The Denver Broncos, the team that my three year old sometimes calls the “Tebows,” backed into the play-offs this year by losing three straight games. Fortunately for them, the other teams in their division also lost. As a result they will host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.
Their QB Tim Tebow has played very poorly lately. He’s not shown the 4th quarter magic we’ve become used to the last month or two. I would imagine that as quickly as people have jumped on that Tebow bandwagon, they will jump off when/if the Broncos start losing again.
However, not all will jump off. The crew (Trey Wingo, Marcellus Wiley, Mark Shlereth) from NFL Live absolutely sang his praises several weeks ago, but it wasn’t because of his play; it was his personality. The word that they continued to come back to was “authentic.” They piled on with the usual expressions: what you see is what you get; he doesn’t change to fit some mold; he is who he is. And he doesn’t apologize for his personality, which is of course, largely shaped by his faith in Christ.
Authentic is perhaps the most over-used word in our post-modern world. Nevertheless, it is obviously still culturally apropos and it is a word-or at least a sentiment-that people cherish.
Authenticity is really only cherished nowadays because of post-modernity. So this vague post-modernness (still pretty hard to define) is not all bad, but the ever-cherished post-modern term brings both challenges and opportunities.
Some of these guys probably don’t share the same faith as Tebow. They may not-though I can’t assume one way or another-enjoy Tebow calling them to faith and repentance. But that is irrelevant. The content of his faith, or the fact that his faith shapes his personality is not important. So that can present a challenge when we share our faith. There is gospel content which needs to be embraced for one to be saved. Yet what is important to many is simply whether or not someone is authentic. If that faith makes you authentic, good. That’s the goal.
Authenticity is valued more than love. This shouldn’t surprise us at all. So Tebow can be authentic as well as love and respect others, while someone else can be authentic but say F*&$ you to anyone who anyone who threatens to constrain their autonomy. They are both authentic.
In addition, it is in the name of authenticity, that folks feel the need to be true to themselves and so they justify divorce just as quickly as sending back cold food at Applebees.
Still, I think the opportunities that the ever popular “authenticity” brings far outweigh the challenges. For instance, here is a guy who is unashamed to mention Jesus’ name any chance he gets, and one of these lads actually uses the picture of he and Tebow as his twitter avatar.
Authenticity will often give you a chance to at least be heard. Even though what people want is the authenticity more than the Christ who alone can free us to be authentic AND other-centered at the same time, the conversation can begin. The freedom to be who we are called to be, will often give us a platform. You don’t have to be a good quarterback. People listen to authentic people as well as crave to be authentic themselves. It is in Christ that we can speak of a freedom that is truly free but not autonomous and self-centered.
Authenticity appreciates brokenness over moral perfection. There are obvious blatantly hypocritical Christians who will not be heard by anyone. But these lads are not lauding Tebow’s moral perfection. They really aren’t. They aren’t saying he’s flawless. They like the fact that he is free to be who he really is. So if they see Tebow sin, it doesn’t destroy his witness to them. Authenticity admiring folks don’t need to see perfection. They need to see repentance. They actually give Christians more of an opportunity to fail. And that’s good. We can sin before others.
Steve Brown recounts a story in his book Scandalous Freedom where a Christian woman slept with her boss and eventually repented before him, explained why it was so heinous, and led that man to Jesus. I think that kind of thing probably happens more in an authenticity craving culture.
So postmodern catch words, or at least postmodern influence on culture, has shaped even NFL analysts. But that is not necessarily a bad thing. In the end, I it really does bring more opportunities than challenges.