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Pastor's comments do Tebow a disservice

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo Sports

Tim Tebow's pastor, Wayne Hanson, says he knows why the Denver Broncos are 7-1 since installing Tebow as quarterback – it's the player's faith.

"It's not luck," Hanson said according to TMZ. "Luck isn't winning six games in a row. It's favor. God's favor."

Hanson, who runs the Summit Church in suburban Denver, said the Broncos wouldn't be winning games if God hadn't decided to reward Tebow's religious beliefs.

Comments like these aren't helping Tim Tebow. And they aren't helping gain acceptance for the faith Tebow is willing to serve as public representative.

If anything, this is a moment when the pastor ought to take a lesson from his follower, who has consistently rejected such proclamations.

Tebow's commitment to Evangelical Christianity is well known and his displays of that faith are often public. However, he's never said God is deciding who wins football games, other than when joking about an opponent's miscue.

Tebow doesn't even want people to credit him for all the winning.

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"I don't think it's Tebow Time," he said Sunday of the late game comebacks Denver keeps rattling off. "I think it's the Broncos Time."

This is the beauty and brilliance of Tim Tebow. He puts his faith on display, but never seems to get too direct about it. He shrugs off criticism. He even jokes about it. He is unfailingly polite, accepting of doubters and moderate in his proclamations.

"If you believe, unbelievable things can sometimes be possible," is about as bold as he gets.

Very few people, even the ultra religious, believe God cares about the result of a football game. There are plenty of believers on the other teams also.

There is no question that Tebow's faith has played a role in his success. It's a part of him. It's what works for him. It's what drives him. It's what provides the confidence to overcome all odds – be it in the fourth quarter or in offseason preparation. All the great ones have that and Tebow derives his from his religion.

That's a powerful message and, it appears, the one that Tim Tebow wants put out there.

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This is what works for me, he is saying. This is how I do it. This is what has shaped me as both a successful player on the field and an undoubtedly polite and respectful person off of it.

If you want to give it a shot, then come join me.

And he pretty much leaves it at that. You don't have to be religious at all to enjoy Tim Tebow the football player, the role model or the well-meaning star.

While he's aggressive in his missionary work overseas, for the most part his public offerings, especially since joining the NFL, are extremely reasonable. He's even laughed off opponents "Tebowing" after sacking him. There doesn't appear to be a confrontational bone in his body – other than his willingness to lower his shoulder in the open field.

Isn't that how you want people of other religions, or non-believers, to act?

In 2010, Tebow and his mother Pam were featured in a Super Bowl commercial paid for by the group Focus on the Family, which, among other things, espouses pro-life positions. Pam Tebow says when she was pregnant with Tim, doctors advised her to have an abortion due to potential complications. She declined and the rest is history.

While there was great controversy in the run up to the commercial, it turned out to be apolitical, never mentioning abortion or religion. It wasn't offensive. It merely offered a website at the end so anyone interested could find out the "full story."

Religion is said to be the third rail of politics. Many people don't want it involved in sports at all – they'd prefer to compartmentalize it. Besides, in a country that is hyper-partisan and divided in so many ways, one of the great things about the NFL is its ability to provide common grounds for people of all religions, races, ages, sexes and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Tebow seems to understand that, seems determined to express his personal faith in the most benign and welcoming way possible.

It's his pastor, and any number of others trying to ride in Tebow's wake, that takes it a step further.

In a non-religious – and albeit somewhat forced – comparison, what Tebow is doing is similar to what Michael Vick did last year. Vick had come out of prison to deliver a series of electrifying victories to the Philadelphia Eagles. Like Tebow, he was offering a message to the masses.

No less than President Obama issued a statement noting Vick proved that "individuals who have paid for their crimes should have an opportunity to contribute to society again."

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Vick preferred to lay low and let his game, and new attitude, speak for him. He remained mindful of his mistakes and respectful of those who still found fault with him. You could hate what he did, but not what he was doing.

Maybe he won some people over. Maybe he didn't. That he had the opportunity is the pedestal the NFL can provide.

Tebow is doing the same. He's the first to say the Broncos are winning games because of a hellacious defense, a team-first concept and a tremendous level of trust in each other. While the quarterback's unorthodox style and calm play under pressure has proven particularly difficult for defenses (often zone) to stop late in games, Tebow knows football is the ultimate team sport.

It's been a magical ride and one, no doubt, that has aided the image of, and interest in, Evangelical Christianity. A likeable spokesman will always do that.

This is no time for a pastor to claim this is anything more than it is and undermine the entire thing.

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