Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Time Has Come to Discuss Tim Tebow

Sometimes it feels like there is no opinion I hold that is socially acceptable. I know this is not true, but I often find myself profoundly at odds with many of the people in my life, especially those who hew close to the mainstream. My opinion on Tim Tebow is perhaps the one that is, at the moment, causing me the most stress to my jaw as I grind my teeth.

"But Jess! You do not give a shit about football, or celebrities. Why does Tim Tebow even enter into your consciousness?"

Because I'm a grad student at the University of Florida, is why, and have been since forever. I was here for his entire football career and I have personally witnessed dozens of my friends (and tens of thousands of people) become Denver Broncos fans overnight because he went there after he graduated from UF. Tebow was a superstar quarterback for UF, as I'm sure you already know (if you didn't already know that, we're probably BFFs, or we should be).

Here are two other facts about Tebow:

1. He was a missionary in the Philippines, Thailand, and Croatia. He continues to embrace missionary work through his foundation.

As a friend said on my Facebook wall:
The missionary work he is so beloved for (not that he likes to talk about it) always feels like borderline colonization to me. Here starving child, if you believe in Jesus you can have this yummy food. I mean it works (both in feeding the needy and as a recruiting tactic for extremist and/or terrorist group), and feeding the poor is great but talking to missionaries (including those in my family), oftentimes their help feels conditional and self-congratulatory. That, to me, feels like colonialism.
Another friend pointed out that "it feels like colonialism because it ABSOLUTELY IS." I agree with both of these folks. The missionary work skeeves me out.

2. He works with Focus on the Family. Focus on the Family is a Southern Poverty Law Center-classified hate group. The people they hate the most seem to be queer people (though they reserve quite a bit of ire for people who've had abortions). As I said on Facebook,
his work with FOTF means that I can never like the dude as long as he's not actively recanting and working against whatever contribution he has made to a known hate group consisting of homophobes who want me incarcerated/institutionalized/fired/invisible. I don't care how soft-spoken and handsome the dude is - neither of those things really does it for me anyway - he does not treat his fellow human beings with respect. Good football playing and not being a steroid user or whatever isn't going to override that for me.

Since beginning writing this post, I've been de-friended by someone to whom I expressed, in a way I believe was polite and respectful, the feelings I articulated above about Tebow's work with Focus on the Family. I said to her almost exactly what I said here. People feel intensely strongly about this dude, and I can't even begin to relate to that. There are apparently people in the world who would rather cut off contact with someone than re-evaluate their feelings about a football player they don't even know personally. She didn't even argue with me. I'm not offended, but I'm really confused! What kind of cult of personality issues are going on here?

Anyway. I await the day that Tim Tebow gets over his bigotry and I can like him, too. Until then, I'll be persistent in pointing out that he's homophobic. And don't give me any of that, "I'm sure he doesn't hate gay people himself" thing. He could disassociate from a group that was classified as a hate group because of its work against queer people. He doesn't have to have said the words. His actions speak for themselves.

Tim, we are not speaking.

Image via.


  1. This is all before we get to the SUPERBOWL ADVERT. That ONE SIDED, UNBALANCED PIECE OF CRAP.

    ... I didn't like it, can you tell?

    Now don't get me wrong -- I am truly pleased that both Tim's mother and he survived the dangerous pregnancy. Given the outcome, of course it is great that his mother ignored medical advice and did not have the abortion BUT

    (and damn it, this BUT is so obvious but no one seems to comment on it)

    doctors don't suggest abortion lightly. The MOST LIKELY OUTCOME of that pregnancy was the death of the unborn child and his mother. His mother, who had FOUR OTHER CHILDREN.

    The decision not to abort was immensely selfish. She basically told her children that they didn't mean as much to her as the one still developing in her womb.

    Yes, it all worked out, but we don't applaud people for winning at Russian Roulette, do we?

  2. Also, I find his sort of argument ridiculous, anyway. I might never have been born if European colonists hadn't pushed all the Native Americans onto reservations, to name just one example, but that doesn't change the fact that we shouldn't have done that. Until someone invents a time machine, we don't have to choose between existence and righting past wrongs :\

  3. This is a comment from Alert Reader Bill, who couldn't get the comment to post on his phone:

    I agree with all of this, but do we know that the mission charity operated in a quid pro quo fashion? That is, did they really only help those people who agreed to convert? I find this unlikely-- some missionary groups used to operate this way but it's really uncommon now. Generally, they give out the food and medicine or whatever first, THEN proselytize. I'm not saying this excuses Tebow, and I also have icky feelings about the missionary stuff, but I don't think it's as blatantly icky as you imply. The FOTF connection is damning enough that you don't need to overstate the missionary thing.

  4. Elizabeth and Kyrie: Yeah, that commercial sucked. I remember reading someone - probably Amanda Marcotte - pointing out that he literally silences his mom by attacking her in the commercial. But it's all just supposed to be funny! Haha! Boys like to rough house!

    Bill: I don't know a lot about what, exactly, he did as a missionary. I'm not sure it matters, though. We aren't dealing with an equal playing field, power-wise. He's still the rich famous white American dude (and other missionaries are still often in a more privileged position than the people they are missionizing #notaword) going to another country and handing stuff out. When, precisely, he gets around to the proselytizing doesn't seem to matter. He's in a position of power over the people he's talking to, and no amount of rhetoric on his part is going to change that. I have yet to hear about a style of mission work I'm okay with. It carries a fundamental element of "My way is better than your way and I'm going to talk to you about my way of doing things and you're going to listen, and I have the ability to do this to you." I think we'd live in a better world if people stopped being missionaries and, if they are motivated by a genuine concern for the poor, they could help them with their material needs and put the proselytization energy into opposing the system of global capitalism that is treating enormous numbers of people like shit.

    But, yes. The FOTF work is all it takes, really.

    I expect to lose more friends because of this post.

  5. The Krishna lunch on campus appears to do nothing but provide a cheap, vegetabley lunch option. But I am uncomfortable accepting that option because I am not sure what the organization expects in return. Increased visibility? Converting a few people who appreciate their efforts? Covertly making our diets more "moral" by reducing the amount of meat in it? That uncertainty keeps me away while it wouldn't for someone who is open to Hare Krishna beliefs, and I imagine it could work the same way for the intended recipients of Christian missionary efforts.

  6. Jess, I'm part of this minority with you. Tim Tebow has elicited reactions in me ranging from eye-rolling to creepy crawly vibes to violent nausea. So many people act as though he is the reincarnation of Jesus. The combination of his missionary work (regardless of the nature of it), his connections to FOTF, and the Superbowl advertisement illustrate a way of being in this world that makes oppression look "nice"--and that is unacceptable.

  7. So in a different... but mildly related note... the Christian groups in Japan are SERIOUSLY PUSHY. Like, accost-you-in-the-street-and-try-and-drag-you-to-their-church-now pushy. It goes against everything my mother told me about speaking to strangers.

    This means I've gone from being a randomly-practicing but quite heartfelt Christian to telling people I'm Jewish.


  8. "A way of being in this world that makes oppression look "nice"--and that is unacceptable."


  9. > This means I've gone from being a randomly-practicing but quite heartfelt Christian to telling people I'm Jewish.

    Lol. Also, sad. But also lol.

  10. I find it sad that someone would defriend you over Tim Freaking Tebow. I mean, the whole radical atheist socialist thing seems a far better reason to do so! :)

    That being said, I have no problem, as I mentioned elsewhere, with Tim Tebow and his expression of religion. I am grateful for his contributions to UF, but he sucks as an NFL QB anyway, and he is no Tom Brady. :)
    The Focus on the Family thing is unfortunate and does not say good things about his critical thinking skills. The missionary work, well, he was doing that since he was a child, and I have little difficulty with missionary work, whether Christian or Muslim or any other. My wife's cousins have spent the past four years in a Ghanaian village building houses, teaching, and raising their own kids there. Obviously, I speak from a bias, so take that for what you will.
    Go Gators! :)

  11. I always felt uncomfortable during my time at UF with Tebow's as the public face of UF athletics (and by extension a state-funded university). As most will remember, Tebow is a proud product of home-schooling, which should have only afforded him the right to participate in backyard pick-up games with his family and friends. Instead, because of the constant blurring of the issues of private and public education in the Southeast, Tebow was allowed a waiver to play for his local public high school team, where he was then recruited by UF. Thus, he benefited from the public platform of an institution that Tebow and his parents explicitly rejected because of their reactionary religious views. I'm therefore happy every time the asshole gets sacked for the Broncos.

  12. Dear anyone who tries to comment further on this post: I am not "spewing hate" at Tebow. There is nothing hateful in what I wrote. It's facts about what he does with his life. As I said, he doesn't have to say homophobic things with his own mouth, because he works for a homophobic hate group. I'm not going to dignify "why you gotta be such a hater" comments with publication, as they add nothing to the conversation. Well-reasoned and rational points are welcome. People who see what I wrote as hate-spewing appear to be incapable of making rational points in this case. I didn't say I hate him, I said I'm hoping I get to like him someday. Read more carefully.


  13. I'm not a football fan and for years have found the Tebow idolizing at UF (now spreading to the rest of the country) profoundly disturbing. He is an evangelical Christian poster boy who plays a sport pretty well - not my idea of a proper role model for American youth. But he covers both the 'bread and circuses' and 'holier than thou' crowds - that's why he gets so much air time. It's sad and frustrating. I wish people of substance who want to lift up society were given as much attention.