O me of little faith (updated)

Tebow JesusAre you a believer yet? asked several emails and text messages I received this morning. Its hard to resist this particular evangelical movement, especially because all of my friends and relatives have joined it. Having grown up in Colorado, not far from Colorado Springs, source and summit of my generations evangelicalism, I am familiar with the culture. But Ive never been the lone skeptic amid a sea of faith. The evidence of this mans miracles seems at first glance reason enough to follow him. And to reject the so-called Mile High Messiah, especially in the weeks leading up to Christmas with the family, will be an affront to my own mother and father, zealous new converts. To believe, at this point, would be easier than to remain agnostic.But despite all this -- and despite football jersey sales to the contrary -- Tim Tebow is not Jesus, and Im not yet a believer.Its true that he has presided over a highly improbable string of victories in the past 8 weeks (7-1 as a starter, with 3 overtime victories). His public Christian faith has spawned a trend in prayer postures and evoked analysis from excellent commentators. Beyond that he has exorcised the demons of a sullied franchise, brought hope to millions of viewers, literally healed sick children around the world through his charitable foundation, converted souls to Christianity as a missionary, and achieved what many thought was truly impossible causing regular-season NFL games from the West to be broadcast on the East Coast. For all these things, he deserves our thanks and praise.But messianic claims have been overblown. The Denver Broncos already had their messiah, thank you very much: John Elway. He brought the countrys largest football fan base (when measured in terms of contiguous land area, not population) from the depths of 4 Super Bowl losses to the pinnacle of greatness. And he is still reigningnot only as the car dealership king of Denver, but also as the Executive Vice President of Football Operations for the Broncos. The anointed one is still alive and in charge of Denvers earthly kingdom. Why look for another?Nonetheless the record of improbable victories must be accounted for. For weeks I have been trying to explain it away. Just believe, my friends and family have told me. No, I need reasons. If you believe, Tebow said in last nights interview, then unbelievable things can sometimes be possible. Is it time for me to believe the impossible? Can there be any other reasonable explanation?

After yesterdays game, which was another improbable comeback (actually called impossible by the announcerssomething they never do because their job is to keep viewers on the channel), I realized there is a better explanation for his miraculous powers. Its so obvious, I cant believe Im the first to figure it out. He is not JesusTim Tebow is a sorcerer. (Or if you prefer, a wizard, a witch, a caster of spells.)Most of his victories have been made possible only by some bizarre event that befalls the other team. But in each previous case, the other teams foibles were not totally unprecedentedan interception here, a missed field goal there. Yesterdays game, however, is definitive proof that Tim Tebow has control of superhuman spiritual forces that cause harm. What happened? Both the star quarterback and star running back of the Chicago Bears got injured in the week prior to facing Tebow. Clearly the work of a powerful sorcerer, and it should have been enough. But Tebows team still struggled to do anything against the Bears for most of the game, even though the Bears were led by a quarterback so green that the announcers couldnt agree how to pronounce his name. My suspicions of Tebow sorcery were finally confirmed, though, near the end of the fourth quarter. With the Bears protecting a 3-point lead and possessing the ball with 2 minutes left, it was clear to everyone watching what would happen. The Bears would run the clock down through 3 running plays and punt it back to Denver. They had been running the clock down the previous 2 series, and to do so now was 100% predictable. The Broncos would then get the ball back with around 15 seconds, enough time for a Hail Mary pass (which wouldnt have worked for the evangelical quarterback, for obvious reasons).So what happened next? Bears running back Marion Barber a 7-year NFL veteran and Big Ten star before that took one of the handoffs in that series and ran out of bounds. This stopped the clock and meant that the Broncos got the ball back with time to drive down the field. (Then in overtime, Barber fumbled the ball during what appeared to be another game-winning drive for the Bears. The Sun-Times makes clear that it wasnt the Hand of God that caused the fumble. Chicago sportswriters are no foolsthey know more about curses and hexes than the Vaticans chief exorcist.)Lets be clear about this: Marion Barber's running out of bounds is not explicable by any natural causes. He himself has no idea why he did it. He has played football at the highest level for over a decade. If this had happened in a playoff game, it would rank on the curse meter just below Bill Buckners ground ball through the legs, which gets back to my point. Yesterdays gamewith injuries to both of the opposing teams stars, and then a truly inexplicable play by a veteranis definitive proof that Tim Tebow is not Jesus, but a sorcerer in touch with Beelzebub. (Mark 3:22) He may cast out demons, but I ask, with the scribes and Pharisees, does he do so by the prince of demons?In this bind, what is a Christian from Colorado to do? O me of little faith!UPDATE: I was wrong. Jesus confirms that he was the reason for the victories. He also explained that he would be busy during the Patriots game.

Michael Peppard is associate professor of theology at Fordham University and on the staff of its Curran Center for American Catholic Studies. He is the author of The World's Oldest Church and The Son of God in the Roman World, and on Twitter @MichaelPeppard. He is a contributing editor to Commonweal.

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