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The culture wars need to make a safe space for conscience

The United States' Jaelene Hinkle, right, handles the ball during an international friendly soccer match against China, in Glendale, Ariz., on Dec. 13, 2015. Hinkle revealed she decided not to play for the U.S. women's national team last year because her Christian faith prevented her from wearing a jersey that commemorated LGBTQ Pride Month. Hinkle revealed the reason for her decision last June in an interview posted May 30, 2018, on The 700 Club website. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

(RNS) — At a women’s professional soccer game in Portland, Ore., in May, two groups were making noise from the seats: locals rooting on the hometown Portland Thorns, and another set of voices who had come out expressly to boo one player, Jaelene Hinkle, a defender for the visiting North Carolina Courage.

A few days before, Hinkle had elaborated to the Christian Broadcasting Network on the “personal reasons” that had kept her from joining last year’s U.S. women’s national team: Her Christian faith was at odds, she said, with the rainbow-splashed jerseys the team had recently adopted to celebrate LGBT Pride month.

“I just felt so convicted in my spirit that it wasn’t my job to wear this jersey,” she told CBN.

In Portland, a sign in the stands read, in rainbow letters, “Personal Reasons.”

Jennifer Bryson, a political scientist who works for the Religious Freedom Institute in Washington (and who is a huge soccer fan), has been following the case of the rainbow jerseys since they were first adopted in June 2017. Bryson has bemoaned Hinkle’s situation and the pride-focused jerseys themselves — not to mention the NFL’s national anthem controversy — as a politicization of sports, which she calls “one of the last bastions of civility and inclusivity in America.”

Inclusivity of American sports, of course, is a somewhat recent phenomenon, but Bryson has a point that we seem to moving backward. If nothing else, she noted, the body that governs U.S. women’s soccer violated international football’s own rules forbidding the display of political messages.

According to the International Football Association Board, whose rules have been adopted by FIFA, the international soccer governing body,  “Equipment must not have any political, religious or personal slogans, statements or images.” 

World soccer may be inconsistent in permitting the U.S. women’s team’s jersey, and I don’t presume to know what kinds of accommodations may have been offered to Hinkle. But Hinkle’s nasty treatment in Portland is a bigger problem for progressives who are committed to policing dissent from their political and moral orthodoxies.

The most obvious glitch is that the same enlightened white fans who harassed Hinkle for acting on her evangelical Christian faith would be aghast to see a Muslim player berated from the stands for choices she made based on her faith.

Indeed, there was consternation in the Western press in 2011 when FIFA barred the Iranian women’s team from playing in uniforms that respected the customs of hijab or when the Canadian player Asmahan Mansour was tossed from a game in Quebec in 2007 for wearing a headscarf. Ibtihaj Muhammad, a fencer who was the first woman to represent the United States at an Olympics while wearing a hijab two years ago, has been lionized again lately as she goes on tour for her memoir, titled “Proud.”

Liberal approval of these faith-based heroes doesn’t depend on an agreement with Muslim customs regarding modesty or gender equality. It’s the struggle to be oneself that matters.

Examples of the U.S. Soccer national team jerseys with rainbow numbers to commemorate LGBT Pride month that Hinkle decided to not wear. Image courtesy U.S. Soccer

Hinkle made no public demands that the jerseys be banned. She only denied herself the hard-won honor of representing her country on the field because she feels that her obedience to God prevents her from celebrating what she believes is sinful. The celebration of LGBT pride has reached a point where even tacit rejection of the LGBT view of progress is enough to alienate someone.

We need to turn down the temperature in the culture wars. We need to resist the penetration of ideological polarization into matters of conscience. We should reject an insistence on consensus that subverts our national ethic of respect for minority views, and we should be suspect of the corporate machines that profit from these easy affirmations.

In the near future, sports — by which I mean a wide range of high school and college coaches and administrators — will be deciding questions of fairness in competition when it comes to transgender athletes. 

This progress will be controversial enough. We’ll need to grant everyone patience to process and accommodate the coming changes. To lay the ground for future change, at a minimum, we need to honor the consciences of athletes, coaches and others who do not wish to celebrate moments like LGBT pride, if only by stepping aside when they can’t sign on.

For that kind of patience we might look to the athletes themselves, who play their hearts out beside people of all kinds as they rise to the top of their sports. 

After the Supreme Court approved same-sex marriage, Jaelene Hinkle wrote on Instagram, “My heart is that as Christians we don’t begin to throw a tantrum over what has been brought into law today, but we become that much more loving.”

The tantrums are a bad look for both sides of the culture war. Let’s follow our athletes’ example and pursue both excellence and tolerance.

(Jacob Lupfer, a frequent commentator on religion and politics, is a writer and consultant in Baltimore. His website is www.jacoblupfer.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jlupf. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent those of Religion News Service.)

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  • Why is it that the so-called “culture wars” are always waged between people who support gay rights versus those who don’t? Why is it never some other issue, some other sin, that people discern in others that prevents them from treating that person like any other ordinary sinful human being with the dignity all human beings deserve? Why does the supposed “sin” of being gay trump all other sins when Jesus himself never even mentioned homosexuality while all the other things that Jesus specifically preached about are routinely ignored? Things like depriving people of healthcare, stealing from the poor in order to give to the rich, locking up migrants in cages and ripping their babies from their arms? No culture war is ever waged against these outrages, but baking a cake for gay people, having sports teams wear a rainbow flag on their jerseys as a symbol of affirmation – THOSE things are worthy of a culture war.

    I’m just going to come right out and say this: Jesus would be appalled, and the people who claim to follow him wouldn’t even recognize him if he showed up and stared them in the face. The culture warriors on the right (and they’re always on the right) forget about “Whatsoever you do to the least of these you do unto me.” No culture war is ever waged over that infraction. Which leads me to the shortest sentence in the Bible: Jesus wept.

  • They’re not.

    It happens that’s what RNS reports, as does JoeMyGod.

    There is an entire real world out there, although reading this stuff would never inform you of that.

  • So the anti-LGBT player gets to exercise her conscience …and the fans in the stands don’t ??

    Typical Christian hypocrisy.

  • Imagine the author bemoaning “the penetration of ideological polarization into matters of conscience” when someone refused to wear a shirt promoting individual freedom because her book of ancient wisdom promotes and endorses slavery.

  • All are punished: NFL must “honor the flag;” MLB/NFL wears pink for breast cancer/mother’s day, camouflage for the military, “42” for Jackie Robinson/Negro league baseball . . . if the point is being made to honor some, but not all in turn, then stop the process wholesale. Wear the sports uniform alone, without any honorific/commemorative statement that would compromise anyone, intentions or attitudes aside. Christians competing on Sunday was once an issue, wasn’t it?

  • “But Hinkle’s nasty treatment in Portland is a bigger problem for progressives who are committed to policing dissent from their political and moral orthodoxies”
    projection, projection projection.
    pots and kettles. mirrors. where are the mirrors

  • What delicate snowflakes these conservative Christians are. They need safe places to exercise their threatened liberties. Why, that sounds just like the caricature conservatives have of liberals.

    Here are a couple of questions:

    catholic school teachers are fired if they get married to someone of the Wrong sex. Where is the concern for them? After all, they also have onsciences. Would she complain if she was fired from the team because she wasn’t making herself a part of the team?

    How many of her teammates are gay? How many of them support the idea that gay people should be treated equally to others in society? How many of them give a small goddam about her delicate conscience when it comes to the other items she believes are sins, or the things her ancient book says are sins. Does she get exercised about my of those other things? Or is it just this one thing. And why is it that the term cultures wars really seems to mean the war of hyper conservative Christians on gay people and our participation in society.

    Why does her delicate conscience get a pass, but women who use birth control or get abortions aren’t allowed to have a conscience on the matter: Laws Must Be Passed. What about the religious liberty of the many individuals, churches, synagogues ministers, and entire ongregarions that have no problem with gay people?

  • At one time there was the same argument over race. There were some athletes (and fans) who didn’t like integration and full inclusion at all. They objected based on their Christian faith, and called for their “religious freedom” to be protected. They lost then, and they’re going to lose again. Evangelicals have never been happy with the promise of America or our Constitution. Equality is anathema to Evangelicals. They believe some people should be kept as second-class citizens (the people they don’t like). It used to be blacks back in the day, and now it’s gay people. Evangelicals keep demanding that gay American be treated as legal and social outcasts, and stripped of their rights and treated like garbage. They just don’t get it – most Americans have come to realize it’s wrong to mistreat people simply because they’re gay. They’re going to have to get over their prejudice and hate or they’re going to have a miserable time living in America. Jaelene Hinkle views gay people as “less than” and that’s likely going to cost her a career in professional soccer. I’m good with that. Maybe it will cause her to re-examine her prejudice.

  • You’re right. Living publicly and courageously for Jesus Christ, may well cost Jaelene Hinkle her career.

    It certainly cost the Gospel singer Kim Burrell her shot at movie soundtracks, TV gigs, the music giant BMI, and even a Texas Southern University radio program. All gone.
    It cost Baronelle Stutzmann, Jack Phillips, and brave Christian vendors in 10 or 11 other states their businesses that they worked so hard to establish. Phillips may get another shot, but most won’t.

    So everybody now understands what Gay Goliath is saying: “The celebration of LGBT pride has reached a point where even tacit rejection of the LGBT view of progress is enough to alienate someone.” Implied threat, folks.

    There is no middle ground anymore. Trump or no Trump, the days of getting Constitutional Religious Freedom for free are OVER. Either stand up and fight for it, or bow down and give it up. Choose!!

  • Actually, Jaelene Hinkle didn’t go for the “safe place” option at all. She could have avoided all the Boo-Birds and harsh media, merely by bowing & kowtowing like a slave to Gay Goliath’s inappropriate political demand.

    Goliath’s political demand even violated FIFA and IFAB’s own rule: “Equipment must not have any political, religious or personal slogans, statements or images.” Brazen, in-your-face, dishonorable, PC gay mess.

    But instead of surrendering, Hinkle decided to courageously live out her faith in Jesus Christ, (and live out some Bible-based independent thinking as well), and she bravely stood up to Goliath all by herself. The End.

  • This section is interesting: “Bryson has bemoaned Hinkle’s situation and the pride-focused jerseys themselves — not to mention the NFL’s national anthem controversy — as a politicization of sports, which she calls “one of the last bastions of civility and inclusivity in America.””

    I hope that what she bemoans about the NFL anthem controversy is how the president and the NFL have ruined the civility and inclusivity that sports apparently represents. There was nothing uncivil about players taking a knee to draw attention to how even they (superstars admired by fans across the country and with a lot of money in some cases) could be mistreated by police just because of their skin color. The equivalence between the soccer and the football situation now would be that the NFL is requiring players to stand for the national anthem, much like the soccer teams were requiring to teams to wear shirts they might not have agreed with. I stand with the players in both situations.

  • Then she should take it up with her professional organization, convince her teammates, or quit.

  • I feel the same about this incident as I do about the brouhaha over standing during the national anthem at NFL games. Sports events are not proper occasions for either advocacy or cosmetic displays of patriotism, and those who insist on making them such create these problems.

    Advocacy is a personal matter. It isn’t something to coerce whole groups into doing. That’s the long and the short of it.

  • Nope. Not buying it.

    Bigots who use religion as an excuse to deny the existence of their fellow citizens or support discrimination don’t need a special space for them. They already have political power and have wielded it to attack others as a matter of course. A person denied the privilege to treat others like crap with impunity is not a victim, just pathetic.

  • You are right that the uniform was not likely legal. Ami undisclosed is a tweet prior to the uniform decision on her part lamenting civil marriage rights for gays. Not sure – and no one knows if she would have made the cut to final roster – the year after she didn’t. the cul though .

    Her team supports her right to hold her own opinions regardless of whether they agree with her or not. But unfortunately, free speech rules and sports fans feel free to use epithets and boo players for a whole host of reasons, So no gay Goliath, So no Fay Globalist – just a woman who turned down the opportunity to try out for a team based on the jersey.

  • Still trying to pretend malicious bigots are victims I see. Both got rightfully punished for being uncivil and rather stupid in their given professions.

    One does not insult the host of a talk show they are scheduled to appear for.

    One also does not refuse sales of goods and services in open commerce based on the class of the customer.

  • You know what else she could have done to avoid being booed and getting criticism? She could have not talked about it with the Christian Broadcast Network. She didn’t just decline to participate in the game due to the jersey. She declined to participate and then announced to the world that she did it because she thinks gays are bad people.
    Jesus told his followers not to make big shows out of their acts of faith. He told them to wash their faces when they fasted, instead of standing around looking gloomy to fish for compliments on their faith. If Hinkle had said she wasn’t going because of “personal reasons” and left it at that, the would be “living out her faith”. Instead she fished for complements in the hopes of getting praise for her “righteousness”, making explicitly political statements in the process, and in doing so provoked a political response.

  • First of all, there is no evidence that a “set of voices . . . had come out expressly to boo” Hinkle. There is evidence that fans of the opposing team booed her, just as Mets fans used to boo Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker after he made offensive comments about the diverse population of the borough of Queens. No one specifically bought tickets to do so.
    Second, it is far from clear that the rainbow uniforms violate the “political” plank of IFAB’s “Laws” of the game (man, they take this soccer thing seriously…). The rules state that “the following are (usually) permitted: . . . initiative slogans/emblems promoting the game of football, respect and integrity as well as any advertising permitted by competition rules or national FA, confederation or FIFA regulations.” Notably, in the long write-up by Bryson cited in this article, she left this part out. I would concede that such slogans are not supposed to be on the back of the uniforms for some reason. In any event, it’s up to US Soccer, Concacaf, FIFA and IFAB to interpret these rules. There is no standing for the rest of us.
    Third, exactly how far do you wish this “tolerance” of minority religious viewpoints to go? Can a player object to wearing Jackie Robinson’s “42,” as Major League Baseball has all players do on the anniversary of his first MLB game, if his religion opposes racial integration? Don’t tell me there are no such religions, you know there are because their adherents are frequent commenters on this website. Can an atheist player object to participating in his team’s “Faith Night”? The truth is that the issue isn’t really religious liberty, it’s normalization of full LGBT rights, including that of marriage, adoption and child raising. Society at large is rapidly accepting that notion and looking at Hinkle’s move like the examples I’ve given. Lupfer’s side thought they were going to win the culture wars 30 years ago but now it’s clear they’re getting badly beaten. In this kulturkampf (h/t Justice Scalia of blessed memory), you’re Germany in the fall of 1944. And you still think you can get to a negotiated peace.

  • So Jesus told his followers not to discuss their clearly biblical views & decisions with the Christian Broadcasting Network? Not even when their clearly biblical views & decisions cause them to lose their well-earned dream of playing on the USA national women’s team? Really now?

    Not even when established national & international soccer rules are being openly publicly violated in front of the world? Not even when USA players of religious faith are being literally forced to publicly violate their own religion and openly endorse a diametrically opposing religion, as a condition of playing on a USA national sports team? Sorry, but I seriously don’t think Jesus is going to write up a reprimand for Jaelene Hinkle for this one!

  • Umm, just for clarification, the professional gospel singer Kim Burrell never insulted the alleged comedian Ellen DeGeneres, nor the alleged singer John Legend, nor any other low-octane, no-talent, PC-Police wannabees. But what Gay Goliath vengefully did to Burrell, ranks right up there with the Stutzmann and Phillips cases in terms of nastiness.

    All Kim did, in the context of a church message given ONLY within the four walls of her own church (on her own time and dime & her own people), was give a 2.3 minute, Bible-based admonition about sin, in light of (here comes Context again!), the then-prominent homosexual scandals involving the late megachurch pastor Eddie Long.

    “I came to tell you about sin. That sin nature… That perverted homosexual spirit, and the spirit of delusion and confusion, it has deceived many men and women.” She had the right to give her own message in her own house, and she DID avoid any hateful WBC-type theology or statements.

  • Ms. DeGeneres’s producers disagreed. Their show, their rules. They have even more cause to exclude Ms. Burrell. A television talk show is not open commerce. There is no entitlement to appear on one. Ms. Burrell doubled down on bigotry on the wingnut circuit subsequently. Hence she had your attention as well.

    Stutzman and Phillips were engaged in open commerce broke actual laws, as opposed to annoy producers and scare off sponsors.

    None of those three are victims of anything other than their own stupidity and malice.

  • Ben, I suspect you’d be against the USWNT wearing a cross on their jerseys; because that would be an affront to LGBTQXYZ’s, blacks, illegals, pro-choicers and any other left side of the aisle political groups.
    For all of the hand wringing we hear on these pages about separation of this and that – how about we keep the national uniforms just that.
    It’s bad enough seeing pink in football and baseball. Let’s keep politics out of sports.

  • floyd, you just don’t get it. You’re not as enlightened like the rest of Americans are.
    You see, you can be an NFL quarterback and wear socks depicting police officers as pigs. You can be an NBA basketball player and wear shirts that say, “I can’t breathe”. You can wear jerseys with the rainbow painted on them to show your pride.
    These are things to celebrate – don’t you know?

  • That’s not even close to what I said, floyd, and you know it. If you’re going to be this intellectually dishonest, there’s no point in any kind of conversation with you.

  • Have they insulted their producers and caused sponsors to get nervous?

    If so, that is a case for kicking anyone off a given show.

    For ex. Rosanne Barr’s problem was not that she tweeted racist crap. The audience for her show and producers couldn’t care less about that. They knew it was likely and were even warned ahead of time it was going to happen. It was that she blamed Ambien for it. Big Pharma is not a force to be toyed with. They took swift and blinding action against her and her distributors in syndication. (I am probably kidding here)

  • Christians have no conscience whatsoever. All they care about is exterminating gay and trans people, just like Hitler. No safe space for these bigots.

  • This is a process of change, social change. It is messy. I wish there was another way. I wish we were at that point where Ms. Hinkle could wear a non-Gay Pride t-shirt and still play and not be heckled. We aren’t there yet. Unfairness has occurred on both sides. It was unfair to LGBTQI people when they had to remain in the closet and were closed off from living honest and open lives. Now it is unfair to those who want to protect their religious beliefs by limiting just how much they will participate in business with LGBTQI people and how much they will allow their community service organizations include LGBTQI.

    We need to give room for respecting religious belief but we also need a cohesive society and a common set of rules we follow, at least in the public spaces. We are still figuring out how to draw those lines.

  • Where were these voices calling for “turning down the temperature in the culture wars” when the war appeared to be in the hands of the of those who did not want LGBTQI equality?

    I would like both sides to turn down the temperature but I suspect I am more amenable to that idea since so much progress has been made in providing room in our society for LGBT folks. I fear losing some of the gains that have been made – and we still have spaces where discrimination is still licensed – adoptions, flowers and cakes for weddings, hotels and more permanent housing for LGBT couples.

    We still have some tough rows to hoe. Let’s try to do it without adding to divisiveness.

  • I’m simply pointing out the hypocrisy of a black man advocating for the lynching of gay and trans people. Ironic, isn’t it?

  • I never heard him say any such thing. In fact, I would say that he is probably the most mild mannered here.
    As a self-professed lgbtqxyz+ person, I would expect you to be much more sensitive to people’s diversity.

  • Why? Because a black person has to act a certain way? If I said something like that you’d call me racist.
    That’s the difference between liberals and conservatives. Liberals place people in groups and expect them to think alike. Conservatives look at the individual and expect them to have their own thoughts.

  • According to you, Jaelene Hinkle “said that gays are bad people.” That”s a direct falsehood on your part, (along with your “she”s fishing for compliments” lie).

    Do what you will, but try working on Truth-telling Skills 101, while you are busy whining.

  • Hardly. Conservatives are just an angry mob, looking for people to lynch. I’d expect a black person to know better.

  • And don’t forget us Black Christian
    #RussianTrolls on Putin’s payroll who can do one-liners in #German (thanks to Internet translation sites)!

    We’re way worse than Hitler, ya know!

  • No, ANTIFA is a mob. BLM is a mob. The workers party of America is a mob. They are the ones that riot and trash stuff.
    Again, you expect “black persons” to “know better”; which means to be liberal Democrats. Shame on you. You’re the racist.

  • Please. Are you pretending Christian anti gay beliefs are based on respect for gays? Or on tolerance for our existence? No, it’s based on your dislike of us and intolerance of us. Pretending it’s not is there real lie.

  • A terrorist organization trashing a city and running over people with a car, killing one of them.

  • How did not endorsing same sex marriage involve culture war?

    Changing the culture would be required to being engaged in a culture war.

    LBGT individuals can obtain adoptions, flowers, cakes for weddings, hotel rooms, and permanent housing.

    The only “culture war” aspect of any of those is that they can’t compel those with religious objections to provide each and every service, which is how it should be.

    It’s the same reasoning that supports conscientious objectors in the miltary.

    If one pushes to change that, one is engaging in culture war by definition.

  • Bob, the whole of Christendom is based on the idea of changing culture. It may include bringing people the word of God, but it also brings them a whole different cultural context in how those people should live, how they should shape their families, what they should value, the “symbols” of what is good/holy/right. It is not just biblical but is immersed in the cultures of Rome and Greece, the Middle East, and then, and now primarily, Europe.

    The invasion of the U.S. by Euro people was a culture war. Creating the U.S. as a nation state was a culture war. Slavery was a culture war. The Civil Wr was a culture war. Civil Rights was a culture war.

    But most important in this context: Evangelization is a culture war. The Church has always been involved in culture wars.

    What you describe as religious liberty is based on the idea of limiting the benefits of society. I grew up in the segregated South, Bob. It can only lead to division, to one group treated differently from another. Remember the hundreds of years of wars in Europe over religion, remember our Civil War, and remember we are still fighting the effects of the marginalization of both Native Americans and the slavery of African people.

  • Thanks for pointing that out. I was trying to distinguish between hotel stays while traveling from the ability to rent an apartment or buy a house. My wording was awkward. Acquiring short term housing and long term housing is a problem for LGBTQI folks because of discrimination..

  • No, YOUR idea of Christendom is based on the idea of changing culture, by force if necessary apparently.

    The idea of Christendom is passing on and acting on a revelation provided to enable the recipient to comport their lives with the will of God and attain salvation in the next life.

    Your LBGT agenda is diametrically opposed to that revelation.

    What I describe as religious liberty is based on the ideas of the Founding Fathers and the First Amendment.

    There is no benefit to society from forcing people against their religious beliefs to implement an LBGT agenda, perform or assist at abortions, or any of the other agenda of the LBGT/progessive/ACLU attempts to infringe on religious beliefs.

    Racial discrimination and opposition to the LBGT agenda are different things.

    I am sorry that you’ve bought the carefully contrived and peddled notion they are the same.

  • Not sure where that is, but okay.
    People should be able to live where they want as long as they can afford it

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