We'll have to wait until next year to find out if a Tim Tebow Super Bowl win will inspire some evangelical Christians to torch Muslim houses of worship and make other mischief in the name of the Prince of Peace.
Tebow, a hero -- and martyr -- to a multitude of Christian conservatives, quarterbacked the Denver Broncos to a 45-10 playoff loss to the New England Patriots Saturday night.
To be sure, Tebow and the Broncos had beaten the Pittsburgh Steelers in the "Mile High Miracle" to advance to the game against the Patriots. But Tebow also grabbed headlines all season for frequently kneeling in prayer on the football field. Somebody dubbed it "tebowing."
Christian conservatives love it. But a lot of people, including this lifelong Kentuckian whose Presbyterian roots go back to Scotland of old, are uncomfortable with ostentatious public piety, which, after all, gets bad press in the Good Book. In Matthew 6:5, Christ admonishes: "And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are; for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and at the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward."
Karl Barth, the famous Protestant theologian, warns, "Faith is never identical with piety."
Anyway, a Jewish cleric recently raised conservative Christian hackles when he wrote, perhaps satirically, that if the Broncos lugged home the Super Bowl trophy, some of the wackier evangelicals might “do insane things." Rabbi Joshua Hammerman suggested the mayhem could include "burning mosques, bashing gays and indiscriminately banishing immigrants.”
Hammerman subsequently apologized.
TV satirist Bill Maher hasn't said he is sorry for dropping the "f-bomb" on Tebow after the rookie signal caller tossed his fourth interception in a lopsided Christmas Eve loss to the Buffalo Bills. Maher, an avowed atheist, said Jesus "f---ed" Tebow "bad."
Maher unintentionally put another star in Tebow's crown. His blasphemy made Tebow a martyr for The Lord among conservative Christians, who seem to relish "persecution" from the "liberal media elite."
That "elite" aside, Christian conservatives have it better in the USA than in any other nation in Christendom. In no other Western country is conservative evangelical Christianity stronger and more influential than in the USA.
Virtually the whole Republican Party has embraced or pays lip service to the Christian Right's anti-abortion, anti-evolution, global warming-denying, homophobic, nativist, God-said-it-I-believe-it-that-settles-it agenda. (A multitude of Democrats in my part of the country pander to conservative Christian "values voters," too.)
You wouldn't believe any of that the way Christians conservatives complain. You'd think a neo-Nero was running the country.
Nero, the homicidal maniac who enjoyed torturing and murdering Christians while he ran the Roman Empire, was dubbed the first anti-Christ by the Catholic Church. Some of the loopier Protestant Fundamentalists claim President Obama is the new anti-Christ.
Anyway, neither Hammerman nor Maher deny Tebow's right to "tebow." Nor do they question the sincerity of his religious or political views. Tebow, who is, or was, a registered Republican, teamed up with his mother and the tea party-tilting, GOP-friendly Focus on the Family to make an anti-abortion commercial for the 2010 Super Bowl when he was a super-star quarterback at the University of Florida.
But public piety naturally invites skepticism from many people of many faiths and skewering from iconoclasts. May it always be so.