Remember Our Roots

by Kai Abrahamson, Emerging Ministries and Service Director

This year’s Pride theme is “Remember Our Roots,” commemorating fifty years since the Stonewall uprising on June 28, 1969 in New York City, when approximately 400 people protested a police raid on the Stonewall Inn. This uprising marked a major turning point, transforming a gay rights movement into a gay liberation movement. At this time I think it’s also important for us as Lutherans to “remember our roots.”

There so many similarities between the formation of the Lutheran church and the modern formation of the LGBTQIA+ liberation movement. Just over 500 years ago Martin Luther called out injustices within the church in his 95 theses. One of his main objections was against the selling of indulgences: paying money to the church to buy one’s own spiritual safety. And while the thought of “paying off” the church to secure God’s favor is a false narrative that now sounds quite archaic to us, at that time this was an accepted practice. Change was not easy, and many times during that reforming process things turned violent. Lutheranism was born in an unjust and violent time. Similarly, 50 years ago at the Stonewall Inn, queer people living in an unjust and violent time had to pay “indulgences” of their own in the form of police payoffs. On June 28 when a “dirty cop” came in to the bar at the Stonewall Inn to get his payoff and make the customary arrests of those who were “female head impersonators” the patrons decided they had had enough and began throwing coins, yelling, “there’s your payoff!” That night the patrons of the Stonewall Inn were tired of being forced to live at the intersection of police brutality and mob owned buildings. That night things did turn violent and people were hurt, but as we know all too well change is never easy and people tend to hold on too tightly to past hurts and old ways of thinking.

Diversity of thought and action is built into our belief system. Our God is a relational God, both to us and to God’s self in the form of the Creator, sustainer, and redeemer. One way we celebrate that diversity in the church is at Pentecost: a day when we commemorate that moment long ago when all who were present at that first Pentecost were suddenly able to speak in different languages as the spirit gave them ability. It was a gift of diversity and understanding given by the Holy Spirit to everyone. I love that the Season of Pentecost coincides with Pride month. At Pride we aren’t celebrating different languages, though I’m sure that to some it may sound like it. My hope is that today as we look at the rainbow banner in the church sanctuary, we will see it both as a symbol of God’s covenant to us to no longer cause harm, and as a symbol for the LGBTQIA+ community meaning love, healing, sunlight, earth, peace, and spirit, (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple respectively). My hope is that you will see the similarities of those two messages.