“The conversation about Tim Tebow is a culture wars kind of dynamic that transcends sports,” says Tom Krattenmaker, author of "Onward Christian Athletes: Turning Ballparks into Pulpits and Players into Preachers." “Tim Tebow is one of the major venues for this ongoing argument about Christianity in our public life.”
With Tebow and the resurgent Broncos riding a five-game winning streak ahead of their game with the Chicago Bears Sunday, no group feels the pride more intensely than evangelical Christians. They revere his background as a son of missionaries and count him as one of their ow. They have helped his jerseys rank among the league’s top sellers since he joined the Broncos last year.
[Editor's Note: Make that a six-game winning streak; the Broncos beat Chicago in overtime, 13-10]
Cheers for Broncos' turnaround – the so-called “Mile High Miracle” – stretch from congregations to cyberspace. Example: nowtheendbegins.com, an apocalyptic website, asserts that “The Mile High Miracle is not about football. It’s about a man. Jesus Christ.”
Some vendors have gone so far as to hawk Broncos jerseys with Tebow’s No. 15 and the name “Jesus” on the back. Tebow doesn’t purport to be a savior, but he has made himself into more than an athlete. He starred, for instance, in a controversial anti-abortion advertisement from Focus on the Family during the Super Bowl in 2010.
“A large chunk of Christians find themselves [feeling] kind of persecuted by society,” says Ronald Simkins, director of the Kripke Center for the Study of Religion and Society at Creighton University. “And now here’s a guy who has given his testimony, has been persecuted for it and has been made a figure of shame… I think there would be a lot of pride in, ‘here’s one of ours who took it for the team’.”