The year was 1981, and my seat in the blue-with-wooden-panel station wagon was on brown plastic booster seat that would get sweaty in the sultry summer heat. There was no AC in “The Bluebird”. My parents, sister and I were just back from four years spent in the heart of Africa – Zaire – where they’d helped build a hydroelectric dam and run a regional hospital. I had never lived in the US before, and found Atlanta astonishing through the eyes of a two or three year old. The music playing on the tape deck was a “Maranatha Praise” album. And on the window where I could see it from my back seat, my parents had put a translucent sticker of a rainbow.
I loved that rainbow, and the way the light shined through it. I loved rainbows. I have always loved colors and the shifting iridescence of light. And that rainbow had a story for the tiny girl in the back seat. It was the story of Noah and the Ark. The impression Noah and the Ark has left on our culture is as a nursery decoration theme, with the boat and the animals and the rainbow. The full story is so much darker – it’s hard to believe that a cheerful nursery decoration is possible. The story is of Noah is one of the oldest recorded in human history. It lurks back in oral traditions in the millennia before humans learned to write our stories for each other.
Just a few chapters in Genesis after God created the world in seven days, he regretted it. “The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth and his heart was deeply troubled. So the LORD said, ‘I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created – and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground – for I regret that I have made them.’ But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” (Genesis 6:5-8)
The righteousness of Noah and the mercy of God spared the human species and all life on Earth. God told Noah to build an ark and bring the animals with him. The waters covered the earth for 150 days killing every thing and every one that lived upon it. But Noah’s family and his livestock survived. And when Noah and his flock of people and animals emerged from the Ark, they righteously worshiped God and God made a promise in return. “I have set my rainbow in the clouds and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.” (Genesis 9:13-15)
The story of the rainbow is of God hating the violence of humans and looking to destroy it – but of seeing something in us worth saving. Christians see it as a story of repentence, trust and a new start. And it’s a story of God’s promise to us (although I was always slightly freaked out as a kid at just how only one specific method of wiping out human life was removed – all the others are apparently still on the table). Historians think it might have its roots in a flood that we find in the archaeological record.
Today I still love rainbows. But on this June Saturday, they carry a second meaning to me. On the first truly glorious weekend of the summer, we worked our way into Boston to celebrate with many rainbow-adorned people. Once again the symbol of hope has risen in colors. I’ve never gone to a Pride parade before, mostly because I’m straight. I have been unsure what is supporting vs. where you are co-opting. But this year I have a reason to be there.
I found the absolute perfect shirt for this Pride celebration. It’s a picture of a momma bear hugging tight a rainbow baby bear. Grey walked through the common with a bracelet his friend made in pink, blue and purple – the bisexual colors.
We had an awesome time on one of the most glorious days I’ve seen in a long time. Boston Common was beautiful, and full of joyful happy people sporting signs and shirts and flag with words of love, welcome and joy. On the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots Boston Common was full of people openly and cheerfully celebrating. The parade was awesome, and included retirement homes, churches, school groups, banks, black & hispanic groups, costumed participants (Cos Players), political officials and aspirants and lots of short men and tall women. There was only cheering and whistling and joyful sounds to be heard. As we walked away from the tumult of the Common, my sons both told me that they were really happy we’d come. Thane asked if we could come again next year!
I’m really glad where we live in a world that remembers how to be joyful. I’m glad that the rainbow is still a sign of hope. It’s a sign that we are repenting from the violence of our past, and the harm we have done to our sisters and brothers. I looked out on that rainbow-clad crowd and had to think that on a beautiful day like this one, God must be glad that he made us, and glad he let us hang around.
NOTE: Grey read and approved this post!