Tim Tebow is the winning Denver Broncos quarterback who plays ugly and prays constantly. Tom Tancredo is the retired Republican Colorado Congressman who endlessly speechifies and inevitably offends. Tebow’s dedication to worshiping Christ may only be matched in this world by Tancredo’s dedication to ending illegal immigration. The two are bringing their religions together this Sunday for a “T4” tailgate party, when the Broncos host the Chicago Bears.
The parking lot party is being put on by Keep the Faith – TT, a fundraising organization meant to galvanize support for Tebow’s controversial high-profile public approach to sports and religion. A portion of proceeds go to the Tim Tebow Foundation, a charity that “exists to bring faith, hope and love to those needing a brighter day in their darkest hour of need.” The foundation mostly spends its money battling cancer.
Tancredo, a talk radio regular in Colorado, either as guest or as host, is promoting the event today on KHOW 630 AM’s Caplis & Silverman show.
Tebow is ripe material for talk radio. His overt religiosity has made national news, raising politically charged questions about freedom of expression and faith and the public square. The widespread reaction to his demonstrative Christianity– mostly positive, casually mocking or indifferent– points to a public relatively sympathetic to arguments, now often used as a policy lever on the right, that the United States is a Christian nation, politically as well as culturally. Indeed, in the post 9/11 era, it’s difficult to imagine any American Muslim celebrity wearing his or her faith on their sleeve the way Tebow wears his Christianity.
In fact, that question points to an earlier chapter of Colorado sports history.
In the 1990s Denver was home to Nuggets basketball star Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, a convert to Islam who drew the ire of much of the nation when, out of religious conviction, he decided against standing for the National Anthem before games.
“I won’t compromise my beliefs,” he said at the time. “That’s my stance on it. I didn’t intend to make it a public issue but it’s at that level now. But I won’t waiver in my decision. The Supreme Court even said it’s constitutional to burn the flag, so why give me a problem for not standing? I come to play basketball, so watch me play basketball. I think because I’m in the public, the public eye, I’m visible, it’s easy to target.”
Tebow is winning for the Broncos and so his teammates seem to have accepted for now his routine kneeling exhortations to the New Testament Savior and his anti-abortion TV ads and so on. In U.S. sports as in U.S. politics, however, it’s a given that many of the players pretend to be more Christian than they are.