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I’m taking a break from my series on hermeneutics because I’ve got a hot topic that just has to go out soon. I’ve been listening to my favorite radio station, KFAN, lately and there has been a lot of talk about Tim Tebow and the way he promotes his faith. One of the opinions I’ve heard quite a few times when talking about how Tim Tebow should handle himself in regards to his faith is this: Faith is a private matter and it should be kept private. This is what I’d like to blog on today.
As I often do, I have a disclaimer. I am bloging today more on whether faith is a private affair and not so much on how one should live out their faith. My thesis is that faith can never be a private affair, regardless of what kind of faith, including atheism, agnosticism, Christianity, and all the world’s religions.
My first reason is that faith and religious belief do not exist in a vacuum. It does not fall on an individual from nowhere, resting on them alone. Even faith in atheism has a long history of those who have proclaimed its claims and passed them on to others. Inherently, this is what we do with religious beliefs. Even if I never choose to declare my beliefs with others, it’s still not private since I’ve picked up on the beliefs of those that have gone before me.
My second reason is that simply the act of not declaring my faith says something publicly about my faith. In the matter of faith, we’re not only defined by what we are but also by what we are not. I am a Christian. I am not a Muslim. One person is one who energetically proclaims their faith. Another does not. We may not know the reason they do not energetically proclaim their faith but we do know something about their faith merely by observation. Furthermore, this ability for me to observe them isn’t something they can “keep” from me. So, no matter how hard they try, they can’t keep all aspects of their faith from another person. Ironically, by saying faith should be a private affair, the guest on KFAN proclaimed publicly at least a part of his religious belief!
My final reason is that we have lots of subtle ways that we likely rarely notice that give clues about our faith. When you’re out with a large group, and drinks are available, and you notice someone drinking only water, don’t you at least bank that in your memory as you begin to put clues together like a puzzle as you get to know that person? Surely they may be drinking water because they prefer the taste, or they are in recovery, or some other reason. But maybe it’s because of a religious idea. We all have thousands of little things we do that tell people about who we are and our faith is not immune to giving up clues.
There is only one way I can think of to keep religion totally private and that is to be born in a jungle and then raised entirely by chimpanzees for your entire life and never come into contact with other humans. (I’ve been accused of being born in a barn, but…)
My suspicion is that there are many people who don’t like the delivery style of someone like Tim Tebow. Unfortunately, rather than dialoguing constructively towards a non-taboo means of expression, these people would rather attempt to shut the conversation down altogether. My guess is that many of these same people who are so annoyed at the overt, in-your-face style of expression by Tim Tebow are not nearly as annoyed by the overt, in-your-face sexual references on television which have increased by 50% since 1998. I remember a time when we at least claimed that sex was a private affair. But, that’s another blog for another day. And so is the topic of how to evangelize and proclaim faith.
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