by Laura Byrd
*This article references religion and Christianity, however, the actions I speak of are not just Christian doctrine but human doctrine.
I have struggled this week to decide on the subject of this week’s blog. What is happening in our nation has been constantly playing across the TV screen of my mind. Between the CIA’s torture report and the protests throughout the nation for the US court’s unjust actions, I am reeling with feelings of sadness, anger, and disbelief. I can’t help but give you my opinions on these matters, because I have the answer! What is the answer, you ask? I can’t say it’s my original idea. People throughout history, the Dalai Lama, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr. have spoken of the solution time and time again. I imagine you may know what I am hinting at by now. The answer, of course, is LOVE. (You may see a theme running through my writing now.) How far has our country and its citizens strayed from the ideologies of peace and love? The main issue that fills my brain at night and makes my stomach churn during the day is the death of Eric Garner and the court’s decision to not indict the officer who caused the death of this man. Eric was just a normal guy standing on the street corner selling cigarettes, obviously not hurting anyone or anything. Yes, this is not looked highly upon, but don’t we have more important issues to deal with on our streets?
I have been inundated with social media and the news: from articles and blogs, to words from my friends in the ministry. My friend Rev. Becky Walker has been chronicling the protests in Dallas, TX and the arrest of a fellow minister, Rev. Jeff Hood and six others who were peacefully protesting. The police found it necessary to use aggressive tactics and arrest people as a warning to others. He writes in The Huffington Post,
For me, this is a very religious thing. I don’t believe you can love your neighbor as yourself and then kill them. Police officers have to learn to love their neighbors as themselves. If we continue a situation where cops are allowed to continuously resort to lethal force, the cycle of violence will continue and death will continue to beget death. I think people of faith need to demonstrate. We have a fundamental responsibility to be in the streets, to be creating coalitions, to be building change.
This may seem upsetting that even ministers are coming out to protest the injustice the public feels about the court’s decision. This is usually what happens when there is extreme injustice happening in the world. Pastors and spiritual leaders come to the forefront and speak out for justice and peace, which I strongly believe is their role in our society. Although there are many people who know peaceful resistance is the correct way to make a change,they are still following the path of violence. USA Today reports:
During Sunday night’s protest some protesters vandalized and looted stores and set fires. Berkeley police arrested five people. Mayor Tom Bates told USA TODAY that 16 businesses had their windows smashed on Sunday. A protester who tried to stop two men from looting at RadioShack on Shattuck Avenue was struck in the head. One group of protesters stopped traffic on eastbound Highway 24 in Oakland. California Highway Patrol officers deployed tear gas to clear the highway.
This news absolutely breaks my heart. Although most people, I assume, want to protest peacefully, the aggression on both sides tends to lend itself to violence. Truthfully, although I would love to protest this injustice, I have not done so because of fear. Even though I am a white, middle class woman, I fear the police and their seemingly unbridled authority and power. Anyone who has been convicted of a crime also knows this feeling, as the police will lie and say anything they need to “get the perp.” I am increasingly worried that we have become a police state in which the people who are supposed to make our towns safe are instead harassing people and targeting subjects based on racial profiling. My fear of this violence has kept me away, yet awake. Then I came across this passage. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” Martin Luther King, Jr. in his book “Strength to Love” speaks about the power of love and even gives us a roadmap to success.
Far from being the pious injunction of a Utopian dreamer, the command to love one’s enemy is an absolute necessity for our survival. Love even for enemies is the key to the solution of the problems of our world. Jesus is not an impractical idealist: he is the practical realist. How do we love our enemies? We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. Forgiveness does not mean ignoring what has been done or putting a false label on an evil act. It means, rather that the evil act no longer remains a barrier to the relationship. We must recognize that the evil deed of the enemy neighbor, the thing that hurts, never quite expresses all that he is. An element of goodness can be found in our worst enemy. We must not seek defeat or humiliate the enemy but win his friendship and understanding. [We must have] agape love, understanding and creative, redemptive good will for all men. An overflowing love that seeks nothing in return (pg. 49-52). 
He reaches this conclusion through Mahatma Ghandi’s path of nonviolent resistance. Ghandi teaches the concept of Satyagraha. Satya meaning truth which equals love and graha is force; satyagraha means truth force or love force. He sees clearly that “the Christian doctrine of love, operating through the Ghandian method of nonviolence, is one of the most potent weapons available to an oppressed people in their struggle for freedom (pg. 150).
So we must not only love but also FORGIVE? Just as a parent disciplines a child for their wrong behavior, we must stand up to our government’s broken judicial system and the continued racial profiling used by the police to justify using deadly force. We must also forgive them for their injustice and press on for change. Lastly, we must tell them how we expect to be treated in this “free” nation. Hate will only breed hate. Love will only create love. Jason Mraz in his new album Yes! points this out quite succinctly.
Love is a funny thing.
Whenever I give it,
it comes back to me.
And its wonderful to be,
given with my whole heart
as my heart receives.
When you love someone
It comes back to you. 
Are you willing to forgive the man who caused the death of Eric Garner? Although I do not know him personally, I assume that he used force because that is what he was taught in the academy. The police are taught to use violence first. What if our police were taught nonviolent resistance? What if our police force used love-force rather than deathly force?
Lastly, I leave you with a thought from my favorite artist, J.R. Byrd’s, song, “The Love is Always Free.” Although the topic of this song is romantic love, the theme is universal. He sings,
But no matter who you are,
The love is always free.
These words are so simple yet contain so much truth. Love is free. It is a choice. You choose how to respond to situations with your own free will. I believe our only real solution to solve injustice is to have civil and religious leaders charge the protesters with a new solution: peace and love. It also falls to them to create a dialogue with our government to progress towards change.
Will you respond this time with love and forgiveness, or hate and violence? Love is free, but hate, that costs precious lives.
Other articles and creative responses for justice:
 Blumberg, Antonia and Carol Kuruvilla, “Right Now Jesus Is Saying ‘I can’t breath” Religious Leaders React To Non-Indictment In Garner Case,” The Huffington Post, December 3, 2014. Huffingtonpost.com, Retrieved December 10, 2014.
 Guynn, Jessica. “Berkley Protesters March For Fourth Night, Briefly Block Freeway,” USA Today, December 10, 2014. Usatoday.com, December 10, 2014.
 I John 4:18
 King, Martin Luther, Jr., Strength to Love, Fortress Press, 1963.
 Mraz, Jason, Yes! “Love Someone,” 2014.
 Byrd, J.R., Limitless, “The Love is Always Free,” Barking Dog Studios, 2009.