‘To wear or not to wear?’, that is the question. It’s the challenging question a number in my church family had to answer a couple of years back when institutions and firms in our city introduced the option of rainbow lanyards in their workplaces. They were soon ubiquitous – a very public way of virtue signalling your culturally approved approval of our society’s near full acceptance of LGBTQI+ people. As a result, not wearing one increasingly looked like a more significant statement than sporting the new colourful version: you were clearly marked out as being against LGBTQI+ people.
Tea and coffee times at church soon became dominated by conversations about what to do. In the absence of a biblical command about rainbow lanyards or clear biblical principles that apply directly to this particular question, I encouraged individuals to pray for wisdom (James 1:5), carefully listen to their consciences, and be relaxed about landing in different places to others. (We would seem to be in Romans 14-15 territory here.)
The majority saw it as an opportunity to speak and live for Jesus – even if they did that in different ways.
Encouragingly, that’s what most people did. The only people that discouraged me as their pastor were those who did not prayerfully think for themselves but just went with the flow of either persuasive non-Christian colleagues at work or legalistic Christian voices on social media. But thankfully, the majority saw it as an opportunity to speak and live for Jesus – even if they did that in different ways.
There were some that refused the offer of a rainbow lanyard and stuck with the previous corporate version. They saw it as an issue of integrity: they didn’t want to pretend to be fully accepting of sexual practices the Bible sees as harmful, even as they seek to love every person they come into contact with. Some of them gave real thought as to what they would say if asked why they weren’t wearing the rainbow colours. I encouraged them to seek to begin a conversation on this rather than preparing lecture notes: when asked to justify their non-compliance perhaps the best response would be to ask others why they were wearing them – this would help them pitch their response to the colleague who is LGBTQI+ themselves or is rightly wanting society to repent of homophobia in the past or is just going with the crowd.
One church family member showed a lot of guts in going on the attack a bit. A senior medic, they said they resented being asked to wear anything to reassure any group of their care and concern for them. Evidence of their fair treatment of LGBTQI+ patients would be in them giving them the same quality of treatment as everybody else – not by what they did or didn’t wear around their neck. This pushback worked for them – their long career proving the incontrovertible evidence that this is the case.
These two approaches show how the lanyard was interpreted differently by members of my church family (as it is also presented differently by a range of secular voices). One group in the church saw it as undermining their Christian integrity, another person saw it as primarily an attack on their professional integrity.
Still others saw it as a good opportunity to reclaim a bit of biblical imagery and point people to its origins in the promise God makes us in Genesis 9. They knew them wearing a rainbow lanyard would be remarked upon by non-Christian colleagues and so provide an opportunity for them to share their hope in Jesus. Again, I encouraged them to think about saying something that would intrigue and get people wanting to find out more rather than delivering a full sermon download (always a tendency of the eager evangelist).
So, we were divided as a church family on the question ‘to wear or not to wear?’. But we remain united in our desire to speak and live in a way that points a watching world to Jesus. You can do the same whether you wear one or not.