A couple weeks ago, I read on someone's blog (sorry, I don't remember whose), a discussion of how people felt about being customers of businesses that advertise with the fish sign, the ichthys, long a symbol of Christianity.
I don't see a lot of businesses up here in the Northwoods using the symbol, nor do I remember any from where I used to live.
On the other hand, a LOT of places throughout this area display Christian symbols in their offices and such, not just the symbols of ubiquitous capitalism at Christmas, but the more religious symbols at a variety of times during the year. I know one eatery here in town that's overtly Christian; their menu explains that they're closed on Sundays so that their employees can have a day with their families. Though I'm not Christian, I respect that choice, and I patronize this place.
I don't think all Christians are evil or anything, but there's a very vocal segment of Christians in this country that overtly hates and encourages hatred. They fight against human rights. They hurt people.
In some places, the overt religious symbols make me tense and edgy because I can't tell whether the symbols are being displayed because the displayers are in the hating group. I just know it's a distinct possibility. I'm a coward.
Just once, in those places, I would love to see a rainbow sign. Just once, I'd like to feel a sense of openness, welcome.
I was thinking, last semester, about that, and I looked around my hall. We tend to display signs on our doors, on our bulletin boards, and in our offices signalling our alliances and interests. Some doors have Native American symbols, some indicate affiliations with organizations or specialties. Baby pictures take prominent positions in several places. My office had a Shakespeare thing, a street sign from my fantasy City, and a picture of a big tree. But with one exception, rainbows are few and far between.
I wonder how our department floor feels for our gay and lesbian students. Do we give a sense of openness or welcome? Mostly, people in this department are pretty open and welcoming, but we don't really seem that way from our doorway displays.
So I sent away for some rainbow design stickers. I couldn't decide from the website which I liked most, or which would fit best on or around my door, so I ordered several. (I had to order them on-line because I couldn't find them for sale anywhere in town, after looking for several months.)
They came this week. I trimmed a small one to fit in the name tag area of the door. And one of my colleagues admired it, so I gave her another to put on her office. Then I put the third up in my office window.
Many of our students seem oblivious to the rainbow symbol, but the students to whom it matters aren't. They'll see it as a symbol. And maybe they'll feel a little more welcome and safe. That's my hope, anyway.
There's no way to control the reading of the signs we use, though. Just as I read the signs Christians use in a variety of ways, so people can read my rainbows in a variety of ways. I wonder if many Christians think about how their signs and symbols look from the outside?
I can see the light at the end of the tunnel of the week. It's been a week full of meetings and teaching and reading and discussing. I've gotten some useful tasks accomplished, but I'm still feeling overwhelmed and tired.
Can we have spring soon, please?