While Central Florida has not made the news because of racial unrest and violence, that does not mean we won’t. No community is immune. So now is the time to shore up our Kingdom commitments to witness to a biblical vision that includes “every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9b).
By contrast, I continue to be deeply disturbed by the racial slurs and snide comments that are still spoken among some of us here in the Diocese of Central Florida.
People speak in generalities using seemingly neutral phrases like “them” or “those people.” And, tragically, most of the time the people to whom they are referring are people who are from a different race, class or culture than their own.
These are people who never appear to wonder about the impact of their language on others. They do not seem to be aware that a phrase like “China virus” might be heard by Asians, or how other racial slurs might be heard by people of color.
They are not aware that, as the news continues to be filled with the murder of African Americans, such news exacerbates the ongoing and emotional racial trauma people of color continue to experience. Or, if they do know, they do not care.
My heart breaks for people who live with such indifference. How can our hearts be so cold?
When we carry such indifference or fear of people who are different from us, we do not look like the Kingdom of God, we look like the world. God’s world and God’s Kingdom are so much bigger than what we know. By comparison to such fear and indifference, the Kingdom of God is a breath of fresh air — casting out our fears, opening our eyes to beauty and sensitizing our hearts to the point of almost breaking them to the horrors we experience in our world.
In the Kingdom of God, there is far more mercy, far more tenderness, far more encouragement, far more diversity, far more joy and far more generosity than most of us have ever known.
I am not asking us to merely watch what we say to others, or adopt more sensitive attitudes. I am asking you to join me in prayer, asking God to give us what we cannot give ourselves: a new and tender heart toward people who are different from us, and a curiosity about who they are beyond what we currently know.
Many do not realize that racially offensive language is used by some as permission to engage in violence we would never condone. We cannot be complicit by our words, our silence or our lack of action in this continuing national trauma.
I am praying that God would help us examine our own history and give us fresh eyes to see ourselves and others as God sees us. I am praying that God would change us, encourage us and move us to plans for action in ways we never imagined. I am praying that God would cause us to be living witnesses to the Kingdom of God.
— Brewer is a bishop with the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida. We’re indebted to Buz Nesbit of DeLand for helping us to arrange reprinting of this selection from Brewer’s pastoral letters.