The Corner

Can Judaism Survive Tim Tebow?

The criticisms of Denver miracle worker and occasional quarterback Tim Tebow have generally come in two varieties: One, he’s a fluke whose success can’t — and maybe even shouldn’t — last. And two, his outward displays of religiosity are at best tacky, and at worst alienating and thus counterproductive. I think the two criticisms are related and, as I’ve written, misguided.

But I’ve never seen somebody go as far as one Rabbi Joshua Hammerman, who argues in The Jewish Week that, er, if Tim Tebow wins the Super Bowl it will result in, um, the burning of mosques and the bashing of gays. For real:

Into the middle of it all rides Tebow.  Absolutely confident that God is on his side, he comes across as a humbler version of the biblical Joseph, who, in this week’s Torah portion, audaciously lays claim to being the Chosen One, and then goes out and proves it.  Tebow’s sanctimonious God-talk has led even pious peers like Kurt Warner to suggest that he cool it. Joseph could have used the same coaching.

If Tebow wins the Super Bowl, against all odds, it will buoy his faithful, and emboldened faithful can do insane things, like burning mosques, bashing gays and indiscriminately banishing immigrants.  While America has become more inclusive since Jerry Falwell’s first political forays, a Tebow triumph could set those efforts back considerably.

The good rabbi is an avowed New England Patriots fan (and thus already suspect), and he argues — again with a straight face — that if the Broncos beat Tom Brady on Sunday it will change the course of the presidential election and radicalize Christians:

People are always looking for signs of God’s beneficence, and a victory by the Orange Crush over the blue-clad Patriots, from the bluest of blue states, will give fodder to a Christian revivalism that has already turned the Republican presidential race into a pander-thon to social conservatives, rekindling memories of those cultural icons of the ‘80s, the Moral Majority and “Hee Haw.” The culture wars are alive and well, and, if the current climate in Washington is any indicator, the motors are being revved up for what will undoubtedly be the most cantankerous Presidential campaign ever.  When supposedly well-educated candidates publicly question overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change and evolution and then gain electoral traction by fabricating conspiracies about a war on Christmas, these are not rational times.

Hammerman even worries — and I really need to emphasize there is no indication of jest — that Tebow’s success will “seduce” Jews into conversion. At the risk of presuming to speak for the Israelites, I think it’s safe to say that over the course of the last millennium or three Judaism has overcome bigger challenges than Tim Tebow.

You should read the whole thing, maybe you pick up some note of parody that I’m missing. You’ll also see Hammerman couches much of his criticism in terms of theological differences between Progressive and Modern Orthodox Jews on the one hand and evangelical Christians on the other. This is a shame, because the piece is not really about religion. It seems instead to be a fairly common, if especially paranoid, instance of a blue-stater being terrified of the hicks.

UPDATE: Seth Mandel has a good post on this over at Commentary. He also points out, perhaps unsurprisingly, that Hammerman is on J Street’s Rabbinic Cabinet.


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