A Black priest has alerted that “Trumpism, white nationalism, is a force that is imperiling the future” of the United States.

– “Trumpism and white nationalism is driven by the lack of resolve, the lack of the soul and commitment to make justice a reality for all”

Father Bryan Massingale was speaking October 29 at the 30th Annual Fall Event of Future Church, in which he was awarded the 2020 Louis Trivison Award “in recognition of his prophetic work with and for Black and LGBTQ Catholics”.

Massingale – who was described at the event as “one of the world’s leading Catholic social ethicists and scholars of African-American theological ethics, racial justice, and liberation theology” – gave by way of a keynote speech a PowerPoint presentation on racial justice and the Catholic Church.

Massingale – who also serves as the James and Nancy Buckman Professor of Theological and Social Ethics at Fordham University – warned that the failure of the US to address discrimination against people of color – “our deepest and longest social injustice” – “now imperils our very survival as a nation”.

Just days out from the November 3 presidential election – which Massingale acknowledged many Americans are anticipating “with trepidation” – the priest warned that “the challenge of white nationalism is a major threat to the integrity of the United States and indeed to the very existence of our democracy”.

Making a link to the Republican candidate for the presidency and the social movement he has inspired, Massingale denounced that “Trumpism and white nationalism is driven by the lack of resolve, the lack of the soul and commitment to make justice a reality for all”.

– For white nationalists, “a white authoritarian country is more preferable than a multi-racial democracy”

In his presentation, Massingale clarified exactly what is at stake in this election:

“Will we be a country that strives for liberty and justice for all? Or will we codify what we have been, all too often, in our history, a country where we grant liberty and justice for some. That’s the fundamental question that faces us”.

“The future of both the country and the [Catholic] church is brown, not white”, the priest and academic continued, adding: “And there lies the problem” for whites.

“One of the signal events of our time is a deep anxiety over and discomfort with and even opposition to this change in our population and our membership.

“Changing demography signals a changing national and ecclesial identity to put it bluntly. We are no longer a white Christian nation and many white Christian Americans are nervous, anxious, and angry”, Massingale explained.

The priest then connected “white unease and resentment over the nation’s changing demography and identity” as “the decisive reason for the rise of white nationalism”.

Massingale ran through a brief history of recent racial injustice in the US before arriving at the heart of his talk.

“… [W]e need to put the kind of conversations and debates that we’re having in this country in the context of white nationalism. Why is it that democracy is imperiled? Why is it that we’re engaging in efforts of voter suppression? Why is it that these are things that can happen in plain daylight?

“Because all too often in all too many people, they made the conclusion that democracy means sharing political power with people of color, and it’s not worth it. A white authoritarian country is more preferable than a multi-racial democracy”, the priest decried.

But Massingale did not just limit himself to denouncing racial injustice in wider society.

“White nationalism is not just out there in our country. White nationalism also affects our Church”, he doubled down.

“The plain yet terrible truth is that the Catholic church is constituted by a normative whiteness”, Massingale denounced.

“Nationalism, whether in church or society is not always principally about hate. It’s about a longing for a white utopia by aggressively asserting belonging and dominance out of a sense of anxiety over rapid social change. It can be carried by white supremacists carrying torches, or it can be carried by people simply avoiding the issue out of silence, or presenting it in ways that only cater to the comfort of whites”, he continued.

– “Conflict and struggle are the signs of hope. They’re the means by which change and transformation happen”

In the midst of that “grim” panorama, Massingale turned to notes of “hope and love… informed by the [B]lack experience”. “Not a rosy sense of optimism”, he clarified, but rather, “hope… in the midst of conflict and struggle”.

“In fact, conflict and struggle are the signs of hope. They’re the means by which change and transformation happen”, he argued.

“Because whenever we see conflict and struggle” in both Church and society, “it means that the status quo is being challenged and is endangered”, the priest and academic insisted.

Particularly in the Church, “conflict and struggle herald the possibility of something new, something more just, something more Christ-like… our church more universal, more welcoming and inclusive. In a strange way, the more conflict there is, the more hope there actually may be”, Massingale said.

To read the full transcript of Massingale’s talk and to watch a video of the same, follow this link to the Future Church website

More on Novena on the US presidential election:

Specials to Novena by Director of Catholic outreach for Vote Common Good Patrick Carolan:

USA: This election, the choice is simple – hope or hatred

I’m a committed Catholic and I’m backing Biden because of his position on abortion

Pax Christi urges ‘seamless garment’ approach to US presidential vote, focus on issues as “equally sacred” as opposition to abortion

“Defiles the Gospel in his words and policies”: Catholics accuse Trump of “fundamental contempt for what it means to be a Christian” (full text)

Black Catholic priest Bryan Massingale accuses US Bishops of complicity in white privilege (by Novena US contributor Matt Kappadakunnel)

Novena readers respond: A Catholic’s case to dump Trump

Progressive feminist Catholics urge US voters to “stem the tide of injustice and usher in a new era of equality” (full text)

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.