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Learning from Tim Tebow on racism

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Tim Tebow, the Patriots renowned third-string quarterback, has signed autographs nearly every day since the start of training camp this year (Credit: AP/Steven Senne)

Tim Tebow played football with Riley Cooper at the University of Florida.  Why is that fact relevant this morning?

Cooper, now a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, was recently at a Kenny Chesney concert, where he pointed to the crowd and said, “I will jump that fence and fight every [racial slur] here.”  The video immediately went viral.  He was fined by his team and has apologized to his teammates.  When Tebow was asked about Cooper’s racist epithet, he told reporters he was “definitely praying for him.”  As we should be.  And for our society as well.

Despite decades of civil rights progress, racial prejudice persists in America.  For instance, Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones hit a three-run homer against the San Francisco Giants last Sunday night.  Later in the inning, he says a fan in the Giants’ AT&T Park tossed a banana at him.  Why is this incident making headlines?  Because throwing a banana at an African-American is an overtly racist gesture.

This was more than a drunk fan expressing his frustration.  The park’s concessions menu does not list bananas as an item for sale, but I called the stadium and learned that fans can bring food in.  So this person brought the banana with him, apparently for this purpose.  While no videotape of the incident has surfaced, the Giants issued an apology on Monday morning.  Major League Baseball will investigate as well.

Meanwhile, a statue of Jackie Robinson was recently defaced outside a minor league baseball stadium in Brooklyn.  “Heil Hitler,” swastikas and racial epithets were scrawled on the statue with a black marker.  And last week marked the one-year anniversary of the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin, where a white supremacist killed six people.

Why is racism still such a problem in our culture?  Civil rights laws have made most acts of racial discrimination illegal, but they cannot change the human heart.  So long as a person can feel superior to someone else based solely on his or her skin color, racism will persist.  However, God’s unconditional love can change what no words or laws can.

The Red Cross once announced a food and clothing drive for hurting people in a region of Africa.  A box arrived at their headquarters; inside was a mound of white cloth strips and a note: “We are former KKK members, but we have found Christ and will not need these any more.  Perhaps you can use them.”  As a result, Klan sheets were made into bandages for African children.

The darker the room, the brighter the light.  In a culture still struggling with prejudice, who will see God’s unconditional love in yours today?