By now, you’ve heard plenty about Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow and his public displays of faith. Maybe it’s not a big deal to you and you turn up your intellectual nose at professional sports, but this guy, for all intents and purposes, is preaching to tens of millions of Americans every week, whether they like it or not.
One result of his efforts is “Tebowing” which essentially means assuming a “bowing thinker” pose to emulate Tim Tebow’s pre/in-game prayers. This meme has its own website, complete with “patriotic” sections and a Vs. mode. Ingenious, really.
So what’s the problem? It turns out military personnel are taking pictures “Tebowing,” which is to say they are associating the US military with Christianity. Free speech and free exercise should extend to certain personalized pictures in the workplace, but there should be a line, it’s arguably being crossed many times over. Check out these examples:
- Tebowing with the children of Afghanistan (5)
- Part of NFL game (3)
- F-16 Tebowing (1)
- In uniform (1)
- Tebowing in MOPP 4 (1)
- USAFA Tebowing, football and the terrazzo (1)
- Predator Tebowing (1)
- Tebowing the Marine combat fitness test (1)
Given that these are clearly optional activities, and that Tebowing is the basest, most diluted kind of religious activity I can think of, I see no reason to object in most cases. Similarly, “atheists in foxholes” photos in uniform or similar pro-humanist / pro-atheist pics would be ok in similar circumstances.
However, the Tebowing with Afghan kids is clearly an evangelical activity that must be pulled from the site with reprimands for the troop involved. The NFL game is misappropriation of government resources — and any Marine will tell you his body is a government resource.
While there should be wide latitude, there is a point at which personal expressions are too closely wrapped up in one’s military persona.
- Thanks for the comments so far. I wanted to post some responses here as well as those in the comments.
- Those declaring ‘Christian-bashing’ or ‘choose your battles’ should note that this post is a question not a policy statement.
- Many commenters pointed out that Tebowing is often mocking. None of the examples here are mocking, and tebowing.com is about revering the activity, not mocking it. From the website: “What is Tebowing?
(verb) to get down on a knee and start praying.”
- Many pointed out that the activity is voluntary, which is the case in most of the examples, but not all.
- Some seem to have missed that the Afghan child is being taught to tebow/pray by the soldier (with the gun on patrol). I should also point out that evangelizing is explicitly prohibited by regulations. Similarly, the Marines at the game were part of the official program of events, clearly acting with command direction, not simply in the crowd.