As I watched the news about recent Jihad attacks, I became glued to the TV. My immediate response was that my life’s work, Healing Through Love, was suddenly meaningless. There seemed to be no point in teaching people about love if we are all facing unfathomable terror and destruction.
Then I watched a video describing 3 stages of Jihad, one leading to the next and all quite negative and unloving.
Fortunately, I watched the video to the end when the speaker finally shared that our Muslim friends and colleagues may be at level zero, a stage where they know nothing about Jihad. I came to realize it is not because they know nothing about Jihad but rather that they choose to interpret the Koran in a loving and peaceful way.
That loving view was corroborated when I watched a video of the live event in Mombai, when terrorists murdered about 52 people. One Muslim couple, facing an assault weapon, chose to pray and recited a peaceful verse from the Koran. The would-be murderer let them go. Another example was a young lady in France who described her last few moments while facing imminent death. She chose love. In that moment of total terror, she verbally expressed her love toward everyone around her. And fortunately she survived.
Who Would be Willing to Sacrifice their Life
and Murder Innocent People in the Process?
It seems to be the belief in a cause, a belief that something bigger than one self is worth dying for. However, in the case of terrorism it is often a lonely, mistreated child or teen that is reaching out to belong to a family. The same video that captured the events as they unraveled in Mumbai, shared the voice and words of the ISIS leader speaking with one of the young terrorists on a cell phone, providing instructions and encouragement and then telling him it is time to die.
One of the terrorists was captured alive. This young teen explained that his father from Pakistan had sold him to ISIS and that he had been promised there would be a glow on his face after he was sacrificed to heaven. The detectives brought this young man to see the bloodied faces of his cohorts who had died. There was no glow surrounding them. The young man finally seemed to grasp that he had been betrayed, that he had willingly sacrificed his life and ended the lives of so many others, for a lie.
The Lie is that Hatred is More Powerful than Love
As the popular singer Siedah Garrett shares in a beautiful song: “No matter what the question, the answer is always love.” Love does not mean accepting and enduring abuse. Love does not mean putting yourself in the path of danger for some higher perspective. Love is doing what is necessary in the least aggressive, least violent and least destructive way possible. In the process of defending the value of love, we also teach, by example, just how much more powerful is love than hate.
One Example of Love Defeating Hate
happened in 1979, when Johnny Lee Clary, Ku Klux Klan leader at age 22, attended a radio debate with Rev. Wade Watts, state leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People who had worked with Martin Luther King.
Johnny was immediately caught off guard, expecting a black militant with a big Afro haircut and a boom box spouting words of hate. Rev Wade came in the room wearing a suit and tie, carrying a bible, and he reached out his hand and said: “I just want to tell you I love you and Jesus loves you.” Johnny, shocked to find himself shaking this black man’s hand realizing he had just broken a Klan rule, quickly jerked his hand back and started staring at his hand as an insult. He remembered the Klan Rule book which says “The physical touch of a non-white is pollution”
Rev. Wade saw Johnny looking at his hand and immediately said “Don’t worry Johnny, it don’t come off”. Johnny started calling him names and Rev. Wade responded by saying: “God bless you Johnny. You can’t do enough to make me hate you. I’m gonna love you and I’m gonna pray for you, whether you like it or not.” Johnny on YouTube
The seeds of love had been planted but Johnny was not yet transformed. He organized his Klan to continue to harass Rev. Wade. The Klan members rode by the Reverend’s home, calling him names. They threw trash all over his lawn. They showed up with sheets and hoods and stood out there saying: “Boy, come outside, we’ve got something for you.”
Rev. Wade bravely came out and confronted the Klan by saying: “Boys, Halloween is 6 months away. I’ve got a trick or treat in here for you, come back in October.” And he went back into the house. Then the Klan burned a cross across the street from his house. Rev. Wade came outside and asked if they needed hot dogs and marshmallows for a barbecue. Finally, the Klan set fire to his church. Johnny called, trying to disguise my voice and the reverend replied: “Hello Johnny.”
One Black Man Defeated the Ku Klux Klan
Finally, the Klan followed Rev. Wade into a restaurant and said “We’re gonna do the same thing to you that you do to the chicken, so think hard.” The Reverend picked up and kissed the chicken. Even the clan was laughing. The Klan Never Bothered Rev. Watts again.That one black man defeated the Ku Klux Klan by standing tall in the face of real danger, praying silently and continuing to feel love and forgiveness in his heart.
Johnny Lee Clary’s Story
Johnny Lee Clary’s story is probably not so different from the stories of gang members, dangerous criminals and members of terrorist organizations. In this case, a man who knew only hate was gradually transformed by the teachings of a man who understood and practiced the power of love.
Johnny’s story begins with abuse in his family, witnessing his mother often cheating on his father and his father being upset to the point of shooting himself in the head. After his father’s death when Johnny was 14, his mother threw him out of the house and put him on a bus to go live with his sister in California. Johnny hated everyone and could not cope with life in multi-racial Los Angeles, living with abuse from his sister’s live in boyfriend.
Johnny’s Family Was the Klan
Ready to end his own life, Johnny heard on TV the words of David Duke, the leader of the Ku Klux Klan saying: “White people needed to stick together.” This made Johnny feel more connected to his dad. And so he wrote a letter to Duke telling his life story. And then there was a knock on Johnny’s door, a friend of David Duke, who said The Klan told him: “We’re here to protect you, son. What you need is a family.” For the next four years different Klansmen mentored and taught Johnny how to be a true Klansman.
Believing he could finally amount to something in life, at age 18, Johnny returned to Oklahoma to start his own Klan chapter. He traveled and gave speeches at different Klan rallies until the FBI began investigating him. He had fallen in love with one of the agents who had betrayed his trust. To avoid prison, he wanted to step down as a leader and was told by Klan members: “If you were a true Arian warrior, you would be happy to go to prison for the White race.”
Love Wins the Battle Against Hate
At that point he felt they all hated him. He felt all alone, unable to even get a job and he started drinking. In his despair he got on his knees and said “God, I told You if You’d help me, I’d go to church.” When he was offered a job, he went to church where he saw loving behavior, blacks and whites actually sitting together. That led him to ask Rev Wade Watts to mentor him. Finally understanding how to love and live in unity with all people, Johnny Lee Clary became the first Caucasian elder in the Church of God in Christ, a predominantly African-American denomination. He was no longer that mixed up kid looking for a family. Read about Johnny’s rebirth into love.
In the meantime….