Burke Lectureship on Religion and Society Presents Theologian Father Bryan N. Massingale, Nov. 15
UC San Diego Extended Studies Highlights Conversation on Race and Inclusion with Leading Catholic Scholar
Whether you consider yourself religious or not, many of us struggle with some of the big questions that religion was meant to answer. Who are we? Why are we here? How are we supposed to live and treat each other in the world?
The Burke Lectureship Series on Religion and Society, presented by UC San Diego Extended Studies, is a platform dedicated to exploring those questions, as well as the relationship between religion, ethics, and humanity in contemporary society.
"The Burke Lectureship series is all about exploring the religious and ethical dimensions of being human, both individually and collectively,” said Maureen Day, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Religion and Society at the Franciscan School of Theology affiliated with the University of San Diego, and member of the Board of Governors of the Burke Lectureship Series on Religion and Society. “The speakers we invite are people who are good at getting to the heart of those questions."
Originally founded in honor of Fr. Eugene Burke, CSP, a far-sighted theologian and member of the Paulist Fathers, whose mission includes interfaith and ecumenical outreach, the lecture series has from the beginning sought to foster an inclusive and diverse forum that welcomes scholars and speakers from various faith traditions and academic backgrounds to speak on some of the fundamental issues and questions of our times.
The board of the Burke Lectureship Series comprises members from various denominations and traditions, including Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam.
In accordance with the inclusive approach and challenging themes of the series, the speaker for the Fall 2023 event in the series will be theologian and social activist Father Bryan Massingale, who is an outspoken voice for anti-racism and LGBTQ+ rights, both within the Catholic Church and society as a whole. He’ll be speaking on Wednesday, November 15, from 6-7:30 pm PST.
Father Bryan Massingale: Activist, Theologian, Scholar
Father Bryan Massingale is a prominent figure in the world of theology, social justice, and Catholicism. His 2010 study, “Racial Justice and the Catholic Church,” was prophetic in the way it spoke about racism in religious institutions. His life and work embody a commitment to addressing issues of racism, social inequality, and LGBTQ+ rights from a spiritual and ethical perspective.
Throughout his academic career, he has gained recognition for his insightful and thought-provoking scholarship that explores the intersections of faith, morality, and social justice.
“Someone like Bryan Massingale is a really important person to have speak,” shared Day. “He has a way of bringing truth, compassion, and a sense of hope to all of his talks, while also not sugarcoating things either. I think anyone interested in learning what faith might have to say about issues of race and inclusion will walk out a better person after attending the lecture.”
His work challenges institutions, including the Catholic Church, to confront their own complicity in perpetuating racial disparities and to actively work towards racial justice and reconciliation.
"For a believer, it is important to see racism as a soul sickness,” he wrote in an article published in America Magazine in 2017. “Racism is that interior disease, that warping of the human spirit, that enables us to create communities where some matter and some do not.”
His ability to bridge the gap between theology and social justice has inspired countless individuals to engage in conversations about the moral imperative to address issues of systemic racism and discrimination.
Within his work for social and racial justice, Father Massingale is also an advocate for dialogue and reconciliation. He believes in the power of open but uncomfortable conversations to bridge divides and create spaces for healing and growth.
"...to have an honest, adult conversation about race, people might need to feel uncomfortable—embarrassed, ashamed, fearful, angry, overwhelmed, helpless and/or paralyzed—because there are few issues that grip and affect us emotionally more than the issue of race," he wrote in the same America Magazine article.
His inclusion in the series aligns with the Burke Lectureship’s commitment to addressing contemporary social justice issues and fostering meaningful discussions.
Past Speakers and Themes
Father Massingale is the latest in a series of challenging speakers to have come to the Burke Lectureship series and defy what might be common perceptions on the types of topics that would be explored in a series based around religion.
Other recent speakers have included Cardinal Robert McElroy of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego, who has hosted a dialogue about climate change with the renowned climate scientist Veerabhadran Ramanathan. The conversation fostered a unique theological and scientific perspective on the issue.
At a different event, Cardinal McElroy also partnered with local imam Taha Hassane for a moderated conversation on immigration reform.
Another recent speaker was author and researcher Donna Freitas, who addressed contemporary issues among young adults, such as campus hookup culture and the impact of social media.
Other past lectures have explored topics around evolution and faith, economic justice, migration, gender roles, and the importance of building community.
The Role of the Burke Lectureship Series in Society
Underlying all of the discussions hosted by The Burke Lectureship Series is a conversation on religion's place in contemporary society.
From Day’s perspective, events like this are important steps towards providing community and connection for individuals who may feel disconnected from traditional religious institutions but still seek answers to existential questions.
Day highlights that, even amidst the growing trend of disaffiliation from religious institutions, there remains a longing for meaning, belonging, and connection.
“I think a lot of people who have left religion are still asking those questions that religion traditionally answered like, ‘Who am I? Why am I here? How do I seek meaning, belonging, and live a life well-lived?’” shared Day.
“One thing the Burke lectureship series does is it signals to folks who may have left religion that there are people of deep faith asking deep questions that don't necessarily have the same sort of political orientation that some people might expect of religious groups,” Day continued. “We're gathering together and highlighting thinkers to give them a platform for their ideas to get to a broader public. We actually want to make a difference in the way someone might think in light of the discussion we host. Or at least help them feel like they're not alone in the questions they have. That there’s a community of people who gather and struggle with these questions as well. I think that can help remind people who feel like a voice in the wilderness that they're not alone.”
The series encourages attendees to explore these questions from various angles, fostering an atmosphere of intellectual curiosity and open-mindedness.
It demonstrates that the search for meaning and purpose is a universal endeavor, and it encourages us to embrace the diversity of perspectives that enrich our understanding of the world and our place within it.
"I think even if we leave religion, many of the human longings that religion met in the first place don't go away. So it's a matter of figuring out how we connect to something beyond ourselves that doesn't necessarily have to be answered in a theistic way either."
To learn more about the lecture series and other upcoming speakers, visit:
The Burke Lectureship is funded by an endowment to bring prominent speakers from around the world to the UC San Diego campus. There have been more than 75 lectures since the series began in 1985. To add your gift to the endowment, please access fund number 1146, Eugene Burke Quasi-Endowment, at giving.ucsd.edu.
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