When I see rainbow flags flying this month, I celebrate the spiritual values of the LGBT community and remember the many faces of the queer Christ.
I wrote the following Rainbow Christ Payer with gay theologian Patrick Cheng for LGBT Pride Month. The prayer matches the colors of the rainbow flag with the seven models of the queer Christ, from Patrick's new book From Sin to Amazing Grace: Discovering the Queer Christ.
In our prayer each color also corresponds with a universal spiritual principle that is expressed in LGBT history and culture. In addition, the Rainbow Christ Prayer incorporates the chakras, the seven colored energy centers of the human body in Buddhist and Hindu philosophy.
Let us pray:
Rainbow Christ, you embody all the colors of the world. Rainbows serve as bridges between different realms: Heaven and Earth, east and west, queer and non-queer. Inspire us to remember the values expressed in the rainbow flag of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community.
Red is for life, the root of spirit. Living and Self-Loving Christ, you are our Root. Free us from shame, and grant us the grace of healthy pride so we can follow our own inner light. With the red stripe in the rainbow, we give thanks that God created us just the way we are.
Orange is for sexuality, the fire of spirit. Erotic Christ, you are our Fire, the Word made flesh. Free us from exploitation, and grant us the grace of mutual relationships. With the orange stripe in the rainbow, kindle a fire of passion in us.
Yellow is for self-esteem, the core of spirit. Out Christ, you are our Core. Free us from closets of secrecy, and give us the guts and grace to come out. With the yellow stripe in the rainbow, build our confidence.
Green is for love, the heart of spirit. Transgressive Outlaw Christ, you are our Heart, breaking rules out of love. In a world obsessed with purity, you touch the sick and eat with outcasts. Free us from conformity, and grant us the grace of deviance. With the green stripe in the rainbow, fill our hearts with untamed compassion for all beings.
Blue is for self-expression, the voice of spirit. Liberator Christ, you are our Voice, speaking out against all forms of oppression. Free us from apathy, and grant us the grace of activism. With the blue stripe in the rainbow, motivate us to call for justice.
Violet is for vision, the wisdom of spirit. Interconnected Christ, you are our Wisdom, creating and sustaining the universe. Free us from isolation, and grant us the grace of interdependence. With the violet stripe in the rainbow, connect us with others and with the whole creation.
Rainbow colors come together to make one light, the crown of universal consciousness. Hybrid and All-Encompassing Christ, you are our Crown, both human and divine. Free us from rigid categories, and grant us the grace of interwoven identities. With the rainbow, lead us beyond black-and-white thinking to experience the whole spectrum of life.
Rainbow Christ, you light up the world. You make rainbows as a promise to support all life on Earth. In the rainbow space we can see all the hidden connections between sexualities, genders, and races. Like the rainbow, may we embody all the colors of the world! Amen.
Patrick and I each spent years developing the ideas expressed in the Rainbow Christ Prayer. I first wrote about linking the colors of the rainbow flag to queer spirituality in my 2009 reflection on Bridge of Light, a winter holiday honoring LGBT culture.
Meanwhile Patrick was developing models of the queer Christ based on LGBT experience. He presented them in his 2010 essay "Rethinking Sin and Grace for LGBT People," which he expanded into a book this year. I realized that Patrick's various queer Christ models matched the colors of the rainbow flag. Patrick and I joined forces, and the Rainbow Christ Prayer was born.
The rainbow flag celebrates the diversity of the LGBTQ community. It was designed in 1978 by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker, who dyed and stitched the first flag by hand. The first rainbow flag debuted at San Francisco's Gay Freedom Day Parade in June 1978. Demand for the flags skyrocketed in November 1978, after the assassination of gay politician Harvey Milk.
Baker's original flag had eight stripes. He assigned a specific meaning to each color: hot pink for sexuality, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, turquoise for magic/art, indigo/blue for serenity/harmony, and violet for spirit. Over the years the hot pink and turquoise stripes were dropped, and today's six-stripe flag became standard. The popularity of the rainbow flag grew, and now it is recognized worldwide as a symbol of LGBT pride.
Queer artist Andrew Craig Williams elaborates on the rainbow-flag theme in his illustration for this post. Williams lives in Wales, and the Welsh title for his image is "Baner enfys gwydr lliw gyda Chroes."
The symbolism of the rainbow resonates far beyond the LGBT flag. In the Judeo-Christian tradition rainbows play an important role in the story of Noah's Ark. After the flood God places a rainbow in the sky, saying, "Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the Earth" (Genesis 9:16). In the Book of Revelation, a rainbow encircles the throne of Christ in Heaven.
I am proud to add this prayer to the rainbow tradition, weaving together the many-colored threads of LGBTQ sexuality and spirituality.
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