Thomas Merton (1915-1968), a Trappist monk and the author of more than seventy books wrote: “The life of the exterior man is a life of automatism, of unconsciously dictated thought and action, of mechanical conformity to the standards and prejudices of those around us– or, for that matter, of mechanical and compulsive revolt against them. For the rebellion against outward conformity is not what constitutes an interior life. On the contrary, it is usually only another form of compulsion. It is a kind of negative conformity” (emphasis added).
The life of the exterior man and woman in this hyper- racialized American society and in many parts of the world is one of automatism. The racialized life is one of agreed upon assumptions and responses, unconscious and automatic behavior. It is a life lived without self– control, censorship or authorship. Our self- knowledge, understanding, and awareness is confined to the creation narrative of race. Our relationship with others is often defined by race, its possibilities dictated by stereotypes and pre-determined by social prejudices. Sadly, even our understanding of God is impeded by His social coloring.
Race– this socially constructed and agreed upon reality impacts the practice of the spiritual life and one’s acceptance of its declarations. Thus, the interior life is not cultivated by the presence of race but must be expelled, cast out, or rebuked, taking on the words found in the exchange between Jesus and Peter when the latter sought to prevent the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16.23, KJV).
We must not rebel against race or conform to its image, but we must rid ourselves of race all together as it is an offense to us and to our humanity. Get behind me, Race for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men. Join me in this declaration. Join the daily race.