TUPPER: ‘Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it’Some people are instinctively annoyed by Tim Tebow, the ultra-religious quarterback who recently led the NFL’s Denver Broncos on a six-game winning streak (the streak ended with a loss Sunday).
Some people are instinctively annoyed by Tim Tebow, the ultra-religious quarterback who recently led the NFL’s Denver Broncos on a six-game winning streak (the streak ended with a loss Sunday).
By all accounts, Tebow is a nice guy, and it should be gratifying when nice guys succeed.
Yet some people are put off by him, and they don’t quite know why.
The reason, I believe, is a divide between the brand of religion Tebow seems to practice and the brand of religion practiced my millions of other Americans. The reason we can’t seem to recognize the divide is because many of us don’t like to talk openly, or even think openly, about religious matters.
Tebow’s brand of religion seems to assert that because he lives right and believes right, God rewards him with football glory. It’s a belief system sometimes referred to as the “Prosperity Gospel,” and Tebow, whether he intends to or not, preaches it every time he kneels to pray after a touchdown.
The Prosperity Gospel sounds great at first blush, but upon closer analysis, it becomes problematic for a thinking believer.
Consider all the people who believe just as fervently as Tebow and act just as righteously, yet don’t succeed. There are millions in this category, including people who are unemployed, people who are starving, people suffering in abusive relationships, and people stuck in destructive behaviors. If they believe and act as their preachers demand, why don’t they achieve Tebow-like success?
If you carry the Prosperity Gospel to its logical conclusion, there are only two things you can believe about those equally righteous yet less-fortunate believers: God is ignoring them, or worse yet, has chosen them to suffer.
Some Christians simply reject that kind of thinking about God, choosing to instead believe that not everything is God-controlled.
Even among people who believe in an all-powerful God, there are those who scoff at the notion of God meddling in the outcome of football games. If God is singling out Tebow for help, what does that say about the players on the six teams the Broncos defeated during their winning streak? Again, carrying the Prosperity Gospel to its logical conclusion, you’d have to say God doesn’t like those players as much as God likes Tebow.
A lot of people don’t believe God discriminates that way. What kind of God, after all, would help a quarterback win a football game while doing apparently nothing to stop wars, famines and natural disasters affecting other people all over the world?
People in those dire situations need God’s help a lot more than Tebow. He already has years of practice and a top college pedigree. Throw in a bit of luck, and voila — you’ve got a handy explanation for a six-game wining streak. No divine intervention needed.
Remove luck from the equation, though, and Tebow might suffer a six-game losing streak. Should we then assume he’s been forsaken by God? Some may. Many of us will simply affirm that in life and football, things happen.
A scene from the classic and profound Western movie “Unforgiven” illustrates the point. Gene Hackman’s character, Little Bill Daggett, is lying on the floor, wounded from a gunfight and awaiting a fatal shot from Clint Eastwood’s character, William Munny.
“I don’t deserve this, to die like this,” Daggett pleads.
Munny utters this retort: “Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.”
The scene is a grim representation of a simple truth: Bad things can happen to seemingly good people, and vice versa. Divine intervention, if it exists, doesn’t always show up and isn’t something we control.
In other words, life is not as simple as Tebow’s winning streak or the Prosperity Gospel seem to indicate. Living and believing a certain way doesn’t guarantee success or abolish failure.
That’s a gut-level belief for many people, including me, and it’s precisely why so many of us were annoyed by Tebow’s winning streak. For a span of six games, he made it seem like we were wrong.