Reclaiming the Rainbow

Last month was Pride month. Rainbow flags sprouted up everywhere, as did Christians who bemoaned the selection of the rainbow as a symbol. Many complain, “They stole the rainbow from God!” and try to “reclaim” the rainbow to make it symbolize what the Bible says.

That becomes more difficult on a closer reading of the biblical story because while the symbolism of the rainbow in Pride calls for a celebration of diversity, the rainbow story in the Bible calls for Christians locked in a fight against the LGBTQ+ community to repent.

The biblical rainbow story is a story of God getting really mad about violence and then drowning the whole world. At the end of the story, Noah appeases God with a burnt offering and God says, “I’m never doing that again. I’m done fighting humans. I’m going to hang my weapon – my bow – up in the sky. I’m done.”

The story of the rainbow is the story of a God who is so angry about violence that he floods the whole world, then gives up violence as an option. When we see God’s bow hanging up in the sky from the perspective of the Genesis flood story, it says God is done being against us. God’s bow is hung up in the sky. It’s not coming down.

Christians, myself included, have often gone to war against the LGBTQ+ community, fighting to block access to marriage in alignment with sexual orientation, gender-appropriate bathrooms, gender-affirming medical care and pronouns, existence in public spaces, representation in media and politics and even things so basic as their own sexual orientations.

We ignored the countless stories of our fellow Christians who had tried to “overcome” their sexual orientations and inevitably failed, and platformed those few who seemed to have succeeded for years or decades, then ignored and silenced them when they could no longer suppress who they were.

Last month, the Christian right went to war on Target for selling Pride products, boycotting the stores out of a misplaced fear that the LGBTQ+ community is “grooming” children for sexual abuse, despite all evidence that far more children have been sexually abused by pastors than by drag queens.

The story of the rainbow is a story of God unilaterally throwing down God’s armaments, a story repeated and amplified on the cross. It is long past time for Christians to look to the sky, see God’s bow hanging there, and imitate God by hanging up our own bows.

If you are in the LGBTQ+ community, I’m sorry for the part I played in the fight against you before I knew better. God is not against you. The people who told you that, the people who want to “reclaim the rainbow” from you, are wrong. I was wrong. God loves you, for God is love. God isn’t going to destroy you for loving who you love. God, like TV personality and ordained Presbyterian minister Fred Rogers, likes you just the way you are.

This article by Rev. David Schell originally appeared in the Herald-Palladium on July 1, 2023