Tom Gilson

“Tim Tebow Super Bowl ad sparks clash”


The Faith and Reason blog at USA Today tells us Tim Tebow is going to be featured in a commercial during the Super Bowl. Tebow, who just finished up his senior year of football at the University of Florida, is a natural for appearing on Super Bowl Sunday—many consider him the best college quarterback in the land, if not the best player in any position. (I’m not a Gator fan, by the way!)

What’s raising a ruckus is first, that he is an outspoken evangelical Christian, and second, that the ad is to be sponsored by Focus on the Family. The ad’s content has not been made public in detail, but the sponsor has made it known that it’s a pro-life message. Here’s how Cathy Lynn Grossman at Faith and Reason described the problem:

What’s not to love? What’s the issue here? How about…

I love my family more than you love your family” [sic] v. My love is as good as yours.


God honors my choices, not yours.

That’s the subtext of the Tebow ad, an affront to anyone who would make a different choice, say those who strenuously object to CBS’ plan to air it. They see Focus on the Family — known for its stands against gay marriage, reproductive rights education beyond promoting abstinence, and opposition to legal abortion — delivering it’s [sic] views to a massive family audience on Super Bowl Sunday.

An ad that uses sports to divide rather than to unite has no place in the biggest national sports event of the year — an event designed to bring Americans together,” said Jehmu Greene, speaking for a a coalition of women who oppose the ad.

Is the Super Bowl the place for this or not? I really wouldn’t want the game turned into a battleground for worldviews. Thirty-second spots just aren’t the right medium for the kind of interaction that solves problems: the reasoned, mutually respectful sort. There might be good reasons to think twice about taking the culture war to a new battlefield. As genuine and as uplifting as Tebow’s story may be (and it genuinely is), someone else could surely concoct a commercial that feels as uplifting from the other side of the issue. Where does that get us?

But last I heard, CBS is going to run the ad anyway. If there are objections to it, here’s hoping they’re not raised for the wrong reasons—like the ones suggested in the excerpts I quoted above. I seriously doubt Tebow (and his mother, who reportedly also is involved in the spot) plans to communicate the first message there (“I love my family more…”). If he did it would be wrong, certainly, but from what I know about him, that’s just not going to happen. The suggestion that he would do that amounts to an advance scare tactic and nothing more.

What about, “God honors my choices, not yours, though? That would be wrong, too. It would be wrong in the same way as “Christians hold the truth” is wrong. If the message is to be, “I’ve got God in my hip pocket,” or “God is on my side,” that would be offensive not only to some sectors of a national audience, but to God himself.

I don’t expect them to make God a part of this ad. That’s just a guess, based on the media buzz I’ve seen so far. But since the Faith and Reason blog brought it up, I want to spend some moments on it anyway.

Suppose the message is, “I choose to honor God with my choices.” That’s different. That’s recognizing where honor belongs. It’s recognizing that God doesn’t pick one man or woman’s side over any others.

Note what happened when an angel of the Lord came to Joshua (Joshua 5:13-15):

When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” And the commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.

This Commander didn’t take Joshua’s side, but that’s not to say there were no sides in the battle. There was the Lord’s side, and there was opposition to the Lord’s side, and of course those who wanted to take the true and victorious side joined with the Lord. Joshua signified that by taking off his sandals in worship before this Commander (who many commentators think may have been the pre-incarnate Christ).

Make no mistake, there are sides in the battle for morality and for life. There is great confusion, though, as to how these sides are formed and named. There are those who think that morality is their own choice (or their community’s or culture’s choice). There are others who think morality is something we all grow into (biologically and/or culturally) and we don’t really have much choice over what we value or honor. For either group, there is morality but there is no moral authority, except in perhaps in history and culture (expressed by law and custom). There are other views besides these, but these are dominant in our culture.

If either of those were actually the case, then it would make sense to ask, “Who are you to say my morality is wrong?” And I think many people think that we are all operating out of that authority-free attitude toward morality. This, I believe, is why they can’t understand anyone saying someone else’s morality was wrong. For them, there’s no basis for saying that, and they think that’s what everyone should think. (That view often turns ironic, of course, when it bleeds over into saying “it’s immoral of you to say that someone else’s morality is wrong.” But I’ll just mention that in passing and leave it aside.)

The issue, as Brad Bright says, is God. If there is a God who is holy, good, and just, then there are sides. There is a right side and a wrong one. The wrong one is whatever opposes God, and the right one is the one that seeks to follow his ways. None of us could ever succeed in enlisting God to our own side, but anyone can enlist to join God on his side. Anyone can learn what God says is right and wrong, and if they speak of right and wrong, they do it not on their own authority but on God’s. If that is “an affront to anyone who would make a different choice,” it’s not just a person-to-person affront. It’s a confrontation with true, transcendent authority.

Anyone can honor God’s choices. I have a feeling that if this commercial says anything about God, choices, and honor, that’s what it’s going to say. We’ll see.

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11 thoughts on ““Tim Tebow Super Bowl ad sparks clash”

  1. Tim’s message is CLEAR: ABORTION IS WRONG.
    I would have liked Tim to say even more clearly that abortion under ANY circumstance is pre-meditated murder.

    (Comment slightly edited by siteowner: contact information in the header is sufficient)

  2. Patrick,

    I agree with you that abortion is wrong.

    For this post my purpose was to point to some of the underlying reasoning going on in this debate—not just what choices people make, but how they make them, how they justify them, and how they come to oppose other opinions. The issue at the heart of it all is people’s view of God. Abortion is wrong because it’s wrong to kill a human being; it’s wrong to kill a human being because human beings have dignity; human beings have dignity because we are created in God’s image; and being created in God’s image matters because God matters supremely.

    If one doesn’t see that God matters supremely, one will get the whole rest of it hopelessly muddled. Abortion is a serious problem in its own right, but it is also, even more fundamentally, a symptom of a people that has lost sight of God.

  3. It’s hard to see a way around this issue and by that I mean a way for one side to express its opinion without the other side blowing a gasket. Those that are “pro-choice” stand at the intellectual pinnacle of individualism. They are utterly committed to their belief that their personal rights trump even the life of another (though they don’t see it that way). Those that are “pro-life” are appalled at moral blindness that position engenders. Not a lot of room in there for pleasantries.

    As an example, what do we think would be the pro-life response to a “tasteful” ad where a couple speaks sincerely about how they felt their choice to terminate a pregnancy has been the right choice for them and how thankful they are they could and did make that choice. Yikes!! I would doubt we would think that “tasteful” in any way. The pro-choice side is equally incensed at any questioning of their position.

  4. The problem is that none of the attacks are based on what is in the ad, because they have not seen it.

    “Pro-life” can include things like “I considered abortion and I knew the risk, but I chose life and am glad I did. I hope you consider my story when you have to make a similar choice.”

    Wasn’t Obama somewhat “pro-life” when he said “We all want fewer abortions”?

    People are inventing “sub-text” of an ad they haven’t seen and then being highly judgmental.

    One of the sub-texts of the ad is that every abortion decision involves a single choice that could prevent someone like Tim Tebow from making any choices ever. The pro-choice lobby is very uncomfortable with the “almost aborted” population as well as the “abortion survivor” population.

  5. \someone else could surely concoct a commercial that feels as uplifting from the other side of the issue.\

    I don’t see how that could be. It would be for the benefit of the pro-life movement that the pro-\choice\ movement tried to publicize abortion as a wonderful, uplifting thing. There really isn’t any confusion about abortion. Even the demons know it’s wrong.

  6. On one level I agree with you 100%, Jim. But I also know the power of image and word. I guess I should have phrased it this way:

    “someone else could surely concoct a commercial that for the undiscerning feels as uplifting from the other side of the issue.”

  7. What I find interesting about the hypothesis that “someone else could surely concoct a commercial that feels as uplifting from the other side of the issue.” is that it hasn’t happened. As someone noted somewhere else (I can’t remember where I heard/read it), “In an age where they are televising all manner of medical procedures in graphic detail you still won’t see the most common medical procedure in America on television.”

    The reason this is so is because, however firm their intellectual and practical commitment to choice may be, underneath it all is the knowledge that there is something wrong about abortion. Even “pro-choice” Hollywood, for all its dogmatic support of abortion, seldom produces television or movies where women “choose” abortion.

    And so I don’t think someone could “concoct a commercial that feels as uplifiting from the other side of the issue” – at least, not without obfuscating the issue. There is a ‘gut” reaction to abortion, particularly in its details, which precludes “uplifting” from the list of possible reactions. And so the “pro-choice” side must censor “pro-life” advocacy. They have no answer to the charge.

  8. I agree with those who doubt the ability of anyone to concoct and uplifting commercial about abortion.

    It’s certinly a dilemma for the pro-choice side. They are left with complaining about pro-life commercials because they have no way of effectively countering the issues presented by those who oppose them.

    On the other hand they have people like Lynn Grossman who are willing to try and negatively spin the pro-life message by wildly speculating about something they haven’t seen and a main stream media that is all too willing to cover such nonesense as legitimate news.

  9. Bill,
    But sensibilities matter not at all when you are speaking about what is TRUE.
    I don’t care one whit what a pro-choice thinks on the matter.
    I ONLY care that we have an opportunity with Tim’s ad to strike a cord with those considering abortion.

    We want to save lives, not win arguments.

  10. Patrick,

    I believe that was the point I was making. The pro-choice side doesn’t have any arguments to counter the issues presented by the opponents of abortion because they do not have a legitimate viewpoint to offer. (Because they are not “speaking about what is true.”)

    However, the very public nature of this particular pronouncement makes it a target for those willing to discredit it even at the risk of looking foolish. And they are supported by a media that will tell their side and no other.

    I look forward to seeing it and hope its message, as Tom said, honors God and and His truth.

  11. “they do not have a legitimate viewpoint to offer”
    Amen, Bill, AMEN. You are quite correct. Reality escapes most in the media, unless it fots their social engineering agenda. Most don;t even REALIZE they are being played.
    But, thankfully, not ALL media only shares the politically correct line. Some even allow OPEN discourse!!! What a CONCEPT! Oh wait, that is what the USA is SUPPOSED to be about. Oh YEAH! Wow. someoen tell Christianity Astray… uh Today!
    I thank God for people like you, Bill. Keep up the good work.

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