Tuesday, July 5, 2011


by Nick Miller Kauffman

I'm (still) watching Annual Conference business via webcast, where they just concluded business dealing with a query on decorum, questioning the appropriateness of rainbow and black & white scarves (the former expressing support for LGBT people, the latter supporting a literalist biblical interpretation).  The query was returned, but as I watched the discussion, there were a lot of comments that mentioned both scarves in the same breath.  I think it's important to distinguish between them.

I do not wear a rainbow scarf at Annual Conference (excepting one evening last year).  I actually agree with the sister who compared them (and the black & white scarves) to "gang colors."  I appreciate their intent and am a big fan of shows of solidarity, but I suspect their effect is more isolating than inclusive.  I surely don't think they should be banned, I just don't take part in that particular demonstration.

But we shouldn't compare rainbow scarves to black & white scarves.  The former are intended as a show of support for an oppressed and silenced group; they are a stand against a majority.  The latter are a direct response to the former, which means they are worn in opposition to the display of solidarity with an oppressed minority.  Those with a literalist biblical interpretation may themselves be a minority, but they are certainly not silenced.

In the same way, a White Student Union would be different from a Black Student Union.  Flying a "straight pride" flag would be different from flying a "gay pride" flag.  I am not the biggest fan in the world of rainbow scarves in our particular context, but the black & white scarves seem downright malicious.  Rainbow scarves are a disenfranchised group standing up and demanding they be counted.  Black & white scarves are a powerful group reminding others of their power.


Christen Pettit Miller said...

Amen and well-said, brother. Also watching from here in Fort Wayne and feeling very, very sad.

will + adri said...

My grandmother's pastor was preaching in one of the webcasts so we tuned in to see how to get it set up and stumbled upon the scarves. Thank you for posting the meaning behind them so I can better understand what is happening.

Katherine said...

Thank you, Nick, for sharing this. Last year in Pittsburgh I heard a call from Brother (past) Moderator Shawn Flory Replogle's sermon in opening worship for us to put aside our outward signs of affiliation and seek deep and meaningful conversations with one another as you can't sum up my views in a scarf/color/etc, and my views would differ from someone wearing the same colors. I was pleased to hear one sister at the microphone say she used the scarves to identify people to talk with (of differing views as herself) to have these deep conversations, but I fear and know that is not always how they were utilized.