|Christ died for|
our articles about
|Devil's in the details|
Rockin' Rollen Stewart, a.k.a. Rainbow Man (1944-) is the born again Christian who was famous for going to every sporting event imaginable during the 1980s holding up a John 3:16 sign. (John 3:16 is a verse in the Gospel of John often associated with salvation by evangelicals.) He was often spotted on television with his John 3:16 sign, wearing a rainbow colored wig and strategically positioning himself at each event to ensure his sign would be on camera, much to the disdain of TV cameramen who considered him a pest. He inspired a lot of copycat religious fanatics to do likewise, and became a target of spoofs by comedians. Ironically, Stewart claimed to hate sports himself.
His conversion came after a dramatic and varied early life: his father died when he was 10, and his mother and sister also died when he was a young man. He worked at jobs including drag racer, motorcycle shop owner, and marijuana farmer, before deciding to become an actor. The idea of wearing a rainbow wig and infiltrating TV broadcasts was originally to provide publicity for his future stardom, and premiered at the 1977 NBA Finals. In 1979 or 1980 he had a religious epiphany and decided to use his multicolored wig to spread the Lord's message.
He was also clearly batshit insane. His run in the public eye came to an end in the late 1980s when he ran out of money, his car (which he depended upon to tour the country's sports venues) was totalled, and his wife left him; after that he chose more extreme ways to spread his message. Convinced the rapture would take place September 28, 1992, he began writing apocalyptic letters and a series of stink bomb attacks at newspapers, bookstores, and even a few televangelist ministries to call attention to his rapture prophecy. When nobody listened, he took hostages at a California hotel (while covering the hotel room windows with John 3:16 signs) and threatened to shoot down passenger jets departing nearby Los Angeles International Airport unless he got three hours of free TV time. Alas, he ended up in prison serving three concurrent life sentences on kidnapping charges, still sticking to his "impending rapture" story.
The latest information on him seems to date from 2008 when he was still in jail, having been denied parole 3 times. Meanwhile, John 3:16 has become a meme at sporting events and elsewhere, featuring on fast food cups and Tim Tebow's face, and ensuring Rollen Stewart's crazy legacy lives on.
-  — The movie
- Rainbow Man's dark side keeps him from getting out, Jerry Crowe, LA Times, May 19, 2008
- The Unbelievable Life of the 'John 3:16' Sports Guy, Jake Rossen, Mental Floss, Aug 18, 2017
- 'Rainbow Man' Sentenced to 3 Life Terms : Crime: Rollen Stewart, known for his bizarre wig and religious placards, is convicted of taking over a hotel room at LAX and holding a maid hostage., LA Times, July 14, 1993
- "Rollen Stewart: A Colorful Testimony", 2004
- A 1997 documentary movie titled The Rainbow Man/John 3:16 was made about him
- Here’s why John 3:16 is so popular in sports, Boston Globe, April 20, 2017