For the LGBTQ+ community, the rainbow is ostensibly the symbol of inclusion, a multicolored banner that, as Lego now promotes to children, means that everyone belongs. More than that, it asserts that everyone can be whoever they want to be (serial killers and religious conservatives excepted). For Christians (as for Jews), the rainbow is quite the opposite: not an assertion of human autonomy but of human dependence. It is a sign of the gracious promise and forbearance of God in the face of human self-gratification and rebellion. The rainbow is a reminder of God’s covenant with all living creatures. It points beyond itself to something magnificent: the graciousness of a holy God. In comparison the Pride rainbow of inclusion is trivial indeed and those churches that choose to display it have thereby trivialized their God.
It is doubtful that there is anyone in the United States who is unaware that June is Pride month. Saturday morning saw the self-indulgent antics of Pride marchers, and if you are on the email list of almost any corporate entity, you will have had the triumphant celebration of the LGBTQ+ community trumpeted in your inbox. Corporate America isn’t the only institution selling out. Once again, the P.C.U.S.A. is here to remind us that the perennially superannuated pieties of liberal Protestantism are incapable of discerning the commercialization of the counter-culture and the trivialization of political protest. China may be engaging in genocide, have a network of gulags holding three million people, and be actively reinstating the playbook described so graphically by Solzhentisyn—imprisonment for thought crimes, state-sanctioned gang rapes of prisoners, etc.—but the P.C.U.S.A. knows where the real human rights issues are: the use of pronouns, inclusive bathroom policies, and dismantling women’s sports.
When you want to find out what is really going on, follow the money. A rainbow flag on your business webpage can possibly raise sales. Doing something that might upset the Chinese government will harm profit margins. Righteousness that can be sold at a profit is always so much more attractive than righteousness that must be purchased by self-sacrifice.
Pride month, and its commercial sponsors, is an appropriate key to understanding the priorities of the modern West. It celebrates hedonistic self-assertion. It mocks the values of the past. It uses the language of inclusion to exclude anybody who will not wholeheartedly affirm its ambitions. It strikes a posture of iconoclastic rebellion and liberation while actually being an imperious assertion of conformity to the social elite’s moral order. It has domesticated transgression by turning it into a marketable commodity. And it epitomizes a world where virtue is obtained by deploying nothing more than a hashtag, only to be lost by refusing to follow the herd. Whether a rainbow flag will stem the numerical collapse of the P.C.U.S.A. remains to be seen. What is certain is that Presbyterians courageously bragging about queering the American family will no doubt have a whole lot more fun in the U.S.A. than those simply trying to be faithful pastors in China.