Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Public Displays of Spirit
Living here on the front range of the Rocky Mountains and being a football fan I am happy that Tim Tebow has come to town. As someone who appreciates a good debate on issues of society, politics and religion I'm even happier. A recent issue of the Wall Street Journal called Mr. Tebow "God's Quarterback", "Tebowing" has become a buzzword and if you needed any further proof that "something's goin' on 'round here" Saturday Night Live has aired a skit that features Jesus giving a pep talk to the Broncos in the locker room. That same skit used the phrase "in people's face" in reference to Tebow's public displays of prayer and that's not the first time people have expressed displeasure, upset or anger about his very open profession and experience of faith. For the record, I thought the skit was pretty funny and I'm willing to concede some use of humor short hand to get a laugh when the actual points are perhaps more complex than a sound bite. What I'm interested in is this idea of "in people's face". I lived for a time in New York City and almost anything that went on was "in your face". Walking down any street I encountered more people engaged in more diverse activities than I do in a week or a month here in Colorado. Now, I loved it and I understand that some people don't. I cherished the closeness of a Baptist church to a mosque in the area of Brooklyn where I lived and the chance that I might hear a solid gospel hymn pouring out of one while the call to prayer sounded from another, considering the sound systems that was really "in my face". I haven't had the chance to meet Tim Tebow (although if he wants to come visit the school where I teach sometime, I know several fourth grade boys who would love to have him play football at recess) so I can't say what he's like in person. If he were to badger me about accepting his particular definition of faith and Christianity (let's remember this is an incredibly diverse religion) being unrelenting in his single minded pursuit of gaining my acceptance of his beliefs then I'd consider that an unpleasant situation and inappropriate for public discourse. But, from what I see that isn't going on. He prays or meditates in public. So do I. As a Quaker, my quiet meditative seeking is a bit more stealthy I'll grant you, but so far no one is telling me that I'm "in their face" about my beliefs. I'm inclined to say "pray on dude!" and why not more people doing the same? I will offer an question or perhaps a challenge to us all however. If you are delighted by Tim Tebow's very public displays of a particular brand of Christian faith, are you willing to express the same joy at seeing someone bow towards Mecca in public? If you profess belief in some divine intervention on the part of the Broncos and are sure it comes from your idea of God, are you willing to accept divine intervention on the part of other's image of God when the brilliant athlete, scientist, musician or whatever is Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, or a member of one of the thousands of different wonderful faiths and practices that make up our world? Or how about this? Tim Tebow has chosen, and I'm sure he'd be glad to tell you about how and why he chose, this particular lifestyle. If he is cheered for public displays of the faith that he chose, would you cheer the public display of affection between loving partners of the same sex who did not choose their orientation but are celebrating who they are at their core? What if we celebrated everyone's expression of who they are? What a wonderful world that could be.