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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Look to the Rainbow

Rainbow by nsitu
Rainbow, a photo by nsitu on Flickr.

Via Flickr:
With Oreo having triggered a lovely ruckus earlier this week, I note - tongue emphatically implanted in jowl - that colourful commitments should not really be foreign to fundies. We've all shared this flag for a long time now. For those of us whose God is Yahweh, the rainbow waves in solidarity with covenant faithfulness. I consider how something so temporal as light scattered (momentarily, ephemerally) through prismatic raindrops has come to symbolize lasting commitment, in so many places, and see across a surplus of situations the thriving presence of refracted life throbbing with vitality. I'm kind of curious to see whether we're willing to look around, smile, and share the universal experience of the rainbow.

I have to start by honouring the power of these colours as I locally understand them. So let me show you how they function in the world I grew up in; afterwards we can explore further. In church communities where rainbow theology (read "covenant theology") is central, there are plenty of stubborn, head-in-the-wool, dye-in-the-sand religious bigots to go around. I'm one. For as many Sundays as there have been weeks in my life, I've sung antiquated, colourful, dashing and violent (but beautiful) Psalms set to 500-year old melodies. But then I've also enjoyed the blessings of a Reformed work-ethic, the ritual strength of belonging (via infant baptism), the constructed saftey of a haven for children in the triangle of home-church-school, a place where promises are made and affirmed; commitments solidified and sealed, marriages (between one man and one woman) forged, formed, and finished (over the course of a lifetime), generations raised in the fear of the Lord... and if all of that sounds like a brainwashed, Bible-thumping, institutionalized, insular soup, well it often is! But we usually end up alright. Well rounded, disciplined, and creative, if a little fearful and misguided.

We are afraid of what we (by virtue of celebrating one thing really, really well) have excluded from the realm of the possible. Though better motivators exist, fear can often instigate positive change, and so I want to enthusiastically affirm, the (super) humanity of the many individuals (and communities) who also wave the rainbow flag in their own windows, in their own ways: expressive of so many flavours of peace that I have only begun to understand. While working as a graphic/web designer/communicator in the context of HIV/AIDS community advocacy, I have been consistently impressed by the authenticity and passion of the beautiful people who live together alongside the label: "at-risk population", and those who come alongside them, or otherwise hang out, in one accord, in the same place. By their struggle to be understood, and heard, I can only be inspired. As a straight white male with conservative Christian roots, my own risks here are simply the usage of acronyms and other linguistic conflations - but in spite of them, my shout of solidarity extends strongly to PLHIV, LGBT, MSM, Drug Users, Sex Workers, Women, youth, unborn children, prison inmates, Aboriginal peoples, Africans, Canadians, Christians, Muslims and Hindus!

Will we lose our individual identities if we become this accepting? Probably, yes. But we will anyway, en route to becoming who we really are: our idols smashed, and our distorted conceptions of God refined. In that process of becoming, I struggle to articulate the particular brand of rainbow-coloured covenant-keeping that I would recommend. There are paradoxes here that I lack to capacity to resolve. But if Plato's advice to "be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle," is given urgency and scope through Jesus' call to "love your neighbour as yourself" ... we remain free to ask: are we ready to praise the Lord with all created colours and cookies?