The intersection of politics and religion has been trouble enough. We have candidates piously crediting God with their decisions to run for higher office. We have religion-based bigots getting creeped out because former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is Mormon, or attacking President Obama, wrongly claiming he is Muslim. We have a candidate who threw over two wives for other women—including one he was involved with while attacking former President Clinton for having a sexual relationship with a woman not his wife—then cleansing himself with conversion to Catholicism.
It's tiresome, especially for those of us who were raised by non-practicing Unitarians and are presuming we're headed for Hell anyway (if we believed in Hell). But the religious tests and slurs in politics are becoming far more tolerable than the display of religion in sports.
How much did we really need to hear about Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow's relationship with Jesus Christ? The kneeling, the praying, the pre-professional practice of putting references to biblical verses in the eye black players wear to defect the sun—does this really have to be part of the athletic spectacle? Tebow's a terrific quarterback, though hardly the best in the league. If his faith gives him direction and comfort in his life—and even the focus to perform on the football field—that's wonderful. And for people who are passionately religious, it may seem wrong not to share that faith and joy with the world. But there's a point where the display becomes a little sanctimonious and a tad self-centered.
Did Jesus want Tebow to succeed? Did he want to reward the home-schooled athlete for appearing in an ad for the conservative group Focus on the Family? That could explain Tebow's resurrection of the Broncos five games into the season, but it hardly accounts for the back-to-back pick sixes Tebow threw against the struggling Buffalo Bills—and on Christmas Eve, no less. There's a rootable quality to the team, but somehow, I think Jesus might have more important issues on his plate: disease, maybe. War. Poverty. Not to mention all those people attacking each other verbally and physically over differences in religious beliefs. It's enough to make you root for the New England Patriots.