a few days ago the fam and i went to see the great debaters with denzel washington, the true story of an all-black debate team in the 1930’s that was the first to compete against white colleges. we love those kinds of movies, ones that stir up great conversation and a desire to make a difference in this crazy world. it is so painful to see such harsh examples of racism and injustice. there were too many good lines to recap but one that was the most powerful to both jose and i was when one of the debate team members, samantha booke, argued on the immorality of segregation and responded to her opponent who said “the world’s just not ready yet for integration.”
she came back with “so when IS the time?…when will there be a right time?”
if rosa parks never got on the bus, if the freedom riders never took their first bus trip, if the first black student didn’t walk through the door of a white college, segregation would still exist. why? because there’s never a right time for unjust systems to magically fall. it just doesn’t work that way. this exact statement was said to me after i taught on a weekend at our old church a few years ago (i was the first woman to “preach”…i personally hate that word but i guess in that moment that is what it is). you see, afterward, a few people with deep pockets and conservative convictions asked the question “so what is our stand on women teaching?” and it stirred up a hornet’s nest of back door conversations. this is what the conclusion was: “we believe in kathy. but we’re just not ready for it yet. it’s just not the right time.” this past year a bible study tool i co-wrote got released, and the #1 christian retailer of bible studies refuses to sell it in their stores because i’m one of the “lead” pastors at the refuge & they are deep rooted in conversative theology about women in leadership (this is no joke, for reals, a bible study for women written by women won’t be promoted because of my job title). “they’re just not ready yet.” do you know how many women i know who are amazingly gifted and talented communicators and “pastors” and leaders who are waiting around for the “right time”?
it is clear, i’m not the most gracious and gentle when it comes to issues of injustice, especially in systems of Christ-followers. i believe that unjust systems are allowed to perpetuate themselves because it’s never the right time to change.
there will never be the right time for people to all of a sudden accept what has never been accepted before.
but it’s always the right time to stand up for something that is wrong.
of course i recognize that many christian circles are theologically adamant that women can’t lead. honestly, i am not talking to them; they have come to their conclusions and interpret the Bible differently than me. i can respect their position even though we don’t agree. i am speaking to the many men and women who know in their heart “something is awry” but sit by and don’t do anything about it. it bugs them that they go to churches where women can’t speak but they just accept it. they keep hearing & seeing the same boys over and over and kind of wonder where the different voices are but just assume “that’s the way it is.” they repeatedly see women working their tails off but with titles that are demeaning to the jobs they actually do. they have wives and daughters and friends who have something to say & contribute but never get a chance.
there’s never a right time.
but i believe the time is always now to start asking questions. to start questioning the system. for those in power to give up a little of theirs to make room for voices that never get heard (and i’m not just talking about women here. the women’s issue is only one of so many examples of continued inequality and subtle and overt discrimination against those not in power in society & the church. it is just one of many issues of injustice i am passionate about & just happens to be on the tip of my tongue at the moment). yes, i believe the time is always now for some small (or maybe big) steps toward battling injustice. and yes, as much as i am an idealist, i am also a realist.
i know the hard road to equal rights is paved with years and years of crazy sacrifices, casualties, and experiments.
but just because it’s hard, maybe feels impossible, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take clear and tangible steps toward the right thing. i deeply respect all of the men out there making room & starting to ask questions and all of the women out their using their gifts and risking their hearts. each of you are paving the way for not just women but others who don’t typically have power or voice because of man-made systems that contradict Kingdom principles. micah 6:8 is one of my favs. God requires us to do justly, love mercy & to walk humbly. the time to live out micah 6:8 is always now.