“Wow! Mommy look!” The young toddler continued waving their hands and pointing. “Mommy, what is that?” A young and impressionable mind, so observant and curious, soaking up information and knowledge every single day. “That,” mom states, “is a RAINBOW!” “But Mommy, where did it come from? What is it doing? Where does it go? Can I touch it.”
What is a Rainbow?
Hang in there with me while I write some more. This isn’t what you might think!
When I think, in a broad way, about the word rainbow, three thoughts come to mind.
- The Holy Bible
- LGBTQ+ Pride
Let’s talk about each one of these and I promise to put these thoughts together at the end. There is a purpose for my choice of subject.
A Meteorological Phenomenon
According to “How Stuff Works,” A rainbow is caused by reflection, refraction, and dispersion of light in water droplets resulting in a spectrum of light appearing in the sky. It takes the form of a multicolored circular arc. That is what is known as a rainbow in the sky.
The rainbow consists of seven different colors and they always appear in this order: RED, ORANGE, YELLOW, GREEN, BLUE, INDIGO, VIOLET.
Because of its almost magical beauty, the rainbow is one of the most popular objects captured in a photograph. As we get older, we learn there is no “pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.” Bummer! Read about the origin of this old saying.
A Sign of the Covenant
According to the story told in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible, Genesis 9:13-15 (King James Version), the interpretation of the significance of the “bow” in the sky is given at the close of the story of the flood, where it is called “the token of the covenant” of Yahweh with Noah that there should be no more flood:
13. I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. 14 And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: 15 And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.
There are different thoughts of study regarding the above scriptures. The word “bow” in Hebrew is qesheth. It has other translations; including archers, arrows, bowman, bowmen, bows, and bowshot. There isn’t a specific word for “rainbow” in Hebrew. And thus, some argue that the weather-related rainbow is not the same as the one found in the Old Testament. There are also conflicting beliefs about whether the rainbow was always in the sky or whether it appeared after the flood because of a change in the atmosphere. No one knows for certain.
Christians often refer to a rainbow as a symbol of God’s faithfulness and mercy and the symbol of hope and the bright emblem of mercy and love. (Smith’s Bible Dictionary) There is no mention of specific colors of the “bow” (rainbow). Perhaps a rainbow is a symbol more about light and brightness rather than specific colors?
Solidarity and Togetherness
On June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York’s Greenwich Village, was raided by police. But instead of responding with the typical compliance the NYPD expected, patrons and a growing crowd fought back. This became a pivotal moment in history when gays and lesbians recognized all at once their mistreatment and their solidarity.
The creation of the Pride flag, showing seven colors, recognizes the lives, and loves, of LGBTQ+ people worldwide and was created in 1978 by artist, designer, Vietnam War veteran and then-drag performer, Gilbert Baker. He was commissioned to create a flag by another gay icon, politician Harvey Milk, for San Francisco’s annual pride parade.
Up to that time, the most commonly used image for the burgeoning gay rights movement was the pink triangle, a symbol used by the Nazis to identify homosexuals. Using a symbol with such a dark and painful past was never an option for Baker. He instead opted to use a rainbow as his inspiration. The different colors for the flag were meant to represent togetherness, since LGBT people come in all races, ages, and genders, and rainbows are both natural and beautiful. (Stonewall)
Originally, Baker’s first Pride flag contained 8 colors and each one has a specific meaning:
- Pink – Sex
- Red – Life
- Orange – Healing
- Yellow – Sunlight
- Green – Nature
- Turquoise – Magic/Art
- Indigo/Blue – Serenity/Harmony
- Violet – Spirit
Later, the colors pink and turquoise were removed from the flag due to cost and availability. Therefore the most commonly used and identified LGBTQ+ pride flag today is made up of only six colors. Since Baker’s creation of the original Pride flag, there have been many different pride flags created to represent different LGBTQ+ groups. Refer to “The Complete Guide to Pride Flags.”
Three Different Rainbows?
Are there really three different rainbows, each one with their own meaning and purpose? Or, is there only one definition of a rainbow and only one possible use?
The answer seems abundantly clear to me. In the three different examples given, the rainbow symbolizes something totally different. And so, finally, the purpose of this post.
Most people know that June is recognized as “Pride” month. It is a time when the LGBTQ+ community as a whole comes together to show their solidarity and to demand they be granted the same rights as everyone else. In the course of our country’s history, we have seen many different groups of people speak out and demand the same. Sometimes it has come after great struggles, sacrifices, and even death.
I like to think that we are more educated, refined, cultured, and respectful people in the 21st century. And yet, there is so much discrimination and hate in the world. It’s astonishing to read about people being tortured, bullied, and discriminated against for being “different” than someone else. I’ve always thought of these acts of blatant disregard for another human life as something in our past. Sadly, they aren’t.
So, to the meteorologist, I want to say, “Yes, YOUR rainbow still exists and it still represents a weather phenomenon.”
To the Biblical scholars and like-minded Christians, “Yes, YOUR rainbow still exists and it still represents a sign of the covenant.”
To every LGBTQ+ individual, “Yes, YOUR rainbow still exists and it still represents your solidarity in the fight for equal rights.”
Isn’t it amazing that the rainbow of colors can also cause so much confusion and divisiveness? Let us all go back to the eyes of the young toddler. The innocent, inquisitive, and non-judgemental views of an open mind and a loving heart!
© Julie Corbett 2019