09 October 2015
Time, times and half a time
One of Britain’s most senior judges recently cautioned against rushing to put more women in senior judicial positions as it could destroy the delicate balance of the legal system. Slightly more than a quarter of all judges are women and in the higher echelons of the judiciary the percentage is far lower. “We have got to be very careful not to do things at a speed which will make male candidates feel that the cards are stacked against
them.” Lord Sumption estimated it would take another half a century for the number of women on the bench to equal the number of men. In
the ensuing debate, Judge Alexandra Marks dismissed the claim that a ‘rush’ for gender parity would damage justice and reflected on an actual accelerating pace of change.
The pace of change is probably always too fast for those who have most to lose. The suffragettes upset the delicate male balance in their time. Hollywood’s take on the historic fight for women’s votes released this weekend will reflect on the gender and class dynamics in this formidable quest. Their campaign sent shock waves throughout 20th century society and provoked civil disobedience on a massive scale. The quest continues. “There is a sort of growing sense of social activism about human equality across the globe and how that reflects in every industry, not just the film industry. So for me, this film’s become part of the discourse,” says writer and playwright Abi Morgan.
Writing from his prison cell in Birmingham, Alabama, Martin Luther King responded to criticism from white clergy urging him to wait as the civil rights movement disturbed society’s balance. Social progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability but comes through tireless effort and persistent work, wrote King. The pace of change was set by this drumbeat for a greater level of justice. The quest continues. Advocating for justice in a society where race and class are still a toxic mix, human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson says: “For me, faith had to be connected to works. Faith is connected to struggle; that is, while we are in this condition we are called to build the kingdom of God. We can’t celebrate it and talk about it and then protect our own comfort environment. I definitely wanted to be involved in something that felt redemptive."
As shock waves go through the 21st century world, the home secretary Theresa May outlined a major drive to limit the right to claim asylum in Britain. At this week’s Tory party conference, she said: “When immigration is too high, when the pace is too fast, it’s impossible to build a cohesive society.” Yet, for people fleeing violence and hunger, the pace of life is fast. Dead fast. All cards are actually stacked against the refugees. Even the asylum card, it seems.
In classical Greek kairos refers to a decisive time, a moment that requires an important decision. Outside the Olympia stadium, a statue to a god named Kairos would have reminded the athletes to seize the moment. The apostle Paul gave the word a rich theological notion, portraying that God is
impregnating time with significance. Jesus is the fulfillment of the purpose of time and history. His usage of ‘kairos’ in the letter to the Romans portrays
that it is the “now time” in which God’s righteousness is being revealed, a time pregnant with the fulfilment of the promise (3:26, 9:9).
Paul calls us to understand the present time - the ‘kairos’ – in the light of the salvation happening. Put on the armour of light and “walk decently as those who are in the day”. The Christ-followers already experience the power and gifts of the new day and adopt a lifestyle that reflects this. The sincerity of Christ’s love would shape their hospitality, prayer, sacrifice, and their living in harmony with the other (Romans 12:9-21, 13:11-13).
Paul’s choice of kairos reflects a sense of urgency and opportunity. The character of the new day shapes our character today. M.L. King urged his peers to use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Across the chronological timeline, we discern the opportune time to be involved in something timely and redemptive: vocations leading us to a commitment to a greater level of justice, a politics of love and acts of mercy. Especially when times are out of joint.
by Marijke Hoek