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Baltimore: who is the enemy?

A protester on a bicycle thrusts his fist in the air next to a line of police, in front of a burning CVS drug store that was looted and burned near the corner of North and Pennsylvania Avenues, during clashes on the day of Freddie Gray's funeral in Baltimore, Maryland April 27, 2015 (Credit: Reuters/Jim Bourg)On Monday, over 2,000 people gathered to pay their respects to Freddie Gray. On April 12, he was arrested on a West Baltimore street corner, pinned by officers to the ground, and dragged to the back of a police wagon.

In the absence of information, speculation has abounded as to what happened in the back of that wagon. But what is known is that a week later, the 25-year-old would breathe his last, dying of a severe injury to his spine.

So on Monday, with tensions high and emotions raw, riots began around 3pm. Coinciding with the time school let out and in close proximity to a city bus depot for student commuters, a police car was set on fire and a CVS drugstore was looted, along with a liquor store.

Events escalated as the night drew near, when mobs destroyed police cars, started several small fires, and invaded a check-cashing agency, seeking to break into its ATM. The governor declared a state of emergency, enacting a 10pm curfew to restore order and bring about peace. Officers in full riot gear were dispatched to various scenes, and in the line of duty there were injures. Some suffered broken bones, one was rendered unconscious, and many became targets of rocks and bottles.

The ones who came to enforce justice were symbols of injustice to some, thus they were the objects of vengeance fueled by deep-seated pain and distrust.

So in the deafening noise of injustice, many gathered, taking to the streets on Monday afternoon in order to have their voice heard. Rarely in desperation does one act with rationality, nor do we expect it.

One does not try to calm the mother that just lost her child, we are present with her. In the midst of tragedy, sorrow creates an acute sensitivity to the moment all the while blinding us to the bigger picture, bringing about a sense of hopelessness.

In that hopelessness, the world watched as the tragedy unfolded on television. Many watched, disturbed by the situation and wondering how individuals can justify these actions. Some watched, numb to the situation and unable to sympathize. But others watched, living vicariously through the chaos, seeing the visible disorder display their invisible reality.   

Gray family attorney William Murphy, speaking at the funeral earlier that day, observed that, "Let's don't kid ourselves. We wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for video cameras." If recent events are any indication, video does very little to deter heinous acts from being perpetuated. A video did not stop Ray Rice from pummeling his future wife. A surveillance camera did not keep Britt McHenry from denigrating a parking lot attendant. Video did not stop Senator David Vitter or Representative Anthony Weiner from their lewd, promiscuous acts.

Video does not stop actions, it simply brings to light our past inaction. The riots in Baltimore are more than a response to the tragic death of Freddie Gray, they are the culmination of feelings of injustice. Tired of status quo, these individuals sought to chaotically display the invisible disorder they live with everyday.

As events continue to unfold in Baltimore, each day of disorder will increase the desire for order. However, maybe what Baltimore needs more than order is truth. Truth to be heard, truth to be lived out.

There is a propensity to rush past the disorder, offering empty platitudes and promises that simply function as band-aids on bullet wounds. But instead of applying band-aids, we look at those who are hurting, and listen to why they hurt. Instead of demonizing them, we cast aside pre-conceived notions and unflattering stereotypes, and we see them for who they are, men and women who bear the image of God. We see them for who they are, and we love them as God loved us.

Our enemy is not the police. Our adversary is not the looter. Our foe is not the indifferent person. "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

As we fight for peace, lets not forsake truth for the appearance of order. Peace without truth is fantasy. Truth without peace is unfulfilling. Truth with peace is not something it is Someone. His name is Jesus.

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