Friday, February 05, 2010
Let’s get something clear right out of the gate: the Tim Tebow Super Bowl ad won’t convince anyone, not a single person, to change his or her views on abortion.
How could it? If the leaked reports are true, then the ad itself is a mealy-mouthed, soft-lit personal testimony about abstractions like “faith” and “love” and such. Furthermore, the story behind the ad—Pam Tebow ignoring a doctor’s advice to end her pregnancy and carry Jesu… uh, Tim, to term, thus making this commercial something he was, literally, born to do—is a weak argument.
Plus, given how many beer ads dominate the event annually, we can assume half the audience will expect Pam to start taking her top off for GoDaddy within ten seconds.
Despite its suspected ineffectiveness, however, the ad will still be widely discussed, praised, and lamented, which has more to do with advertising than religion or politics. To that point, who is the intended audience for this ad? Will it convince anyone pro-choice to cancel that donation to Planned Parenthood and pick up a sandwich board with the loons?
Of course not. The Tebows’ ad is both a show of force—James Dobson gets to hitch his wagon to Tim’s star power and preach about his moral authority (that and three million dollars will get you a Super Bowl ad)—and a pat on the back (this ad, like all proselytizing, preaches to the converted).
Whenever I see a public row over abortion, I remember a certain Bill Hicks joke: “If they’re so pro-life, why don’t they picket a cemetery instead of a medical clinic? Show some conviction!” The joke, in its terminology and its comparison, reveals how, for so many people in the public eye, this issue is really a public relations football (pardon the pun).
Which is not to say the Tebows are not genuine in their beliefs, mind you. Of that point, there’s no doubt. No, too many loathsome ideas are excused because they’re coated in sincerity, even more so when they’re launched from behind a pulpit.
Not here though. Choosing not to have abortion may be the only thing the two name-brand sides on this issue can agree on, but don’t pretend that’s what is behind the Tebow ad.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-16). Dobson and his ilk’s fruits are well known. To them, Pam and Tim Tebow’s story is not a personal conviction, but an illustrative example, living proof of the bounty an active god showers upon the faithful and steadfast.
Therefore, it is fair to picture what world Dobson and the Tebows would have us live in would we but follow their example, a world where we regularly eschew the advice of doctors—be it pregnancy or head trauma—for the preference of pastors. This would not, by the way, be a world without abortion, but it would be a world where “life” is defined even less by what we see in the world and more by what we wish the world were, or what someone tells us the world should be.
Ultimately, being against the legality of abortion seems akin to being opposed to open-heart surgery. People don’t set out to have one, nor do they see it as some cure-all for whatever led them to the doctor’s door. If there’s one medical procedure that promotes sin in this country, it’s likely the face-lift, not abortion.
And what I find so distasteful about this ad and its sponsors is their lack of empathy, their lack of concern for real people making real choices just like Pam Tebow had to. It’s a weak argument to use Tim Tebow as a poster child for the pro-life agenda, as if every womb is hiding a future Heisman winner and, therefore, that child's life is more precious than it would be otherwise. A false argument too. Let’s face it—most people are jerks, but so are you. Don't get cocky.
It’s also cynical. There’s a reason Dobson ponied up his dough for an ad in this year’s Super Bowl, before Tebow has even taken one snap in the NFL. Really, Tim should thank God that Mel Kiper wasn’t in the delivery room back in the day.