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Rainbow Oreos and American democracy

Oreo's limited edition rainbow cookies
Oreo's limited edition rainbow cookies, created to celebrate LGBTQ+ history month. |

For those who suffer from a lack of enthusiasm for LGBTQ activism, there is a weirdness about the movement that, upon reflection, seems to be a serious threat to American diversity and democracy.

Within the wide range of beliefs and backgrounds that comprise a vastly diverse American society, it is no surprise to find groups of people who fundamentally disagree with each other on highly important issues, such as the nature of human sexuality. Christians make for a good case in point.

Traditional Christians affirm sex only within male-female marriage. However, as is the case with every other moral question, not everyone agrees. There are many who don’t believe the writings of Paul are inspired, many who don’t believe monogamous marriage is important, and many who don’t believe there is an intended order inherent in the human body. Welcome to America!

Many Christians, Jews, and Muslims are offended by people proudly practicing homosexuality; many who identify as gay are offended at their offense. Being offended is the price one must pay for living in a pluralistic, liberal democracy. Our characteristically thick-skinned nation is, in many ways, an unprecedented city on a hill for the world to see, but I recently had the unsettling sense of an ominous cloud engulfing that city as I clicked on my inbox during pride month.

I’m on an email list for the National Park Service, and I received an announcement proclaiming National Parks as “outdoor safe spaces,” which offered the opportunity to purchase a rainbow-colored pin, sticker, or tumbler (with a spill-proof lid) to show that you’re either LGBTQ or an “ally.” At first, this struck me as woefully weird. Until now, has it been the case that one could drive through a National Park and see signs that say, “Don’t feed the wildlife,” “Only camp in designated areas,” and “You better not be gay here!”? What in the world do people’s sexual desires have to do with hiking? What exactly is the National Park Service supposed to protect gay people from?

Shortly after being notified that the canyons and streams in our parks are fully affirming of same-sex relationships, I was walking through Wal-Mart with my 14-year-old. In the center walkway, between the paper goods and the cereal aisle, we both noticed a big stack of rainbow Oreos with a large cardboard display that read, “Come out with pride and show that you’re an ally.” This is beyond weird. It’s like a big Keebler cookie display in the middle of Target showing the Keebler Elf caressing two female elves with the caption, “Keebler loves swingers!” Or maybe a promiscuous peanut butter ad with a quote bubble over a salaciously grinning Planters Peanut Man saying, “Spread the love.”

I know the alleged purpose of the rainbow movement is to counter the oppression of the past. But blacks and Jews have suffered as much or more oppression as gays (setting aside for the moment the fact that being of a certain race is a very different thing than engaging in certain kinds of sexual behavior), and yet the National Parks have never been declared a “black safe space.” To my knowledge, there has never been any pro-Jewish Oreos.

At this point, I’d like to be able to leave the issue alone and just stop while scratching my head at the weirdness, but, as Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant once said, our capacity for reasoning was not given to make us happy. (Dogs live happy lives because they don’t contemplate issues like these).

On his website, the activist who came up with the rainbow tree logo to signify “outdoor safe spaces” in the National Parks gives some chilling insight as to why so many things from the Grand Canyon to Oreos are covered in the rainbow flag: “Have you ever asked yourself, ‘Is it safe to hold my significant other’s hand here?’ LGBTQ+ people are regularly assessing if spaces are welcoming. Even more so in outdoor and rural places that have traditionally been less-so than urban bubbles.”

Here’s another way to say the same thing: “Have you ever been troubled by the fact that when you go into public places some of the people you see don’t hold the same beliefs as you? Does it bother you that anyone would have the audacity to disagree with you or to believe that you’re not behaving as you should? Here’s a pin you can wear on your jacket or backpack to let people know that they should never be allowed to disagree with your beliefs about human sexuality.”

In a thoroughly pluralistic society, how is asking, “Is it safe to hold my gay partner’s hand here?” any different from a Christian walking into a diverse neighborhood with a mix of Muslims and Jews and asking (with a quivering voice) “Is it safe to eat pork here?”

In reflecting on all this, it seems there is something intentional behind the weirdness of gay-affirming National Parks and Oreos. One doesn’t have to be a total cynic to suspect an illegitimate motive when canyons and cookies are said to have a sexual ethic. Regardless of what one believes about the morality of homosexuality, the ubiquitous and hyper-active rainbow campaign should be deeply concerning to any American. The utter intolerance of differing beliefs about sexual ethics in the LGBTQ movement and the incessant, often militant, obsession with “affirmation” and “allies” should not be taken lightly.

You may not like being cramped next to a large, snoring person on a flight from New York to San Diego. You don’t have to put up with it, but your only other option is to take the extra four days to make the drive. The problem with so many LGBTQ activists is that they are not like the annoyed, skinny person on the flight who can accept that losing the armrest to a portly passenger in the next seat is the price one must pay for traveling 3,000 miles in four hours. They begin yelling that only skinny people and skinny allies should be allowed on the plane. The fat passenger may think at first that he has as much right to fly as anyone else, but when he looks around and sees skinny-affirming flag stickers on the pretzels, the flight attendant’s lapel, and the airline logo, he realizes that he’s probably not going to be on the plane much longer.

If we cannot live with the ideological tension inevitable in such a diverse nation as ours, we would likely be better off moving to a more culturally and ideologically homogeneous society like Iran or North Korea. The thing that should trouble all Americans is that the motives and methods of the rainbow movement seem frighteningly similar to those of the people who created Iran and North Korea.


Originally published at Juicy Ecumenism. 

Mike Mitchell is a former pastor of a United Methodist congregation. He holds a BA in English and professional writing, an MA in theological studies from Asbury Seminary, and a PhD in philosophy and theology from Liverpool Hope University.

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