Last month, U.S. Soccer and the United States National Soccer Teams announced the decision to partner with the You Can Play Project. Launched in 2012, the organization describes itself as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender athletes and allies teaming up for respect. Its mission is to put the “focus on an athlete’s skills, work ethic, and competitive spirit, not their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.” In support of this organization, U.S. Soccer decided the U.S. men’s and women’s national teams would wear “pride-inspired rainbow numbers during the June friendlies.” Additionally, the word “PRIDE” would replace the players’ names over their rainbow colored numbers.
Now I’ll just remind you that the You Can Play Project aims to keep the focus on an athlete’s skills, not his or her sexual orientation and/or gender identity. You can see how removing a player’s own identity and replacing it with a word that celebrates all deviations from heteronormative function achieves this aim.
On June 8th and 11th, the women’s national team competed in Sweden and Norway respectively, debuting the aforementioned jerseys. Noticeably absent from these friendlies was defender Jaelene Hinkle. Citing personal reasons, Hinkle withdrew herself from the roster for these games. Jaelene Hinkle is a Christian.
Two years ago, following the Supreme Court’s ruling that nationally recognized same-sex "marriage," Hinkle publicly expressed on Instagram what she believes the rainbow symbolizes:
“The rainbow was a convenant made between God and all His creation that never again would the world be flooded as it was when He destroyed the world during Noah's time. It's a constant reminder that no matter how corrupt this world becomes, He will never leave us or forsake us. Thank You, Lord, for Your amazing grace, even during times of trial and confusion. Love won over 2,000 years ago, when the greatest sacrifice of all time was made for ALL mankind.”
The New York Post, however, finds Jaelene’s “personal reasons” suspect: “You would think a 24-year-old rising American soccer player would be jumping at the chance to show the US women’s national team coaches what she can do.”
Exactly right. Wouldn’t you think that? Maybe a better observation requiring a better question would be, “Why?” Why would Hinkle remove herself from this “chance?” Could there be something more important to her than soccer, success, or public acceptance? Maybe it’s those deeply-held religious beliefs we keep hearing so much about. Maybe her allegiance to Christ supersedes her willingness to be a walking billboard for practices condemned by the Bible she prizes.
Make no mistake about it -- Christians, you are in a crucible. Who you really are will be revealed in this time. For Jaelene, it was turning down a soccer friendly. For Barronelle Stutzman, it was refusing to arrange flowers. For Aaron and Melissa Klein, it was declining a cake order. For Blaine Adamson, is was passing on a T-shirt design. For me, it has been and will be enduring the public attacks, vitriol, and intimidation attempts. For you, it may be losing a promotion. Are you ready? Have you already decided what you’ll do or where you’ll stand?
One of my favorite Bible teachers, Abraham Hamilton III, says these types of decisions are made consistently in private long before they are ever expressed publicly. I agree. Abraham reminded me recently that when taken captive to serve in the king’s court (Daniel 1:8), the Hebrew boys who famously refused to worship a golden statue had previously and maybe less famously declined the king’s dainties. So when pressured before King Nebuchadnezzar to bow or burn, those resolute young men replied, “…we have no need to answer you in this matter… our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18).
They were ready to decline participating in a practice abhorrent to their God. There was no need to retreat in search of a less offensive reply. No grasping at a pragmatic opportunity. Nope -- just the familiar decision to be on the side of righteousness.
I’m also reminded of Moses as recalled in the Hebrews writer’s Faith Hall of Fame:
“By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.”
May we all look to the reward. May the Holy Spirit of God grant each of us the power to say no to that which dishonors God. Maranatha!
(This blog first appeared on the Urban Family website here: https://www.urbanfamilytalk.com/articles/faith/2017/june/13/america-the-crucible/)