The Corner

The Tebow Phenomenon

Dan has hit it on the head. Tebow’s open display of faith offends many on the left because, unlike so many athletes who start press conferences with “First, I just want to thank God” for whatever it is that they have just accomplished, Tebow actually means it. And it drives many on the left — especially the sports media, which is rife with liberals — batty.

The media’s view of the acceptable role of religion was best summed up by David Gregory recently, when, in an interview with Michele Bachmann, he drew a distinction between “God as a sense of comfort, and safe harbor and inspiration” and a Bachmann actually taking her cues from God. The former, God as New Age guru, is just fine, but if you really start believing that hokum, we have a problem with you. 

What is acceptable to the David Gregories of the world is ceremonial deism. The Pledge of Allegiance and “In God We Trust” is tolerable to many (though not all) who demand a strict separation between Church and State because, as Justice Brennan said in his dissent in Lynch v. Donnelly, “They have lost through rote repetition any significant religious content.” But what’s the point of religion and faith if it is merely ceremonial? Contrary to Brennan’s characterization, lots of Americans actually mean “under God” when they recite the pledge. Those same people don’t want a First Amendment (or a nation, for that matter) that only permits such public displays of affection for God when they are effectively meaningless.

Tim Tebow is so “polarizing” (in the words of some ESPN talking head I heard on my drive to work the other day) because he backs up his faith with sincerity of action. His throwing mechanics as a quarterback isn’t what is driving these commentators nuts. It is his view of prayer as something more than ceremony. 

Shannen W. Coffin is a contributing editor to National Review. He practices appellate law in Washington, D.C.

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