(I gave these remarks as the reading on LGBT Spiritualities for the Seasons of Light Service at Harvard Divinity School.)
Somewhere, over the rainbow, way up high
There’s a place that I heard of, once in a lullaby.
This familiar little song’s simplicity and candor should not be mistaken for lack of spiritual heft. Having little to do with the plot of The Wizard of Oz, but much to do with the thoughts of a Jewish composer in 1939, the song expresses the undying hope of scorned and oppressed people everywhere who seek the simple joys of life, friendship, and love in a place free of societal oppression, where they are free to undertake their own path in life and face its dangers squarely.
Somewhere, over the rainbow, skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.
The significance for early LGBT activists of the shift from the black-and-white world of oppressive laws to the full-color world of hope and possibility cannot be overstated. The black-and-white reality of LGBT experience in 1939 was cruel, oppressive and often murderous. But that could not quench the full-color hope of a better world which respects the testimony of love and creation instead of the perjury of pretended piety. Because injustice is always perpetuated by a brokenness of hope, the first step to freedom is always imagining that it is possible.
Someday I’ll wish upon a star,
and wind up where the clouds are far behind me.
Where troubles melt like lemon drops,
away above the chimney tops is where you’ll find me.
If all oppressed people could only live in such a place, where the light of all colors makes everything glow with its own intrinsic joy! Free of the oppressing blasphemy of black-and-white distinctions, each child of God is free to sing God’s praise from the depth of her or his own heart.
Somewhere over the rainbow, bluebirds fly,
Birds fly over the rainbow. Why, then, oh why can’t I?
If happy little bluebirds fly
Beyond the rainbow, why, oh why, can’t I?
In the blameless bluebird we see God’s intended joy in its created freedom. God didn’t create us to be divided into rigid, narrow categories of imaginary Thou-Shalt-Nots. Reverence for God requires us to appreciate creation as it plainly is, not to enthrone our human narrowmindedness as the judge of whether God’s work is or is not good. “For I am filled with joy, O God, by what you have done” (Psalm 92:4). If the first step to freedom is hope, we join the bluebird in hope — in the hope that has made it possible to look out the windows of our classrooms and chapels and see the world changing, from black and white into full color before our eyes. If the second step is to fly, we join the bluebird in flight — away from rigid assumptions and prejudiced lies, and into the bright rainbow reality of God’s magnificent full-color handiwork.