No, this is simply about Tim Tebow, a 22-year-old who's entering a stage of his life during which many people are going to try to use him for their own purposes. Tebow must be careful as he moves from the world of collegiate athletics, where he was an unassailable hero, to that of professional sports, where he'll be a target. He's going to have to make good decisions about the people with whom he surrounds and aligns himself. And in this case, by lining up with the group behind the controversial ad, Tebow has made a poor decision.
The group funding this ad calls itself "Focus on the Family," which sounds nice enough. It offers relationship and marriage counseling, parenting advice and tips on everything from managing your money to coping with addiction. On the surface, these are all things we can get behind.
"The Supreme Court's imposition of the doctrine of the separation of church and state distorts the Founding Father's (sic) recognition of our unequivocally Christian nation and the protection of religious freedom for all faiths," the group's web site states.
This group doesn't just believe in these things, it believes its duty is to pursue a course of action that creates a world in which everyone else believes in them too.
And that's where Tim Tebow comes in.
In Tebow, a ready-made superstar who wears his religious faith unapologetically on his eye black, Focus on the Family has found itself a vessel. People love Tebow. They believe him to be a solid, well-adjusted young man worth of attention and trust. As somebody to whom people are already happily inclined to listen, he is advertising gold if you can get him. Focus on the Family knew this, and knew he was with them on abortion, so they used that as the hook and reeled him in for use in the proliferation of all aspects of their agenda.
If Tebow really plans on playing in the NFL, he needs to know that this is part of it -- that people are going to keep coming after him because they know he can help them sell what they've got. He needs to know when to say yes and when to say no. To do that, he needs to know when he's being conned. And Focus on the Family conned him. Lisa Anderson, a spokesperson for the group, said the idea for the ad came from one of the group's employees, who brought it to upper management, who loved the idea and reached out to the Tebow family through mutual friends.
"They (the Tebows) have not been involved in anything with us prior to this," Anderson said.
Regardless, Tebow needs to think about what he's doing here, and who he's helping. Tebow says he has personal reasons to oppose abortion, but does he feel as strongly about school prayer and sexual preference and the need to impose a Christian-based interpretation of the U.S. Constitution? Does he really believe this is or was intended to be an "unequivocally Christian nation?" And if so, has he asked any Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist or Hindu teammates how they feel about that?
Does Tebow realize that by aligning himself with Focus on the Family he is toughening that group's resolve and ability to fight for its most small-minded, hate-driven issues -- not just the issue about which he feels most strongly?
Does he realize that, just as Nike uses Kobe Bryant to sell shoes and Gatorade uses Derek Jeter to sell fruit-flavored electrolytes, Focus on the Family is using him to sell its brand of sweeping conformity and intolerance?
If Tim Tebow wants to oppose abortion for personal, religious or any other reasons, that's his right, and it's also his right to tell anybody who'll listen. If he thinks that's all he's doing by appearing in this ad, then he and the people advising him are alarmingly short-sighted.
Tebow is being used by a special-interest group whose mission is to compel people to think and live according to its rules and beliefs. It won't be the last time somebody tries to use Tebow, especially not if he succeeds in transforming from star college athlete to star pro athlete. If it's the first time, and if this is the decision he's made, it doesn't say a lot about one aspect of Tebow that people cite when they argue that he might be able to make it as a quarterback in the NFL: