On Super Bowl Sunday, Tim Tebow and his mom will appear on your television sets and suggest very sweetly that the women among you play dice games with their God.
Not in so many words, of course. I'm guessing the Tebows' ad, for spanky Jim Dobson's Focus on the Family, will extol the glories of family and motherhood and the value of children and other seemingly innocuous fare; it will also be 30 seconds of anti-abortion dog-whistling to the Christian right on a frequency somewhere beyond the range of only CBS executives. The moral, implicit or otherwise, will be: don't terminate your pregnancy; that blastocyst might turn into Tim Tebow.
Now, the Tebows are entitled to their own God, and James Dobson to his tax write-offs, and I suppose CBS can bend its own rules and behave as cravenly as it wishes. But the Tebows' message should be called for what it is, and what it is is outright quackery that doesn't differ appreciably from my going on television with a toy stethoscope and urging America to start treating itself with leeches.
Here are two accounts of Tim Tebow's nativity. From Sports Illustrated:
Now Bob Tebow has a question of his own: "Have you heard the story of Timmy's birth?"
Even if you have, it's worth hearing from the mouth of his father: "When I was out in the mountains in Mindanao, back in '86, I was showing a film and preaching that night. I was weeping over the millions of babies being [aborted] in America, and I prayed, 'God, if you give me a son, if you give me Timmy, I'll raise him to be a preacher.'" Not long after, Bob and Pam Tebow conceived their fifth child. It was a very difficult pregnancy. "The placenta was never properly attached, and there was bleeding from the get-go," Bob recalls. "We thought we'd lost him several times." Early in the pregnancy Pam contracted amebic dysentery, which briefly put her in a coma. Her doctors, fearful that medications they had given her had damaged the fetus, advised her to abort it. She refused, and on Aug. 14, 1987, Pam delivered a healthy if somewhat scrawny Timothy Richard Tebow.
"All his life, from the moment he could understand, I told him, 'You're a miracle baby,'" Bob recalls. "'God's got a purpose for you, and at some point I think He's going to call you to preach.'
"I asked God for a preacher, and he gave me a quarterback."
And now USA Today:
When the Tebow family moved from Jacksonville to the Philippines in 1985 to start a mission and an orphanage, they already had four children. Before Pam Tebow became pregnant with her fifth child, Tim, she became ill with amoebic dysentery and was briefly in a coma. Medication controlled the infection, but when she sensed she might be pregnant she stopped taking it. Once pregnant, there were problems. The placenta didn't attach, likely because of the medication.
"I was advised to have an abortion," she says. "The doctors said he was a mass of fetal tissue and not a baby. But I had been pregnant four times, and I knew I was pregnant."
In search of better medical care, the family moved to Manila, the country's capital, where Tim was born in 1987.
"Timmy is a miracle baby. He was malnourished at the beginning, but he's made up for it," Pam Tebow says with a laugh about her 6-3, 235-pound son.
"After such a crazy pregnancy, we feel that God has a special plan for him."
Most everyone yammering about the commercial is asking the wrong questions. The real issue here has nothing to do with whether a famous football player should dive into such heated controversies; nor does it have anything to do with whether the Super Bowl is the proper platform from which to do so. (Please. The Super Bowl isn't the proper platform for a lot of things, but they kept inviting Up with People back anyway.) Whatever your politics and faith, the question to ask is this: Do a famous football player and his mom have any business telling a national television audience, in coded language or otherwise, that we should ignore science, pray extra hard, and hope that God rolls the point in the great craps game of human existence, simply because He once rolled it for them? It's wonderful that everything worked out for the Tebows. That it did was also — if the situation was indeed dire enough that doctors recommended terminating the pregnancy (in a deeply Catholic country that criminalizes abortion, no less) — extraordinarily lucky. The moment the family takes that private bit of providence and dangles it on television as a possibility for others — well, that's the moment the family turns into just another set of TV charlatans. But wait, there's more! That fetus could win a Heisman! This is dangerous stuff. They're telling women, even the ones at risk, to gamble with their health. What's pro-life about that?