Between the writing and the reading of this column, a federal election may be launched – or not. Timing is a critical factor in election planning, and sometimes it determines the outcome. Political leaders who choose an advantageous time to call an election are criticized for being opportunistic, but frankly, we do the same in all areas of our lives. I try to pick the best time to plant my beans but seem to misread timing when it comes to investments. Good timing is also important for missions, public witness, and working for justice and peace.
Reading the times well is a challenge. It is a skill we need to hone as Christians who want to live wisely and draw down something of heaven to earth through our collective witness. Conversely, the public witness by Christians can be damaged by actions that fail to understand the context or misread how the current moment fits into God’s work of care and redemption of God’s creation, Kairos time.
At this point in historical time, there is significant disagreement about what time it is in God’s time, and that hinders our public witness. In my ecumenical work, I sense a spectrum of time zones, like a global clock, with greater weight at each end. At one end, today is seen as a time of vicious attack on Christianity, a time to hunker down, defend boundaries and basics, and preserve the faith for a better day. This finds expression in laments for a past that felt like a more Christian society, rallying around a few flagship issues, and using freedom of religion to fight for what we value. Focusing on persecution of the church in public discussion of residential schools, for example, is a reflection of this approach to reading our times. At the other end are calls to seize this moment to make dramatic changes in line with a future Kingdom vision. These are often pitted against each other and elevated as differences in belief; it might be more helpful to think about these approaches as being in different Kairos time zones.
Does the combination of the pandemic, climate change, and heightened awareness of racial and economic divides make this a hinge moment in the history of Canada? A hinge moment is a time when forces come together to cause a fundamental change of direction, such as World War II. If it is, Christians and churches would do well to discuss and discern what this hinge moment means in Kairos time and how we best engage in this historical shift, instead of worrying so much about the number of bums in seats and the survival of individual churches.
As citizens, preparing for an election includes discerning what time it is for our country and what direction Canada should take, as well as what election promises would benefit us or who supports specific moral issues as tests of faith. Kairos time is more important than September or October for our participation in the next election.