Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Reflections on the Pride Rainbow

You can’t have failed to notice how Manchester City Centre is quite liberally covered with Rainbows. Manchester is certainly getting in the mood for Gay Pride. Rainbows have been in the news, too. Sometimes I am embarrassed to call myself a Christian, when fundamentalists claim that “the Gays” have somehow “Stolen” the rainbow, as if Christianity has the sole copyright on the rainbow – it appears in all three major Abrahamic religions and in others besides, including Zoroastrianism and Buddhism.

In Christian and Jewish Theology the Rainbow is a symbol of hope and a symbol of a promise. It occurs in Genesis, following the mythical flood of Noah when God sends the rainbow as a sign of peace and his promise to never destroy, or flood the world again. Never again, says God, will I try to wipe out life on earth. Look! here’s a rainbow as a sign of my covenant with you and all of creation for ever.

So when some groups of Christians trying to claim that like Prometheus, the gays have snuck into heaven and stolen the Rainbow I really have to chortle. And it would be funny if it wasn’t so sad that some Christians haven’t understood the message from Noah – God said he wouldn’t flood the world any more, but yet when faced with natural disaster, with flooding and fire, it’s God punishing us wicked humans, for allowing gay rights. But didn’t God said he’d not flood the world ever again? … I’ll leave that with you. But if I’d have known when you came out you got X-men style superpowers to control the weather I’d have come out a long time before I did. It’d brilliant on holiday. Good weather. Everyday. Manchester would certainly be sunnier!

If anything, the use of the rainbow by Gay Pride is perfectly theologically sound. And is indeed a challenge to those who use religion to fuel their own bigotry. A sign of hope, a symbol of a promise never to hurt or destroy. An emblem of peace.

The world-wide symbol for  Pride is the rainbow, and the rainbow flag. But it’s not just any old rainbow. The [Gay] Pride flag was designed by the artist Gilbert Baker, a gay artist living in San Francisco. He met and befriend Harvey Milk, the gay rights pioneer, who challenged him to come up with a design representing the gay liberation movement.

The first two rainbow flags were hand-sewn for San Francisco Pride in 1970. No one quite knows what inspired Baker to adopt a rainbow as the symbol for the first Gay Pride; it might have been the striped ‘Flag of all the races’ which was popular amongst Hippies and Civil Rights Activists; or it might have been the recent death of Judy Garland who had become a gay icon and her seminal 1939 song ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ a Gay Anthem. In fact, I have sung it as a hymn; it was wonderful.

But don’t think it matters where the flag came from, so much as what it means.

Each of the coloured stripes has a different meaning

Red for Life
Orange for Healing
Yellow for Sunlight
Green for Nature
Indigo for Serenity
Violet for Spirit

Universal values. A universal message. A message of wholeness; of bringing healing; reverence for nature; of peace; and (despite the very secular nature of Gay Pride) spirituality. Reminding us that the spiritual self is not to be shut out of any aspect of our life.

May we be reminded, that as it takes so many colours to make up a rainbow, so it takes so many different people, to make a family, to build a community. May we be reminded that God is gendered within us. That God who is beyond gender and sex and sexuality, is in male and female and intersex; is gay, straight, bisexual or queer. Or none of the above. That God celebrates and rejoices in difference and diversity. And so should we.

May God walk with us, in all our rainbow glory.

Leader: To all the colours of the Rainbow:
Response: We stand with you when we are persecuted.
To all the colours of the Rainbow:
We celebrate our diversity.
To all the colours of the Rainbow:
We welcome all in God’s family.

May we celebrate all life;
May we bring healing and wholeness;
may we dance in Sunshine,
And rejoice in Nature.
Let us find Serenity
And share the Spirirt. Amen