Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Muhammed Ali and Tim Tebow

Today is Muhammad Ali's 70th birthday.  Ali was not only one of, possibly, the greatest to ever walk into a boxing ring, but was a major social figure who was outspoken on the issues of the day.  He spoke out against the war in Vietnam and refused to go even when drafted. 

Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?
He was a prominent voice for peace and civil rights at a time when standing up was not the easy thing to do.  He was stripped of his title and not allowed to fight for four years, before the Supreme Court upheld his case as a conscientious objector.

The question that springs to mind is whether we have contemporary athletes who seek to occupy a similar space in the present moral discourse.  The name that seems unavoidable is Tim Tebow who is a champion of the other side of the political aisle.  He is held up in the media, both sports and non-sports, as the archetype of a good person, of morality.  His book is full of passages like:
People often seem to think that when you're following the Lord and trying to do His will, your path will always be clear, the decisions smooth and easy, and life will be lived happily ever after and all that. Sometimes that may be true, but I've found that more often, it's not. The muddled decisions still seem muddled, bad things still happen to believers, and great things can happen to nonbelievers. When it comes to making our decisions, the key that God is concerned with is that we are trusting and seeking Him. God's desire is for us to align our lives with His Word and His will.
We have a conflation of morality with strength of Christian belief here -- two completely different things -- and we have a diminishing of non-believers as them, but perhaps this is just nitpicking.  Is there a difference other than political persuasion between Muhammad Ali and Tim Tebow as public figures?