Tuesday, November 22, 2011
The Tebow Effect
Tim Tebow is an anomaly - in more ways than one. Although he plays quarterback for the Denver Broncos, he seems to run as much as he passes. (For those of you not familiar with the National Football League, a quarterback traditionally throws the ball much more than he runs with it.) And when he does throw, he has an unorthodox throwing motion. As a result, many sports analysts dislike him as an NFL quarterback. But the criticism doesn't end there. You see, Tebow is also a religious Christian whose values influence his conduct both on and off the field. As a result, many people dislike him as a person.
Just to be clear, this blog in no way endorses any theology other than that of Judaism, but it also focuses on common decency. One of the unique aspects of Judaism is that the Torah compels us to focus on this world - not on the afterlife, as well as on good behavior - not on ideological agreement. Therefore, it seems quite fitting to address the hatred directed at this young man as a way of learning how to behave more appropriately. As will be noted, the kind of hatred taking place here is nothing new, but it's also something that needs to be eliminated.
One of the most destructive character traits is to hate someone for who they are. In fact, this was precisely the kind of behavior that led to the destruction of ancient Jerusalem. It's called sinat chinam. While the common translation of sinat chinam is "baseless hatred," it can also mean "hatred of their grace." In other words, every individual is endowed with a certain "grace" (i.e. distinct personality traits that make them who they are). As long as that individual acts ethically, there's no justification to hate that which makes them unique - whether it's their level of religiosity or simply their choice of profession. Ultimately, this kind of hatred is an affront to God because He created the uniqueness of that individual.
With so much real evil to hate in the world, it's absurd to critique all the subjective differences that exist among people of goodwill. In this case, Tebow's theology may be wrong, but his behavior and values are right. In a day and age in which professional athletes tend to focus on themselves, here is a guy who wants to focus on God and others. For some reason, placing God and goodness at the forefront has become an anachronism. The personal hatred directed at Tebow isn't occurring because he's doing something wrong - it's occurring because he's doing something right.
It may seem odd that a Jew is writing favorably about a Christian, but it really shouldn't be that way. If we were to actually start making moral judgments of behavior rather than petty remarks about our differences, we will have taken a giant leap toward a better world. Theological disagreements have their place, but they are not the be all and end all. From the Jewish perspective, what God desires more than anything else is goodness. In order to achieve that end, we need to inculcate good values - the most important of which is to act decently toward one another. And while good interpersonal behavior should always start at home (i.e. between fellow Jews), it should never end there.
[By the way, if you ever wondered why orange and blue was the color scheme of this blog, here's your answer: GO BRONCOS!!!]