For a country that was founded based on the principle of religious freedom, religion seems to be under fire or at the very least in question these days. From the concern over football player Tim Tebow, presidential candidates Romney, Huntsman, Santorum and Gingrich, media/political classifications of the religious right as evangelicals and the recent controversies over nativity scenes around the country, it would appear that our nation’s opinion of religion has moved from a nation of believers to one of skeptics.
Tebow is the second year professional quarterback for the Denver Broncos. A Heisman Trophy winner, Tebow was highly criticized for his lack of professional skills, but when given the chance to play this year he remarkably helped his team into the NFL playoffs with a series of last minute heroics. Last week his team beat the heavily favored Pittsburgh Steelers in an overtime game in the first round of the playoffs. Tebow is very vocal about his beliefs and frequently drops to one knee to give thanks to God. His outward visible expression has been copied by many and the pose has been termed “Tebowing.” The media has focused heavily on his strong show of faith and the credit he gives God as part of his success.
Recently, NBA Hall of Fame player and current commentator Charles Barkley termed Tebowmania as a “national disaster.” The Broncos were crushed last week by the New England Patriots, bringing an end to Tebow’s season and removing him from the national spotlight, at least for now.
In the case of presidential candidates Romney and Huntsman, questions about their religious beliefs center more around an overall lack of understanding of the Mormon faith. While Romney and Huntsman attempt to better define their religious beliefs, Gingrich has had to explain his conversion to Catholicism after marrying his third wife. The Catholic Church has taken a very strong stance against divorce, but since Gingrich wasn’t previously married in the church, it doesn’t recognize those marriages. Santorum, also a Catholic, has aligned his faith beliefs with his public life and political positions. Last week a group of Evangelical leaders met in Texas to throw their support behind the conservative Santorum.
For a nation that expresses a tolerance for one’s religious beliefs, we seem overly sensitive to ones expression of faith. I find it hard to believe God cares one way or another who is the victor in a football game. And while players over the years in all sports have displayed many signs and gestures of thanks to their supreme being, it seems odd that such a fervor has been created around Tebow’s actions.
The national media who controls the news agenda sees these actions as worthy headlines. Their role should be one of assisting to create tolerance and understanding, instead of creating labels and conflict between those of different faiths and beliefs.
It’s just my opinion, but I don’t think God is a scorekeeper nor does God choose to take sides in sporting events and God’s favor can’t be garnered for political gain. God is not waiting to seek vengeances at those who error in their ways. It is my opinion that God judges us by the entire body of our lives and not hour by hour nor day by day. I hope God considers what’s in a person’s heart, the way they conduct their lives and lessons they learn from life and how they go about correcting the errors made along the way.
And that is exactly the way we should address issues of faith as well as those of non-belief. As individuals in this country we should be able to practice our faith as spelled out in the Declaration of Independence: “that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” provided that faith does not seek harm to others. Just as non-believers should be able to pursue their beliefs without insisting their rights trump those of faith. We should all be judged on how we conduct our lives and how we treat others and not apply labels to individuals or groups that create conflict within our society.
Dan Alexander is publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org