The contents of a recent blog on the New Yorker website struck me as very interesting today. The blog post concerned the convergence of the “Obama anti-religion” and the “Obama pro-radical Islam” memes, but this is not what caught my eye. What really made me stop and think was a comparison between the recent Republican presidential candidate fetish (my words) for public displays of their Christianity (outdoor prayer meetings and the such), and the controversial and bizarre act of “Tebowing”. The author does not make much more than passing reference to this comparison, so I have decided to delve a bit deeper myself.
For those not in the know, “Tebowing” is a reference to American Football Quarterback Tim Tebow’s propensity to get down on one knee and pray during crucial moments in football games. Or as one contributor to Urban Dictionary puts it: “Tebowing: 1) the act of striking a particular one-knee down kneeling pose in celebration of completing any task which by no specific means the individual in question should have rationally been able to accomplish themself without divine intervention. 2) A manner by which a person can non-verbally declare themself to others as an overhyped participant. See also: douchebaggery”. As you might have guessed from this definition, Tim Tebow’s penchant for Tebowing has resulted in him being almost universally hated by fans. Some feel that he is shoving his religion in their face; others feel he is being overly ostentatious and dramatic with what is otherwise a private relationship with his creator. Either way, it is not going down well with the public at large. Sure, some churchies and die-hard Bronco’s fans may enjoy it, but it is killing his reputation (as well as theirs) with the wider community.
And now we come to the Republican presidential candidates. Sure, it is almost Republican dogma that the church and Christianity must be brought up at every possibility. To the extent that I question whether some of them have even heard of the U.S. Constitution. But this has been getting steadily worse in recent months as Romney and Gingrich have felt the need to “out conservative” Santorum, and has kicked into overdrive since Obama’s contraception blunder. While Romney is still attempting to keep the conversation off the subject of Mormonism, he openly questions Obama’s religion, prays during events, and otherwise brings up Christianity whenever possible. Gingrich also has several religious skeletons in his closet (multiple marriages and affairs etc.), but he has taken a liking to talking up his Catholicism, praying in public, and questioning Obama’s religion. However, Santorum is obviously striving for the brass ring in this contest. For him talking about his religion is almost a second religion. Santorum holds prayer rallies, holds group prayers at the end of his political events, he cites God in almost every sentence he utters, and otherwise has done everything short of tattooing “Jesus” on his forehead to push Christianity in your face . In short, none of these candidates seem to grasp the idea of a religion as a personal experience. For each of them, it is something that must be flaunted at every possible opportunity. And it will come back to bite them.
The republican presidential candidates need to learn from Tebow’s mistakes. Yes, they are currently running to win a nomination from a party heavily dominated by Christians and especially evangelical Christians. But there will come a point when the rest of America will become sick of getting a religion rubbed in their faces. As we have seen with Tebowing, there is a time and a place for public displays of religion. Sports people have long sought divine intervention during competition, and many sports stars can be seen muttering a prayer during a close contest. They are not hated; it is Tim Tebow and his in your face style that is hated. And just as many sports fans detest Tebowing, many politically active Christians will not appreciate their religion being abused for political gain, many people from other religions will not appreciate having a competing theology being constantly touted, and many secular folk will long for a time when the separation of church and state was respected. The Republican Candidates need to realise that their almost constant religious references will eventually cause them great harm with those that are not equally religious, or equally Christian. The Republican Candidates need to stop Tebowing.