Recently, the U. S. women’s soccer team thumped Thailand 13-0 in the Women’s World Cup. It got ugly, and led to criticism: some felt the American ladies wrongly ran up the score and that their goal celebrations were a bit over the top.
Well, whether that criticism is just or unjust, you can’t blame the best left back in U.S. women’s soccer. That’s because Jaelene Hinkle wasn’t on the pitch during the multiple celebrations. In fact, she’s not even on the team.
Hinkle’s saga began back in 2015 after the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex “marriage.” Hinkle posted the following on Instagram: “I believe with every fiber in my body that what was written 2,000 years ago in the Bible is undoubtedly true … . This world may change, but Christ and His Word NEVER will.”
As you can imagine, this made Hinkle a marked woman, especially among soccer fans who identified as LGBT.
Then, in 2017, Hinkle chose to withdraw from the national team rather than wear a U.S. team jersey sporting rainbow numbers in order to celebrate gay pride.
Hinkle explained her decision, “I just felt so convicted in my spirit that it wasn’t my job to wear this jersey … I gave myself three days to just seek and pray and determine what (God) was asking me to do in this situation. If I never get another national team call-up again then that’s just a part of His plan, and that’s okay. Maybe this is why I was meant to play soccer, to show other believers to be obedient.”
Well, her obedience came at a price. Playing for the North Carolina Courage team in the National Women’s Soccer League, Hinkle is the recipient of boos and jeers almost every time she touches the ball.
And in the run-up to this year’s Women’s World Cup, U.S. Coach Jill Ellis invited Hinkle to try out for the team. After three days of workouts, Ellis, who is gay and “married” to her lesbian partner, cut Hinkle, citing “footballing reasons.”
Many were skeptical that the best women’s fullback in the country—something even her pro-LGBT critics admit—isn’t good enough to play on the U.S. Women’s World Cup team. According to SB Nation’s Kim McCauley, who by the way called Hinkle a “vocal homophobe,” “there isn’t a better pure tactical fit available [for the U.S. team] than Hinkle.”
Now, McCauley posits that Coach Ellis only invited Hinkle to tryout to avoid a lawsuit. Nonetheless, the mere fact that Hinkle was invited to try out sent LGBT fans into conniptions, with the usual complaints of feeling betrayed and hurt, that someone with traditional religious views might dare represent the U.S.
More rationally, some fans expressed concern about “team chemistry.” After all, as I already mentioned, coach Ellis is gay, and team star Megan Rapinoe has posed without clothes on the cover of ESPN Magazine with her girlfriend.
Of course, chemistry isn’t a problem for Hinkle’s North Carolina Courage team. Coach Paul Riley and teammate Jessica MacDonald both have stated publicly that Hinkle’s faith has not negatively affected that team or its play.
Hinkle’s saga is only the most recent evidence that American Christians need to develop a theology of getting fired, or if you happen to be in Hinkle’s profession, a theology of getting cut from the team.
It’s simply more likely than not that we too will face a choice at some point between our career and our convictions. We aren’t the first Christians who have had to face this choice, and thank God the choice isn’t our life and our convictions, as it is for our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world.
Jaelene Hinkle chose well. Will we?
John Stonestreet is President of The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview and BreakPoint co-host.
Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by The Daily Signal.