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Tony Felice
Mar 21, 2022
In General Discussions
In his March 13 homily, Bob Kloos asked the community to consider whether we want to regularly fly the rainbow flag over the entrance to our space, and if so, how often. The decision is not uncomplicated, but I would like to see us fly it every time we gather at 7100 as a community and also feature it on the home page of our website along with a thoughtful explanation of exactly why we’re using it. Our community’s statement of values includes “Inclusivity: We are open and welcoming to all.” I’m sure that every member of CSP agrees with this value. But it turns out that whether one favors prominently associating the rainbow flag with our community is more complicated than simply whether one sincerely believes in inclusivity. I can think of two reasons why someone who believes wholeheartedly in inclusivity may have reservations about our prominently flying the rainbow flag. Both have to do with the potential for our intention to be misconstrued. On one hand, some may interpret the flag to indicate that we are a “gay church,” which ironically would mean exactly what we are trying not to say—that all may be welcome but some are more welcome than others. On the other hand, some may see the flag as indicating that we think LGBTQ+ issues are more important than many other life-and-death issues that Christians profess to care about. We’re not flying the Ukrainian flag. We don’t have a sign over our door advocating healthcare for all. We don’t fly a banner in support of asylum seekers or immigrants’ human rights or Black Lives. It’s not that we don’t believe in these things. But wouldn’t we be advertising ourselves as a one-issue congregation if we happened to pick a symbol and run with it? In his homily, Bob said “a rainbow flag is unambiguous. It is simply saying, ‘Of course, all means all.’” While I wholeheartedly agree with Bob’s sentiment and I enthusiastically favor our flying the rainbow flag, I wouldn’t consider the rainbow flag unambiguous(I’m not sure that any symbol is unambiguous). If we fly the rainbow flag, someone will misunderstand our meaning, just as would be the case with any powerful symbol. If a website prominently features a cross (without corpus), some who see it may think, “I know those people. They consider themselves followers of Christ and yet support a system that disregards the poor and marginalized or even holds them in contempt.” If a website featured a larger-than-life crucifix (as ours currently does), some who see it may think “I know these people. They think they’re the only real Christians; that God has made them the arbiters of everyone’s morality even though their own house is in terrible disorder.” Sometimes we have no choice but to tolerate the ambiguity of symbols and do our best to maximize effective communication. We use the word “Catholic” on our web and print materials, even though realistically we know that someone who happens across it may dismiss us before investigating, thinking “That is certainly not what I’m looking for,” when we may have been exactly what they were looking for. Paul wrote, “Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” A symbol is going to say different things to different people. I believe the upside of using this one in the proper context far outweighs the downside. I would fly the flag over our door and place it on our home page with a thoughtful explanation that says, in part, something to the effect of: To us, the flag says “All are welcome here.” We hope this symbol especially reaches anyone who has ever felt—for whatever reason—that ‘all’ means ‘everyone but me.’
Tony Felice

Tony Felice

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