Florida Gator quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow is known for being an unconventional college football player. First, he was homeschooled, taking a different route to his success in the NCAA. Second, he is outspoken about his Christian faith. Born in the Philippines while his parents served as missionaries there, Tebow never shies away from sharing his beliefs.
Last week the Christian homeschooler from Florida was able to do something few other star athletes have accomplished: silence a room of reporters. During a press conference, a reporter asked Tebow whether, in being consistent with his Christian faith, he was “saving himself for marriage.” Tebow nonchalantly yet confidently responded, “Yes, I am.” He then calmly called upon another reporter to ask a question. But the reporters at the press conference were obviously so stunned by Tebow’s honest and unapologetic answer, that the next reporter could barely verbalize his question.
Tebow laughed good-naturedly, amused that his honesty could silence a room full of sports reporters. “I think y’all were stunned by that,” he said. “Y’all can’t even ask a question. First time ever. Wow. I mean, I was ready for that question. I don’t think y’all were.”
Perhaps it wasn’t just the content of Tebow’s answer, but the refreshing honesty and clarity with which he responded, that bewildered his audience. He made no apologies, nor did he try to explain himself; he simply answered a straight-forward question with an unequivocal response. But what probably shocked the reporters more than the forthright answer was the fact that a young football star, with the world at his feet, would abide by such an “arcane” set of moral standards—and admit to it.
Tebow’s candor is refreshing, especially coming from a young man who certainly has the fame and success that attract temptations. The cliché about quarterbacks and cheerleaders certainly comes to mind. Instead, Tebow has decided to embrace his role model status by openly sharing his own personal standards regarding his faith and belief about the importance of sexual morality.
Tim Tebow isn’t the only attractive, successful young man to set a higher standard for his life. The Jonas Brothers, the wildly popular singing group of brothers, have also openly shared their commitment to remain pure until married. The brothers’ purity rings have been the topic of much discussion in the last year, particularly since they are the latest teen heartthrobs, with thousands of young girls following their every move.
During the MTV Music Video Awards last summer, host Russell Brand, a crass comedian infamous for his promiscuity, mocked the brothers for wearing their purity rings. What Brand and his ilk fail to realize is that there is a large portion of the young adult population that have made purity pledges—and don’t appreciate being ridiculed for their beliefs. It’s hard enough to take such a challenging stand against a tidal wave of pressure to become more sexually sophisticated at increasingly younger ages.
During the same MTV program, American Idol winner Jordin Sparks took to the stage and defended the Jonas Brothers: “I just have one thing to say about promise rings. It’s not bad to wear a promise ring, because not everybody—guy or girl—wants to be a slut.” In that moment, Sparks, who also wears a purity ring, voiced the frustration of every young person who is attacked for being naïve and “missing out” simply because they aspire to a higher standard.
A generation ago, questions about virginity or morality would never have been asked because it was assumed, based upon society’s mores, that sexual intimacy was reserved for marriage. It would have been unthinkable to mock someone’s sexual innocence, since it was something still culturally cherished. In less than one generation, that standard has been so degraded that it’s considered odd or abnormal for an attractive, intelligent, successful man or woman to declare their intention to remain virgins until married.
Now, we’re told by Hollywood, media and sex education organizations such as Planned Parenthood that if you don’t think every teenager is “doing it,” then you’re extremely naïve or ignorant. And when young people such as Tim Tebow or the Jonas brothers publicly share their decisions about maintaining high moral standards, they are ridiculed or labeled hypocrites. Some cynically deride the young men, speculating that with so much temptation, there is no way they can resist. After all, lust will always overcome principles or pledges. This pessimistic view of character and principle seeks to tear down high moral standards and replace them with a cheap, easy, unsatisfying standard.
The angry, vicious attacks on purity commitments lead one to believe that there is a certain amount of jealousy and personal regret motivating such vitriol. Maybe the objective is to degrade and disparage the innocent so that the attackers won’t feel quite so guilty about the loss of their own innocence.
With the humiliating downfall of men like Governor Mark Sanford, Senator John Ensign and countless other public leaders who have succumbed to sexual temptation and infidelity, there are fewer and fewer public role models to whom young people, and their parents, can look for inspiration. Thankfully, young men like Tim Tebow and the Jonas brothers are willingly taking on the role model responsibility without embarrassment.
It’s time for a new morality: the old-fashioned kind that teaches respect and dignity. In a truly tolerant society—in which we reportedly live now—one should be respected for choosing a life of standards and morality. It’s time to reinstate old standards for a new generation.