The rainbow … wasn’t popularized as an official symbol of the gay community until the 1970s. In 1978, San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker designed what is believed to be the first modern gay pride flag by combining eight stripes, each a different color with its own symbolism: pink for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, blue for art, indigo for harmony, and violet for the human spirit. When he wanted to manufacture the flag for sale, he found that hot pink wasn’t as available as the other colors, and so the flag dropped to seven colors. Baker later dropped indigo to maintain an even number, and the flag arrived at its contemporary six colors. When San Francisco gay activists marched to protest the 1978 assassination of city supervisor Harvey Milk, they marched with Baker’s rainbow-colored flags.
Pop culture also gave the rainbow resonance with gay activists, perhaps because of Judy Garland and her signature song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Garland was a major star to the gay community throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Gay men came out in droves for her performances, and, from World War II forward, many in the LGBT community referred to themselves as “friends of Dorothy,” a phrase that seems to have derived from Garland’s performance in The Wizard of Oz. The pivotal riots at the Stonewall Inn occurred just hours after Garland’s funeral, and her death may have helped provoke the unrest. Garland had earlier bragged, “When I die I have visions of ____ singing ‘Over the Rainbow’ and the flag at Fire Island being flown at half mast.” Garland died in 1969, before the popularization of the modern LGBT flag, but some Fire Island houses were reportedly draped in black.
Of course, rainbows and rainbow flags carry significance outside the LGBT community. The rainbow is an important symbol in the Bible, representing a promise of peace from God to Noah, and some Christian groups have used that symbol in their iconography.
The physical rainbow is indeed a beautiful thing to behold; even more so when we consider its origin. We find in Genesis 9:8-17 that God created the rainbow just as He created all things. To be sure, we are not talking about just any icon. This particular creation, and more to the point, was to signify a covenant that He was making with not only man, but with all living creatures for all generations in perpetuity (verses 10-12, 15-17). The rainbow was His personal signature, as it were; a reminder to both Himself and man of this very important covenant (agreement).
As an apparent affront to God Himself, it should not surprise us in our generation that the symbol of the rainbow these days now somehow has been made to symbolize something of which He (God) clearly has warned human beings to abstain from. As if the deceiver, the devil himself would continue to throw dirt in the face of God, so it would seem that what was intended to be a sacred symbol for thousands of years is now perverted in the eyes of so many. As always, be reminded that God will have the final say. As such, we as believers should not succumb to mud-slinging or dirt-throwing ourselves.
It is at this point that I must mirror, at least in part, what our Assemblies of God General Superintendent, George Wood, recently wrote in his Statement Regarding the Supreme Court's Same-Sex Marriage Decision:
Today is a sad day for America.
As a Christian minister and general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, I am deeply concerned with the Court's redefinition of marriage and the negative effects that it may have on religious freedom.
Scripture defines marriage solely in terms of the union of a man and a woman (e.g., Matthew 19:4–6; Mark 10:5–9; cf. Genesis 1:27–28, 2:20–24; Ephesians 5:21–32). Not only that, Scripture prohibits same-sex intercourse (Romans 1:26–27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; I Timothy 1:10; cf. Leviticus 18:22, 20:13). When it comes to same-sex marriage, Scripture clearly prohibits what the Supreme Court permits.
As Christians, Assemblies of God adherents affirm that the Bible determines what we believe and how we behave. Our Statement of Fundamental Truths puts it this way: "The Bible is our all-sufficient rule for faith and practice." And: "The Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, are verbally inspired of God and are the revelation of God to man, the infallible, authoritative rule of faith and conduct".
Our Scripture-based definition of marriage and understanding of sexual morality shapes what our Constitution and Bylaws require as behavioral standards for credentialed ministers, finds reflection in the Assemblies of God position paper on homosexuality, and provides the rationale for the conduct codes of our denominational offices, affiliate organizations, and colleges and universities.
While I am grateful that in its decision the Supreme Court acknowledged that our opposition to same-sex marriage and behavior arises from "good faith" rather than animus, I am deeply concerned, however, about how the Court will rule when government laws and regulations that reflect its redefinition of marriage conflict with our biblical behavioral standards. For example;
• Will public accommodation laws be interpreted to require Assemblies of God congregations to rent their sanctuaries to same-sex weddings if they also rent their sanctuaries to weddings involving a man and a woman?
• Will Assemblies of God ministers be required to solemnize same-sex marriages?
• Will Assemblies of God colleges and universities be required to enroll same-sex married students, even though that constitutes a violation of their student conduct codes?
• Will our schools be able to access federal student loans and grants if our student conduct codes prohibit same-sex behavior?
• Will Assemblies of God organizations that provide psychological counseling, adoption services, or other services that require professional licenses be stripped of their licenses because of their faith-based opposition to same-sex marriage and behavior?
• Will Assemblies of God organizations lose their tax-exempt status because of their opposition to same-sex marriage because of the Bob Jones precedent?
As an American, I believe that this decision represents a judicial usurpation of politics. Proponents of same-sex marriage like to draw analogies between their movement and the Abolitionist and Civil Rights Movements. The analogy is false, but it is nonetheless instructive in this particular case.
Whereas abolition and civil rights were enacted democratically by amending the U.S. Constitution in the 1860s and passing national civil rights legislation in the 1960s, same-sex marriage has actually only been democratically enacted in just 11 States and the District of Columbia. It has been imposed on 39 States and American territories by State and Federal Courts that overturned democratically enacted definitions of marriage as a man-woman union. Think of it: The power of just five votes! (The decision passed on a 5-4 vote)
I cannot help but think that this is an unhelpful way to resolve the political, social, and moral conflicts that divide the American people. I close with three words of pastoral advice:
First, to Assemblies of God ministers: Politics reflects culture, and culture reflects religion. If you are concerned with the political drift of American culture, preach the gospel! As it sends out roots in the lives of believers, the seed of the gospel will change hearts and minds.
Second, to Assemblies of God adherents: You are privileged citizens of a blessed nation. Use your citizenship well! Seek the common good. Advocate for the last, the lost, and the least. Speak the truth in love. And vote for candidates and issues that reflect a biblical perspective on issues. The difference in so many conflicts in American politics and culture turns on who turns out to vote.
Third, to all Christians: If you are troubled with the Supreme Court's decision, keep perspective! In this and every other matter, always remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ: In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).
Let us all pray for a great spiritual awakening in our country! (George Wood)
Somewhere over the rainbow not only do bluebirds fly, but most definitely our God reigns! We do not like to talk about these things much, but we are clearly in the days wherein Jesus spoke – “this is the beginning of birth pains.” Paul also reminded Timothy (and us) in II Timothy 3 – “perilous times will come.” I among a host of others would describe the recent supreme court decisions and subsequent happenings as perilous times. So what now?
Reflecting on the words and testimony of Jesus and Paul the apostle, even in the face of certain opposition and perhaps even persecution, we also must stay the course. Keep on keeping on dear friends. We are to hold to biblical standards and simultaneously love our neighbor as ourselves, whoever they are. We must finish the race well. We are to live godly lives in Christ Jesus, despite the times we live in, and despite the worldly standards which apparently can change on a whim. Hold fast to Christ and continue to emulate His life in every way and to everyone and in His power. We will do well to do this, and we will most certainly finish well if we do. On a final note, remember that there is a higher court than the supreme court – the courts of the living God! He is the final judge. We are not. He has all authority. Figuratively speaking, He is over the rainbow; the physical kind He created as well as any other kind...