What’s in a rainbow?

How many colours are there in a rainbow? Well, there is a gradual blending of shades of colours from red through to violet. But in 1672 Sir Isaac Newton identified seven distinct colours which are visible to the human eye and these have been most commonly used since. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Every child at school has been taught this and all pictures of rainbows faithfully portrayed those seven colours – until recently.

When the Gay and Lesbian groups 25 years ago were looking for a flag and symbol to represent them, they experimented with various colours and finally came up with a six-colour striped flag, omitting blue. The flag was almost always in horizontal colours and easily distinguishable. It is highly prominent at all gay pride events and has been flown on public buildings across our land to show support for gay pride. It has become their logo.

Simultaneously, Christians have continued to use the seven coloured rainbow to represent the fact that God made a covenant with man after the time of Noah to never flood the earth again. Sin would never be punished in this way again. The rainbow has been a sign of hope and forgiveness. There has been no ambiguity in every previous generation.

So with the confusion that this new alternative rainbow brings, how are we to use and recognise our rainbows? And if we display rainbows will people think we are in favour of gay pride? Has the rainbow been irrevocably hijacked? And does it matter?

All of this has been thrust to the foreground by the COVID-19 crisis and support for the NHS. The symbol of our support has been the rainbow. Rainbows can be seen everywhere in the windows of homes. It is on Facebook and all social media, the curved rainbow. However, the gay pride flag had already been adopted by many of the NHS trusts and hospitals around the country. Many nurses and doctors had already been persuaded to wear the badge of the LGBT rainbow colours on their lanyards.

For example, 40% of the Sheffield children’s hospital staff are recorded as wearing the NHS rainbow badge. Note that it is called the NHS badge whereas in fact it is the LGBT badge. Their website goes on to say that their staff complete an online learning package. They wear the badge to show that they are ‘someone who is open and a safe person to speak to concerning sexuality and gender identity’. Imagine if Christians had a badge which indicated to people that they were a safe person to speak to. Perception is everything.

Let us display our rainbow posters and our praying hands posters. Maybe use it with texts or slogans that clearly identify the relationship we have to God through the rainbow.

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