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Tim Tebow: Hero? Role model? Overbearing evangelist? All of the above.

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Tebow's biggest fans?

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’.”

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