From Stonewall to Black Lives Matter

“I am alive because people rioted in 1969,” my friend, colleague, and fellow United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus member Rev. Will Ed Green said Monday, in reference to the Stonewall riots that ushered in the rise of the queer liberation movement.

Just over an hour later, he found himself with other religious leaders not rioting in front of the White House, but still making eye contact with officers and agents who used tear gas and rubber bullets so that Trump could feign religiosity, awkwardly holding a book he has shown himself incapable of understanding.

When someone time and again rejects the outcast and the stranger, comforts the comfortable, and afflicts the afflicted, they are on the wrong side of not just Christianity, but all of the major world religions.

There are many who lean on their understanding of Jesus’ teachings about violence to critique the current uprising in response to the murder of George Floyd (and Breonna Taylor and Tony McDade and Ahmaud Arbery and Tamir Rice and Sandra Bland and Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown and Amadou Diallo and Emmett Till and…). Knowingly or not, they are playing into Trump’s fascistic playbook. Anyone who has ever attended a Pride celebration and can’t see the connection between Stonewall and the overboiling of tension in ethnic minority communities should educate themselves before coming to another remembrance of the riotous uprising that gave us the limited sense of security LGBTQIA+ folks feel today.

Rev. Green and countless others live faithful lives of resistance to the injustices of today because desperate queer (especially black and trans) rioters dared take on their abusers and inspired a movement that brought about the gains we enjoy today. White middle- and upper-class queer folks enjoying the room we have to breathe today owe it to chaotic uprisings like what we are experiencing around us now. For us to debate the respectability of actions seeking to protect black and brown lives today is hypocritical at best.

Those who invoke Jesus to condemn oppressed people for the tactics they use to seek their own liberation are demanding their faith convictions be followed by everyone (including Christians with valid, differing convictions).This is as much a colonizing mindset as the Roman imperialist occupiers who executed Jesus.

Doubly so if they spend more time composing critiques of “violence” against property than they have of murder and abuse of human life.

Exponentially so if they speak out against the current protests without ever critiquing the systemic abuse of black and brown lives that creates the need for liberation in the first place.

Too often Christianity is associated with niceness that translates to preserving “peace” while overlooking the plight of those who can find no peace and justice in systems that stack abuse upon abuse of the already oppressed.

Privilege and preservation of the status quo is something that should never have become associated with a prophetic leader who spoke truth to power from the impoverished margins of the conquered Jewish people.

Yet here we are. In the face of a wannabe despot waving a Bible as a photo op, we find “progressive” Christians making talking points for him, endangering the delicate united front of opposition to obvious injustice.

Sometimes rules have to be broken in order to make way for the true justice Jesus pointed us toward when teaching about the ways to make way for the kin-dom of God, on earth as it is in heaven.

Rev. Green and I, along with our colleagues in the queer clergy caucus, are in our very existence violations of the rules of our denomination, but our defiance of unjust rules is the primary way we’ve made the gains we have for queer justice in the church and saved queer lives in future generations.

Likewise, resistance to and violation of unjust laws and policing in the wake of George Floyd’s murder is more than about just him. It is about making the way for black and brown lives to flourish in future generations. Such resistance to the evils of racism is the way of Jesus.

Rev. Austin Adkinson

Haller Lake UMC, Seattle

UM Queer Clergy Caucus

Westar Institute Praxis Member

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