The Business Of Proselytizing
By Liam Fox
It’s the biggest game of the year and much of the media coverage is being focused, not at the athletes on the field, but on one who isn’t even in their league. College football phenom Timmy Tebow is going to get 30 seconds of pad free air time to honor the two most controlling factors in his life: his mother and his god. The right wing conservative Christian organization, Focus on the Family, is paying an estimated $2.5 million for an ad on CBS to use Tim Tebow’s noteriety as part of their ongoing anti-choice, anti-gay agenda. The apparent message in this ad is that, when faced with a dangerous medical prognosis, pregnant mothers should ignore physicians advice and put themselves and their child at risk. Pam Tebow told ESPN that she now has a national platform to spread her message and encourage women to trust her god with their lives.
This religiously charged saga started twenty five years ago when Tim’s father, a seminary graduate and professional preacher, decided that he should move his family to the Philippines and save all the Filipino heathen. The family’s ministry website(1) states that most Filipinos, approximately 60%, have never even heard the teachings of Christianity and that their mission work is critically important. Apparently, and once again according to their website, they must hurry and spread their god’s word while the country is still poor and open to their message. However, The Pew forum(2), as well as a Philippine national web site(3), both state that the countries Christian population is over 92% in a heavily Roman Catholic society.
This is an extremely large discrepancy, certainly more than a statistical anomaly. The Philippines say that they are a country with a much higher percentage of their population being Christian than the United States yet the Tebow’s would have us believe its a godless wilderness in need of their brand of Christian teaching. The country has been under catholic influence since Spain was plundering and colonizing there in the sixteenth century. Do they really need more Christian influence or are the Tebow’s simply funding their family business and their own ideological agenda? It seems to me that it would be very difficult for the Tebow’s to procure funding from Christians to convert a Christian country to Christianity. This would be like trying to raise money to promote football to all the season ticket holders. It’s a little easier to raise that money if other Christian fundamentalists were convinced of a true mission to spread ‘the word’ in a land void of Christianity. From the outline on their website, this ministry is not a service but simply a spreading of Christian teachings; a spiritual PR firm. There are five priorities for the Bob Tebow Evangelical Association. Numbers one through four are evangelizing, building churches, training pastors and training youth to be evangelical pastors and then, priority number five, is a small orphanage in Mindanao where 50 children are cared for by hired helpers. The orphanage was funded by Richard Fowler, a friend and convert of the Tebow’s, and a beqeathal from his estate. This orphanage provides some good-works credibility to a family organization that seems driven by theological and doctrinational imperialism.
Evangelizing is the Tebow family business. This is what they do for a living. All five children, of whom Tim is the youngest, have been co-opted into this work from a very young age and remain involved to this day. Tims parents are proud fundamentalist zealots. There has been little doubt regarding what Tim was going to do with his life. Tim’s success in football has just presented a fantastic PR and fund raising tool. Bob, Tim’s father, says that while he was preaching in the Philippines 23 years ago, he asked god for a preacher son. Miraculously, or maybe just because he had sex with his wife, Tim was conceived. Pam, Tim’s mother, contracted a serious infection and had a placental abruption that threatened both her unborn son as well as her own life. She refused the doctors advice and insisted on carrying Tim to term. Fortunately she and Tim both survived his birth on August 14 of 1987 in Manila. Ever since then, Mr. Tebow has had both his helpmeet wife and his miraculous preacher son to help him evangelize a nation with a higher percentage of Christian devotees than the United States. With this sort of logic I have to wonder if they had anything to do with sending the solar powered bibles to the earthquake victims in Haiti.
As would any good fundamentalists, Tim’s parents chose to homeschool from kindergarten through grade 12 because they wanted control over his education and his influences and wanted all things to coincide with their doctrine and belief system. Tim’s father, in an interview with Homeschooling Teen(4), stated “If I could get my kids to the age of 25 and they know God and serve God and had character qualities that pleased God, then I knew God would be happy and I would be happy,…The only way I could do that was to do it myself, commit to God that this is my job…Traditional academics had to take a back seat to God’s Word and character building.” According to their history and bios, Tim, and all his siblings, seem to be doing a very good job living the lives that their parents have meticulously scripted and controlled. I’m not sure what pressure his elder siblings may have faced but it would seem that growing up in such a closed and controlled system would not have left many opportunities for investigation and self-discovery. As for Tim, how could he say no? His mother risked her life for him and for the glory of her god, and he is reminded of that constantly.
According to his parents, Tim, their youngest little miracle, became a born-again Christian at the age of six. That’s right, by the age of six little Timmy had a thorough enough grasp of Christian Fundamentalist doctrine that he was able to commit his life. Through a home schooling program that focused as much on public speaking as it does on biblical education, Tim was prepared and began preaching to large crowds by the age of 15. These large crowds in the Philippines were arranged through his fathers ministry, the very same ministry through which Tim has done so many of his good works that we hear so much about in the media. Tim has spent his entire young life in a relatively closed environment being convinced of his mission, his debt to his mother and her god, and his destined role in the family business/ministry. Isn’t it a wonderful for Tim that he can completely dedicate himself to his parents agenda and offer so much assistance with fund raising.
Every decision in Tims football career has been weighed against his role as an evangelical preacher. A platform and podium for Tim to speak and proselytize from is very important. He stayed, or was perhaps persuaded to stay, an extra year in college ball rather than go pro. In an interview with Jason Fagone of Slate(5), Tim spoke of how he had a larger platform to speak from, staying with the Gators for another season, than if he became a much smaller fish in the ocean of the NFL. Football is not the goal, it’s only the means. Tim is to be a preacher. That is what his father asked for and that is exactly what his father has worked very hard to create. As Jason Fagone observes, “the (Super Bowl) commercial isn’t a means; it’s the end.”
Tim now has his own foundation(6) that, not surprisingly, works in all the same areas, doing all the same things as his parents Evangelistic Association. What a coincidence. The stated mission of the foundation is “to bring faith, hope and love to those needing a brighter day in their darkest hour of need”. Right next to an introductory video of Tim asking for donations is a link so that you can give those donations and help with the important work of brightening peoples days through the spreading of fundamentalist Christian doctrine.. The website outlines many of Tim’s goals for future fund raising and evangelizing.
So, when you are watching the Super Bowl today and Pam Tebow and her son Timmy appear on the screen trying to influence Americans against pro-choice legislation, remember that you are watching a very young, meticulously groomed evangelical fundamentalist who happens to be a great college football player and not a football player who happens to be devoutly religious. This is what he is has been trained for all his life. Welcome to prime time Tebow Evangelical Ministries, using football to get your future tithes and offerings and reminding pregnant mothers that they too could make a martyr’s gamble and end up with their very own gratefully subservient and completely controllable miracle child. That is, as long as they don’t kill themselves and their unborn child in the process. Amen.
This is the seventh article in a new daily series on News Junkie Post known as the Progressive Unity Project. Each day, there will be a new article published from the perspective of the environment, labor, LGBT, immigration, science, legalization, or secularity. About the weekly contributor on SecularSunday:
Liam Fox Is a Secular Humanist active as a Human Rights Advocate, Social Justice Activist, and Climate Justice proponent. He is a Social Service Worker and Community Program Organizer as well as Musician and Public Speaker. Liam can be found in most places the web connects and also writes for IrreverenceCafe and his home site, and can be found on Twitter.
“Irreverence is the champion of liberty and its only sure defense. True irreverence is disrespect for another man’s god.” – Samuel Langhorne Clemens
(1) – http://btea.org/
(2) – http://pewforum.org/world-affairs/countries/?CountryID=163
(3) – http://www.philippines.hvu.nl/culture1.htm
(4) - http://homeschoolingteen.wordpress.com/2009/04/18/homeschooled-teen-profile-tim-tebow/
(5) – http://www.slate.com/id/2242960/
(6) - http://www.timtebowfoundation.org/