EDITOR’S NOTE: Hey, remember the other day when I posted Paul’s abortion post, I said I had another one from him that I hadn’t even looked at, but would post soon? After which I didn’t have time for several days to think about posting on the blog? Well, this is it, and Paul just texted me to tell me it had to do with “Pride Month,” which he said was ending today. Sorry, Paul. Here you go…
By Paul V. DeMarco
Remember when a rainbow was just a rainbow – happy surprise after a downpour? I sometimes long for the simplicity of those pot-o-gold days.
But we live in a complicated and changing world. Which means we sometimes we have to share symbols that our tribe has felt we owned. Christians are struggling with the appropriation of the rainbow, which for us evoked the story of Noah’s Ark. Every child that has ever attended Sunday School has been taught this story, often with images of happy animals strolling symmetrically up the gangplank.
I wrote a column in April in response to one of those Christians, the Rev. Michael Goings. Rev. Goings, whom I’ve not met, is a fellow citizen columnist for the Florence Morning News. He wrote a piece in March (“The Sacred Sign of the Rainbow”) in which he objected to the “thievery” of the rainbow by the LGBTQ community. He castigated its use as a symbol of gay pride as a “blatant act of defiance and desecration” claiming that it is “almost unpardonable, abominable, and dishonoring to the Almighty.”
I can understand some mild annoyance at the muddling of the rainbow imagery for young Christian Sunday School students. Kids can ask the darnedest questions, and a Sunday School room can be a dicey place to answer. But for me, that annoyance is overwhelmed by the enormous pride that the LGBTQ community is now able to express through the rainbow flag. Over the past decade, the ubiquity if the flag has paralleled their acceptance into the fabric of American life.
For Rev. Goings and others, rainbow imagery that supports LGBTQ people induces fear, rage, or the sense that apocalypse is nigh. Many Christians cannot accept that gay people are worthy in the sight of God. Some, like Lauren Boebert, have seats in Congress. When the Air Force recently tweeted support of Pride Month with an image of an airman saluting against a rainbow background, Boebert responded, “We salute one flag and one flag only in the United States of America. It isn’t the ‘Pride’ flag.”
I think it’s fair to describe Boebert as a Christian nationalist. At a Christian conference in Woodland Park, Colorado in September of last year, Boebert said, “It’s time for us to position ourselves and rise up and take our place in Christ and influence this nation as we were called to do.” Later she spoke of the end times: “We know that we are in the last of the last days. This is a time to know that you were called to be part of these last days. You get to have a role in ushering in the second coming of Jesus.”
Of LGBTQ people, she said they are “spitting in God’s face.”
Goings and Boebert read the Bible one way, a literal interpretation to which they are entitled. They believe that God sent a great flood that wiped out all of humanity except for Noah’s clan. Once the waters receded, God sent a rainbow as a sign of a new covenant with His people.
I read the Bible as literature, much of which I believe is divinely inspired. But it is filtered through flawed, limited human authors. Some of the Bible is confusing and some of it is simply wrong. Of many examples, I will give one – Ephesians 6:5: “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.”
So here is this layman’s take on the story of Noah and the rainbow. There was no great flood (almost every geologist backs me up on this point). This story falls in line with flood myths that had been written and told for centuries before the Noah story. It is a way of trying to understand how a divine being or beings interact with their creation.
Like many Bible stories, this one is full of contradictions. Noah’s family, the best God could find on Earth, immediately shows God just what He has wrought in his second attempt at civilization. In Genesis 9:17, the ark account ends with God saying to Noah about the rainbow, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.” Four verses later, Noah “became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent.” It is reassuring that God would choose someone as imperfect as Noah as the father of his new creation. He’s barely off the ark when he is found by his sons completely blitzed and naked. It tells me that God has a keen understanding of human frailty, an unending tolerance for our mistakes, and a bodacious sense of humor.
If you believe that men who love men or women who love women are reprobates warped by their sin and a danger to society, you have a right to your opinion. From that position, you have a couple of options. One is to try to completely shield yourself from the corrupting influence of gay people. Don’t listen to any music or consume any news, TV, movies, or social media produced by them. Don’t buy any products designed or services offered by them. I wish you luck. Or, more profitably, get to know a gay couple. Actively recruit gay people to your church so you can see who they really are. See if your opinion doesn’t change.
In my reading of Noah’s story, the rainbow is a sign of God’s new approach to humanity. This is the God of Love. Yes, there is still the God of Wrath who makes his presence known through the Old Testament (see, for example, Psalm 137). But here is our first glimpse of the God of Love who will later be personified in the New Testament in his Son, Jesus. In that light, the rainbow makes perfect sense as a symbol for gay and queer people.
If you like, you can cling to the few verses about homosexuality being an “abomination.” But, remember, God had much more to say about adultery than homosexuality – including that adulterers be put to death. Consider the possibility that these warnings come from a different time and were written by men who had little understanding of psychology and human relations. If, like Rev. Goings and Rep. Boebert, you are so willing to denigrate homosexuals, why not adulterers, who receive much more Biblical condemnation?
I have a brand new decal on my car’s back glass with a version of the rainbow flag. It advertises a new LGBTQIA+ advocacy group in our region called Pee Dee Equality. I’m hoping it will flourish. Our corner of the state could use a place that advocates for the dignity of every person.
This column is based on one that appeared in the April 26th edition of The Florence Morning News.