Wednesday, January 11, 2012

If Tim Tebow Had Asked Me. . . .


Tim Tebow was talked about quite a bit on Sunday night, into Monday, etc. That sure was fun to watch, wasn't it? Doesn't matter who it was taking the snap. That's the kind of great finish that we'll be watching over and over again for years.

Tim Tebow was being talked about today as well. USA Today ran this headline this morning: "Shirtless Tebow is Jockey Sex Symbol." When I read the story, my heart sank - more on that in a bit.

Tim Tebow was also being talked about in our Doctor of Ministry in Ministry to Emerging Generations class this morning. Adonis Vidu, our cohort theologian, led a discussion on H. Richard Niebuhr's classic book, Christ and Culture, and the various approaches we take in terms of the relationship between our faith and culture. In a brilliant move, Adonis asked our students to consider Niebuhr's five options in relation to all the buzz about Tebow and "Tebowing." The discussion was very spirited. I threw the Jockey ad campaign into the mix and the discussion got even more lively. It's a discussion that's sure to be continued when we get together again tomorrow morning.

Now. . . for the "more" on the Jockey ad. . . and why my heart sank. At the risk of sounding presumptuous, I spent some time today imagining what I would have said to Tim Tebow if he had come to me for advice. You know, asking something like, "Well, what do you think? Jockey's got an offer on the table. Should I take it?"

Let me begin by saying, I don't think there's anything wrong or unChristian about men without shirts. We see it at the beach all the time. But this is not a simple matter of deciding whether or not Christian men should walk around without a shirt on. It's just not that simple. . . although some people might make it out to be. It's far more complex. We need to think about our culture, the issues people are dealing with, and the message Jockey hoped to send. What would the intent of the sender be. Then, how would people in our culture receive it. With that as background, here are some thoughts I would have verbalized to Tim Tebow. . . if he had asked me. . . .

"Don't do it Tim. . . money, sex, fame, and power corrupt. Doing the ads are going to turn up the volume on the very temptations that could easily take you down."

"Don't do it Tim . . . we live in a culture where we are what we look like. Marketing has both created and perpetuates that idolatrous belief. By doing this, you'll be contributing one more compelling message promoting that belief. . . loud and clear. . . that only takes people deeper into this lie."

"Don't do it Tim . . . we live in a culture that increasingly celebrates pornography and feeds lust. No, the photos Jockey will take are not pornographic in and of themselves. But if anyone uses them to lust - and they will - then maybe it's best for you to keep your shirt on."

"Don't do it Tim. . . you are more than an object. You are a human being. You want people to see Jesus through you. You don't want to get in the way. You are a signpost. It seems that you already understand that. Don't compromise on that. You want to remain a signpost pointing to Jesus. You don't want people to only go so far as to lock their eyes on you."

"Don't do it Tim. . . you are a role model. You have been elevated as a Christian role model. Lots and lots and lots of people are watching. Most of them are young and extremely impressionable."

"Don't do it Tim. . . the eyes of the world are on you. They're looking to find or create chinks in your armor. Don't make it easy for them. Now, more than ever, you need to maintain your integrity."

Maybe it's the headline in the U.K.'s Daily Mail that shows us why Tim Tebow and other Christians need to think through context, implications, intents, and fallout: "Praise Jesus! Man of the moment Tim Tebow appears shirtless in new Jockey ad - and surprise, surprise - underwear sales soar."

The pressure's on for Tim Tebow. If he had asked me, I would have told him to keep his shirt on. . . especially in today's cultural climate. There's just way too much that could go wrong. . . if it hasn't already. Tomorrow morning it's my turn to teach our cohort. We'll be talking about the functions of culture. . . including the power culture has to map out our values, attitudes, and behaviors. That's another big reason why I would have advised Tebow in the way I've described.

We need to pray for him as we would for any brother or sister facing great pressure. Let's pray that he makes good decisions off the field.

19 comments:

Justin said...

Much ado about nothing, Walt. IMO

Walt Mueller said...

Justin. . . I wonder about that. . . seriously. As I've processed this (like other things I've had to process as a culture-watcher) I've wavered back and forth. I really really want it to be much ado about nothing. But then I work to look it Christianly in light of everything else going on in our culture related to sport, relationships, marketing, desire, sexuality, etc. and there's something that is unsettled. . . a gnawing. Then you start to wonder, "should we be thinking about this more seriously? Is there more here than meets the eye?" I believe we need to thoughtfully process all our decisions through that consistent integrated worldview of Biblical faith. I think we need each other to be able to do that effectively. I think we need to do that with a forward-looking bent (what are the possibilities as to where this is leading?). I'm fully aware that it's a risky proposition for me to think out loud on this, especially with the Christian celebrity of the day. Which leads to another question: Do we elevate our Christian celebrity of the day so high that they can do no wrong, that they are above questioning, and that it's even wrong to question the things they do and say? Which reminds me of a nasty habit we Christians have in the arena of politics. . . something which we are seeing now. That is, we never question our guy. And,we quetion the other guy way too much.

I do think that when it comes to Tebow-mania, we need to be asking lots and lots of questions. Any time the use of the suffix -mania is used to describe us or others, that's a good signal that standing back and taking stock is in order.

Justin, I would like to know why you say it's "much ado about nothing." Help me see that. Thanks!

Jill said...

Spot on Walt. So many girls in my youth group idolize him and others. I keep hearing how the best part about the twilight movies is how many times Taylor Lautner takes off his shirt. Visual lust is not only a problem for men, but it is rarely addressed for young Christian women. Thanks for your thoughts on this.

Josh said...

What a thoughtful, balanced, wise article. Each of the "Don't do it, Tim..." points were superb. I wish that Tebow really HAD asked you first.

As a youth pastor in NJ, I do get a lot of "gray-area" questions with the theme of "Should I - or not?" Sometimes the answer is not right/wrong, but beneficial/harmful. Thank you again!

Andy & Becca Johnson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Walt-

This is excellently written. I love your comments you have addressed directly to Tim himself. I think we have no idea the pressure he is under, for better or worse. The world in many ways is waiting for him to fail so it can say,"Now what do you think of your God?" If Tebow fails, then God does as well and the world won't have to acknowledge him. It is all so much deeper than a simple ad. Thank you for the reminder!

Kerry Smelser

Anonymous said...

I seriously wished he had asked you. I really like Tim Tebow and respect him. Maybe he just wasn't thinking and maybe he will be sorry for the fallout. But as a female, looking at that ad, it is sensual and that is what the photographers meant it to be. There is no other alternative, seriously. I am greived and I think he'll be sorry he did this. I hope so.

dj_illness said...

I appreciate the comment above.

I do wonder why Tebow took sponsorship from Jockey. But, quite frankly, I trust him.

Consider his track record. He turned DOWN recognition as a Playboy All-American player in college. (i think twice).

Consider the Tim Tebow Foundation and all the good news you CONSTANTLY hear about Tim building relationships with kids in hospitals,etc and flying them to games. I wonder if some ad money helps fund the Foundation?

On reading your blog title, I was concerned. On seeing the image, quite frankly, I'm not. It could be MUCH worse, and people that are looking to lust can conviently find MUCH more sensual images, probably even from other jockey models.

I understand your points Walt, and they are valid. But I trust Tim. I'm wonder what other offers he turned DOWN. And I'm sure he will sever ties with jockey if things get too heated. (heck i wonder if Tim even had imput into this shot...requiring it be on the mild side)

Anonymous said...

My heart sank to see that picture, too. I get exactly what you're saying. Thanks, Walt, for being willing to "go there."

Walt Mueller said...

DJ Illness. . .thanks for your feedback. A couple of thoughts in response. . . I always wonder about the "I trust him/her/them" response and I think it is valid but not fully valid. I say that because we live in a world of brokenness. The place where I see that brokenness the most is right where I live, in me. Perhaps I'm hesitant to use that response because I don't even trust me. When we truly know and grapple with fallen human nature, we become much more realistic about these things. I'm also concerned that the more we idolize a person or put them on a pedestal, the less willing we are to ask the hard questions. The more willing we are to overlook the stuff that we might question otherwise. We forget that these people are humans. Finally, I think we have to be really really careful to not go down the "It could be worse" road. If we do, we are sliding quickly into easy justification of that which should be questioned/challenged, and a tendency to overlook sin, both in ourselves and others. Ever have one of your own kids try to brush off or minimize something with "it's not that bad" or "it could be worse"?

I think one of the big dangers and very real possibilities in this case is that time will offer an opportunity to look in the rearview mirror where we might see things that cause us to say, "Wow, I didn't see that coming."

Thanks for interacting with this, making me think about this some more, and prompting more discussion.

dj_illness said...

Walt,

great comments. I was thinking much of that as i typed my earlier one.

Your 'looking back in the rearview' was good.

I'm just suggesting we should consider Tim's previous track record with discernment, as well as consider the greater possible contexts of things he may have said no to or turned down. We see an ad, but there's likely a lot that happened that we DON'T see or know (both good and bad re: Tim and Jockey).

This also made me wonder: who does Tim surround himself with for accountability, or as a sounding board? It's obviously an important element of Christian life (particularly for us men!). For Tim, even the logisitics of being with such friends/brothers might be difficult. All the more reason to pray for him. :)

Ross said...

Walt, you had some excellent reflections, and comments have been thought-provoking as well. Tim is no different than the rest of us, facing decisions each day that may not have a clear right/wrong answer. dj_illness had a great comment, wondering who Tim surrounds himself with for accountability and advice. We all need a faithful community, a cloud of witnesses, with whom we can work out our salvation on a daily basis.

Dr. C said...

Walt, I tend to agree with your conservative viewpoint here, but I'm also concerned that we're expecting wisdom perspectives from a 20-something aged young man who has been thrust into a vortex of power and temptation. The worldview of a seasoned pace-setter in Christian thinking such as yourself should have more strength and validity. I guess I'd also urge you to call people to prayer for this young generation phenom, and not just criticize his questionable decisions.

Phil said...

i wish he asked for your advice too!

so many people are just waiting for him to fall. I pray he doesn't.

I'm looking to teach a class on faith and modern culture in a christian high school setting. what book or books would you recommend i assign as a text book or to put on the assign reading list.
What top 3 books would you recommend that I read to learn to do what you do?
thanks

Walt Mueller said...

Sounds like a great class Phil. . . wish I could attend! Regarding the books. . . here are 3 I can think of right off the bat that you can read and see if they would translate well for your students. At the very least, you could teach what's in them. 1) Dick Staub's "The Culturally Savvy Christian", 2) Cornelius Plantinga's "Engaging God's World", and 3) Bill Romanowski's "Eyes Wide Open." Have you read any of these before? Anyone else have any suggestions?

phil said...

thank you Walt! I really appreciate it!

Would you these be the books you would recommend to help me or would these be the books you would suggest I use as the assigned reading for the course?
thanks again

drford said...

Walt, I agree what all you say here. I do. If we look at context though, we will notice that this image is milder, more modest than probably any other Jockey ad for the product. (I'm presuming, since he's shirtless, the ad is for briefs.) Hopefully people will notice that.

drford said...

I totally agree, Walt. I do. But, if you put it in the context of other ads for the same product (I presume the product is boxer shorts, since he has no shirt on.) the image is tamer/more modest than any other I've seen by Jockey for the same product. Hopefully people will notice that.

Karol Ann said...

I am the parent of a teenage boy and girl and love reading your blog!
This is a great article and I reAlly appreciate how you interact. I wanted to comment and agree with what you said about elevating Christians to a place where we stop asking the hard questions and are willing to overlook things we might otherwise address with an example. My husband is on staff at a church and we became close friends with a former pastor and his family. We were such good friends and things were great in church world, but there were some things we 'overlooked' in their lives that always kind of gnawed at me. Later on in the friendship, things took a turn for the worse and they got into some things that were questionable, but, it was too late to address it and they ended up being asked to leave. I've often wondered if we had addressed those things earlier on, would things have gone differently. We can't take these things to lightly! So as for Tim Tebow, I pray that he has surrounded himself with strong believers he can seek for advice. The world is going to try and tear him down and see how far they can push him before he breaks. People hated Jesus because he was different and people hate Tebow For the same reasons. Unfortunately, if he ever proves his 'humanness' the world won't be as forgiving.
Thank you for what you do and for sharing it!