It says a great deal about the depths to which America’s values have fallen that Tim Tebow--who, once upon a time, would have been the wholesome, women-and-mom-respecting, clean-playing, fresh-faced and faithful Hollywood ideal of a football hero—is the target of such deep derision from so many sources, and in an era of such vaunted “tolerance.”
Although it may seem too easy to some, I blame the baby-boomers—a generation so in love with deconstructing old standards (and so completely neurotic about being perceived as anti-establishment, smart, and most of all, cool) that it only can express full-on admiration for the anti-heroes. Were Tim Tebow using his on-camera time to swagger and preen and lecture the nation on green energy, greedy millionaires, and gun control, his Christ-fixation would not only be permitted, it would be held up as a gaudy rebuke to uncool Christians everywhere, and his pronouncements—as long as he kept his mouth shut on abortion and gay marriage—would never be challenged.
Just as green-grabbing, millionaire musicians are never asked why the masses should give up their meager comforts to save the planet, while they themselves are permitted to grow ever-richer from their energy-hogging concert tours, Tebow could play a brightly-lighted night game every week and take a knee five times a yard to nothing but cheers, if only he embraced this year’s anti-establishment, smart, and cool narrative.
That’s unlikely to happen, partly because Tebow—like many more people of faith than the stereotypes will admit—seems largely uninterested in dictating to others how they must live their lives, but also because the prevailing bureaucratically correct narrative is so convoluted. Apparently it is fine to pursue one’s potential, and even turn a profit, if one is writing autobiographies, doing a little insider trading, cheating on taxes, marrying well, being an athlete, being an artist, exploiting a job created just for oneself, running a federal entity into the ground, or taking a bonus from said grounded entity, as long as one holds the correct views or has curried the correct connections.
Absent those views and connections, one may still pursue one’s potentialities. But the pursuit must be unselfish, co-operative, and not-for-profit if it is to remain above suspicion and go unmolested by a growing resentment—one being cultivated by the dream-deferrals that come with thwarted opportunity, nourished by the red meat of class-war rhetoric and readied-for-combat.
It’s a puzzling thing, though. If unselfishness, co-operation, and bare profits were truly prized by the narrative builders, then monasteries would be heralded as authentic models of the doctrine of “fairness” and practical solutions to our socio-economic dolors; people would be encouraged to dedicate their educations, their talents, and their monies to help grow and sustain them. Ditto for parish outreaches, faith-based job-training programs and soup kitchens; church-administered hospitals, substance abuse programs, and crisis pregnancy centers.
All of these entities pursue justice and fair distribution. All of them serve without seeking profit; they serve without requiring allegiance; they do not require that those they serve conform to their beliefs. All they ask, in return, is the same consideration—that they be permitted to be who and what they are, and not be required to conform to the beliefs of others.
Some believe that is asking too much.
The people who talk a good game about freedom and service and fairness—usually reserving their most ardent rhetoric for the $30,000 per-table fundraisers—never seem willing to promote the monastic ideal though, and they don’t refer to the soup kitchens and outreaches, the church-administered hospitals or training and recovery programs as models of anything except, sometimes, intolerance.
Perhaps they’re afraid that if people became more familiar with (and supportive of) such programs, they would be less ready to look to government for direction, or social engineering, or class co-operation, or any sort of empowerment. Rather they would be finding it within their own communities; they would be actively working with others in building up the whole, rather than preferred portions—in pursuing potentialities both individual and collective.
In such a case, the government of man would necessarily recede into the background, and what is divine might come to the fore.
That would be unacceptable to the people who still believe, by sheer force of fantastic conceit, that they are anti-establishment outsiders—courageous adversaries of conformity who still manage, somehow, to always be in lock step with the message of the day; the people who say all the “smart” things and automatically adopt all the “correct” positions, because they are so terrified of being excluded from that crowd of busy moralizers to whom they are accountable, as they would never deign to be accountable to a Creator.
Tim Tebow, in all of his corn-fed, God-glorifying, prison-preaching, hospital-building, tolerance-defining authenticity models a different way, a different mindset, one that conforms not to times or trends but to testaments and traditions.
How utterly terrifying he is.
Elizabeth Scalia is the Managing Editor of the Catholic Portal at Patheos and blogs as The Anchoress. Her previous articles for "On the Square" can be found here.
Tebow and Culture Wars
What Welfare States Could Learn from Monasteries
Tim Tebow's Vocation
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