Rainbow Days | June 13, 2021 by Dr. Benton
I began our consideration of Rainbow Days…of LGBTQ+ Pride Month with the song from the Fisk Jubilee Singers, I Got a Home In-a Dat Rock. The authors of this song, as well as the singers, are convinced that we have a home…a rock solid home. This home is rooted in nature…in the very ground of our being. It is a song of hope amid profound suffering and violence. There is a promise from God…a rainbow sign. This is the message of Pride Month…of pride rather than shame and stigma. I got an email yesterday from Barbara Lee. She wrote:
June marks Pride Month, the annual celebration in honor of the invaluable contributions and accomplishments of our LGBTQ+ community.
Pride Month honors the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, which was a turning point in the liberation movement for the LGBTQ+ community and led by women of color — Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera.
This month, especially, I’m mindful of the legacies of trailblazers here in California like Harvey Milk, as well as of the lives that have been lost as a consequence of anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination.
I’m emailing you today, on the 5-year anniversary of one of the most horrific acts of anti-LGBTQ+ violence in recent history. A day that should serve as a reminder of how much more work there is for us to do to protect and uplift the LGBTQ+ community.
We must recommit to the fight for LGBTQ+ liberation and equality — human rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Lee goes on to cite the need to pass the Equality Act and to continue the fight against the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS, as well as standing up for transgender youth and protecting trans people of color facing discrimination and fatal violence at a very high rate. This is part of the rainbow of creation…the full diversity that comprises life…a rich and healthy life. I was reminded of what such a life looks like while watching one of Matthew Fox’s Daily Meditations. In it, he included a clip from Jane Goodall on the occasion of receiving the 2021 Templeton Prize. The clip is entitled, Living a Life of Purpose:
Goodall clearly has a profound understanding of the nature of life and human existence and our relatedness to all beings. As an environmentalist, she also understands that we cannot separate our “care for our common home” from our care for the living beings on earth…we cannot separate the environmental movement from the movement for social justice for all living things, including human beings. Her understanding of spirituality encompasses such a depth…such thorough wisdom. She speaks about the “threads being removed from the tapestry of nature”…these are the threads of life…the interconnected nature of our existence, of which each of us is a part. Her curiosity…her sense of mystery…her belief that the world is full of magic and surprises has been key to her life’s work. She quotes 1 Corinthians 13:12 which says:
12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
“Seeing darkly”…or seeing into the depths of things is what is needed right now. Goodall spoke to the internal sentience…of how this is present in all nature, including the chimpanzees, as well as the grasses, the trees, the rocks. Meister Eckhart calls this darkness a "superessential darkness, a mystery behind mystery, a mystery within mystery that no light has penetrated." This is, I think what Goodall meant when she quoted the Bible. She was alluding to the source of all…the spiritual center.
Goodall also acknowledged that this sense of mystery was nurtured by her own mother when she was young. She tells the story of when she took a handful of earthworms to bed with her and about the time she waited patiently in a chicken coop to find out how a hen laid an egg. She says that her mother did not crush her sense of the mystery of life…she did not get angry with her, but supported her in a loving way. This mothering presence was something that she understood well in her work with the chimpanzees, as well as the young people across the globe. In thinking about this presence, I am reminded of the Black Madonna who stands on my bookshelf. She holds the baby Jesus so tenderly, protecting him from a harsh world, supporting him in her lap. This feminine, nurturing presence can be felt in another spiritual that mentions the “rainbow sign”…Mary Don’t You Weep. Written about Mary of Bethany or Mary Magdalene, this song has a deep, haunting presence. It reminds me that our mother Earth is crying, along with so many other mothers. The tragedy of so many deaths…of our oceans, plant and animal species…of people in armed conflict and on the streets of our towns and cities…in nightclubs and schools.
But this song is telling us that we do not need to weep…or mourn, for Pharaoh’s army was drowned…and God gave Moses (Noah) that rainbow sign… Here is Prince’s version of that song:
Of course that same “rainbow sign” states that there will be no more water, but fire next time. The title of a book by James Baldwin, this is a grim reminder that we need to work together…like lovers…to “change the history of the world.” Baldwin writes:
If we – and now I mean the relatively conscious whites and the relatively conscious blacks, who must, like lovers, insist on, or create, the consciousness of the others – do not falter in our duty now, we may be able, handful that we are, to end the racial nightmare, and achieve our country, and change the history of the world.
If we do not now dare everything, the fulfillment of that prophecy, re-created from the Bible in song by a slave, is upon us:
God gave Noah the rainbow sign, No more water, the fire next time!
Of course we know that despite our rootedness in “the rock”…despite our solid-seeming home, the fire is upon us. We are in the 11th hour when it comes to changing the world. We must “dare everything.” It is not a matter of small changes. We are at a place of rupture in life’s processes…of the unraveling of the threads of the tapestry that we have known as life. Likening our experience as people to that of a great tree, Olive Schreiner writes:
As the oak tree cannot grow unless, with each new ring it adds, its old bark cracks and splits, so humanity cannot develop without the rupture of its old institutions and laws…
We are facing this rupture right now…the realization of the prophecies spoken of by our enslaved ancestors, by the courageous people that have spoken up when they have witnessed violence and oppression…injustice and hate. May we have the courage to continue this process of change, building new institutions and laws that reflect a vision of the rainbow…the diversity of creation upon which our health and well-being depends. May we be supported by the spirit of life…the superessential darkness that birthed us. And may we find hope in the rainbow…