The Tim Tebow phenomenon

Could be that those who hate him see it clearly: Tim Tebow, bent humbly in prayer, is a threat to the very core of America as we have imagined ourselves to be since 1776. They see a threat right to the core of science mind, head domination over the heart that has brought us to world conquest these last 200 years. They see love rising to extinguish power as invariably in time it tends to.

It could be the “Grand Inquisitor” moment that Dostoyevsky warned us about. Pop culture mavens might recall two knock-offs in modern times, one penned if I recall correctly by David Duchovny and Chris Carter in “The X Files” and the other in magnificently portrayed all through a television season in J.J. Abrams’s “Lost.”

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In “The X Files” account, the Christ reappeared on earth in the body of an alien. Immediately he is recognized by the Cigarette-Smoking Man as the Christ. He is sent to the dungeons for torture. “Science is their religion,” says the ineffable Cigarette-Smoking Man, meaning us, and it is his role as subtle agent, like the Grand Inquisitor’s, to protect the official religion. As Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor did, the Cigarette Smoking Man wisely saw this alien imposter in our midst as a threat to our very essence. Much as Bill Maher sees Tim Tebow.

But the “Lost” telling was a masterpiece, not only because it slipped beneath the TV censors and advertisers and critics exactly as Dostoyevsky’s great works did, but because of the exquisite telling of the story. In this telling, the execrable Ben Linus (read “Ben” = “Son” – the Christ; Linus, Muse of Apollo) was captured by the “Lost” islanders and thrown into the dungeon for torture. The definitive chest wound and a Dostoyevsky book used as a talisman, given to him by John Locke, a seeker, who wants to know better, identified him as the returned Christ, worn threadbare and gone half mad by his long journey.

In the Dostoevsky story the Christ appears and is thrown into prison by the Grand Inquisitor because what he asks of people is too hard, and what he brings will destroy everything the Inquisitor has built these past thousand years. He, the Christ, is sent to the dungeons for torture.

 I don’t pray and am kind of the opposite of the Tebow haters. I personally dislike public displays of religiosity unless they come from Jews or Buddhists (Asian ones, but not Deepak Chopra). Because otherwise they have, these past decades in America since Jimmy Carter declared himself to be “born again,” seemed simply to be insidious and insincere projections of territoriality; the use of religion for political ends should be considered a kind of blasphemy.

But Tim does not seem like that. I like to watch him pray. He seems real and that is the danger. That is what Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor knew, and so do Bill Maher in our time and the Tebow-haters: one man praying could ruin everything.