this same argument is one that fundamental Christians use to complain about people such as Jason Collins, the NBA player who just came out this week and other openly gay public figures, who have come out and put their sexuality on display in order to spread awareness. Many Christians ask why gay people who come out are celebrated. “Why do they feel a need to make a big deal out of it and shove it down my throat by coming out?” What does sexuality have to do with the law of the land and the constitutional right to marry? It’s the exact SAME argument just couched in different rhetoric.
The disturbing trend that I feel this photo evidences is the view that I’ve heard espoused by many (but not the majority) of Christians that I know which is that Christianity is under attack because of the gay rights movement. Taking of a victim’s posture is new and inaccurate.
Christianity isn’t under attack. The gay rights movement isn’t seeking to take away anyone’s religious freedom or their right to marry traditionally. These things aren’t mutually exclusive. I fear that the defensive rhetoric has risen to such a level in this area that Christians post a picture like this of Tebow/Collins and actually believe that there has been an attack on their faith.
In actuality, Christianity is still one of the leading, if not the leading, religions in America. Yes, Tebow was criticized for the way he displayed his faith but he wasn’t bashed. Generations of LGBT people have been criticized for coming out and advocating for gay rights. They’ve been “bashed” both physically and psychologically. They’ve been called horrible things and had their humanity stripped by the ignorance of others.
None of this happened to Tebow. People just wanted football to be football. For Jason Collins to step out as one of the few openly gay professional sports players is a huge thing. He has risked his career, his relationship with his teammates, his legacy in sports, and even his personal safety in the machismo dominated realm of professional sports. That’s why he’s being celebrated. At the end of the day, Tebow can come down from his podium rest assured that he has the backing of hundreds of millions of Christians behind him as well as the sentiment of most of America.
Christianity isn’t under attack and certainly not by the LGBT movement. Our nation has just become more comfortable expressing the fact that there are other belief systems and other religions that exist in America and that people feel just as strongly about them. That doesn’t mean there is an attack or even a lack of respect for Christians. LGBT people have been more comfortable asking the question: “If I don’t believe in your religion, why should my freedoms be limited by your beliefs?” That is, after all, the very essence of religious freedom.
Apryl Prentiss is a right wing dropout. Born and raised in Virginia Beach, VA and heavily involved in the evangelical Christian community for her entire life. She lives in Richmond, VA with her partner, Adrian, and enjoys trying to dialogue with those in the evangelical community about sexuality.
“I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore.”October 5, 2015
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