The Rainbow(s)

As far as I can tell, the origins of the rainbow pride flag have no connection to the biblical Noah story.  Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to public office, felt the gay community needed a symbol to rally around and asked his friend Gilbert Baker to design it.  Baker chose a flag because of its connection to pride, and the rainbow because it was naturally occurring and highly visible in the sky.  The rainbow flag was originally eight colors with each stripe assigned a meaning: hot pink for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, turquoise for art, indigo for harmony, and violet for spirit.  Hot pink and turquoise proved difficult to produce in the manufacturing process so the flag was soon reduced to six colors.  References HERE and HERE.

In the Bible, the rainbow shows up in Genesis chapter 9 after the flood waters subside and Noah, his family, and the animals have exited the ark.  The symbolism of the rainbow isn’t about its colors but its shape, a bow, the same Hebrew word used for a warrior’s bow.  God had just violently destroyed nearly everything living thing, but makes a covenant “between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations,” to never again wipe out life with a planetary flood.  As a symbol of this pledge of nonviolence, God has disarmed and hung the divine bow in the sky, unstrung, pointed away from the earth.    The theme of God’s colorful love of diversity does show up in the earlier creation accounts and the later Tower of Babel story in which humanity lives within a monoculture and God scatters them into many different linguistic and cultural groups. 

Unfortunately, the religious community has been one of harshest, and even most violent, enemies of the queer community (including an unwillingness to accept that many queer folks are already part of the religious community).  But we share a rainbow that, collectively, represents pride over shame, celebration of diversity, nonviolence, and the potential of all living creatures to share and flourish on this earth.  And it is queer people of faith who have led the way in integrating all these divine gifts.  Thank you.