I'll get right to the point. Tim Tebow has done more for religion than all the institutional school prayers, creches, and religious displays on public grounds put together. His audiences have been in the millions each week, the discussions in newspapers, magazine and the internet reached millions more. His simple gesture of kneeling and praying is known as Tebowing. Three Muslim religion brothers in Denver even put up a bill board supporting him. Talk about marketing. You can't buy that stuff.
Yet, Tebow himself has said very little. People have spoken for him and assumed for him. He never contended that winning football games was a priority of God or Jesus. Other people did. In fact, he said the opposite. All he said was that his faith is the most important factor in his life. So, winning or losing, it's there. He inspired his teammates. He didn't whine about criticism. He led a losing team to the NFL playoffs, but got blown out by a better team and a better quarterback. It didn't change his faith.
He continued his work with handicapped children bringing children to his games as well as partnering his foundation with a Phillipines organization for disabled children. He risked condemnation for his pro-life ad at last years' Super Bowl in which he discussed the fact that he was a baby that was supposed to be aborted. He risked ridicule by declaring his virginity and pledging it until marriage. His faith IS the focus of his life. He leads by individual example.
In the meantime, during the Holiday (read: Holy Days) season, there were disputes in some communities about putting up manger scenes on government property. One town has for 50 years, but was blocked this year. Outrage? Why? No one can stop individual citizens from putting up their own creches. Think what the reaction would have been had a thousand residents put up creche scenes on their own property. Think Tebow and his faith and his actions. How much more powerful those one thousand displays would be than the one government-sponsored presentation.
Think how much more powerful individual, or collective individual prayers are than government sponsored or institutional sponsored expressions of faith. Yes, prayer is allowed in school, it just can't be school initiated or sponsored. What should be allowed or even required is religious study. Religion is too important to be ignored as an academic subject. That, of course, means all religions, or at least the principal ones. I still have, somewhere, a paper I wrote in my junior year in high school comparing Christianity, Buddhism and Mohammedism (that's what we called Islam way back then). I don't think it was very good and written today would certainly have been more lively.
As for needing government to endorse religion, the U.S. Constitution expressly forbids a state religion. James Madison once remarked that "government shouldn't take cognizance of religion". Even he didn't go that far and our government and governments are strewn with religious expressions and symbols. A few years ago Newt Gingrich (no, this is not a Gingrich plug) wrote a very informative and interesting book about that. The point was and is that our American culture and founding is permeated by religious thought, mostly Christian, and that we shouldn't blot out history with faux non-religious purity.
However, the key perspective is that we're free to express any religious (or non-religious) thoughts and expressions we might have. Government does not sponsor or control religion. We may not have a prayer in our publicly paid for schools, but we're free to pray at school and certainly can pray at home on rising, on going to bed, and at meals or at any other time we're so inclined. We can pray publicly or privately. We can pray individually or collectively and if religion is really important to us we can share it with others.
That's what Tebow does. He doesn't force it on anyone. He simply displays his faith by gestures and works. Irritating? I can see that although I know Catholics who cross themselves publicly when they feel it is appropriate for them. Some Muslims pray five times a day. Buddhists meditate and/or chant. Big deal. No one has to like it, and if it creates "good" (whatever that is), it's well, good.
From all we know, Tebow lives an exemplary life. We know he strives to. His is the good athlete example and he is not alone. His message is infectious and has been extraordinarily effective. Clearly, the message is that goodness, faith, works, however you label them, is up to you individually, not the government. Tebow and religion are on a roll. Go Tebow.