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Guest Post: Rainbow

(Today's post is a guest post by longtime reader Matty P. If you would like to guest write for us, please check out our guest post guidelines. We look forward to publishing reader posts on future Thursdays.)

His name was Rainbow. Probably wasn’t his given name, but that’s how he introduced himself to me and my fraternity brothers. He came to us in the summer of my junior year at UC Santa Barbara, a vagrant in the truest sense. He was on a trek from Santa Barbara to San Francisco with only what he could carry on his back and pack onto his three wheeled bike.


Rainbow was a Christian. I mention this because it’s not only integral to the story, but understanding his personality as well. He took the teachings of Christ so seriously he gave up his possessions because of the story of the rich man who would not give up his wealth to follow Christ. Such was his love and resolve.

Rainbow was only passing through Santa Barbara. He'd heard that we were a Christian fraternity and asked to stay with us for a few days, setting up a tent in our back yard and proselytizeing to the locals before he continued on his journey. We agreed because it was a unique opportunity for us as a house to learn from an individual who lived quite strictly to “Christ’s laws,” as he called it.

On his last night with us, Rainbow went to talk with another homeless man that lived around our street, the man we had dubbed, "Legion." We called him Legion (a Biblical reference to possession) because he claimed to be influenced by voices, hated Christianity, and occasionally claimed to be “of the devil.” We’d talked with Rainbow about Legion previously and Rainbow didn’t want to leave Santa Barbara without confronting the disturbed man. 

We heard Legion screaming, but this was not new; he would occasionally scream at cats or the voices only he could hear. We heard something new this time; we could also hear Rainbow pleading with him. Rainbow wished to pray with Legion but Legion would have none of it. We stood on our porch watching the spectacle. It began with a push and escalated to Legion flailing wildly and throwing Rainbow to the ground.
I ran to call the police as two of my fraternity brothers rushed to Rainbow’s aid. While Rainbow was on the ground, he didn’t fight back. He simply curled himself into a ball and screamed as loud as he could: “Jesus loves you!” and “I forgive you!” and “God bless you!”

Legion eventually ran away when he saw people coming to intervene. And Rainbow himself seemed unharmed other than being slightly tenderized. Rainbow refused to file a report with the police. He never tried to talk with Legion again and soon he was gone, continuing on his journey north. 

What remained was something the three of us would always remember. This was an actual demonstration of passivity in literal terms. Rainbow refused to defend himself from attack and even went so far as to bless his enemy. It was something we wondered whether we could and even whether we should do given what we individually believe and the world we live in. The three of us each came to our own conclusions, but the moral question remains.

Can and should a Christian, or any pacifist, love his fellow man so much as to allow him or herself to endure pain or even death?

nine comments

I respect what Rainbow did.

Well Matty P you bring up an incredibly provocative point. The term martyrdom comes from early Christian who did exactly that. Now, has time changed our meaning of the term where being killed in combat is almost martyrdom and suicide bombing is a form of martyrdom? Apparently it has, but what does that mean.

I apologize for answering your question with a question.

@Eric I agree, but it’s something tough to aspire to do or be. Personally, having that level of restraint in such a situation may be beyond me.

@Michael you just opened a whole new can of worms. I thought the focus would remain on when one should commit violence and when it’s acceptable. But your point brings up another issue pertaining to righteous death. There’s another post in there I think.

To answer Michaels question, martyrdom is a very vague word, it simply means dying for a cause, it doesn´t define how, or even if it was a good cause or not. People who were killed in combat being hailed as martyrs predates Christianity.

Whether you believe Rainbow did the right thing or not he had a very serious conviction for the use of nonviolent principles, however in a situation like that you can´t hold it against somebody if they do defend themselves.

I don’t think you hold it against somebody, but I compare it to another event. Remember the Amish school shooting a few years ago? (It may have been quakers) They came out and said they were praying for the murderer and his family. They didn’t have to do that, but they did.

For Rainbow, no one was hurt. The police came and Legion left, non-violence was indeed the best solution.

A very good question.
And there are a lot of other points which the rest of you added.

First of all, I don’t think suicide bombers have much to do with martyrdom. That’s just how they are trying to sell it. But usually those kids are either drugged, brainwashed or even chained to the wheel – if you know what I mean…

Sometimes of course one has no choice as to go this far that one decides it’s okay, if the body is messed up or even lost – sometimes that’s the lesser evil and for the greatest good.

But think about it – is it really such a smart idea to give up the body every time the going gets tough? You just won’t get very far at all and the bullies will usually always win.
And I most certainly wouldn’t count on anybody rescuing me…

So, no, Rainbow is not my hero. Because first of all he pushed the attacker over the edge and then he kept on attacking him verbally and provoking him even more.
If you’re asking me the sane and truly Christian thing to do would have been to ask the guy very gently why he was so much against religion and to understand what bad experiences he has had and then work with the answers and get him to see the light via understanding him.

What Rainbow did was acting like a robot and not even responding correctly after things went wrong.
He did not spread love, understanding and the message of the Lord, but “knowing better” and “not caring”. Had he however truly been interested in his fellow man and in saving him, he would have listened to him and genuinely helped him.

As for getting killed in combat and also for standing up for the right thing – well this isn’t quite as black and white as it may seem.
Truth is things have gotten this far without us doing something about it before, so naturally we’re all hostages in some way or another… so once you’re waist deep down in the sh/t, all you can do is your best and hope things will work out.

But what makes me really think of martyrdom, is when I read you kids discussing GWOT and this sort of thing… because I have a completely different point of view on what is behind all this and I think of you guys as being the age of my sons… you come in good faith, wanna do well and I think you’re really getting f…, because you don’t know how things work on this planet. And that’s just heartbreaking.

@ Sarah – You actually brought an interesting perspective I had previously not considered. You wrote specifically that Rainbow provoked Legion through blessing him. I use Rainbow as an example as an extreme not just because of his response but also because of Legion’s involvement. Legion was obviously unstable. Attempting to have rational conversation with him was likely a poor decision.

As an extreme, it’s meant to provoke discussion on the “righteous” response to violence. The larger the scale of violence enacted, the more easily the response to that violence seems to be justified or considered righteous. Especially by the religious. While I understand that if a culture were to act as Rainbow in response to aggression, they would disappear. Yet, in accordance with their faith, would not their passivity make their fading righteous?

Matty, first of all let me tell you that I also thought, your story was a very good example and can be used to explain all kinds of points of views – so very well done, you’ve written a great post! (I meant to say this before, but i just forgot it!)

Thank you for thinking about my words and giving me your explanation. That is very much appreciated, too.

However, I would personally not put it this way: “…that Rainbow provoked Legion through blessing him.”, because I don’t think he was blessing him at all.
I think both guys were probably mentally quite beaten up.
Legion in the way which you have described very well indeed, but Rainbow is the one who has us all fooled, because it looks as if he is sane and as if he is doing a good thing (blessing Legion).
But both the fact that he keeps on and the fact that he curls up like that suggest that he’s not very much in present time and able to judge correctly.
Therefor it is not an act of compassion, but a compulsive act and he doesn’t do it because he genuinely loves his fellow man and loves God and this kind of thing, but probably rather because he has some kind of a mental problem like a neurosis etc.

And that’s why Legion doesn’t take it very well. He’s not at all being blessed and loved and receiving a positive flow. On the contrary, he has his mental problems and Rainbow, because he’s so little in present time, doesn’t pay any attention to them at all and rubs it right into his wounds, which makes Legion go mad.

The entire thing has nothing to do with love, God, religion or martyrdom, it’s in fact about two poor chaps, both mentally ill, who happen to hurt one another. It’s very tragic, but unfortunately also quite common.

However, your point, “to provoke discussion on the righteous response to violence” is a very valid point and it’s good you bring that up!
Yes, I guess you’re right that people in general would apon it this way: “The larger the scale of violence enacted, the more easily the response to that violence seems to be justified or considered righteous.”. But that is because people’s response isn’t bound to be a sane and sensible one! Anybody who REacts is alway doing it because he’s somehow had a response triggered of. Anybody who is completely sane at all times would not REact, but ACT in such a way, so that his response will always be for the greatest good. See what I mean?

All this about “righteous” and all the emotions that get mixed in… all that you can observe in a crowd who agrees that it has been mistreated or in the individual who has a need to feel sorry for himself… but really it doesn’t get anybody anywhere and its origin is also nothing to be proud of. – But you’re right! That’s how many of them see it and it’s not good if you’re up against insanity which simply got glorified by group agreement!

I honestly did not read this story the way Sofia did (and I edited it) but I have to say this is a legitimate and valid way t read the story. First, both people probably are a little off, and, looking back on it, Rainbow probably should have approached the whole situation differently.

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