Sean O’Neil reflects on the rising of a Protestant saint Religion Dispatches:
Evangelical Protestants have historically opposed the idea of sainthood à la Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy. Even people who aren’t familiar with all the historical and theological particulars of the Reformation—that 16th-century historical movement that led some eager Protestants to smash images of saints with bellowing cries against “idolatry”—know that many Protestants are quite selective with religious images. Protestants have been especially wary of images of saints because this visual piety strikes them as an affront to a God who they claim demands singular worship and relationship. A crowd of visual intermediaries, as the iconoclastic Protestant logic goes, could muddle the face of Jesus; the only image some Protestants will display in their homes and churches.
But then there’s Tim Tebow, a man with patent strengths and glaring football weakness; a man who fits the last-shall-be-first theme of so many stories about saints.
With a little over two minutes left, all heaven broke loose. In myths, the importance of story dwarves the historical sequence, which, in this case, is that Tebow won! What some have deemed (quite loosely, I might add) a “miracle” included two Tebow tosses for touchdowns, a Tebow run for a two-point conversion, a successful onside kick (that almost never happens in the NFL), and a Dolphin’s sack-fumble. Overtime included a 52-yard field goal, which brought the Broncos their 18-15 win.
Tebow seemed to have an uncanny sense that the camera had caught him when he ceremonially genuflected. The difference between his gesture and other athletic signals to the divine, however, is that Tebow has made clear in every bestselling book (he just has one so far, at the age of 23) and every interview he gives that his devotion is particular: that Jesus Christ is his “Lord and Savior.” Evangelicals like my mother don’t need that text anymore to perceive something divine in his continuingly improbable story.