1978 was a big year for rainbows.
In 1978, legendary song writer Paul Williams wrote Rainbow Connection, later popularized by Kermit the Frog. Also in 1978, artist Gilbert Baker designed the rainbow flag as a symbol for what was then called the gay pride movement. Subsequent generations adopted it as the banner of the LGBTQ community, emblematic of the diversity and unity found therein. The LGBTQ rainbow now adorns everything from coffee mugs to boxing gloves, all proudly displayed and used by the community and its allies.
But for Ken Hamm, an evangelical preacher who wasted hundreds of millions on a life-sized Noah’s Ark in Kentucky, 38 years of the rainbow symbolizing love, acceptance, and inclusion was too long. In late 2016, Hamm called for his fellow Christians to “reclaim the rainbow” from the LGBTQ community. According to Hamm, LGBTQ use of the rainbow ignores “God’s command and design for marriage.” Hamm is referring to the interpretation that God instituted marriage as between a man and a woman (which typically relies upon Gen. 2:24 and Mt. 19:4–5, which say that man leaves his father and mother and joins with a wife).
Christians have long associated the rainbow with God’s promise to never again commit genocide. In Gen. 9:13, God states, “I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.” Hamm uses this passage to justify his reclamation project. “[T]he rainbow itself wasn’t designed to be a symbol of freedom, love, pride, or the LGBTQ movement… God created this beautiful, colorful phenomenon and designated it as a sign of His covenant with Noah and his descendants forever.”
Linda Harvey, founder of Mission America, is more overt in her vitriolic hatred of all things LGBTQ. In a World Net Daily article last month, Harvey refers to the LGBTQ community’s use of the rainbow as “a garish signpost for slavery to grave homosexual sin,” and “the banner … for human depravity, lust, defiance and heresy.” She asserts that, “[f]rom shameful pride parades to hats, t-shirts, wristbands and buttons sold at Target or Walmart, sexual deviance is being colorfully and arrogantly proclaimed from America’s rooftops.”
Also jumping on the bandwagon is Landon Schott, founder of The Rev Ministries. He opined on Charisma News that “[t]he rainbow doesn’t belong to the gay community; it belongs to the body of Christ. It’s time to reclaim the rainbow for its righteous cause!” Schott, suggests his followers use prayer, kindness, and love toward “individuals dealing with same-sex attraction,” making him a subtly insidious bigot rather than an overtly angry one.
Dismissing the words of Hamm, Harvey, Schott, and others like them as ignorant ideology-based rants from fundamentalist Christian propagandists is easy. But doing so requires turning a blind eye to the national coverage they and this issue receive. The media circus surrounding President Trump takes headlines above the fold, but just beneath, these folks and their anti-LGBTQ movement continue to preach.
Each has a platform from which to spread dogmatic nonsense. Each has followers who blindly and uncritically accept their words as “gospel truth.” For proof, look no further than the $100 million Hamm raised to build a ridiculous Ark.
Vile statements like this are dangerous and lead to fanatical discrimination, hatred, and injustice. Harvey even suggests the “appropriate rainbow for the ‘LGBTQ’ sin identity front would … [feature] brown, puce, mauve, gray and black—lots and lots of black” and be called “Satan’s banner.” Such abusive language cannot be permitted to stand without counter.
Hamm’s attempt to reclaim the rainbow involves draping his enormous Ark with rainbow lights (ironically making it look like one of the largest LGBTQ monuments in the world). Let’s steal a page from his book. We can raise the banner higher, shout louder, and unfurl bigger flags in the name of LGBTQ rights, making the rainbow even more prominently associated.
More importantly, let’s allow Paul Williams’ beautiful lyrics to inspire us. “Rainbows are visions, but only illusions, and rainbows have nothing to hide.” The rainbow symbolizes the vision, but it’s only a symbol. Behind it, we—members of the LGBTQ community and its allies—stand strong, together. We do not and will not hide. We will vociferously stand up and fight for the marginalized community the rainbow flag represents.
Williams also wrote: “Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers and me.” Amidst the lovers and dreamers, I’ve found my rainbow. Have you?