In case you have not heard yet…there is a debate raging in the popular press and on the internet about whether God cares about American football contests.
This debate has reached a fever pitch, in part, because of the personality of Denver Broncos Quarterback and outspoken evangelical Christian, Tim Tebow. Tebow’s football CV includes being a Heisman trophey winner, a two-time college national champion, and a first-round NFL draft prospect.
In fairness, Christian football QBs are not a new trend in the NFL. For example, in the mid-90s Danny Wuerffel, also a University of Florida QB and Heisman Trophy Winner, was a fourth round draft pick of the New Orleans saints and played three seasons before moving on to the Green Bay Packers and then NFL-Europe. Wuerffel was just as outspoken as Tebow, even starting his own evangelical ministry in New Orleans. However unlike Tebow, Wuerffel never played for and won for such a high-profile, playoff team. And Wuerffel never established the platform that Tebow has at the current moment. Likewise, Roger Staubach (My dad’s favorite player) was a committed Catholic christian, was a Heisman trophy winner in college, and won in the NFL in the 1970s. But Staubach preferred a more private religious persona than Tebow.
The juxtaposition of Tebow, Staubach, and Wuerffel indicates a relatively new category of Christian athlete:
Football + Private Faith + Winning is a known category. See Roger Staubach.
Football + Public Faith + Losing is a known category. See Danny Wuerffel.
However, Football + Public Faith + Winning . . . What are we to make of this.
This new trifecta has prompted a chorus of media outlets asking the dubious question, Does God Really Care About Football?
This question bothers me for a number of reasons.
- It assumes a limited god. Many of the responses go as follows: Why would God care about football when there are more important issues out there such as poverty, injustice, war, and disease. This is a fine response–if God is somehow limited to only being able to manage a few problems at a time. Why would God care about football (when He is limited to only caring about the most important questions)? But as my friend Owen rightly listed in a recent Atlantic article, the Biblical God is not a limited God. He is able to manage everything with total controal at all times. Thus, the idea of football verses poverty is a false alterative. God can mange both with excellence at the same time. And he can do an infinite number of other things at the same time. And BTW: This is the God that Tim Tebow brags about after every win and loss.
- It assumes that God was not involved in the invention of football. For the record, I am not suggesting that God directly invented football. But, if God is in charge of the universe–which the Bible says that He is–and if football is within the framework of the universe, then He is in someway involved in the creation and sustaining of football. He allows it to function. He does not make the NFL league go away (Like the USFL did). He either directly orders or chooses to not limit the details of teams and players. So, of course God cares about football. Wins and losses and teams and players are all under the watchful care of God. If he wanted it to end, He would end it. Period. That it is still going and bringing entertainment value to fans is all under the hand of God.
- It assumes that God has little to do with the people involved. Whether the players expressly love God or whether the coaches are committed and consistent atheists or whether the service workers are somewhere in-between, God loves them all. So yes, God wants the people involved with football to have salaries and to be excellent in their jobs and to advance in their careers.
So yes, God does care about football. And yes, God does care about Tim Tebow, Danny Wuerffel, and Roger Staubach. He cares that Tebow wins and loses and ties. And he cares that Tom Brady wins and loses and ties. And he cares about J.D. Walton (center for the Broncos). And he cares about Kelly Woodward (Director of Community Development for the Broncos). And he cares about Korbett Roberts (The Denver Bronco’s biggest fan in Waco).
Oh, and God cares about everything and everyone in His universe. I think Tim Tebow’s favorite verse (John 3:16) says it best:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have ever lasting life.”