Evolutionary Roots

On one level, we could say that this racial illness is psychological, sociological, and anthropological before it is theological.

We could acknowledge that racism is a flaw in the human psyche, an evolutionary glitch in biological terms. After all, we evolved as a tribal species; our greatest threat was not saber-toothed cats or packs of wolves but other tribes or packs of humans with whom we competed for resources. Equally threatening was the possibility that our trusted companion on whom we depended for survival could at any moment turn on us and become our rival.

So for uncountable millennia, much of our brain has evolved to maintain a sense of fear ... fear of the other, fear of betrayal ... and so our social structures have also evolved to manage our base line of fear with a base line of violence.

By the way, our brains have also developed to be highly responsive to the behaviors of others, and to imitate models or examples. This is in part why liturgy is so important. It brings people together to imitate the behavior of models and creates a context for deep social bonding. If the models set an example of concern for racial equality and justice, liturgy helps that value spread. But if not … liturgy easily becomes a weapon of mass distraction, reinforcing in people a sense that other things matter. (If you’d like to learn more on this subject, google “mimetic theory” online.)

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