Driving back to Salem from Portland the other day I had an interesting thought pop into my head. “We’re fighting the wrong fight.”
Like most middle-aged white guys, I don’t really like talking about race in America. It’s not that I don’t have lots of thoughts on the subject – I do. But in this environment of intolerance of any opinion sometimes it’s best just to keep your mouth shut.
However, I really feel as if the thought that came to mind a week or so ago wasn’t just from my own thinking. It was more revelatory from the Holy Spirit. So, at the risk of being shouted down I’m going to outline what I believe the Holy Spirit was really telling me.
Let me start with a few broad statements and then drill down.
- We’re not actually fighting racism; we’re fighting evil.
- Using labels such as racist, white privilege, micro-aggressions, cultural appropriation and more is how Satan divides us to fight against each other not against him.
- You don’t fight labels the same way you need to fight evil which is why we’re losing the battle.
There are some very basic tenets of our faith – truths that Jesus taught us that should be the overriding foundation of how we live our lives. Here’s a reminder:
- Love God and love each other – the Greatest Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40)
- Don’t judge others or you will be judged in the same way (Luke 6:37)
- Forgive everyone no matter what (Matthew 18:21-22)
- Even love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Luke 6:27-36)
- Don’t be offended – turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39)
Then there is Satan. His job is really simple: Keep us from loving God and loving each other. It’s not rocket science nor are his tactics. The more discord, hate, mistrust, fear, and differences he can sow between us the easier it is for him to create the kind of chaos that keeps us at each other’s throats, away from God and doing as Jesus commanded.
The problem is he is really, really good at it.
Scripture plainly tells us that we are all the same. There were race issues even back in Jesus’ day, yet Paul tells us in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Do you get that? We are all one. We are all the same. There is no difference between us…period! Yet, Satan has even used Holy Scripture to twist the message to create division.
One of the most sickening things I’ve seen is people using God’s word to justify hating another person. They pull a verse out of context and say, “See, slavery is okay!” or “See, Jesus called Samaritans dogs!” We are not to be ignorant of Satan’s schemes – we know that he is a liar and twists the truth to deceive us. Satan takes what God says and twists it to get us to act in ungodly ways – it’s the same thing he did to Adam and Eve in the Garden so it shouldn’t surprise us at all that he’s still using this tactic today.
And this is why we are fighting the wrong war. By fighting each other we’re actually enabling Satan’s plan. Let me show you what I think Satan is doing here by taking a deeper look the idea of racism and the push back against it.
The idea behind this word is sound; there are people who hate other people due to the color of their skin, the shape of their eyes, and other physical distinctions. Satan accentuates the differences between us physically and causes us to hate, fear, and mistrust each other. Those emotions then cause us to dehumanize people who are different from us which then makes us feel as if we are justified in treating people in unbiblical ways.
To change this, we’ve tried legislation, education, engagement, shaming and more. Yet, racism continues to thrive. What gives? Why don’t our efforts really make a difference?
Dr. Martin Luther King had it right but perhaps not in a way you’re thinking. You see, Dr. King had another title – Reverend, he was an American Baptist preacher. While Rev. King ushered in civil disobedience as the method of resistance to systematic discrimination and oppression, what he really understood was that he wasn’t fighting man; he was fighting evil – the kind of evil God talks about in the book of Ephesians when He says that our fight is not against flesh and blood but against spiritual powers (Ephesians 6:12). For as many speeches as Rev. King made, I am positive he spent untold more hours on his knees praying to God for help in his battle.
Let me share a few of his quotes that express his faith and perhaps prove what I’m saying:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
“Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”
“Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.”
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy to a friend.”
“Use me, God. Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.”
“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”
“God is not interested merely in the freedom of black men, and brown men, and yellow men; God is interested in the freedom of the whole human race.”
Here is what Rev. King understood that the rest of us have missed: You fight evil with prayer. You fight evil with love. You fight evil with forgiveness. You fight evil by relying on God to change hearts not minds. I’ve never seen anyone argue a racist out of being a racist. I have seen; however, God change their heart and the person repent of their sin of racism.
And that’s the point. Racism is not some man-made construct where people are just ignorant and discriminate and oppress others based on skin color. Racism is an evil perpetrated by Satan to divide us from being one in Christ. And it’s not just American society where this happens – it happens right in the church itself! We have black churches, white churches, conservative churches, progressive churches, social justice churches – what we don’t have is one church of Jesus Christ!
Within this very concept – racism – we are fighting the wrong fight. Satan has us fighting each other by inflaming the evil in us instead of fighting him and his schemes. Honestly, it’s really stupid.
What we need to do is follow the commands of scripture and put on our spiritual armor and fight a spiritual battle against a spiritual foe – together, arm-in-arm. But that can’t happen until people everywhere understand that racism isn’t about the other guy, it’s about Satan and evil.
One of the ways people of color – especially African-Americans – have pushed back against racism is identifying the concept of white privilege. Rather than try to define this myself, let me borrow this from the Teaching Tolerance website (https://www.tolerance.org/professional-development/on-racism-and-white-privilege):
“White skin privilege is not something that white people necessarily do, create or enjoy on purpose. Unlike the more overt individual and institutional manifestations of racism described above, white skin privilege is a transparent preference for whiteness that saturates our society. White skin privilege serves several functions. First, it provides white people with ‘perks’ that we do not earn and that people of color do not enjoy. Second, it creates real advantages for us. White people are immune to a lot of challenges. Finally, white privilege shapes the world in which we live — the way that we navigate and interact with one another and with the world.”
Satan must love this concept – once again dividing instead of uniting. What the term white privilege does is exactly what racism does – it lumps together a group of people into a single stereotype – mostly negative – that then can be demonized as the enemy and thus legitimately hated and marginalized. I’m a white guy so I have white privilege so whatever I went through in life to get to where I am is immaterial because I had white advantage.
What the concept of white privilege does is make sure that nobody has to know your individual story. Nobody needs to care about you, just the color of your skin and the perceived or other advantages you had over them. White privilege means you don’t have to love someone, you just have to put them in the white privilege box which explains everything you need to know about them. And Satan chuckled….
Following on this concept are microaggressions and cultural appropriations. Jesus told us plainly that we are not to be offended – turn the other cheek when someone says or does something offensive (Matthew 5:39). Yet, in today’s society EVERYONE is offended. And these offenses are being seen as microaggressions in some communities. Again, let me define that term via someone else’s words. According to Derald Wing Sue, PhD in his article Microaggressions in Everyday Life published in Psychology Today in November 2010, “Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.”
Okay, I buy this. But again, is this a man-made construct or Satan inserting evil into our relationships? If it’s man made, you should be able to fix it through man-made methods. But none have worked and this concept has been around for thousands of years even if the term is relatively new to us. However, if it is evil from Satan – that’s a different story entirely. To fight microaggression you must again change the heart of the aggressor so that they see the other person through God’s eyes not their own and certainly not through the lens Satan is providing.
When I was a kid, I probably shared that my father’s side of the family was Jewish. The amount of ribbing/bullying I took for having a large “Jew” nose was significant. Microaggressions if you will. But in my faith, I was told to turn the other check – don’t worry about an insult, instead rely on how God sees you and what He thinks of you. That is how you defeat microaggressions. Responding to an insult by becoming offended just invites more insults and does nothing but make you upset, and then you sin in your own anger against the person transgressing against you. It’s a no-win response, which is why Satan wants to push you so hard to do it! I’m not saying it’s easy to ignore an insult – nothing in our Christian faith is – but it is what we are called to do if we want to be like Jesus who was mocked, spit on, punched and more yet did not respond.
I’ve been fascinated to watch Satan use cultural appropriation to divide people as well! A British publication – The Week – defined cultural appropriation this way: “Simply put, it is when someone adopts something from a culture that is not his or her own – a hairstyle, a piece of clothing, a manner of speaking, even a type of exercise (yoga, for example).” You see it called out when a celebrity has an ethnic hairstyle that is not from their own ethnicity, such as a white person with an African-American style. You see it called out when someone wears clothing identified from a culture not their own. You even see it when people watch a movie with an actor portraying someone not from their own ethnic background.
Satan LOVES identity politics! The more subcategories you can divide yourselves into the better for him. The more people groups he can pit against each other the better. And his tactic is always the same – Divide the people into groups, discredit the other group based on some characteristic, marginalize the other group, dehumanize the other group, and then fight to eliminate the other group while encouraging that group to fight back. Again, not rocket science here.
Here’s the funny thing: Satan is just playing into our innate need to belong. You see, psychologically, God put in us a need to belong to something. Of course, His idea is we belong to Him and each other! But, given that we are fallen we miss that obvious point and instead look for belonging in other places. For some it is healthy places such as family, work, or service clubs. For others it is unhealthy choices such as gangs or cults. But our belonging need drives us toward like-minded people and we all know what happens in all those group-think studies when we get around people who think just like us!
Satan take that belonging need and twists it like everything else. Not only do you get around like-minded people, but you start to see yourself as different, unique, oppressed, entitled, special or some other way that further divides you from other groups. Nazism is a great case study. Only about 10 percent of the entire German population belonged to the Nazi party yet they were able to take over the country, kill six million Jews because the Nazi’s believed they were racially inferior, and cost hundreds of millions of lives in the Second World War. And what caused all this death and destruction? This group of nut jobs thought they were unique and superior in their belonging group when in fact none of their leaders could find any other group to which would accept them so they made their own.
Look around your world; do you see groups pitted against each other based on this belonging concept? You can look no further than the church with all its denominations, each thinking their own doctrines are superior to the other. You actually can see this concept playing itself out across our entire nation politically, economically, and socially.
I have to admit that I fall for Satan’s trap occasionally myself. I forget at times that what I see is from Satan and I find myself saying, “What in the heck are these people doing?” Then I catch myself – they’re doing what Satan wants them to because they are blinded to his tactics and his lies and instead believe that this is really about the other guy.
I think what the Holy Spirit was reminding me is this: Satan is the prince of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4). This means that “Satan is the major influence on the ideals, opinions, goals, hopes and views of the majority of people. His influence also encompasses the world’s philosophies, education, and commerce. The thoughts, ideas, speculations and false religions of the world are under his control and have sprung from his lies and deceptions.” (https://www.gotquestions.org/Satan-god-world.html)
Racism is from Satan and is one of the evils that plagues our world. And to fight evil we must unite as people made in the image of God and fight the schemes of Satan. We must work to change hearts not minds. We must fight Satan as scripture tells us to with truth, righteousness, the Gospel of Christ, faith, salvation, the Spirit and the Word! (Ephesians 6:10-18) When we rebuke Satan he must flee (James 4:7).
We must see each other as Jesus sees each of us not through our faulty eyes. We must love one another as Jesus loves us. We must repent from our own short comings when it comes to reconciling with people who are different from who we are. And we must stop lumping people together under some label – we are all fearfully and wonderfully made individuals with individual stories, individual struggles and individual lives.
I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to change the focus from each other to Satan in our fight against injustice, discrimination and oppression. There are just too many people who have been blinded to this truth. However, I strongly believe that those of us who can see behind the curtain and know who really is pulling the strings need to fight Satan at every turn by telling the truth of scripture which is this: We are to love God and love each other because love covers a multitude of sins and is the only thing that really defeats Satan.
To my brothers and sisters in the faith – whether you be black, white, brown, yellow, or some combination thereof, we are all one in Christ. Jesus calls us to unity and while we all have different life experiences, we are to leave the experiences of this world behind as we look toward our real home in Heaven and encourage one another – spurring each other on to good works and love. So, let us be the example. Let us humble ourselves and love each other in a way worthy of Jesus. And if you’ve fallen into Satan’s trap, confess your sins to our Father; seek transformation through the Holy Spirit, and turn from those ugly ways so that you can embrace your brother or sister in Christ whoever they may be.