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USA unified

Christian players seek to help teammates win the women’s World Cup


Tobin Heath (left) Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

USA unified
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U.S. Women’s National Team players Lauren Holiday and Tobin Heath are products of a Christian soccer subculture. They played on the 2006 Under-20 team at the FIFA Women’s World Championship, where virtually “the entire team” was Christian, Holiday said. Coach Tim Schulz’s ability to laugh and cry over things of faith, she told journalist Chad Bonham, awakened her own faith from cultural to personal.

At least four professing Christians join hands on the current team, including Amy Rodriguez and Heather O’Reilly, as the U.S. team tries to get back to the World Cup Final July 5, where the United States women lost to Japan in 2011. In World Cup defeat or gold medal glory, “when I walk away my identity is still the same,” Holiday told Fellowship of Christian Athletes. “I’m still a follower of Jesus Christ.” In contrast, team leaders Megan Rapinoe and Abby Wambach and coach Jill Ellis all identify as lesbians.

A national team, of necessity, creates a functional pluralism with mutual respect and practical sacrificial love as teammates work toward a common goal. To date, nothing has publicly challenged that unity for the U.S. women. Holiday sees her own role as that of Barnabas from Acts, known as Son of Encouragement. She and Heath are arguably more open about faith than their teammates are about their chosen identities.

As the tournament progresses, Heath says, she will use her gifts as worship. Holiday says she will seek not only to live so that people notice a difference, but to play that way too. So far, defying the cultural moment, the U.S. women have again developed the unity that comes through hard work and vulnerable relationships. “That’s just why I love team sports,” Heath told Bonham. “It’s a great example of that selflessness that I think is really pleasing to God.”

Worldview winner

The day Bruce Jenner debuted as “Caitlyn,” ESPN announced that Jenner will receive in July the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, named for the tennis great who fought both racism and AIDS. Jenner won over the likes of Iraq war vet and amputee Noah Galloway and Lauren Hill, the 19-year-old basketball player who publicly fought terminal cancer until her April death. (Hill and Galloway were not runners-up, as many had stated.)

This makes the second straight year ESPN has used the award to explicitly endorse its sexual worldview. In raising awareness about gender dysphoria and the pain which sufferers face, ESPN invoked words like “progress” and “educate people.” Last year’s winner was Michael Sam, a prospective NFL player who “came out” leading up to the draft. Ashe’s family championed both selections. —A.B.

Man knows not his time

The last time the Chicago Cubs played in the World Series was in 1945, not long after V-J day, in a losing effort to Detroit. Deferred from the military for color blindness, Lennie Merullo was on the field for three of the games in that series. He was the oldest living Cub when he died May 30 at age 98. Though never an All-Star, fans loved him, honoring him last year at Wrigley Field’s 100th anniversary. Merullo’s eldest son, Len Jr., retains the nickname “Boots,” which The Chicago Daily News penned after his father made four errors in one 1942 inning upon news his wife had given birth. —A.B.


Andrew Branch Andrew is a World Journalism Institute graduate and a former WORLD correspondent.

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