The devil is always busy.

I heard this saying among the elders in my church when I was a little girl who grew up in the south in the 1970s and 80s. I was too young to realize that older people often spoke of the evil force behind the tragedies and misfortunes from which they tried to protect me and other black children in our community as much as they could.

We didn’t have the popular academic term “safe space” back then, but these elders would have responded to that reference. The older adults in my childhood had to cautiously walk in Jim Crow’s world when they came of age in Georgia or other southern neighboring states of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. As defenders of me and my peers when we were young, these elders were happy to be alive and witness many of the legislative “safe places” that emerged from the civil rights movement, but they were wise enough to know that the evil of racial hatred is always will hide.

The “pure evil” that Eri County Sheriff John Garcia said to describe the deadly shooting at the Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, New York, unfortunately testifies to this wisdom. Hardworking people in this predominantly African-American area have lobbied for more than 10 years to get a decent grocery store like Tops in their neighborhood. Now many of them feel that their once safe space of common communication is no more.

With another massacre of weapons dominating the headlines, we are again frantically asking why these tragedies continue to happen. We constantly call these incidents violent, as President Joe Biden called the execution of Buffalo an act of “internal terrorism”. And we delve into the vile, psychological dysfunction responsible for such heinous crimes that, in the case of the 18-year-old shooter from Buffalo, are an indoctrination of the theory of a great replacement for white supremacists.

The great theory of substitution, the absurd and dangerous belief that colored people will replace whites in the United States and European countries, is also the main motive for other mass shootings in the country.

Biden described this widespread racial hatred as a “stain on the soul of America,” but it is much deeper. The battle we are waging for the soul of the nation is an incessant spiritual conflict. We are in a spiritual war.

When I read how Buffalo’s attacker on the Tops market was maliciously planned by the shooter, I reflected on the passage from Ephesians 6:12, which says that “we fight not against blood and flesh, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world. , against spiritual evil in the heights ”.

Entering a public space with the deliberate and malicious intent to ruthlessly kill as many black people as possible is a manifestation of spiritual evil. This is the terrible result of a soul infected with darkness.

At this troubling time, it would be good for us to listen to the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his sermon, “The Answer to an Unintelligible Question.” This sermon is found in King’s book “The Power of Love,” and at the beginning of his speech the King refers to Matthew 17:19, where Jesus’ disciples asked, “Why could we not cast him out?”

The disciples implied their inability to cast out the demon in the young man. King views this issue and places it in the context of the racial unrest of the late 1960s, arguing that evil cannot be eradicated by human effort alone in government and education.

“Selfishness and hatred have not disappeared with the expansion of our education system and the expansion of our legislative policies,” King said passionately.

He concludes by arguing that the moral victory we so desire over the evil of racial hatred will come if we submit to faith in God.

“Racial justice, a real opportunity in our nation and in the world, will not come through our weak and often erroneous efforts, nor through the fact that God imposes his will on wayward people,” King said, “but if enough people open their lives to God.” and allow him to pour out his triumphant, divine energy in their souls. ”

It is a path to victory in the battle for the soul of the nation, and I am still determined to fight the hatred with the spirit of love that God has given me.

Dr. Jessica A. Johnson is a lecturer in the Department of English at Ohio State University in Lima. Write to her by e-mail [email protected] @JjSmojc

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