The Real Enemy Feeding Racism in America

Tonto and the Lone Ranger were riding through a canyon together when all of a sudden both sides were filled with Indian warriors on horses, dressed for battle. The Lone Ranger turned to Tonto and asked, “What are we going to do?” Tonto replied, “What do you mean ‘we,’ white man?” (In Search of Unity, Edward Dobson, pp. 20–27)

A funny illustration, but there is some scary truth contained here. The attitude of “I am with you until trouble comes” is destructive for race relations. What is causing the division?

The Real Enemy 

As the discussion about race relations in America continues, it is timely today to address the heart of the disconnect: Who is the enemy we are fighting? Are we in conflict with the person who has a different skin color? Do we simply need to spend more time in conversation? Are we addressing only the symptoms of a much larger problem? The more significant problem is something no one wants to talk about. It is an enemy no one wants to acknowledge exists. That enemy lurks in the darkness. He operates in stealth mode. The Bible describes him this way:

Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

 Among the significant number of books authored by C. S. Lewis is the highly provocative The Screwtape Letters. In it, the profound Englishman had the devil brief his nephew, Wormwood, on the subtleties and techniques of tempting people. The goal, he counsels, is not wickedness but indifference. Satan cautions his nephew to keep the prospect, the patient, comfortable at all costs. If he should become concerned about anything of importance, encourage him to think about his luncheon plans—not to worry, it could induce indigestion. And then this definitive job description: “I, the devil, will always see to it that there are bad people. Your job, my dear Wormwood, is to provide me with people who do not care.” [1]

Are You Asking the Right Question? 

Take a step back from the emotional ties you have to this issue of race and look at the bigger picture. Make sure you are asking the right question. Who benefits most from this problem getting ramped up and intensifying? America isn’t winning. The communities that are under attack are not winning. The police who are on edge, with every decision they make facing scrutiny, are not winning. And white America, which often wants to help solve the problem but is afraid to speak out for fear of being called a racist, is not winning. So all those groups seeking solutions, searching for a path forward, are lost in the midst of this tension. Maybe, just perhaps, there is a spiritual reason behind all this. As in The Screwtape Letters, we have been duped—tricked into compliance.

Satan has been whispering in all our ears there is nothing to see here. Go about the business of living your life. Ignore the poor; the government will handle that problem. Forget the sins of the past; people should just move on, that was hundreds of years ago. Besides, we have enough worries of our own to deal with. Who has time to concern ourselves with the weakness and hurts of others? 

As the divide grew, we were ignorant to problems. It has taken riots and police shootings to reveal the truth. But now Satan has played another trick on us. He has us looking for the wrong enemy. It is not my brother or sister of another race, gender, or creed.  It is you, the “father of lies” (John 8:44). You are the real enemy. You, Satan, are the one who is driving all this. The face of the race issue is Satan.

Preparing for Spiritual Warfare 

Notice the advice the apostle Paul gives us about this warfare:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:10–12)

We can’t win this battle with human resources and human weapons. Look around you. This is spiritual warfare at its highest levels. Paul does not leave us without a plan to win this war. He says you need to be properly outfitted for battle. In that same section of Scripture, he instructs us on our weapons of war. It is not what the world is using. It is not more protest. It is not more civil unrest. Lord knows we don’t need more speeches. Or more laws to be passed so they can be ignored.

What we need, Paul says, is to

take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. (Ephesians 6:13–18)

The good news for us is that we have all we need to win this battle. We need to be aware of who the enemy is and the tools required to defeat him.

[1] G. Curtis Jones, 1000 Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1986), 158.

Scripture: ESV®

Looking for a way to see through all of today’s clutter and come back to Jesus to fight against Satan? Grab a copy of Clearly Christian: Following Jesus in This Age of Confusion

See clearly through the confusion


Picture of Keith Haney
Written by

Keith Haney

Rev. B. Keith Haney is Assistant to the President for Missions, Human Care, and Stewardship of Iowa District West. He has been an ordained pastor for twenty-seven years and has served multi-ethnic urban congregations in Detroit, St. Louis, and Milwaukee. He is the author of numerous devotionals, including One Nation under God: Healing Racial Divides in America. He is married to Miriam (Bickel) Haney, and they have six children and one grandchild.

Subscribe to all CPH Blog topics (Worship, Read, Study, Teach, and Serve)