“The greatest threat to peace in our time, both nationally and even internationally, is the rise of white nationalism. White nationalism is the existential, visceral conviction that this country – its public spaces, its history, its culture – belong to white people in a way that they do not and should not belong to ‘others’. That America is, was meant to be, and always should remain, a ‘white Christian nation’.” ~ Rev. Bryan Massingale, Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace
As the curtain was pulled back to reveal the motivations and intentions behind the mass shooting in Buffalo, Fr. Massingale’s words strike with resounding depth and power. He delivered this message to the Pax Christi USA community on the occasion of receiving the Teacher of Peace Award in the summer of 2021.
What happened in Buffalo is only the most egregious, the most obvious manifestation of the white supremacy that the Pax Christi Anti-Racism Team warned in 1999 “perpetrates deep spiritual and social brokenness and endangers creation.” It is impossible for anyone within the Christian community – from which this poisoned branch grew – to be silent on the insidious, destructive power of white nationalism within the U.S. today.
Fr. Massingale went on to explain, “White nationalism is the gravest threat to peace precisely because it is intersectional, threatening social stability and human flourishing on multiple levels and fronts. Its commitment to racist political and cultural supremacy is obvious, manifested in voter suppression laws, crusades against ‘critical race theory’ (which most of its opponents have never read), and public vitriol.”
The disease of white nationalism that exploded in Buffalo is present throughout the body politic in ways subtle and mundane. Fr. Massingale specifically addressed how white nationalism is anti-women and anti-immigrant, how it poses an ecological threat and a threat to global health and stability, and its corrosive effect on democracy. The minimal responsibilities of individuals and communities in this moment is to not be silent. Silence, acquiescence, and evasion – especially by predominantly white churches – gave license for such an abomination to grow and flourish.
We mourn for those who have been the victims of white nationalism – in Buffalo this week, but also every day, everywhere. The devastation and grief of this violence is unfathomable. It deserves a response that pulls out the weed of white nationalism within our communities from the root. We pledge to rise to the challenge that Fr. Massingale has laid at our feet and to continue the work of building the beloved community that Jesus calls us to.
We invite the members of the Pax Christi USA community and the larger Church to examine our consciences and to undertake concrete actions to identify how to dismantle both explicit and implicit white supremacy in order to more effectively take steps to change our world. Let our grief in this moment be matched by our faith-based commitment toward resisting the rising white nationalism that seeks to destroy our common identity as children of God.
>> Read Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace Pearlette Springer’s article calling out the insidiousness of white male domination as the culprit in the Buffalo shooting and crimes against Black and Brown people in the U.S.
>> Register to join the upcoming webinar (De)Facing White Supremacy on June 7, specially targeted to white people who want to take responsibility for the sin of white supremacy.