In the late 1960s Catholic monk and spiritual writer Thomas Merton wrote an essay entitled, “Religion and Race in the United States.” He began the essay with these sentences, “The idea of kairos - THE TIME OF URGENT PROVIDENTIAL decision - is something characteristic of Christianity, a religion of decisions in time and in history. Can Christians recognize their kairos? Is it possible that when the majority of Christians become aware that ‘the time has come’ for a decisive and urgent commitment, the time has, in face, already run out?”
I read those sentences in divinity school and wondered if there would be a race relations kairos moment in my lifetime. There seemed to be a moment surrounding the events in Ferguson, but that kairos came and went. There seemed to be a moment when The Charleston Nine were killed at Mother Emanuel AME Church, but that kairos moment came and went. There seemed to be a moment when Philando Castile was killed, but that kairos moment came and went. There seemed to be a moment when the white supremacists and neo-Nazis marched in Charlottesville, VA and Heather Hyer was killed by a car ramming into protestors, but that kairos moment came and went.
Four weeks have come and gone since the murder of George Floyd at 38th St. and Chicago Ave. Is the kairos moment coming to an end, is it closing up?
On the one hand it feels like it is. Yes, there are protests and marches and vigils and policy change meetings taking place. But the crowds have thinned, the energy has leveled off, and everyone wants to focus on getting back to “normal.” Nevermind that we are still in the midst of a global health pandemic and an environmental crisis (on June 22, it was 100.4°F in the Siberian Arctic). It is the counter narrative, the on the other hand, where communities of faith like Judson Memorial Baptist Church come in!
We need to keep the pressure on our elected officials to keep this kairos moment opened. We need to keep reminding ourselves of our place and our work to keep this kairos moment opened. We need to maintain the drumbeat of invitation to invite others to join us on this journey (and we need to also respond to invitations to partner with others too) to keep this kairos moment opened. Remember, we are all at different places on this journey of racial justice, we need to create room for people who are just now “getting it,” while at the same time creating room for people way ahead of us to challenge and push and make us feel uncomfortable.
Recall, our prayer is not that God blesses our endeavor; our prayer is to find where God is already at work blessing in this endeavor and join hands.